Building and managing successful channel programs isn't easy work. It's downright challenging. More importantly you have to stay with
it, otherwise it falls apart quickly. Then add in the fact that without hard-core support all the way up the executive-level food chain, it's difficult to remain competitive.
But it also isn't rocket science. It's more akin to building a skyscraper than the Space Shuttle. A solid foundation, a well-thought-out long-term plan, good subcontractors and steady work each day result in a well-constructed channel.
In order to accomplish this, however, there has to be a set of principles behind the thinking that drives the everyday duties of the internal channel team. I've netted them down to Five Core Principles for Channel Success.
First, foremost and perhaps most importantly, both sides need to look at the contract between vendor and partner as a relationship of equals. This is so fundamental that it can drive every decision toward a positive result. In any business relationship, there has to be
something of value for both sides or it will fall apart.
If the approach to partners is one in which the vendor is trying to extract something from its channel that is detrimental to the partners' businesses then it flat out will not work. If, however, the relationship is based on a mutual need to succeed, it clearly has potential.
This principle works in the reverse as well. If the partner relationship
in return adds little to no value but expects the vendor to pony up for it, then the relationship breaks down.
The second principle is investing in sales and marketing resources
to capture more opportunities. This, of course, requires budget and smart people inside of the vendor channel management team. It's also a principle that is growing in importance.
Solution providers have traditionally neither been good nor focused on marketing as a way to drive sales. The world is changing and cloud computing is going to be more heavily dependent on marketing as a way to differentiate. If the solution of the future is largely made up of managed services and cloud applications, then marketing and sales expertise in the partner base is a critical attribute.
Vendors tend to have lots of talent in-house from a marketing
perspective, but too often they spend the bulk of the money
on direct marketing efforts. That's understandable, but partners
that are successful with vendor-driven marketing programs sell more of those suppliers' products unaided.
Principle three surrounds the relentless pursuit of ease of doing business. In some ways, the Internet has helped by allowing easy access to a repository of information. But in many ways it has made it more difficult by making it far too easy to throw lots of information
into a partner portal and dumping the responsibility of sorting through it to the partner base.
Principle four is consider the impact of any program change on partner profitability. It's easy to see value in something when you look at it from only your perspective. Taking a look from the other side can bring clarity.
The fifth principle is a hard one to admit when it is out of whack. It's simply having a competitive product set. In the end, it's still about driving value in the market. Without competitive products, you can't expect even the best channel to drive growth.