It's a trait that runs strongly in politics, the only profession in the world in which you can create a problem and then run against it for re-election.
But talking a good game and saying all the right things happens in high-tech channels as well. Oftentimes, manufacturers talk in grandiose terms about how dedicated they are to the channel and how they want to push more sales through "partners."
So how do we measure that? If I or a reporter on the CRN staff head down that discussion area with a line of questioning, we will often get a response that sounds something like this: "We are committed to the channel and we want to double our business through the channel in the next two years." Or it might be something that sounds even more compelling like "We are 100 percent channel." Getting to the real story is a bit more difficult, of course. Many companies don't break out sales when they report as direct and indirect.
With all that as a background, on a whim I decided to take a look at company websites recently, and in a completely unscientific way determine who is really putting partners front and center. To me, that means if I were a customer and I went to a company website to investigate from whom to buy, the website would make it really easy for me to find a partner. Getting that information would be prominently presented and would work. Here's what I found on the morning of Nov. 16, 2012.
IBM.com: Sorry, IBM, but I have to put your site in the really bad category. First off, you need a magnifying glass to see the "find a business partner" link in the footer of the page, and even then it is sixth on a list of buy possibilities where all the others are geared toward a direct sale. To me, find a business partner should be a lot more prominent.
SAP.com: SAP deserves to be congratulated. 'Our Partners' is prominently displayed at the top of the page, and in just two clicks I was well on my way to getting a partner contact.
Juniper Networks: A "close, but no cigar" here. "Partners" is prominently displayed at the top of the homepage but, unfortunately, when I clicked and then went to "partner locator," the message came back that Juniper is updating its partner locator to serve me better, and I should come back another time. Serving me better would be giving me access to the old locator until you make whatever improvements you feel necessary. Juniper rival Cisco was better because its link worked.
HP: The site seems to be totally geared toward a direct sale. I did find a way to search for a solution provider partner on the site. It wasn't easy, however, and even when I drilled down into buying a Point of Sale solution, the "find a reseller" option was below "request a call from a POS specialist," which I suppose could generate a lead that might be passed to a channel partner, but it might also go to the direct team.
Microsoft: For a company that is so partner-focused, I was surprised by what I found. The homepage is totally geared toward what seems to be a direct-sale attempt, and there is no intuitive way to easily find a partner contact. I was able to get to a partner locator but it took five clicks and, frankly, wasn't exactly simple to get to.
Of course, a website doesn't tell the whole story of channel commitment but the little things count, and to me there's lots of room for improvement on these sites, and many others.
BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of UBM Channel. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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