It's obvious that one of the worst things that can happen to a vendor is to be ranked poorly by their VAR partners for the Annual Report Card. Low scores indicate that the channel is unhappy, and that means a competitor's product will be top of mind when they provide solutions for their customers.
Some vendors heed VARs' feedback, and that's when one of the best things that can happen--aside from retaining a top rank--is to emerge from the bottom of the pack after a year of hard work and introspection with a new, vastly improved rank. Symantec, in the Storage Software and Client Security categories, and Hewlett-Packard, in the Workgroup Color Printer category, pulled off that feat in this year's ARC survey.
"We're taking the message of previous ARCs to heart," said Randy Cochran, vice president of North American channel sales at Symantec. "We've spent the past year listening to what's working and what's not."
Part of that involves what Cochran calls the four R's: Revenue, Relevance, Readiness and Reputation. "From the Revenue perspective, we look at how much revenue we generate together. Relevance refers to how relevant we are to them, and how relevant they are to us. How does the VAR translate that relevance to the customer," said Cochran.
Readiness has to do with preparing and enabling customers, through programs such as Symantec University and SymBrain, so Symantec reps understand VARs' problems. Finally, Reputation refers to protecting the brands of the vendor, the VAR and the end customer.
In addition to sharpening programs, Cochran said Symantec re-evaluated how the vendor connected with its partners. "We had to think like a partner first. How many communications do they get from vendors--plenty. So the question was, 'How do we become more relevant?' " Part of that was addressed by creating newsletters that were personalized, came from a regional rep and designed to inform the VARs of what specific benefits Symantec offered partners. Communication was key to Symantec's improved scores with the channel.
"When our new CEO Enrique Salem took over, he said the lines of communication should be very open," added Tricia Atchison, senior director of Symantec Channel Marketing. "He's done VAR roundtables, really listened to them. So up and down the stack you have us engaging with partners."
Hewlett-Packard's challenges centered on channel conflict.
"Over the past year, we've tried not to rearrange territories too much, and not have partners have to make too many switches," said Scott Dunsire, vice president, Imaging and Printing Group sales, Solution Partners Organization.
HP is continuing to make channel-centric efforts: Under the Trade and Save program, VARs can return any desktop printer (any brand, any condition), and get $50 cash back. HP will also recycle the old printer at no cost. The program launched Sept. 27, 2009 and runs through Jan. 2, 2010, and has gotten good feedback from the channel, according to Dunsire.