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A good product, a good program, a good channel. It would appear there's a simple recipe for a successful VAR-vendor relationship. But according to a new study by Everything Channel's Institute for Partner Education & Development (IPED), there's much more to it.
In the 2008 Affinity Index, VARs rated vendors of SMB products in 15 different weighted criteria, providing the most in-depth profile yet of what makes a vendor successful, or unsuccessful, in the channel. The Index provides not only a detailed analysis of the VAR-vendor relationship, but also shows how vendor performance impacts the channel's relationship with end users. One of the key findings of the study is that even large, well-established vendors can risk losing market share if they don't focus on areas that are important to solution providers.
VAR response to the results was swift, mostly expressing the hope that vendors would take the findings to heart.
"It's essential for vendors to react to the feedback they get from the partner community," said Dave Gilden, partner and COO of Acuity Solutions, Tampa, Fla. "And not only is it important for them to identify what we're looking for from them, but to make sure that they're prioritizing our needs in the same way that they do."
Bruce Geier, president and CEO of Technology Integration Group (TIG), a San Diego-based solution provider, said the research could benefit both solution providers and vendors. "I think we solution providers always try to compare ourselves to our peers. We want to know what's succeeding for them, what vendors are good for them," Geier said. "And the vendors should want to see what's going on, to see what we view as important. If we don't see the same things as important, I don't think vendors will see any traction."
The Affinity Index is based on a maximum score of 1,000, but vendors scored in the 300 to 700 range in most technology segments, evidence that there is plenty of dissatisfaction with vendors in the channel, said Stan Elbaum, practice director of worldwide channel intelligence and analysis for IPED.
[Click here for the Channel Affinity Scores]
"Even the ones with the highest scores have a lot of opportunity and the ones with low scores have a lot of threat," Elbaum said. "Even the best guys are at risk. They may have good scores, but there's a difference between having a leading score and knowing precisely where the gap exists between them and their competitors."
While no vendor came close to a perfect score, the wide range of scores of vendors in a particular category is telling, Elbaum said. The ratio between some vendors is two or three to one, he said. "That's gigantic," Elbaum said. "That's not 25 percent different; that's saying somebody is doing much, much better and much, much worse."
Because the Index score is comprised of factors carrying different weights, it allows vendors to focus on improvements where they are relatively weak. "It's harder to take a broad brush to fix specific things," Elbaum said. "Now they can cherry-pick where they want to focus and have a better chance of closing the gap," he said.
James Huang, partner marketing manager at Amax Information Technologies, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder, said vendors should focus more on addressing partner needs. "I would hope vendors would value [our feedback], especially when the economy is bad," Huang said. "If a vendor doesn't support their channel, I don't know how you sell their product."