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3. MDFs, SPIFs, GO UNUSED
"I just don't know why partners don't take advantage of these," said Matt Smith, marketing director of HP's Solution Partners Organization, in an interview. He estimated that only between 40 percent and 50 percent of HP's channel partners regularly take advantage of the company's marketing development and demand generation assistance offerings.
Only 36 percent of the IT vendors that applied for this year's CRN Partner Program Guide said that all the market development and cooperative marketing funds they offer is spent on a quarterly basis. Another one-third said between 1 percent and 10 percent goes unspent. And a handful said between 10 percent and 50 percent goes unspent every quarter -- that's a lot of money for channel partners to be leaving on the table.
Smith is quick to acknowledge that some of the blame for low MDF utilization rates falls to vendors that can do a better job of making partners aware of what partner programs have to offer. "Some of this has to do with communications and training," he said. "Some of this is on my shoulders."
2. THE DEMAND GENERATION GAP
"Frankly, just like we have sales guys that are fulfilling orders and not necessarily selling, we have partners who are doing that," said Red Hat's Whitehurst.
Likewise, Alfresco's Dennerline cites "the investments [partners] make in generating their own demand," or the lack thereof, as first on his list of things solution providers could do better. That includes partner spending for marketing, sales and demand generation overall.
Too many partners, vendors said, take a passive order-taker/order-fulfillment approach to their business, instead of proactively generating demand through investments in sales and marketing.
Nevertheless, vendor executives are quick to say those sentiments don't apply to all solution providers. "There's a good percentage of channel partners who understand demand generation at the top of the sales funnel," SAP's Gilroy said.
1. WHAT ABOUT THE FULL PRODUCT PORTFOLIO?
Perhaps the most frequent complaint from vendors is that too often solution providers limit their sales efforts to just one or a few of a company's product line -- a problem for vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle and HP with expansive product offerings.
"I'd love to see [more] of a strategic view from more of our partners, to invest a little more across our product portfolio," Red Hat's Whitehurst said. Most of Red Hat's partners resell Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the company's flagship product, and perhaps a few others like the popular JBoss middleware. But other products, such as the company's Enterprise Virtualization, SOA Platform and Enterprise MRG Grid, not so much.
"In Linux, we're the market leader. It's an easy go-to-market motion," he said. "I'd love to see some more muscle helping us actually drive some of these more nascent [product] categories."
Nothing drives HP's Smith crazier than when a partner sells an HP product, such as one of the company's servers, but misses the chance to expand the deal to include other products from the vendor's product portfolio. "They trip over opportunities," he said with some exasperation. "Do it, or turn it over to another HP partner."