A day after Google announced its Google Apps Referral Program, concerned resellers are saying they are hearing only silence about how the program will affect the channel.
The new Google Apps Referral Program gives a $15 per seat award to current Google Apps customers who refer other businesses to the applications. The current customers don't need any technical expertise, only a tax ID, email address, and bank account to get started. Potential new customers are incentivized to go through the referral programs with a $10 per seat discount if they are being referred by a current user.
"It almost a direct hit against those low hanging fruit that those resellers would have gotten. Now Bob's Fruit Stand is referring so-and-so down the street and they are going to use the referrals [instead of the resellers]," Wylie Digdon, director of deployment services at Toronto, Ontario-based Sheepdog, a Google Apps reseller. "It's still unclear if it's at the expense of resellers in the market."
Digdon said he had reached out to his connections within the Google channel program, but he had not heard back any answers.
In fact, none of the resellers CRN spoke to said they had received any information from Google about how the Referral Program would affect the company's reseller program.
Dave Monk, CEO at Berkeley, Calif.-based ArcSource Consulting, a Google Apps reseller since the channel program first launched, said that while he normally gets notices and information from Google on upcoming launches and the product roadmap, he did not receive any information this time around.
"I would have liked advanced warning," Monk said. "Sometimes they're good with that and sometimes they're not."
A Google spokesperson told CRN that the Referral Program is designed to give low-touch customers an incentive to share the product. The spokesperson said it was not designed to "compete or take away from anything our resellers are doing."
"We're 100 percent committed to our partner's network, to supporting them, to providing the tools they need," the spokesperson said. "They're hugely valuable to our customers."
"Our partners are a critical part of everything we do and we'll continue to invest in them and the partner program in 2014," the spokesperson continued, referencing Google's recent Global Partner Summit where it launched a three-tier channel program.
The spokesperson said they were not aware of any communication sent out by Google to its more than 10,000 reseller partners regarding the Referral Program launch.
Despite the lack of warning about the Referral Program, Monk said that he doesn't see the new program as a threat to his reseller business. While it may attract some smaller, more tech savvy businesses, he said resellers can add more value and services to the package than Google Apps alone. One opportunity he said he saw was being able to work with potential new customers after they were referred by current Google Apps users. Monk said he didn't know if that opportunity would be available, but he said he hopes that Google will make that a possibility.
John Hoyt, CEO of Greenville, S.C.-based Homeland Secure IT, said that he hadn't even heard of the Google Apps Referral program, but said he didn't think the program would benefit his business at all, even if it was presented as a way to gain more customers if they were to refer their peers to his IT business.
"I'm kind of at a loss with the Google Apps referral program. In theory it could be good, but my clients are usually looking for us to handle everything for them so I am just not sure how that would work," Hoyt said in an email to CRN. "Make the referral, accept it on behalf of them [as we deploy their solution] and then get paid out by Google?"
Many partners said they hope, at the very least, that this new program would help expose more potential customers to Google Apps and help grow the overall market for the product.
PUBLISHED MARCH 12, 2014