Channel Programs Respond To Changing Customer Business Environments

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New business models and customer types are driving vendors to continually change their channel programs, with those changes being less about dollar incentives and more about finding new ways to partner with solution providers.

That's the conclusion of a panel of vendors discussing the evolution of channel programs with an audience of solution providers Friday at the Xchange Tech Innovators conference.

Channel program changes depend on both technology changes and on the need to get closer to solution providers, said Tom Fitzpatrick, director of field marketing at Kaspersky Lab, a Woburn, Mass.-based developer of anti-virus software.

"What we're hearing from partners is, touch me more," Fitzpatrick said. "It's not a conversation about incentives. Spifs are going away. Partners are saying, give me more training. Guide me. Help me figure out how to work more with my end customers."

As a result, Kaspersky is investing more in certification and training, he said.

For a hardware company like Cleveland, Ohio-based UPS and power management vendor Eaton, the move by customers and their solution providers to new computing models such as services and the cloud means it needs to look for ways to remain relevant, including bringing relationships with such partners as virtualization specialist VMware to its channel program, said Kristy Cornell, channel marketing manager for the U.S.

Cornell said that solution providers who consider leaving hardware sales to others such as Dell or CDW while focusing on services is not a good idea because of the risk of creating new competitors and the risk of losing future sales.

"Hardware is a sale, but there's a drag behind it of services down the line," she said.

Communications services is a relatively new product for the channel, and so the focus on channel programs in this area is helping partners wrap their own services around it and head for cloud computing, said Tristan Barnum, product line director for business product sales at Digium, a Huntsville, Ala.-based developer of VoIP and PBX phone systems.

"We can help partners wrap in custom development," Barnum said. "We help our partners understand how to sell it, and make money on it."

Joe Sykora, director of marketing at Fortinet, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based developer of network security tools, hardware, and appliances, said his company is focusing its channel resources on developing an MSP program, and just last year initiated its first influencer program for MSPs.


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