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One Size Doesn't Fit All when Chasing the Channel's Long Tail

    

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Twenty years ago a partner was a partner. For the most, part they all did the same thing, and the real differentiation came from product specialization and price. But today, profiling a broad partner community is much more complex due to system cross-pollination, new technologies and sectors, and a shifting partner landscape.

 New solution providers constantly join the market, creating a constant state of flux in the channel. Legacy partners who have been at it for decades, are consolidating through acquisition at a steady pace, contributing to an unpredictable channel. Cloud and managed services models are force solution providers to invest in new technologies, new divisions, and practice areas in order to capitalize on these new IT consumption models.

In the past, volume based channel programs offered a one-dimensional view of partner capabilities and were limited to a couple major partner types (value added reseller, ISV, systems integrator). It was sufficient then to group partners into like-communities for purposes of offering up core channel program benefits. Today however, value-based channel programs attempt to capture a wide variety of partner profiling elements across sales, technical, marketing, and services-delivery capabilities.

Value-based channel programs attempt to capture a wide variety of partner profiling elements across sales, technical, marketing, and services-delivery capabilities.

Channel-savvy vendors must adopt a scorecarding system that combines the traditional, current-state partner profile elements with non-traditional elements that help predict the future success and stability of the partner.

Traditional elements include: 

  • Revenue
  • Target markets
  • Technical certifications
  • Product sell-through mix

Non-traditional elements tend to be more qualitative and include:

  • IT vs. LOB sales approach
  • Internal sales methodologies
  • Quality and quantity of demand generation activities
  • Level of vertical market or business process insights
  • Level of partner-to-partner collaboration activity

The ability to capture these elements in one central repository, accessible to everyone in your organization responsible for partner growth or development, can make or break your segmentation model. If you consider partner profiling an annual “necessary evil,” you’re probably missing the mark on creating the dynamic database you need to continually adjust your partner coverage and support model.

Take revenue metrics for example. A partner with multiple transactional models may be engaged in your partner program as a traditional VAR with 4-6 quarters of low sell-through transactional success. However, that same company may have a separate pre-sales consulting division that engages with large enterprise clients in a particular vertical market. In that part of their business, this partner’s revenue likely falls off your radar screen if you don’t have a formal program to capture and reward sales influence.

Current state-of-the-art channel programs provide a feeder or “community” tier for partners

Current state-of-the-art channel programs provide a feeder or “community” tier for partners interested in an IT vendor and/or their products, without requiring them to make a full investment in the formal partner program. Organized correctly, this can be an invaluable nurturing ground for potential partners while simultaneously driving high visibility to your company’s offerings and success with and through indirect channels.

With the rapid changes we’re seeing as new re-sellers enter the partner space, and partner consolidation among traditional partners, it’s more important than ever that the long tail of low or non-transacting partners are not forgotten. A solid plan for coverage should be in place to ensure this lengthening tail of partners and revenue is not lost.