Did you miss the real revolution that’s happened in the last couple of years? Most channel leaders understandably had their eye on the cloud. That was certainly the key transformation for partners. But it wasn’t the big one for vendors.
If you are a high-tech vendor, you need to recognize we are in the middle of a data revolution. And that is the key revolution for channel management.
Data is the real revolution
In many ways, the major cloud players are all data driven disruptors. Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Google, and Facebook all use data to monetize every transaction. It is their intimate knowledge of their customers that gives them their market advantage.
I’ve been in the business long enough to remember how it was historically very difficult to capture good data on partners. Maybe you had some distributors that were willing to share POS data. Usually the data was incomplete. The same partner often bought from different distributors making merging and de-duping huge chores. Internal systems were more times than not horrible. So much so that even if the data was collected it was almost impossible to report out with consistency and accuracy.
That all changed with cloud based solutions and software as a service systems.
Now the amount of data you can collect on every partner is staggering. Many times, you can track not just partner purchases but to which customer they are selling into. You can visibility of who is engaging online with what content. Leads, deal registration and pipeline tracking let you gauge partner performance before a sale is even made. You can even measure who is executing your partner marketing campaigns with the right program benefits and services.
All this information can be easily connected today in a manner we only dreamed of earlier.
Revamp your channel assets
Collecting actionable data should be your first priority with every partner interaction.
This is perhaps easiest with the web and your partner portal. Almost every partner portal requires a partner log-in. This means you can track every partner, usually at the individual level. You can understand what content, what sections and what interactions of every visitor to your portal. Think of this the same way your marketing department uses broader information to create a marketing qualified lead (MQL). At a minimum, it shows you the level of partner interest, engagement and readiness.
You also need to build out a detailed profile of every partner. This might be more difficult for smaller partners, but the level of public information on your partners is huge. Many sources of this information exist in the market. De-duping and merging information is now incredibly easy as almost every source contains the company’s URL so you have an easy field to index around. Two of your best assets for capturing a profile are partner business plans and your MDF engine. Make your partner profile a required part of the submission process. Better yet, use some sort of intelligent question engine to constantly gather critical information without asking the same questions too many times.
Almost every social network – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – make it easy to follow partners and their leadership. Build an analytical engine to see which partners are mentioning you and your products. Benchmark partners against one another to understand what level of evangelism with their customers for each partner.
Lead management, deal registration and any partner pipeline engine give you detailed visibility into a partner’s sales engine. Don’t just focus on gathering customer information. Also, gather information that lets you measure and report out partner performance at a peer level. You can’t compare different types of partners accurately and with meaningful impact. But CDW will definitely want to know where they place in a benchmark against Insight and SHI.
You can structure your partner marketing engine to identify which partners are doing what. You should structure it to give you visibility into partner’s private customer data, but you can measure usage and activity. You should know which partner is sending your marketing campaign to 100, 1,000, or 10,000 customers. What is there response-rate and click-through percentages? Can you offer advice and information that will increase their effective, and therefore their usage, all while giving you better insight into the partner?
Play the long-game
At The Spur Group we have a very simple formula we use to predict who will succeed in any given market – [Product Advantage] X [GTM Efficacy] = [Revenue Acceleration]. We see this theorem to play out every single time.
If you have a great product advantage, having a super-efficient and effective channel GTM will act as a force multiplier. It will make your success even better. And your product advantage likely gives you the ability to be even more demanding with partners If you don’t have quite the same clear product advantage, a successful go-to-market strategy can often equalize the playing field.
And the key to the long game is better understanding your channel numbers.
Richard Flynn is a recognized leader in channels and go-to-market business strategy and execution. A Founding Partner and Chief Marketing Officer for The Spur Group, Richard has over 25 years of go-to-market experience in sales transformation, channel management, and customer marketing.