Channel partner programs

Vendors and Partners: How Do You Define a Successful Channel?

Author: Heather Margolis
Heather Margolis

The Channel Maven team has a collective 100 years experience in the channel so, it’s probably no big surprise that we often converse about best-in-class Channel Programs and which components lead to a successful Channel. Lately, we’ve been looking at it from the Partner journey perspective and how this point of view can help build an ideal Channel Program.

When looking for Vendor options, there are of course some common elements Partners identify and review. But beyond those, how (other than looking at sponsored award winners) can they define channel success or rank channel opportunities in order to make the best decision for their situation?

As a Partner looking to add a Vendor to your portfolio, or as a Vendor trying to attract Partners, here are some factors to take into consideration:

Does the Vendor understand your business?

Partners want to ensure that Vendor PBMs, PAMs, CAMs, and/or PAE’s know what they need for joint success. However, many Vendors don’t lead with this discussion. Instead, they come out the gate talking about their solutions. Do they fully understand how Partners go to market and what their business goals are? As a Partner, you want to know that your Vendors understand your motivators; what keeps you up at night and what makes you excited for the next workday.

For Vendors, if a Partner is joining your program simply because a customer asked for your product, are they a good use of your resources? Certainly help them become a registered Partner and close that deal, but beyond that it’s time for a critical look. Trying to ramp them up on your resources, program, solutions, and team isn’t ideal unless they opt out of the one-and-done sales mentality and decide you’re the right long-term choice.

Does the Business Model Make Sense?

This could also be called ‘How the &*(#(@ do Partners make Money?’

With lots of customer conversations around on-premise cloud, public cloud, private cloud, born in the cloud, hybrid partners…need I go on…it’s more important than ever that Vendors are clear about their business model and how Partners make money.

Partners, you can often switch business models easily so if you go that route, make sure the transition includes building out a more in-depth business plan. Get help if you need it, gather the team to ensure they’re onboard and prepare for the possibility that some legacy customers, team members, or vendors might not come along for the ride.

Do you have what you need for a successful Channel?

Vendors, if 80% of your Partners are in the same region, same Partner type and same value proposition will one more duplicate Partner profile help your program? Maybe. Just maybe they have access to a huge client that no one else has access to but barring that, be sure you’re diversifying your Partners.

Partners, when looking at Vendor options, check out the demand generation resources they provide and what they offer for onboarding and training your team. This analysis should also include their portal or PRM tool, marketing automation, co-brandable campaigns or DIY campaign copy, training (marketing, sales and technical), events to drive engagement, an outgoing and approachable channel executive team, and open communication.

Show me the Money!

Many people define the success of a Channel by how much revenue they pull down. Is this a fair assessment knowing that different solutions have different ticket prices, play different roles in an implementation and have better-known brands?

I prefer to look at the percentage of the overall revenue when deciding if a channel program is successful. How else would you define a successful channel program?

Heather Margolis is CEO of Channel Maven Consulting.