Monday, April 27, 2009

Are you Tuned-In to your Channel Partners?

Some partner programs pride themselves on their extensive number of partners. Congratulations, are partners supposed to be excited about that? Welcome to our partner program! You now have more competition for your business then you did before you joined. I'm not saying vendors should have fewer partner, let's be reasonable. But, don't be so out of touch with your partners that you promote your partner list as a benefit to them.

As I wrote in "One size does NOT fit all" channel partners want a tier and a program that fits their business. You must recruit them with this in mind. Telling them their competitive landscape has just tripled doesn't really help. So what does matter?

1. Ease of Use: Please! When I was an alliance manager I worked with several vendors. The one we sold most often was the one whose program was straight-forward and whose portal did not require a PhD to navigate.
2. The "What's in it for me?" factor: Do I need to explain? If a partner sells your competitors product and makes more money, the only time they will sell your product is when a customer demands it. You'd better either have great margins/rebates/incentives or you'd better have the best product out there.
3. Lead generation: Ask any solution provider what they wish their vendors would do better and they will say lead generation. Either handing over nurtured leads or providing them with the right tools to get the leads themselves. This doesn't mean sending them email campaigns that only talk about your products' value prop. They need to be customizable so the solution provider feels it represents their business as well.
4. Support, support, support: Not just technical anymore. Partners need to know that they can get what they need from you in minutes. If they are out on a sales call and need a quote or piece of collateral it better be smooth.

Vendors who do this have the highest satisfaction ratings despite some of the largest communities of partners. They aren't talking about how many partners they have, they're talking about what they do for them.

Who does this right? I'd love to hear from solution providers and vendors.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day...are we as green as we think we are?

In honor of Earth Day this year I'm looking for vendors and channel partners who do it right. The "Green" thing that is. About 18 months ago (before the entire economy imploded) all we heard about was going green. Some companies did it right like IBM lowering the energy expenditure of their products and finding lower emission options for transport. While other companies such as Dell were using green as a marketing tactic talking about skipping their old piecemeal ways and shipping entire infrastructure solutions to end users in one big box. This sounds like a worthy green initiative, but don't the pieces come to Dell as a bunch of little boxes first? Partners were also up in arms as putting it all together is part of the value they add. In Dell's defense that was over a year ago and they've done some great things since then. The important thing is that Green initiatives are actually doing some good!

There are other positive signs that green is still top of mind. The Interop conference in May is dedicating an entire track to Green IT with speakers from Deloite, Forrester, Alcatel Lucent, and Juniper.

So that's what some of our market leaders are doing. Now what are the rest of us doing in our daily lives to make a difference? Think about using public transportation whenever possible, reusing grocery bags, getting a BPA free water bottle instead of buying water bottles every day, or buying locally grown produce whenever possible. There are many more things you can do, find out more here.

Wherever you are get out and enjoy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What does Cloud Computing mean to the Channel?

I wrote a post 'Is Saas Channel an Oximoron' a couple of months ago but having just come from the Babson Alumni Technology Council's breakfast on cloud computing I wanted to revisit it from a different perspective.

There are huge opportunities in cloud computing, HUGE. Right now any developer with some business sense and a good idea could put together an application on and let 'er rip! Salesforce's partnerships with Facebook and Google make that even easier.

What does this mean for the channel? Are solution providers going to become the new vendors? Is there going to be a flood of applications that crowd the space making prospects numb to their value propositions.

One thing I know for sure is that vendors and solution providers alike need to be more in tuned to the options out there and the way advances can and will effect their business.

Do you have experience building applications for the cloud? What are the pros and cons?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dell using Twitter to boost sales

Working with B2B companies on their social media strategy, the first request I always get is "give me an example of another B2B company that has used social media." The one vendor that comes to mind is Dell. While they are a B2B and B2C company their social media practices have paid off in both arenas.

Dell's Channel Blog is a place for channel partners to hear up-to-date program and product news, comment on posts, and join the conversation.

Dell actually made $1 million from Twitter in 2008. By setting up a following and tweeting discounts and promotions Dell created a community of loyal Dell followers that are willing and able to buy. Not only that, they are most likely talking about their experience to other prospects. These aren't simply B2C products either. Channel partners are following the tweets as well. Let's not kid ourselves, this is only $1M to a company like Dell but how else could they use this exposure to boost sales? How could you?

Stay tuned for more social media success stories, who knows the next one could be you. Are you looking to figure out your social media strategy? Have you tried things that have been successful? Have you tried things that have failed miserably?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Microsoft to open Retail Stores...this is not an April Fools joke.

Microsoft hires former Wal-mart executive David Porter to lead the development and execution of their retail stores. No details on when, where, and how stores will be launched but with the success of the Apple stores, Microsoft wants to through their hat in the ring.

How is this going to effect the channel? While corporate clients most likely aren't going to make large purchases through the stores themselves is there going to be a WebMD effect? You know, the sick person goes to their doctor and says, "I think it's something-or-other-itis". "Oh really", says the doctor whom has been through a few years of medical school and training to be able to make an accurate assessment. "Yes", says the patient, "I read about it on the internet".

Are channel partners going to be faced with customers who think they know best because they spoke to a pimple faced 17-year old for 10 minutes at a Microsoft store?