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Channel revolution is now possible. What’s stopping us?

3 min read - by Jon Busby - CTO

Channel revolution is now possible. What’s stopping us?

Three barriers to change (and how to jump them)

New digital powers make this the perfect moment to fix challenges in the channel. At the same time, transformation has created practical barriers of its own. Jon Busby explains how you can work through internal politics, control your inner rebel and find your secret weapons. All to create a new channel strategy, without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

A little while ago, Karen Hartsell of Intuit joined Alex Norbury and me to discuss ‘The Future of the Channel’ (you can catch up with the full podcast here).

Since that recording, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated many of the trends we discussed. Which means that, even more so today, vendors stand at a turning point in channel strategy.

In fact, there’s a bit of an irony driving these changes. Here’s why…

As-a-service solutions and cloud platforms have thrown into question which partners create the most value for vendors. Those new technologies have led to an explosion of solutions, blurring the lines between resellers, managed service providers and developers. For vendors, that means rigid tier structures are less effective than ever at delivering a return on your channel investments.

Yet, these very platforms make it possible to revolutionise channel operations. Tech companies invented three-tier structures to satisfy anti-trust laws – laws that require vendors to treat all partners equally. Now, though, we can finally satisfy these laws without inflexible programmes. By using new technology and much more nuanced data, we can treat all partners equally while also being more flexible about what we choose to measure and reward.

In other words, there’s never been a better time to change. So, what’s stopping us? Here are the most common challenges that stand in the way:

#1 It’s out of your hands

Getting approval for anything means pleasing a lot of stakeholders. Plus, your channel programme structure might be dictated by Global.

What to do

You probably have more allies than you think. Discuss the big issues with as many people as possible. What percentage of our benefits actually get used? Why is so much of our MDF investment spent on merchandise? If you aren’t in a position to commission a big rethink, then start from where you are. Talk to your partners about what they really need. Find out which benefits matter to them, and which they just think of as a tick in a box.

#2 You want revolution, but you need a vision

On the podcast, we chatted several times about what I call ‘the rebellion approach’. When everyone’s doing the same thing, it’s easy to make the case to say ‘let’s do the opposite’.

What to do

Instead of starting from big ideas about turning your programme upside down, start by investigating how your partners are using your current programme. Consult with experts about different options for bringing your data together, and find out what you’ll know about partners when it’s integrated. Then, when you propose a new idea, you’ll not only know have a plan, but also a baseline to show real improvement and ROI against.

#3 You don’t know what your secret weapons are

Your partners don’t care about some of your tools, because those tools don’t offer them any incentives. So, they seem like a low priority.

What to do

The most unlikely tools could be the key to revolution, so consider everything. Take your Partner Locator, for example. In an increasingly global market, location is less and less important. In the future, locators could find partners by skillset, responding to a customer’s needs. Partners could compete to appear higher up on searches, creating an incentive for them to update their data.

Looking to stand out among vendors? Get in touch to discuss your channel needs.

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*LinkedIn’s Professional Impact Survey, March 2020

**Hubspot, Content Trends Survey