How IT Vendors Can Attract Channel Partners
The channel has largely taken over from direct selling as the best way for IT vendors to sell their products. Especially when it comes to cybersecurity, the service-as-a-service market is booming. Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) are taking more and more market share.
Many IT vendors have launched their own subscription services in an effort to preserve market share. But it is far from enough. They need to increase their direct sales efforts with a strong channel presence.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that IT vendors attract less than 20% of their partners through their own portals. “This number is consistent with what I’ve seen at Thrive and competitors,” said John P. Holland, chief revenue officer at Thrive Networks.
The question, then, is how can IT vendors increase the effectiveness of their partnership?
“IT vendors have to work hard to reach the right audience,” said Mike Day, channel manager at GoTo.
Here are some tips for finding that audience and growing your channel’s presence.
Traditionally, attendance at trade shows, symposia, IT workshops and other industry events provides ample opportunities to interface with MSPs and solution providers and showcase capabilities.
“We find the events very effective, but advise IT vendors to be very selective; ensure that the event is channel-exclusive, or at least channel-centric; and that it targets the right audience in terms of size, geography and services offered,” said Yoel Platt, vice president of partnerships and business development at virtual CISO platform provider Cynomi.
Platt added that it is wise to pay close attention to the engagement mechanisms provided by the various events to ensure they meet a supplier’s needs – the booths, pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings and in-room presentations. meetings meet different needs.
“Events that have guaranteed one-on-one meetings or boardroom presentations with guaranteed attendees are most effective in efforts to recruit new partners,” Platt said.
Day accepted. He prefers to attend events that partners attend. Now that many events have returned in person, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know potential partners or clients better and build relationships.
Webinars and virtual events
Due to COVID-19, in-person events are fewer than before. This may gradually change. Nevertheless, a hybrid approach should combine some in-person events with webinars and virtual events.
A well-targeted virtual event may not attract a ton of attendees, but it should attract the right ones. Make sure it’s focused on the needs of your target market – and make sure they get more than just a sales pitch, like solutions to the problems they’re facing.
Also read: Making event marketing work for you
Content creation is another way to drive business to a partner portal or an IT vendor’s website. By demonstrating thought leadership and creating helpful content, partners get material they can use to generate more leads.
“Great content will help bring value to your products and educate the market as to why they will solve the current problem(s),” Day said.
The collaboration between case studies and public relations also works well. Versa Networks, for example, has rolled out initiatives to enable partners to create joint case studies and collaborate on public relations and social media amplification activities.
Training and certification, free or reasonably priced, is another way to help partners generate more revenue. But flexibility is key. Take the case of Versa Academy. This learning portal offers business and technical training and certification paths. Training sessions are delivered in person and facilitated by a virtual instructor.
“Providing this level of flexibility to partners has energized our ecosystem,” said John Atchison, head of global channel marketing and programs at Versa Networks.
And in a time of global IT talent shortages, sharing your own in-house training with your customers can be a huge benefit that inspires customer loyalty.
Also read: How MSPs and MSSPs can attract talent despite the IT skills shortage
Another strong approach is working with channel communities and accountability groups, said Gareth Case, chief marketing officer for AI-based security provider Redstor.
“MSPs and MSSPs will share their satisfaction with other group members about the solution providers they work with,” Case said. “But it can work against them if there is an unsatisfactory experience.”
Case said the number one source of new business for MSPs is a referral from an existing customer. This, he said, also applies to solution providers who receive praise from an MSP, which can bring referrals to other MSPs.
“Thrive receives most of its customers through referrals from existing customers, organizations within the specific vertical they are a member of, and IT vendors they work with,” Holland said.
Much of IT vendors’ focus is on how they can get business from channel partners. But it really is a two-way street. If a supplier goes to the effort of sealing a partnership and then sits back expecting a flood of business, trouble is certain.
Just as the vendor needs to see results from its channel partners, these partners expect to see the vendor go to great lengths to drive sales. Providing MSPs and MSSPs with end-user leads is the best way to demonstrate the vendor side of the deal.
Redstor, for example, has an end-user onboarding process that nurtures prospects into channel partners and offers them new business opportunities.
Strong partner portals
Many of the actions described here are aimed at bringing attention to the Partner Portal. Therefore, while it may not directly hook channel partners or be the trigger that gets them to consider a partnership, the portal is the website and associated tools that demonstrate credibility.
“If you don’t have a solid website, it can kill a deal,” Case said.
In other words, if the marketing and sales efforts are successful, the next step is due diligence that begins with visiting the solution provider’s website. This means MSP-specific messaging is clear and simple and provides a frictionless onboarding experience to maximize conversions through the website.
Further Reading: A Good Partner Portal is the Key to the Sales Channel