The big problem with most channel programs is the lack of marketing. There are three pieces usually missing from channel marketing.
The first and foremost is the branding. Any way you look at it in cloud and telecom services, there isn’t much branding. CLECs have a bigger problem with it than most. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast (News - Alert), Cox have known brands. EarthLink has name recognition from years as a consumer dial-up ISP. Why is a brand important? It conveys trust, identity and promise, which makes selling easier. Otherwise, you have to develop trust and identity during the sales process every time.
Branding starts with how you position your company. Vision, mission, purpose and values are all components of the brand. But even just figuring out where your services fit into the grand scheme of things is a significant progress.
Channel partners already have a portfolio of services that they have to sell to meet quota and pay bills. Where will your services fit into that portfolio? In a blog for the Cloud Services Community, I wrote about the need for adjacency. Your services have to complement or be adjacent to the current crop. And it has to be adjacent in their mind, not just in the vendor’s mind.
For example, cloud data backup is complementary and adjacent to selling servers. Another type of example is a Panasonic (News - Alert) VAR would not be a good partner for your VoIP service if it is not interoperable with Panasonic phones.
The Panasonic example brings me to the third piece: Know what makes a good partner. In other words, have criteria for what your best partner would look like or at least a minimum set of requirements. The problem most vendors deal with is that they don’t want to disqualify anyone from the partner program. They just can’t say no, even though each partner consumes resources that ultimately have a real cost of the program.
In short, most channel programs lack some basic marketing pieces – from branding to the application. Without an appropriate brand, sales are more difficult. Without a good story of how your services blend in with the current customers and portfolio, you will be relegated to only occasional sales. A lack of criteria for partners means that you may waste resources on partners who will never produce. Get your channel marketing squared away.
Peter Radizeski is head of telecom consulting agency RAD-INFO (News - Alert) Inc. (http://rad-info.net/).
Edited by Alisen Downey