Today, the channel has some super-sized vendors like Dell (News - Alert), Cisco, Microsoft, IBM and AT&T. I would put Ingram and Tech Data there too. There are numerous carriers in the next segment of the channel pyramid that include CLECs like TelePacific, Windstream, Level3, and CenturyLink (News - Alert); and other carriers like Comcast and Sprint; hardware vendors like Xerox, ADTRAN, and Juniper; and cloud players like Salesforce, VMware, and Lenovo.
There are two more segments that make up the technology channel. The bottom one is filled with boutique shops of SaaS, PaaS, other as-a-service players, and security. It is filled with regional fiber players and data centers. And it is filled with VoIP providers (and conferencing players).
One segment up you could put the marketing mavens of Vonage (News - Alert), RingCentral, and 8x8, along with the cablecos that are not Comcast. The first group has made a brand for itself that also created some demand that channel partners can leverage. The cable guys certainly have demand but some programs are just too rigid to create a business around.
The bottom segment has two problems: attention and business model. The attention part is because they don't utilize marketing and have no (or a crappy) brand. So the partner has no leverage to use that. Say what you will about the call quality of OTT providers like RingCentral or Vonage, but the masses have heard their names. There is name recognition that can be utilized. And the amount of advertising that the big three ITSPs have done has created some demand for hosted PBX.
When you examine the business model, could a partner make a living off of your services? Obviously, many tech partners have a business (and a healthy living) that revolves around the top-tier programs like IBM (News - Alert). However, when you have a VoIP provider with an unknown brand, how can a partner wrap its business around it? How can he or she make a living from selling it? Cable is easy to sell, but at $300 per sale, it takes a number of sales to make a living. The same is true with very small business voice services; at less than eight SIP paths (or trunks), is there an ROI on the sale?
First recognize that you are in the bottom tier, then do something about the brand and the business model – and partners will come.
Peter Radizeski is president of telecom consulting firm RAD-INFO (News - Alert) Inc. (www.rad-info.net).
Edited by Maurice Nagle