Erik Frantzen, Chief Executive Officer, Nurture Marketing
The old adage “politics makes strange bedfellows” can also apply to the channel—in a good way.
As technology enables end-users to prescribe their own IT needs and gain even more power in purchasing decisions, the channel must continue adapting to this shift. Smart resellers are using alliances to help meet these broader, more complex demands, and they aren’t afraid to partner with seemingly counterintuitive providers.
For more than a decade, customers have desired—or even needed in cases of regulated environments—a diversity of solutions. Like the prior paradigm of the all-inclusive “partner” or “reseller,” clients still want to decrease friction and complexity by going to only one trusted source to deliver technology and other services to optimize their business.
Like all of us, they want to sign in with one set of credentials. “Single-pane-of-glass” providers, to borrow an old reference—now potentially more apt with a “virtual” pane of glass in the cloud—can fulfill that checklist by collaborating with partners they may have once considered as competitors. These partners will rise to the top of customers’ preferred vendor lists. As technology evolves, so too must alliances within the channel.
Resellers have always partnered with other entities to fill in a missing piece to an overall package of services their customers need, such as Microsoft Dynamics alongside physical infrastructure and networking. But the advent of the cloud and heightened security crises have exponentially increased and diversified while also consolidating customers’ IT needs.
Today, end-users procure virtual and physical technology to address and support their employees’ and clients’ specific business demands. They have to review and assess a myriad of solutions containing multiple components, including devices, custom applications, specific vertical industry software, cloud, security, and all of the tools for WFH support. They ultimately need a bundle of services that encompasses all of these requirements and functions. Your success now depends on evolving and learning how to market your expertise to new clients with these bundled solutions.
Unfortunately, creating multi-function, multi-vendor bundles is challenging today because the technology channel is not currently set up to deliver these complex yet profitable packages. Many firms within the channel are trying to align with what end-users actually buy today through their own networks. Their capabilities to deliver multiply when they form alliances with other firms to create complete, layered offerings—even with those who may have been competitors or may still be. Resellers who understand our industry’s challenge to adapt constantly can thrive. If they search for and find the combination of vendors and components, whether from friend or foe, they will create the comprehensive packaged solutions their customers need now. Everybody benefits.
For many, it’s an excellent concept but difficult to put into practice because of historical differences. For example, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were not always supportive of partnering or ”coopetition.” In the early 80s, Microsoft was an important early Apple partner, creating essential software for the Macintosh. But the two companies then clashed over competing OS software with graphical interfaces. Relations between Jobs and Gates were tense for years until 1997 when Jobs returned to Apple and realized they needed help from many industry partners—including Microsoft—to correct its trajectory. Microsoft released Office for Mac, helping Apple answer its customers’ demands for access to the software required to conduct business with their clients.
That’s just one example of how an OEM can come from one provider, even if it is multiple technologies under “one pane of glass” now, in the sense of unified solutions. That’s where alliances work, positively impacting the channel. Partnerships must be meaningful, not just an opportunity for companies to display their logos.
Take inspiration from these industry icons and take control of your destiny. Reach out to other firms in the channel that could help fulfill your mission of serving all of your clients’ needs. Reach out to everyone now, including your competitors who ultimately may be able to complement your packages of services. Don’t let fear stop you. Legal agreements can establish boundaries between companies, allowing them to capitalize on their synergies and go to market with solutions that help you both win more revenue.
Historically, VARs and other IT business solution providers would visit clients, assess what they believe to be the company’s need, then sell in the hardware and software they thought was the best package. Today, that paradigm has turned upside-down, propelling customers, especially business-unit end-users, to the top of the hierarchy. All of our activities in the channel should now flow up to them and their needs.
This shift has been taking place over the last ten years and has happened for a couple of reasons, including the democratization of technology. With the advent of the cloud, smartphones, iPads, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), consumers decide what their businesses need instead of being told what they should buy. A real-world example is how Comdex has been usurped by the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as the most potent technology trade show.
Clients now have all the information they need to make their choices. But emotions still come into play, like in consumer purchases for the home. Humans are making these decisions, weary of the risks of working with new vendors, yet motivated to be seen as leaders if their choices yield cost savings or increased efficiencies.
Resellers should recognize how psychology still impacts these purchase processes even though less take place face-to-face. Understanding what types of personas are making the decision can provide guidance that helps validate their customers’ choices. This guidance can include additional information and insights, product reviews, or specific vertical industry case studies such as business problem-solving initiatives previously completed successfully by the VAR. Serving as a trusted source on this particular IT decision nurtures that overall relationship, increasing the likelihood of clients contacting you for the next purchase.
The only constant in our continually evolving channel is the need to follow our clients and solve their problems in ways we may not have imagined before. Nurturing relationships with everyone in the channel–even the less obvious ones–sets you up to meet client demands with the answers you’ve already envisioned and created.
Please contact us to learn more about nurturing in the Partner Channel. You may reach us by calling (732) 636-1001, Extension 27, or by visiting the CONTACT PAGE of our website.