Earlier this week I attended the Channel Focus conference in La Jolla, CA organized by Rod Baptie. Rod does a tremendous job putting these events together and all of us in the industry owe him a debt of gratitude. It was a pleasure to connect and reconnect with people in real time and compare ideas and experiences. Although there was not an official theme, there were some ideas that came through for me this year. Here are three that I want to remember:
- Hot Trends: The Cloud and Social Media: These are big things in our business now and they would emerge as the topics in any conference. There were many good tactical ideas for dealing with each and I have some lists of thoughts I will publish later. That being said, the old saying: “the more things change the more they stay the same”, did ring in my ear. We have been talking about these and the cloud in particular for a long time and as the changes actually start happening it is almost anticlimactic. We need to remember that the hard work of building and operating channel partner programs still has to be done through these changes. In the very last session we discussed a recent survey of vendor and channel partner sentiment and found that the channel partners could be more ready for the changes than the vendors. Not surprising on one hand because channel partners are smaller companies and prone to change faster, but it is ironic because it has been the vendors that have been evangelizing the changes to the partners.
- Organizing Ourselves: At lunch yesterday Rod Baptie and Scott Hammond took a few minutes to remind us that we have no industry association to advance our thinking in a more organized way and advocate for policies and practices that could benefit all of us. Rod and Scott have been working on this since the conference in 2009 and have made considerable progress. Perplexing as this reality may be, we do need to get on this. I will post a link here to the working group as soon as I get it.
- The Recovery is On: Everyone I talked to seemed to agree that the recovery is on – and everyone is swamped trying to make the most of it. Hiring seems to be going on in channel marketing departments everywhere as the plans that have been cooked up during the downturn are pressed into service. As we struggle together up this steep ramp the winners will be the ones that make sure to keep things simple enough to execute well and that listen to their partners.
As always the speakers were very high quality and the agenda was just packed. Rod squeezed what any normal person would consider enough content for three or even four days into two days. Even though some people may have to add a third day just to recover, I think the format was very good. Short enough to attract the busiest people and with sufficient density to satisfy the most discriminating conference attendee.
One more thing: We all are absorbing more information than ever: The social media tools do enable vendors, channel partners and customers to process much more information – and so our capacity to absorb messaging seems to be taking some big steps forward. We have been working for several years to make the communications vendors have with channel partners more compact and efficient – in response to partner feedback of being overwhelmed. In this event I did not hear that sentiment anymore. Could it be that through these new aggregating and distillation tools that the channel partners actually want more information from the vendors?
This reminds me of something I heard Jay Rosen say not so long ago (and this is a paraphrase from memory): There has never been a time where I have been able to get enough information about a topic I was really interested in. There may be something to this.