Many industries are going through revolutions where new entrants are completely changing the market. What Amazon.com is doing to bookstores and Google is doing to newspapers is just the beginning. The companies turning markets upside down are do so by not knowing how it has always been or how it is supposed to be. In our business almost every maker of computer hardware of software makes it stunningly complicated to be a channel partner. Partners are made to jump through hoops of every conceivable size and shape, achieve certifications, prove sales history, get customer testimonials, maintain a staff of salespeople or engineers, and on and on. And as soon as a partner has run the gauntlet with one manufacturer, the trials start all over with another one. Each of these relationships are at least as complicated as that with a bank. And to be a successful technology service provider and selling partner to the manufacturers of the technology, more than a dozen and sometimes several dozen of these channel partner relationships must be maintained. There may not be any other industry that makes it this hard to get the parts and pieces it needs to be successful. Can you imagine if a restaurant had to maintain 20 or 30 complex and fragile business relationships -- just to get the ingredients needed for its recipes?
All of this market friction points to a big opportunity for a new entrant to really make a big leap forward -- just by making things unbelievably easy. Here are some ideas that just might achieve that end:
Be One Company
All big companies have quarreling departments and the makers of computer hardware and software are no exception. Apple Computer presents a single face to its customers and that one thing should not be underestimated. Lesson number one therefore is to Be One Company. After all, a new entrant will certainly be one company.
A great deal of the component parts needed for partner relationship management already exist in the marketplace. From LinkedIn profile information to already achieved partnerships with other industry participants, partners are forever re-doing work that they have already done. Most large technology manufacturers force their partners to use their proprietary system when all of the information is already being maintained elsewhere. To be the unbelievably easy partner program to work with, take full advantage of the other systems available. It would be a great partner experience to link to profile information and automatically graed access to those that had certifications from the competition.
Ask What You Can Do for Your Partner
Mapping programs offer up more than one route to a desired destination. Engaging with partners can be achieved by designing a program and getting partners to conform, or alternatively, by asking partners and building to their specification. Either way the outcome is increased sales, in fact the latter probably delivers better results. So don’t ask what the partner has done for you, but what you can do for your partner.
The conditions in the technology industry channel partner ecosystem are such that change will come. The question is, who is going to make it happen?