Channel Champion Blog

by Chris Becwar

Channel_DataI’ve mentioned here before that I’m a big fan of the conference that Baptie & Company puts on every year because of its unique approach. For a couple days each year, key folks from some of the largest and most powerful channel organizations in the world take a break from competing with each other and ‘talk shop’ openly and honestly about the struggles and goals of their profession.

For those of you who didn’t have the chance to attend, or if you weren’t paying attention, here’s a ‘top 3’ hot topics at Channel Focus 2014 with discussion themes and key take-aways.

 1)    How Best to Capture, Serve Up, and Use Channel Data

Let’s face it, getting your hands on, and making sense of, all the relevant data available to a typical channel team is not for the faint of heart. With all the advances in channel automation tools, system integration, analytics, and data warehouse environments these days, it’s clear that people see an opportunity to leverage all this data…but often don’t have a sense of where to start or what to measure.

 Here are some great points related to channel data from channel ‘guru’ Ross Brown of The Spur Group:

  • Time is the most important dimension to data analysis; we must use trends of the past to predict the future.
  • Integrate anything you can…data in isolation is data devalued.
  • Get as close to the data source as you can…do not go through the Excel ‘wringer.’
  • Don’t mistake correlation for causation.

And in addition, some great channel KPI and analysis metrics were discussed, including reach, frequency, yield analysis, and ‘next logical partner’ analysis!

Our very own Steven Kellam led a session on channel ROI measurement best practices. With complete objectivity (really!), I can say it was the most highly attended session of the conference outside of the keynote. There is a recorded webinar of a similar presentation he did recently here If you’re interested.

Steven covered a lot of ground but an exciting key message is that we are finally moving into an era where it is truly feasible to obtain what has traditionally been referred to as the unattainable ‘holy grail’ of channel management: connecting the dots on channel ROI. But you need to have the right platforms, integrations, and data-sharing policies in place.

 2)    Current State of the Channel

If you work in the channel and have a pulse, it’s clear that the channel is in major flux these days. So there was a lot of discussion, by Rod Baptie and others, about what we’re learning about the new breed of channel partner that is evolving with the rise of recurring revenue cloud offerings and the increase in bundled OEM channel offerings.

For channel vendors that already offer a SaaS offering, there has been a dramatic increase in revenue coming through “born in the cloud” partners…these are folks who came into the IT channel business one to five years ago, after cloud software started to go mainstream.

Key requirements explained by Rod and others for a cloud partner to be successful:

  • Comfortable having a vendor that sells direct, and letting someone else bill the customer.
  • Needs the financial model to build/sustain a cloud practice, which means embracing the classic insurance biz model of agents selling recurring revenue products. This can require some lean years while you get a practice going, which is tough for a lot of veteran IT channel partners to swallow.
  • Needs to be able to sell to ‘business line’ execs outside of IT. Sorry partners, time to put on the suit and sell your value to someone besides your buddies in the back of the building.
  • Technically savvy with APIs and integration coding, as well as SSO. Lots of vendors and groups like Comptia are wisely offering courses for partners on this stuff.
  • Must be willing to partner. It’s an integrated technology world we live in, so ‘go it alone’ client relationships just don’t cut it anymore.

 3)     Modern Marketing Best Practices Stats

Some very telling statistics were shared by Ken Romley of Zift on how B2B marketing is evolving to keep up with changing buyer habits.

For successful lead generation and sales velocity in today’s marketplace, research shows prospects want:

  • Insights they haven’t previously considered.
  • Vision of a future they would like to achieve.
  • Help solving business problems.
  • Help achieving end results.

Head turning stat from Forrester, and backed up by the other big analyst firms: Given all the information available to people on the internet today, on corporate websites, social groups, today’s B2B buyers tend to be between 66% to 90% through their ‘buyer’s journey’ before they reach out to a salesperson… buyers now put off talking to a salesperson until they are ready for price quotes.

So, where do you start to improve partner sales? Ken’s tips on how to deliver leads more effectively:

Tip #1:   Deliver directly into a CRM, or by email.
Tip #2:   Deliver with full context, ideally updating context as new marketing touches are made.
Tip #3:   Provide one-click inclusion of lead into nurturing.
Tip#4:    Track results with minimal partner overhead by pulling from the partners’ CRM (or via email).

I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. Maybe that makes me more of a ‘channel geek’ than a ‘channel champion’… I can live with that.