Channel partners are bullish about their growth prospects. In fact, in a recently conducted Forrester survey in North America (NA) and Europe, 59% of channel partners expect to grow by more than 10% in each of the next two years. However, partners will need help and handholding as they aim for greater sophistication and higher growth targets, especially around cloud based services. Forrester research indicates that three-quarters of channel partners in NA and Europe now sell cloud-based solutions (up dramatically from two years ago). These solutions now make up 26% of their overall revenue, a percentage they expect to increase in coming years.
In my recent report, Seeding the Cloud Channel, I highlight three key areas where the partners will need support from both their tech vendors and their distributors:
Diagnostic tools and services to assess current maturity and set a transformation road map. Partners will first have to collaborate with their principal vendors to gauge the fitness of their organizations for an annuity-based business model — and whether they can sustain that model in long run. Vendors need to create assessment tools to evaluate their partners' business model transformation potential. For example, Cisco Systems built its OnPlus ROI Tool expressly for partners to model the myriad business model options and scenario decisions they face. This will not only help partners identify their pertinent strengths and weaknesses, but will also help them plan their future growth strategy.
This week, Colt launched its Ceano cloud services for SMBs with a particular focus on the reseller channel that actually services these businesses. As this announcement combines the business strategy of a telco provider with an innovative channel strategy, Forrester analysts Dan Bieler and Peter O’Neill have again combined (as in their previous blog on Cisco) to discuss their impressions:
Dan. Ceano is impressive in that it constitutes a true end-to-end platform, ranging from the network solutions provider to the channel partners and service enhancers, to the CIO of corporate clients, and all the way to employees – i.e., the actual users of Colts’ services. The main area of improvement of Ceano versus the previous customer engagement relates to the presentation of Colt’s portfolio.
Peter. Well, I had already called out their impressive channel strategy a few months ago, and this announcement continues that story. Leveraging the technologies from the ThinkGrid acquisition, Colt partners are now easily able to orchestrate, provision, and manage the Colt cloud services for their clients – and the system supports the partner’s own business processes from quotation to billing.
Last week, Forrester hosted a channel roundtable in Singapore on theevaluation of channel models in Asia Pacific.The goal was to create a common platform for tech vendor senior channel executives and Forrester analysts to discuss key changes faced by the channel leaders and how best to adapt to them. The briefing was attended by 26 senior channel executives representing 21 tech vendors.
All of the channel leaders agreed with a Forrester report which indicated that channel models are under great pressure due to the growth of mobility and the devices that power it, as-a-service computing models, and the decreasing influence of IT departments on overall tech spending. As they cope with these changes, the key challenges they identified during the interactive roundtable were:
Identifying and engaging with those channel partners that can adjust to market shifts. This emerged as a major challenge, not only for some of the new cloud-based service providers but also for traditional tech vendors venturing into new solution areas. A shortage of skilled channel professionals within Asia Pacific exacerbates this challenge. Several also identified the challenge of high turnover within their channel base and the frustration of investing in the skills of a partner executive and having him shift to a competitor’s channel.
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Forrester hosts its Sales Enablement Forumin Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 4 and 5, 2013. Attendees will engage as a community with a shared focus on driving revenue, hear success stories in process from their peers and leading B2B practitioners, become immersed in the latest thinking and data from Forrester including face time with analysts, all in the comfort of the Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Over the next three weeks, Marketing Mondays will spotlight the themes of the forum through a series of Q&A sessions with attending analysts. First up, I will answer frequently-asked-questions as a general introduction to the forum, and then Tim Harmon and Jonathan Silber will delve into the forum’s don’t-miss value for clients who market and sell through the channel.
Cisco’s annual partner marketing conference, Partner Velocity, wrapped up in Las Vegas last week. Two hundred and thirty-five partners from 24 countries were in attendance to witness Cisco’s recently appointed VP of global partner marketing, Amanda Jobbins, sing her heart out during the closing ceremony. I can confidently confirm that she passed her trial by fire with flying colors and her future at Cisco (or Glee, if she decides to pursue that path) is fully secured.
I had the pleasure to sit down with approximately 15 partners over the course of the three-day event. Here’s what the event looked like throughthe lens of partners’ marketing professionals:
“As a member of a tiny marketing team, I have a lot of responsibility and very little support. Velocity helps bring me up to speed on the latest-and-greatest marketing trends and best practices.”
“The marketing experts that speak at Velocity are top-notch. The only thing more valuable is the peer-to-peer network that the event cultivates. Cisco sure knows how to bring the marketing community together.”
“I’d like to see Cisco create marketing education-for-dummies and align it more specifically to my business.”
In their Asia Pacific Tech Market Outlook For 2012 report, Andrew Bartels and Frederic Giron show that government and business IT spending in the emerging markets of Asia (including China, India, and the ASEAN countries) will reach US$180 billion in 2012, growing by roughly 13% over 2011. While emerging Asia’s IT spending is surging this year, economic obligations in the developed markets of North America, Europe, and Japan will ensure continued austerity — and limited IT spending growth. In other words, emerging Asia is clearly a lucrative region of opportunities for US, European, Japanese, and South Korean vendors looking for new sources of growth to offset lower business prospects in their home markets.
Asia is a region of highly disparate countries, with regulatory complexity, cultural differences, and a limited pool of skilled resources. These barriers to entry and expansion will compel vendors to look beyond organic growth, which is simply too time-intensive. Instead, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) of local/regional incumbents with local know-how, skills, and client relationships will increasingly be a strategic imperative for vendors targeting emerging Asia. I’ve highlighted some examples from the Indian market below, but I foresee similar trends in the overall ICT sector throughout emerging Asia:
This year (next month) Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum will sport a new channels track. With a theme of “Bridging the Strategy-to-Execution Gap,” we will drill into the issues vexing channel professionals on why “perfect” strategies, involving partner recruitment, partner enablement, and partner loyalty, often fall flat with channel partners.
I’m particularly excited by being joined on stage, not just by my colleagues Dane Anderson and Michael Speyer, but by [yes, real live] channel execs Jon Roskill of Microsoft and Wendy Bahr of Cisco. Jon and Wendy are going to share their insights and their most effective techniques around channel enablement – i.e., how their companies’ channel teams empower their channel partners to effect maximum productivity. Attendees will have plenty of opportunity to grill Jon and Wendy with their particular issues.
Moreover, Dane, Michael, and I are going to bring “the voice of the channel partner” directly into our explorations of partner management execution. I’m sure you’re going to take away some valuable, actionable ideas for boosting your own channel strategy-to-execution map. Check it out:
Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum 2012
What is it that you think makes one tech company stand out from another? “My product is better than your product”? Not anymore. “My salespeople are better than your salespeople”? Possibly. “My channel is better than your channel”. You’re getting warmer. How about, “My marketing machine is better than your marketing machine”?
For example, 41% of customers identify “the vendor’s (not including its salespeople’s) ability to understand our business problem”, compared with only 21% who identified “the vendor’s salesperson’s ability to understand our business problem” as the most important vendor action factor when selecting a tech vendor. Marketing is clearly the difference-maker.
But cloud computing changes everything. The implications of cloud computing go far beyond its technology delivery/consumption model. It seems I get questions from tech marketers about all things cloud these days. A few examples:
“How can I use the cloud more effectively to market our solutions?” (Answer: It’s not what you read in USA Today about Facebook and Twitter. According to the results of our 2011 B2B Social Technographics® survey, discussion forums and professional social networking sites (read: not consumer social sites) outpace Facebook and Twitter ten-fold as information sources for informing businesses’ technology purchase decisions.)