• Which Comes First, Channel Partner Development or Demand Generation?

    The question, “which comes first, channel partner development or demand generation?” came up in recent discussion in the Channel & Account Management Experts Group on LinkedIn. It was from an apparent startup company looking to utilize a channel partner only approach to their sales channel who mentioned they “do not have the revenue to fund demand generation activities.”

    As someone who has managed and/or implemented channel programs in the past, the fact that so many of the subsequent responses appeared to come from people stuck in ideology, or who have never had their own compensation linked to that of new channel partner, struck me as odd. If you had your own compensation reliant upon this new channel more than once, odds are you would find the answer to the above question really quite simple: whichever you can be effectively implemented first.

    It seems as though demand generation has slipped in the high tech industry over the past half of the decade. With access to immediate information, and comprehensive websites outlining features and benefits of products, consumers are less inclined to seek out additional information and thus result in lower lead generation than prior to the turn of the century.

    If you can spend minimal amount of funding and have the experience to create demand, you will differentiate yourself to these potential channel partners. For example, I recently initiated a campaign with a budget of US$10K/year that increased visibility to hundreds of thousands of users in online forums, as well as increasing the traffic to our own website.

    However, if you are unable or lack the experience to do so, developing your channel can be done effectively with honesty, patience, and a bit of incentive to get things moving. If you are honest about where you are (strategic plan & funding), where you want to go (strategic marketing & sales plans) and how you will benefit them as a channel partner, you may be able to persuade new and experienced industry VARs to join you and provide you with valuable insight on their success with other products. Education, compensation incentives, co-op funds and communication are the key to onboarding potential channel partners.

    As a Channel Manager, I’ve helped resellers redefine their business strategies, as well as listened to them in order to revise mine. Don’t make your channel a dictatorship or be held hostage. The word “partner” is in Channel Partner for a reason, and they may be able to help you get up and running faster than you anticipated.

    Craig Preston has been a Channel Manager for several leading IT firms such as Intergraph Computer Systems and Autodesk.  You can reach Craig at craigprestonoc@yahoo.com.

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    1 Comment to “Which Comes First, Channel Partner Development or Demand Generation?”

    1. Kenny Madden Kenny Madden says:

      superb post. A lot of tech vendors and start up’s believe building a channel and recruiting partners to do your selling for you alone will be effective. This is simply one of the top 10 mistake vendors make. Partners will not do your selling for you. The end user IT buyer will happily reliy on a vard relationship or channel partner but
      1. he/she needs to have heard about you.
      2. he/she wants a direct contact with the vendor and the VAR to help with a decision.
      3. once this is achieved the buyer will happily purchase via the channel.

      However, just recruiting VAR’s and relying solely on partners to sell your product will fail.

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