I love the excellent product quality today. We’re surrounded by technology that works well inside products that are generally well-designed. The vendors behind these technology products are mostly well-governed businesses that comply with our extensive consumer protection laws.
Perversely, that is often a problem when those same vendors want to sell their hardware, software and services through the indirect channel.
If all products are good, if all brands are strong, then it’s no longer enough to have a great product made by a great brand. Those characteristics are expected by both the customer and the sales channel. What must a channel marketer do to make his or her hardware, software or service product a hit with the channel?
Sadly, there are no silver bullets or simple answers to that question. At Outsource we’ve identified seven dimensions to making an offering truly channel ready, and each of those has up to ten characteristics. However, there is one key thing that I find is most often done poorly or not at all. The channel value proposition.
What is a channel value proposition?
As professional marketers we understand the customer value proposition. We know that it summarises why a specific buyer should buy a product or use a service, and how that particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings.
We also know that developing a strong customer value proposition isn’t easy or trivial. It needs a deep understanding of the customers’ business needs, the competitive market space and your own offerings strengths.
The channel value proposition, similarly, summarises why a specific channel partner type should sell or recommend a product or a service, and how that particular product or service will add more value to the channel partner’s business or better solve a partner’s problem than other similar offerings.
In meerkat terms, “Simples!”
But the sad reality is that a strong channel value proposition is rarely developed. There are four main reasons:
1. Vendors don’t understand the channel partners’ businesses
Note the plural on businesses. The channel is not one-dimensional, and it’s important to understand each partner type’s needs and motivations. That means, at a minimum, segmenting the channel, and then developing a value proposition for each segment.
2. Vendors are in love with their own offering and can’t see past its features
“We’re a great brand, we have a great piece of technology!” Yes, and so is/does everyone else. What else have you got?
3. Vendors fail to see beyond their own metrics
Generally, the requirements of overseas shareholders drive the way vendors measure success. These requirements are usually irrelevant to those vendors’ channel partners. Translating between the two is hard.
4. Vendors see the channel as simply a part of the sales team
Last year I wrote a blog called “10 reasons why resellers aren’t your sales team”. In it I said, “Your reselling channel partners are in business because they want to make money, not because of some enthusiasm for your company’s products or services. Enable them to make money with you and they’ll support you; otherwise you’re wasting your time and theirs.”
Channel marketing will lead the development of the channel value proposition, but it mustn’t be the sole participant. If the indirect channel is critical to the market success of your hardware, software or services offering, then every stakeholder in that offering has a responsibility to contribute to and understand the channel value proposition.
Otherwise, your offering will never be genuinely channel-ready.
At our next complimentary breakfast session in Sydney, Outsource Channel Consulting Director, Kit Craig, will walk through a complete framework to help you make your IT solutions completely ready for the channel to sell.