IDC predicts that worldwide spending on digital transformation technologies will reach a tipping point in 2018, at nearly $1.3 trillion. This represents a 16+% jump over the $1.1 trillion spent in 2017. What this forecast confirms is that digital is more than just a trend – it’s a disruptive current that’s forcing companies to truly change the way they do business in today’s service-driven economy.
When responding to this enormous business shift, what are the new demands that must be met for partners to thrive? What are the processes, data and technologies that vendors should extend to partners to help them better understand and serve the customer? At Channel Impact, it’s our business to constantly look toward reevaluating and reinventing today’s partner programs. With digital transformation now in full swing in our industry, here are three strategies we recommend putting in place now to pave the way to greater success in the channel of the future:
- Be Laser Focused on the Customer – Most businesses place high value on investments in competitive strategies, but now and in the future all companies should spend more time and focus on the customer. The single most pivotal thing a vendor can do to compete more effectively today, in collaboration with their partners, is to understand and address the needs of the customer. This is where digitization can make a difference because it enables you and your partners to scale out to listen to the customer, amplify your engagement with them, and nurture their success throughout the post-sale lifecycle. The top takeaway: the goal of your partner strategy and programs should be to make the customer more proficient at using your technology, and help partners serve the customer’s long-term needs well beyond the point of sale.
- Address the Entire Customer Lifecycle – As technology moves towards on-demand and in the cloud delivery models, traditional sales approaches will see diminished impact. Partner programs that once focused exclusively on helping land the customer must now be retooled to address all the post-sale phases of the customer relationship, which are critical to influencing whether a company (and its partner) will retain and potentially expand that customer relationship. There is a direct correlation between how much customers use a product and how much future revenue will be obtained from those customers. In addition, it’s widely known that the cost of keeping existing customers and selling more to them is much less than the cost of acquiring new customers. To ensure customer retention, partner programs need to be reoriented towards the entire customer lifecycle of land, adopt, expand and renew, and channel partners must be much more services-oriented — with proactive systems in place to guide the customer towards product utilization and more successful business outcomes.
- Shared Data Insights & Analytics – Vendors need to take ownership of helping partners automate digital engagement and optimize human touches with business intelligence to ensure they deliver continued value to the customer the right way, at the right time. Using marketing automation, predictive and prescriptive analytics and more, it’s also possible to improve the efficiency and success of your partners and lower the total cost of sales. Remember, the primary goals of your partner programs are to a) help customers adopt and gain full value out of your technology solutions, and b) help them achieve their desired business goals. As these goals are addressed, and as customer trust rises, higher profits and revenue will follow for the vendor and the partner. As an example, vendors that monitor customer health and share consumption and telemetry data and analytics with their channel partners stand to build stronger renewal and expansion rates.
Rally Around Customer Success
Not everyone has everything dialed in yet, but a few companies are leading the charge and exemplify what it takes to be successful in the age of digital. Early adopters like Cisco and Extreme Networks have organizationally embraced the concept of not only selling technology but also redirecting their partners to be laser focused on the tenets of customer adoption, expansion and value realization. When your channel program is built around these tenets, including offering the supporting data and systems for predictive execution, you can set the stage not only for your success in the digital future, but also that of your partners and customers.