Our Top Takeaways From Channel Focus North America 2018

ITA Group
ITA Group

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If you were in Scottsdale for Channel Focus North America, we hope you found the content as valuable as we did. If not, don’t worry. Check out our quick-hitting highlights that outline the impact for you as a vendor or manufacturer seeking to enable and engage your channel partners.

1. Specialization in the channel is critical.

According to Forrester’s Jay McBain, 297 sub-industries are currently at play within channel markets. That’s why it’s imperative for channel organizations to study and know their clients’ business and market(s).

Today’s buyers are doing their own research and are therefore more informed than ever. Thus, expectations have changed and generalist sales approaches are not enough to meet growing buyer demands. This degree of specialization isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s more frequently expected.

What does it mean for you? You’ve got to explicitly get to know the industry(s) you’re targeting and serving, and be able to give buyers the confidence that your recommended product or solution has been successful in their specific niche.

2. Customer-centric strategies are the future.

It’s not enough to rely just on what partners are asking for. Brands must understand the larger market to ensure their business strategy aligns with its needs, and those of their end customer.

What does it mean for you? Once you figure out what that market need is, work with your partners (or find new ones) who can support the identified strategy.

3. Shadow channels are here and at play.

As line-of-business buyers increasingly make purchasing decisions, traditional channel partners are struggling. They’ve spent years courting IT buyers which means they simply don’t have the relationships with other business lines. Instead, new and different partner types, or shadow channels, are increasingly winning deals, often by going around IT. These new partner types include SaaS ecosystem consultants, industry-based professional services firms (think HR consultants, accounting firms and marketing agencies), independent software vendors, born-in-the-cloud firms and disruptive startup companies.

What does it mean for you? It’s time to recognize and identify roles or industries that might not have previously been viewed as routes to customers, then identify ways to partner with them. Also, stay ahead of the changing channel loyalty landscape with mindfulness that not all channel partners are the same, and calibrate enablement strategies to cater to their differences.

4. Education and certification don’t mean a lot if the channel doesn’t engage.

If it does engage, they can prove invaluable.

What does it mean for you? Continuously evaluating and refreshing your channel enablement strategy—then infusing valuable training opportunities that your partners will truly benefit from—is a must. For particularly important training needs, consider infusing in-person or webinar-based curriculum to break away from the “same old” module-based methods currently used for most partners.

5. Events are critical to the channel.

We’ll say it again. Events are critical to the channel.

Valuable face-to-face engagements bring individuals together to foster new ideas and generate new opportunities. They help brands stand out from the crowd and convey authentic messages about what the brand really means to partners. And they create connections that matter—connections that spur partner loyalty toward the brand and keep buyers coming back for more.

What does it mean for you? Now’s the time to start infusing strategic events into your bigger-picture enablement strategy, if you haven’t already.

The Ultimate Takeaway: Channel Partners Are Evolving

So is the way they do business. A channel enablement strategy that accommodates that evolution can transform the way your partners connect with your brand and ultimately how they offer their loyalty. Create the experience(s) they’re seeking—including greater personalization, increased agility to deal with new channels, and a reintroduction of face-to-face interaction. Learn more about creating those experiences in our ebook: Brand Advocacy and the Emotionally Connected Customer.

Competing for customer attention? You should be competing for their affection. Download our ebook, "Brand Advocacy and the Emotionally Connected Customer"