Every mid-tier storage vendor dreams of becoming the next Lefthand or EqualLogic; a multi-million dollar payout or IPO for a company well-built. But with the onslaught of new storage spin offs and a historical recipe of how to do it, the task is getting tougher.
Channel leverage is still key. OEMs can’t scale without an increasing number of good channel partners to fulfill the demand. The difficulty is that the days when you can simply architect a solid storage appliance, wrap it in a channel friendly program and watch it explode are gone. Today, every mid-tier storage company has basically the same story–decent, albeit similar, products and a great channel program.
So, with the saturation of mid-tier offerings, how can an IT OEM set itself apart and win the “Seed and Feed” game?
First, stop “Pushing on a String”
Many OEMs find themselves “pushing on a string” when trying to grow their channel programs. They know a strong channel program is critical to scale, yet they go about building it in the wrong way. They don’t seem to understand that in today’s self-service environment, their channel partners have little or no chance of finding new customers. Look at Figure 1 below.
Figure 1 – Anonymous buyers block out channel partner marketing messages and MDF is wasted
The OEM is spending a significant amount of Marketing Development Funds (MDF), time and effort trying to get partners to sell their solutions. The buyers, however, hide behind spam filters, email, voice mail and caller id and can remain completely anonymous. They are in complete control of the process and will remain unknown unless they need information. Spending more and more MDF trying to reach an increasingly indifferent anonymous prospect is futile.
Pulling the String of Demand Generation
The best way for OEMs to create (seed) and build (feed) a partner program is to PULL the string of channel lead generation and then hand off those opportunities to new or existing partners. For this to work, three key objectives must be met:
The following diagram shows how a pull process works. Since serious buyers always research solutions directly with the OEM, it makes sense that the OEM takes the primary role of “lead converter”. As inbound visitors check out the OEM’s website, strong calls-to-action can entice and motivate serious buyers to respond.
Figure 2 – The pull method places the OEM front and center in lead generation activities on behalf of channel partners
The power of this method is evident when a new, potential customer engages with the OEM. Suppose a prospect responds to the website offer and contacts the sales group of the OEM. With a simple question, the sales rep can “seed or feed”. Here’s how it might go.
This is Bob at SnazzySAN. I approved your request and it has been sent. If you have not received it, please check your spam filter.
May I ask you a question?
Do you have a specific Value Added Reseller you prefer to work with, or no?
Now, if Bob responds with “Yes, I like to work with DataPart, Inc.” and they are not yet a partner you have the opportunity to seed a new partner relationship and bring DataPart into it’s first deal.
However, if Bob responds with “No, I really don’t have a preferred VAR” then you are in a unique position to “feed” one of your existing partners a new opportunity.
Either way, as long as you the OEM is capturing and distributing the inbound leads, you can direct them to where it suits your channel program the best. When you leave it up to your channel partners to find new customers you may find yourself spending a lot of money on co-marketing events with few results.