Goodbye traditional partner programmes – we’ve moved on

We know the channel has seen some enormous changes over the last few years. There are more partner personas, relationships, business models and go-to-market strategies than ever before – the channel is a now complex ecosystem.

We know the channel has seen some enormous changes over the last few years. There are more partner personas, relationships, business models and go-to-market strategies than ever before – the channel is a now complex ecosystem.

So how are vendors attempting to negotiate the channel landscape in 2022? I spoke with vendors, distributors and channel partners about how partner programmes are evolving in response to the changes.

The replies were incredibly interesting. Some of the things I was told include: “The days of badge colours being so important are long gone”, “Revenue is still a component, but not the primary driver” and “Tiered partner programmes are over, although vendors have yet to recognise this.”

These responses confirm what we’ve been seeing recently – the rise of a competency-based model over traditional revenue tiers. Vendors increasingly see this as a way for partners to deliver value to shared customers faster and is necessary for expanding into new markets.

Programmes: now more than just a badge-getting tick box exercise

However, I’d like to highlight a couple more opinions worth considering.

Stewart Grant is partner manager at Irish MSSP Integrity360. He says in the past partner programmes have often been “hoop jumping exercises.” They resulted, he says, in a box being ticked, but limited value outside of the programme badge. But as partner programmes have evolved they have become more focused and valuable with end results that benefit the partner and programme owner.

“Measurements outside of certifications and revenues are now increasingly being added in. New logo business, marketing and support are all being included to measure partners overall capability. Again this gives the partners that invest the best opportunity to succeed and be valued.

“The highest tiers of partner status are becoming harder to achieve. Whilst this could be seen as tedious and involving more resource to complete, they are in fact benefitting the partners who invest over those who don’t. The value in return is increasing with better direct management support, trust, and funding being available, along with more partnering opportunities. 

“Overall partner programmes are more than just a badge-getting tick box exercise, they are now value-driven partner programmes designed to give partners a real opportunity to differentiate themselves in an often crowded market place.”

Partner content and marketing – still an afterthought?

Jo Dunkley, business development and marketing director at Coterie told me the channel ecosystem now requires a different type of support from vendors.

“Partners want segmentation based on skills and specialisations. Not how much revenue they’ve made by doing transactional sales. Partners need help differentiating and this is where forward-thinking vendors will win out over the next few years – proving support and programmes that help their partners stand out from the crowd.”

Jo points out that unfortunately, channel marketing is often still an afterthought when it comes to initial strategic discussions. “For the channel to thrive this will need to change in the future, and I think we’ll see a shift in thinking from vendors, as they race to drive their subscription-based models and realise the importance of the channel ecosystem in serving customers and succeeding in this area,” she says. 

Elsewhere, John Brown, director, EMEA channels at cloud security vendor Menlo Security thinks similarly. He says the availability of everything in the modern partner programme, including deal registration links, promos and incentives, vendor assets, competitive battlecards, pricing and SKUs, should reflect the way people work today. This means they are available wherever they are, whenever, and on whatever device they choose to work on. 

“To succeed in a modern channel a vendor’s programme and its contents should be visually appealing and engaging, rather than a drab afterthought. Features like the ability to compare a number of competitive products side-by-side should become the norm.” 

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: there is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ approach to partnering. Nimisha Overton, EMEA partner programme lead at Canon EMEA sums it up: “The modern channel requires a partner programme that lets partners pick their own path, supports growth, and encourages diversification. One size really does not fit all.”

Read the full report where these experts, and many more, weigh in here. Do you agree with them? We’d love to hear your thoughts too.


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