Why partner communications must evolve

There are a few things that characterise the IT channel. The partner ecosystem deploys cutting edge technologies to help customers achieve their business outcomes.

Partners also understand the importance of customer relationships, often taking deep dives into their businesses to really understand their needs and pain points. That level of engagement is critical to the long-term customer loyalty.

So why are partners themselves forced to put up with inadequate engagement from vendors? Why hasn’t the method of engaging with partners evolved in 20 years? For companies that have made their names from enabling their customers to build better businesses, why only rely on a monthly email newsletter to communicate with partners? (These partners, by the way, which bring in thousands, if not millions, of dollars in business for them?)

It’s certainly a contradiction.

There’s often no dedicated partner communication or engagement manager within the vendor – instead perhaps a channel marketing manager is tasked with grabbing some last minute content each month to send out for the partner newsletter. The content is rarely personalised or segmented to a partner’s business beyond job title. Any news is often out of date by that time too, meaning these emails are rendered largely irrelevant to the partner.

These newsletters end up just another unread email in an overflowing inbox.

The only way partners can choose what they receive is to opt in or out of that entire communication – meaning the relationship is entirely one directional.

“It’s entirely dictatorial based on what content the vendor wants to push on their partners,” says our CEO Glenn Robertson.

“It’s entirely linear in one direction. And because inboxes have become more crowded, more emails are being ignored and the knock on effect – directly and indirectly – is that engagement is going down.”

Glenn believes we are starting to see a complete move away from the traditional, one directional model of the channel, which sees the vendor at the top, followed by distribution, partners and then end users.

“We want to move away from that vertical, top heavy, linear model of channel to an ever-evolving, ever-moving ecosystem of interaction, interoperability and collaboration. We can no longer continue to rely on a one directional, one dimensional way of communicating with partners, because it will just continue to miss,” he explains.

“The future of partner communications is multi-directional and multi-dimensional, which means the best way to encourage engagement and interaction with your partners is to offer them choice. Because if you offer them choice, then you give them freedom to consume. When you give them freedom to consume, they’re far more likely and willing to do something willingly rather than feel like they’re being pressured to do it. If you’re able to do that, that’s going to increase your overall partner engagement – not telling a partner you want them to be more engaged!”

Glenn says if a vendor is continually putting restrictions in place, partners will disengage – something no vendor can afford in a world where partners are often surrounded by choice of vendor.

“For so many years partners have had to earn the right to sell a vendor’s products. I believe a switch is happening where vendors are now having to earn the right to work with a partner. If a vendor can provide partners with openness and the freedom to choose – on their terms – when and how they want to sell their products, learn and consume content, then that is how they they will achieve wider and stronger partner engagement. We need to progress beyond measuring engagement using metrics that are based on response and reaction, and towards a more inclusive, proactive approach. If someone is doing something proactively because they want to, and not because they are being told to, that is demonstrating true engagement.”

Glenn continues: “The new ecosystem movement is not telling partners what to do, not dictating to them. Vendors need to democratise communication. It’s offering partners the choice to access and consume vendor information on their terms, rather than based on what the vendor wants to share. Choice and freedom going to be what drives success and what drives future partner engagement.”

Daren Bach

Daren Bach (FCIM)

Chief Creative & Digital Officer
The Channel Agency: Purechannels
Helping Channel Marketing teams unleash indirect revenue through creativity, digital and storySelling.