3 Essential Channel Partner Enablement Trends for 2016

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As expected, business migration to the cloud gained further steam this year, with Cloud Industry Forum data suggesting an overall cloud adoption rate of 84% and an expectation among more than half of UK respondents that their entire IT estate will be moved to the cloud “at some point”.

If cloud migration is seen as a disruptor to the channel partner model, then it’s pretty clear that disruption is now the norm. But as adoption rates increase, so too does end-user realisation of what migration actually means. Curtailing or eliminating completely the need for hardware purchases is one of the big selling points - good for buyers, bad for your partners perhaps. But as for the initial integration work, not to mention training, support and maintenance, the need is still there - and with it, the potential for profitable revenue streams for the providers of these services.

In fact, with security issues surrounding the cloud hitting the headlines with regularity, never before has it been so important for partners to establish their credentials at the cutting edge of best practice and totally in tune with the needs of their target market.

Enablement in this context means giving those partners what they need to achieve this ‘trusted advisor’ status. From working with and gaining insights from vendors and partners alike, here’s what we expect to see more of in 2016…

1. Enabling more effective lead nurturing

Channel partners who are still attempting to reach customers with “one size fits all” marketing collateral face a challenging landscape. Buyer expectations have changed, and rather than being presented with generic “feature list” type sales literature, customers in 2016 are used to being fully supported throughout the buyer decision making process.

This support comes typically in the form of messages and content tailored to meet the needs of that particular buyer at that particular point in the procurement process. Identifying a business requirement, researching broad approaches to meet it, weighing up options, liaising with other stakeholders in the business, satisfying themselves that the solution under consideration is the best choice: channel partners require material to address each of these need states.

Companies that excel at this process of lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. In 2016, it’s imperative that vendors support this approach with campaign material that recognises the complexity of the buyer journey and that allows partners to help move their customers along that journey.

2. Addressing concerns in a niche-specific way

Broadly speaking, concerns such as the length of migration process, the cost of downtime and risk of security breaches are shared by businesses across all market sectors. But this doesn’t mean that these concerns are best addressed in a general way.

Channel partners are increasingly targeting niche markets and much of this is to do with jostling for position in a crowded search engine results landscape. But it’s also to do with the fact that customers themselves are seeking the reassurance of niche specialists. On issues such as average migration times, vendors need to go beyond providing broad figures and look closer at sector breakdowns. This approach may also involve, for instance, looking closely at the specific guidelines and requirements laid out by niche specific trade associations and regulatory bodies and demonstrating that your product ticks all the right boxes.

3. Effective communication outside the IT box

With a cloud solution, what’s being sold isn’t hardware but new business capabilities. Consequently, the manager in the driving seat so far as the buying decisions are concerned is just as likely (and perhaps more likely) to be someone outside of the IT department.

In 2016, your channel partners are likely to be spending ever-larger chunks of time trying to reach out to the likes of marketing chiefs, HR managers and financial officers - and trying to speak to them in their language. Vendors need to look closely at their campaigns in light of this. If it’s geared squarely at IT professionals, it’s time to reposition with content which answers the specific questions those individuals are likely to ask.

This year has seen us hard at work, enabling new tech brands set out their stall and helping existing players to take a new direction. Contact Influence Agents today for insights on how your channel partner campaigns and support programmes can be made to work better in 2016.

Channel Sales Manager's Guide
Matt Hodkinson

About the author: Matt Hodkinson

Chief Exec Agent, veteran inbound and social marketer, having spent the prior 17+ years spent in the Tech industry. Matt is often annoying colleagues with classic house music and 80's movie quotes. Family and friends delight in exclaiming... "Haven't seen you on TV for a while, Matt"!