Partner Segmentation … Critical to do? Or just another “fad” in channel modeling?

August 6, 2008 at 12:07 am Leave a comment

Sue Redmore

Sue Redmore

“Partner Segmentation” seems to be the new buzz word in many high tech circles these days.  If companies are not already in the midst of some form of segmentation analysis, they are considering adding it as a critical component of partnering engagements moving forward.

This sort of modeling exercise is not a new concept, so why the renewed interest?

From our vantage point, we think one reason is the evolution of partner business models. Those of us who have been in this industry for many years remember the days of the basic VAR and distributor model. Looking back seems a kinder and simpler time then. Fast forward 10 years and witness the transition to a partnering model based on a wide range of partnering types, options for multiple points of entry into a program, and the growing trend to move from a pure volume based model to one driving the total value of a partner’s skills and expertise based on competencies or specialization.

Add to this mix the emergence of new partnering types, such as MSPs and those with sophisticated services specialities and technical expertise.  And what about all the growth opportunities in emerging markets like Latin America, China, India and Russia?  The combination of various markets maturity levels, diversifying business models and lots of new types of programs to reward partners in a myriad of ways, and you have one massive Rubik’s cube of complexity.  With all of these market dynamics at play, and tried and tested traditional partner role definitions and business models having less relevance, the need to build more in-depth profiles of your partners has increased.   Vendors need to know where their partner base is aligned in coverage to address geographic or vertical markets, skills solutions or customer focus — and where they have gaps.

So how does segmentation help partner programs be more precise and focused to identify and develop the partner’s needed?

It’s the Quality not the Quantity.   At Amazon Consulting, we are seeing a growing smart trend of “less is more” as it relates to re-qualifying and selectively recruiting new partners.  Quality vs. quantity is becoming a common mantra to maximize the depth vs. breadth of partners recruited and effectively supported.

An associated challenge is investment – insufficient resource or budget to provide quality support and touch to any but the chosen few.   The lower levels where traction counts are usually high and are often left to find their own way through the program.  This means missed opportunities in identifying potential go-to partners who have key skills in place that would be beneficial to develop.

Profiling and segmentation can address both of these issues.  By investing in  in-depth profiling upfront in the initial program application and qualification stage, vendors can capture the key data as a baseline, and identify those with the right profile who need to be nurtured and put on a fast track.  The bigger picture of partner demographics then enables accurate segmentation and alignment with vendors’ current market strategy.   Combining this with regular updates through reviews and partner surveys provides a clearer ongoing picture of partner demographics, identification of new selling trends and partner skill sets.

Another challenge that can be helped with segmentation is one that affects many vendors – how to optimize communications to drive engagement and participation.  Solid segmentation either at the partner business model type and/or key contact (sales, technical, marketing, executive mgmt.) when supported by a robust profiling system and some level of automated content management system can be a cornerstone to your program structure.  This kind of process is key in enabling effective reach and communications to partners — customized with the right messages to make that partner or contact sit up, take notice and act in the way you’d like them to.  You’d be surprised how many vendors we see with one generic blast of information to all partners and all types of contacts who complain about lack of “opt-in” and actionable responses.  Hmmm….wonder why?

Taking this outreach down to individual employees is also growing in value, whereby vendors are customizing messages by employee function (sales or executive level) or identified area of interest (technical, products, markets).  Think of it as communicating with different special interest groups through various platforms including on-line forum and sub-communities like FaceBook and MySpace.  However, too much communication is not good.   We all know the impact too many emails have on our time and with so much spam in place today, providing succinct bites of relevant information in easily digestible formats will improve the likelihood of getting messages read.   It’s a simple case of quality of communication versus quantity.

Every vendor has unique partnering relationships and channel dynamics, but core to all flavors is the need to know who you are working with so you can optimize time and effort for you adn your partners.   So, does that mean the old adage of “more is better” is dead?  Well, yes, pretty much.

Now getting back to the basics of partner profiling and segmentation…this isn’t a renewed fad.  It’s a solid business practice by smart vendors who want to maximize their dollars and create focused, happy customers.

About the blogger:  Sue Redmore brings to Amazon Consulting over 20 years of experience working in the high tech industry in North America and Europe as a specialist in partner programs and partnering strategy design and development, partner marketing and communications planning and execution.

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Entry filed under: Partnering Tips, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , .

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