Why the channel can be key to maximising digital opportunities in a world of disruptive technologies
Disruptive technology is what keeps the technology sector afloat. It’s the reason it continues to evolve. It gives purpose to thousands of entrepreneurs and in turn keeps the cogs turning at investment houses throughout the country.
Today, thanks to the digitisation of the business world, the concurrent arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced analytics to name a few, but it’s fair to say there’s never been so much disruptive technology on the market.
And that’s how it should be. Disruptive technologies push us forward, change the way we view our world, drive economies, and encourage us to achieve more. Once upon a time, even the wheel was disruptive.
Disruption is good, but can be unsettling
But for all the hype around whatever the latest disruption may be, there remains a truth so obvious that it is all too often overlooked. The majority of potential customers and users are, at heart, fairly technologically conservative and resistant to change. They don’t necessarily want their work or their lives to be disrupted. Improved? Yes. Turned upside down? Not really. It’s for this reason that reassurance is a vital tool in the selling process.
As such, vendors promoting potentially disruptive technologies need to get their go-to-market strategy right from the outset. Failure to meaningfully connect with potential customers means that even the earliest of early adopters will take a swerve.
This is where the channel really makes a difference. In today’s fast-evolving market place, where disruptiveness rules supreme, it’s never been more essential to have a thriving channel partner programme in place.
It’s more important than ever for vendors to take advantage of the channel’s strong customer relationships to target new and different audiences with the right products, the right market propositions – and the right messages. And because channel organisations have already developed a level of trust with customers, they are perfectly placed to provide the reassurance and support that end users are looking for.
Partners are also vital when it comes to helping vendors of transformative new technologies find the right verticals and niche markets where the technology will really resonate – but which may not have been a core focus to date.
Working with a channel partner that has the same mind-set, the same excitement about technology, and the same desire to be the first player in the market with a ground-breaking, game-changing new product adds immense value to the sales process and ultimately a vendor’s business. And if your technology hits one of their vertical ‘sweet spots’, so much the better.
This kind of mutually beneficial relationship is what we all aim for. But for every perfect partnership there can be an equal and opposite relationship that is far less satisfactory – on both sides.
To maximise disruption, pick your partners carefully
Having built strong relationships with established vendors and developed a long-standing and extremely loyal customer base, certain channel partners may not be the most effective route to market for newer technologies. Supportive channel partners who want to see markets evolve and progress become a core part of any disruptive technology vendor’s team. But those who prefer to remain in their own comfort zone and evangelise traditional technologies they are more familiar with can actually be a drag on the business.
The adoption of cloud technologies is a perfect illustration of this pattern. Cloud is the present and the future of IT – and the tipping point is now rapidly receding in the rear mirror. But it is still a polarising phenomenon: so far, most channel businesses have declared themselves either to be wholly for or completely against it.
Among the cloud-resistant, we have discovered a fairly strong belief that cloud will cannibalise their existing business and eat into their margins and recurring revenues. Like many end-users, they are disruption resistant.
So, for cloud vendors, finding the balance between pushing new technologies and alienating those who are hesitant about adopting it, is something they absolutely have to get right.
As always, it’s best to deliver a solution tailored to requirements – whether that is the channel partner’s needs or the end users’ – rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.
In the end, it all comes back to that idea of ‘partnership’. When working with the channel this is not just another superficial sop to current business buzzwords and management theory, but an essential way of working.
Successful vendors work in close conjunction with longstanding partners before launching a new technology. They gather feedback on the product and its positioning from those partners. And they develop associated sales tools together to get the product to market.
This level of cooperation cements the relationship – which is valuable in and of itself. But it also means channel partners become the vendors’ eyes and ears on the market, and a source of valuable information and insight. What’s more, it enables channel partners who do have some internal barriers to technological change to slowly overcome those hurdles over time.
The win-win here is that both partners – channel and vendor – can develop new avenues of business. Both can expand their potential. And both can deliver a wider and more relevant offering to the market. If we are going to disrupt the market, let’s make sure we have each others’ backs while we do it.
Alp Kostem is head of channel at Exponential-e