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As-a-Service at Your Service—Citrix, Ingram Cloud Blue Executives Educate Summit Attendees on Marketplaces

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Whether you have stopped to think about it lately or not, marketplaces are now a big part of our life. Most of us can’t go too many days without purchasing something from Amazon, Google, and Apple. Similarly, millions of businesses of all sizes have turned to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) for any number of software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) subscriptions rather than hosting these IT solutions themselves.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of marketplaces are popping up all over the business landscape. Many other companies with a sizable customer bases and partner ecosystems are opening up their own virtual shopping malls for clients to browse and transact on their own terms, such as major carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile and enterprise tech bluebloods Oracle and Salesforce.

The growing trend toward marketplace shopping has confronted businesses with several questions. Should they build their own marketplaces for their customers and channel partners? Should they invest in campaigns around other ones? These are the issues that Glen Kuhne, director of major accounts at Ingram Cloud Blue, and Roger Williams, senior director of mobility and marketplace alliances at Citrix, wrestled with in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Marketplaces: The New Buying Centers in the Age of As-a-Service,” which is on demand now for those who have registered for the event.

More Than Just a Place to Purchase

Williams began the session by outlining some of the trends driving the rapid spread of marketplaces—according to research firm Gartner, they will be the dominant channel for infrastructure software by 2024. Consumers are getting more and more comfortable making purchases via mobile and voice, and millennials, who have grown up in the digital age and know no world where they can’t browse an app store, are expecting the B2B universe to offer similar options. The proclivity toward self-service browsing and purchasing is forcing companies to incorporate marketplaces as part of the organization’s broader omni-channel strategy or “holistic point of view,” as Williams put it.

Marketplaces aren’t just forums for purchasing; customers are conducting more and more research and holding dialogue about products and services of interest in these virtual shopping centers.

“You have more buyers essentially getting their information about prospective products from their marketplaces than their sales reps,” said Williams, who noted that more than one-third of buyers in Citrix’s market now gather background from a marketplace, compared to 27 percent who tap their sales reps for details about an offering of interest.

Cataloging Your Marketplace Strategy

Is a marketplace right for your company, or is it better to piggyback other established virtual bazaars? Do you make your marketplace offerings available to everyone in your ecosystem?  Kuhne took the floor to go over these questions and other finer points of marketplace strategy.

First, marketplace activities are shaped in large part by whom you sell to and how you reach those audiences. Consumer companies generally make their entire catalog of products and services available to any marketplace browser. However, there are different routes to market in B2B. Ingram Micro, for example, sells largely through resellers and, thus, must ensure it doesn’t undercut these channel partners. There are other instances where it may only make sense to offer marketplace buying options to a limited subset of enterprise customers.

Another good question to address: who owns the company’s marketplace strategy? Is it the reseller division, alliance management, or product management? Perhaps it is the CEO? Someone has to take charge of the overall vision of for building your own marketplace and/or a platform that works with one or more other marketplace channels. Kuhne did warn viewers that executive changes can disrupt marketplace projects.

“They’ll make a strategic decision and then the efforts toward whatever project you were on might be curtailed or redirected,” he said.

Kuhne also cautioned listeners to be cognizant of potential new legal and accounting burdens that result from marketplace selling. If buyers in different regions are purchasing from your company directly through a marketplace, then the finance department may have to sort out the resultant tax implications.

“The states are getting aggressive in revenue collection,” chimed in Williams. 

Are Your Buyers Ready?

Kuhne then urged listeners to ascertain how ready their buyers are. Although marketplace adoption is growing rapidly, there are many that aren’t going down this path willingly. Some are old school and would simply rather deal with a sales rep or order from an old-fashioned website. Others may prefer traditional transactions but understand that these online markets are the future. These businesses might be good candidates for beta testing, as they might want to make sure they are not getting left behind if the marketplace becomes the standard conduit for conducting business.

Kuhne then outlined a number of potential challenges companies could confront as they assemble their marketplace strategies, including:

  • Product complexity – If your product portfolio contains many interdependent components, it may make sense to offer only prepackaged bundles. Maybe it is only economical to offer best-selling products. If your customers are savvy, perhaps you grant them more options and configuration control.
  • Education – Marketplaces are places for self-service research as much as they are for shopping. Thus, it is critical that product specs, reviews, how-to videos, and forums are easy for your buyers and channel partners to find and understand. If a product is too complex for self-service, it may not be ready for a marketplace.
  • Security – Customer verification, fraud protection, credit card verification, and payment authentication must be built into all marketplace transactions. In fact, there are many ready-made services available in these areas, so companies do not necessarily need to develop these capabilities from scratch.
  • Data privacy – If you sell online to customers in the European Union (EU) or California, make sure your customer communication complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), respectively.
  • Catalog management – In addition to deciding which products to sell via marketplaces and in which marketplaces to sell, businesses must support both one-time purchases and ongoing subscriptions. Some customers are accustomed to a mix of both. For example, many in IT buy hardware once but prefer to subscribe to software as a service.
  • Channel management – Find a way to enable both selling to customers directly and through resellers and other channels.
  • Standardization and maintenance – When companies sell through resellers, it is critical to make that process easier for them. Ingram Micro, for example, has an automated go-to-market tool that forces new vendors to fill out sales and product documents before they can resell Ingram Micro’s products.
  • Demand generation – Promote your marketplace offerings every chance you get, and have your channel partners do the same. Again, an omni-channel strategy involving mobile, voice, AI, and web is critical.

Kuhne then concluded by laying out a series of best practices:

  • It is not all or nothing. Businesses can test out a minimum viable marketplace option, then scale the operation by creating application programming interfaces (APIs) if the original proof of concept sparks optimism.
  • Secure executive sponsorship. Again, whether it is product management, channel management, or IT, it is critical to appoint and empower a respected leader to see these initiatives through.
  • Choose a technology platform that scales with your ecosystem. Whether your goal is to sell 200 units per month or 200,000, the technology underpinning your platform better support it without a hitch.
  • Start with a customer segment and its buying journey. Make sure there are no bugs in the process of browsing, selecting, customizing, and paying for products and services. Involve customers in the design and testing phases to ensure that the marketplace fits their desires and buying habits.
  • It’s not just a purchase. Customers expect their entire histories of interaction with your company to be accessible, including outstanding purchases, purchase history, past communication with support teams, and the like. “It’s more than the buying experience,” said Kuhne. “It can turn into a ‘My Account’ place if it’s your own marketplace.” If you sell through another marketplace, make sure the accounting, billing, purchasing, invoicing, and shipping processes—the entire “e-commerce cycle,” as Kuhne labeled it—are seamless.
  • Don’t underestimate the investment needed to take a marketplace to market. Kuhne counseled viewers to set aside a “decent chunk of your budget against that.” Customers need to know where to find you, and what you are selling. Remember, you must enable resellers to sell your marketplace, too. “It is not a build-it-and-they-will-come endeavor,” read a bullet on Kuhne’s presentation slide to hammer home the point.

Kuhne and Williams delivered more great insights during their session. Remember, Summit registrants can view the full presentation, as well as close to two dozen other sessions chock full of information and advice that will help improve your career and the alliances you work on each day.  

Tags:  AI  Channel management  channel partners  Citrix  customers  Data privacy  Demand generation  Education  Glen Kuhne  Ingram Cloud Blue  marketplace alliances  Marketplaces  mobile  mobility  omni-channel strategy  Product complexity  Roger Williams  Security  voice  web 

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Transform or Risk Extinction (Part Two): Recognizing Value in Multiple Engagement Models

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Updated: Sunday, May 20, 2018

This is the second of two blogs continuing my April 2018 eSAM Plus article on “Architecting for Transformation: The Next Generation Partner Ecosystem,” the title of a lively conference session led by Russ Cobb, senior vice president, growth and business operations at SAS Institute, and Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, founding principal, Phoenix Consulting Group. The two took the stage at the A2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Propelling Partnering for the On-Demand World: New Perspectives + Proven Practices for Collaborative Business,”March 26-28, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. The drivers of seismic changes in channel partnering, Cobb and Watenpaugh explain explained, are the convergence of SMAC (social media, mobile computing, analytics, and cloud technology), the change in technology consumption, the rise of digital transformation (DX), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Part One of this blog post concluded on Watenpaugh’s comment, “There are no simple partner models anymore. They are adopting complex, multi-faceted business models where they do all of the above.” So how to recognize value across multiple engagement models?

Watenpaugh: Companies need to recognize value across multiple engagement models in the following ways:

  • Partner programs are evolving to recognize the breadth of contribution from partners across a blended business model.
  • Incentives shift to reward behavior and customer value.
  • Vendors can no longer subsidize profitability through rebates or discounts.
  • Recognizing value, investment, commitment, volume.

Cobb: SAS has a partner program that has a precious metals taxonomy as well. What we are trying to do is have more partners because of economics—if we can get a partner to look at different ways at engaging with SAS, such as the ability to resell SAS or engage in analytic services with a revenue-sharing agreement with SAS. We are really focused on economics because of customer behavior.  The more ways we can get engaged with you partner-wise, the more commitment you will get. The ROI will go up over time. One reason we get partners to do things with us is we create commitment over time.

Watenpaugh: The cloud strategy right now is evolving and emerging. We need a flexible view of what cloud means. We need to transition to a service model. How can we help our customers fit into third-party cloud environments? We’ve got to figure out how to meet our customers where their need might be. There is a complexity of applications. No one can do it alone, so we are seeing more partner-to-partner. There are so many specializations. No company has it all. It’s becoming more and more important to get from a pick list to what skills are needed to deliver.

Some people think it needs to be more like a blockchain model. That involves the challenge of finding new partners and finding how to engage to meet the needs of customers. Infrastructure companies are challenged, and finding the right value and provision in the cloud is really a challenge.

Russ: This all comes down to if you are a channel or IT partner, what is your unique value proposition? You need a very crisp value proposition. So what is the road ahead in ecosystem evolution?

  • Industry trends in cloud, digital transformation, and IoT are driving disruption and opportunity in the market
  • Non-traditional partners offering access to the line of business
  • Vendors will be required to think more holistically about the capabilities of the partner ecosystem
  • Vendors must create relevance to business outcomes or become commodities
  • Creating a compelling partner experience

Check out Part One of this blog post as well as the May 2018 issue of eSAM Plus for other topics addressed in Watenpaugh and Cobb’s session as well as ASAP Media’s coverage of other sessions at the 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

Tags:  blockchain  business models  channel partnering  channel partners  Cloud  complex partnering  digital transformation  IoT  Norma Watenpaugh  partner ecosystem  partner models  Phoenix Consulting Group  Russ Cobb  SAS Institute  SMAC  value propositions  vendors 

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Transform or Risk Extinction (Part One): ‘Become the Yoda to Our Channel Partners’

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Monday, May 21, 2018
Updated: Sunday, May 20, 2018

This is the first of two blogs continuing my April 2018 eSAM Plus article on “Architecting for Transformation: The Next Generation Partner Ecosystem,” the title of a lively conference session led by Russ Cobb, senior vice president, growth and business operations at SAS Institute, and Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, founding principal, Phoenix Consulting Group. The two took the stage at the 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Propelling Partnering for the On-Demand World: New Perspectives + Proven Practices for Collaborative Business,” March 26-28, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Cobb and Watenpaugh provided a frank tutorial on seismic changes in channel partnering. The drivers, they explained, are the convergence of SMAC (social media, mobile computing, analytics, and cloud technology), the change in technology consumption, the rise of digital transformation (DX), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Watenpaugh: We need to become the Yoda to our channel partners. They need our support in areas like: how to sell to the line of business, the C-level, how these products integrate together to make a solution. The ability to manage the customer experience is going to be primary. I don’t think we’ve gotten it mastered. To enable our partners, we need to know that:

  • The trusted advisors role requires in-depth knowledge of customers’ businesses
  • The ability to manage the customer experience is key
  • Digital transformation and IoT require a more verticalized approach and expertise

Russ: I agree. This is an area where we need to put the greatest emphasis. IT is a commodity, if you think of the tech itself; you cannot create a lasting competitive advantage simply on IT advancement. This was going on almost a decade ago. The tech is going to get quicker and quicker. We are a company that is very proud of our products. We build lots of different products and product market segments. You need to ask, what unique value propositions do you have that are relevant to your customer? If you are not there, you are not going to win these conversations over time because you will not be able to provide the most value.

IoT, in particular, is very specific to your customer. We had some false starts in IoT with our partners. Now, we are trying to determine at an industry level, what is the value proposition were going to provide? You have to get really concrete about what that is. You want to add value to them not only on a cost basis but also on an innovation basis.

Watenpaugh: There are no simple partner models anymore. They are adopting complex, multi-faceted business models where they do all of the above.

Check out the May 2018 issue of eSAM Plus for other topics addressed in Watenpaugh and Cobb’s session as well as ASAP Media’s coverage of other sessions at the 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog post, in which Watenpaugh and Cobb discuss how to find value in complex partnering business models.

Tags:  business models  channel partners  complex partnering  digital transformation  IoT  Norma Watenpaugh  partner models  Phoenix Consulting Group  Russ Cobb  SAS Institute  value propositions 

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NOT ‘Business as Usual:’ What the BioPharma Channel Can Glean From High Tech

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Monday, October 16, 2017
Updated: Sunday, October 15, 2017

Partnering isn’t “business as usual” anymore. “Even companies that think they have their practices down are all reinventing what they are doing now because they have to deal with … the increasing speed, scale, and scope of partnering that has become exponentially greater,” emphasized Jan Twombly, CSAP, The Rhythm of Business, Inc., during her session “The BioPharma Channel: Leveraging Practices from the High-Tech World to Drive Success.” Twombly was presenting at the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaborations: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held Sept. 13-15 at the Royal Sonesta Boston, Cambridge, Mass.

“The high tech channel has learned that you are not going to be successful if your channel partners aren’t successful. … You need customized partners to provide local market access. High tech needs new partners because it needs vertical and technical specialization. Some companies do this better than others,” she added. For example, Cisco generates 85 percent of revenues by channel partners. That’s exceptional, considering that the industry average is 39 percent.

The channel is a route to market that is accessed either by communication avenues, a direct sale force, or co-commercializing a product with a partner. It’s about delivering on intended value in a resource-friendly way, she added.  Biopharma usually doesn’t consider the channel as key to growth. Yet market growth trends and future projections from BMI Research indicate that unmet patient needs and the significant growth potential of emerging markets provide significant reason for pursuing a channel strategy, Twombly said, while flashing past market size data and future size projections:

2010: $150 billion
2015: $245 billion
2020: $340 billion
2025: $490 billion

High-tech channel partners are not seeking more automation, Twombly observed.  What they are looking for is:

  • More engagement with field engineers and local sales personnel
  • Greater understanding of corporate priorities
  • Joint planning on strategic opportunities
  • Better understanding of their partners’ strategies and plans
  • More proactive communications, support, and relationship management

So what can the biopharma industry learn from high tech’s successes with channel partnering? Twombly asked.

  1. Take a portfolio approach: Place bets carefully, and manage it as a portfolio from low-touch to high-touch.
  2. Carefully manage the transitions, and ensure partner (and stakeholder) readiness.
  3. Maintain robust measurements, reporting, and action from a 360-degree perspective. We are becoming very data driven.
  4. Make it part of the fabric of the organization from end to end: Bake it in, don’t bolt it on. You need to have a strategy, and the partnering needs to be integrated into various functions of your company.

That’s critical to the entire process, she emphasized:  “Baking it in. … We like using a stakeholder management model. In many instances, you will not have dedicated people. You need to understand the economics; have good reporting and data collection that are able to be monitored; focus on closing the gap between current practice and what stakeholders need to profitably support the channel partners. That is how you will demonstrate value,” she advised.

“Governance is sometimes not in place,” she added. “You want simpler governance because of the nature of the relationships, but still need to have executive and operations levels to formal governance. Make sure you have the right participants engaged, set expectations, and have proper alignment and meetings. Make them good, formal meetings, but create an environment people will want to attend. The quarterly business reviews in high tech are typically all one way. If you really want to build that relationship so the partner can help you with market access and driving the business, you need to make it a two-way meeting.”

Consider conducting partner summits, she concluded. In the high tech world, they are a staple for building relationships by helping partners learn what’s new and where company strategies are headed. Summits provide an opportunity to have all your partners together to learn about common challenges.

ASAP Members can learn more about this provocative and well-attended ASAP BioPharma Conference session in the September 2017 issue of eSAM Plus.

Tags:  alignment  ASAP BioPharma Conference  BMI Research  channel partners  channels  governance  high tech  Jan Twombly  partners  portfolio approach  stakeholder  summits  The Rhythm of Business 

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Five Future Channel Trends to Plan for in the New Year

Posted By Jay McBain is CEO of ChannelEyes, Guest Blogger, Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As we kick off 2016 and prepare for the March 1-4 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland,  outside Washington, D.C., I wanted to share some of my observations on the ever-changing technology channel.

We are witnessing a changing of the guard from a channel perspective. Fewer companies will fit the traditional reseller or solution provider label, as many have transformed (or born into) a recurring revenue business model around managed services, cloud, SaaS integrations, line-of-business, and vertical specialists.

The channel topped out at roughly 1,000,000 companies worldwide in 2007, employing more than 10 million people. In addition, hundreds of thousands were employed indirectly at vendors, distributors, associations, and media organizations. The deep recession of 2008 had a major impact and hasn’t bounced back the way most of us expected. While the broader economy is trending back up to 2008 levels, the channel continues to slide.

What is happening out there?

1. The channel is shrinking at an alarming rate: Recent reports from CompTIA and IPED show a current North American technology partner base of 160,000 companies (600,000 worldwide). It may sound like a healthy number, but it is down 36 percent since 2008 and continues to face 10 percent to 15 percent annual attrition for the foreseeable future.

Keep in mind the 160,000 includes a much broader audience than just resellers—it includes all kinds of consultants, coaches, etc. A more accurate number, including people who directly influence and resell hardware and software products, is closer to 75,000 (with half of those selling enough product profitably to sustain a business). Your future channel and alliance partners will be smaller in number, but more focused, specialized, and effective.

2. The channel is getting younger—much younger: Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of
CompTIA, kicked off his ChannelCon keynote with several pieces of research. First, an estimated 40 percent of the entire channel will retire in the next 10 years. Yes, 4 in 10. Second, those retiring will be replaced by millennials. In fact, in 10 years, 75 percent of the channel demographic will not have been alive when IBM introduced the PC (and the channel as we know it) in 1981.

This generation grew up on computers and will be pursuing different business models than the traditional reseller models we have today. They will look more like vendors, with in-house development teams, software products, and intellectual property. In the future, strategic discussions with partners will be less about incentives and education and more about integrations and co-marketing.

3. The channel is small business, and getting smaller: Much of the attrition that I mentioned above has come from within channel companies. They are doing more with less. The average channel partner has eight employees, and 97 percent of them have fewer than 50.

With the rapid growth of freelancing (think oDesk and Elance), offshoring (Fiverr), and rapid software development (Mechanical Turk), many companies are outsourcing their own functions, such as marketing, operations, finance, and custom development. Vendors are looking at opportunities to help their partners with these functions and keep them focused on (selling and) delivering solutions for end customers.

4. Vendor numbers are exploding: The above trends have an interesting side effect—the number of vendors in the marketplace is growing at a surprising pace.

Channel companies are leveraging their deep industry knowledge with unique integration skills (across dozens of vendors’ APIs) and creating products and specific intellectual property to deliver niche solutions.

At one time it was called “value add,” but today partners are incorporating these ideas into new companies and products and then going to market themselves. These products have narrow addressable markets, and the need to find resellers will continue to grow.

I predict that in 10 years, the number of vendors will outnumber the amount of pure-play resellers. Start thinking about future competitive threats and how to manage co-opetition moving forward.

5. Influencers and connectors are becoming more important: Without naming names, our entire channel ecosystem boils down to a small number of individuals who connect large amounts of like-minded people. You probably know many of them!

For example, the North American IT channel has roughly 100 people that will get you one degree of separation from anyone else. These super-connectors are very different from one another—some are media, some run associations, others are vendors or distributors, others make a living on making connections for you.

Some things are clear: The amount of noise and clutter will not stop growing. People buy from people they like. Economic scarcity is evolving into information scarcity. The network effect will drive winners and losers in the next 10 years. Start thinking about your network—do you have the right mix of influencers and connectors to drive your channel sales?

Seventy percent of all IT dollars are now being spent outside of IT by people that vendors and channel partners don’t know all that well. Sales, marketing, finance, HR, operations, and development teams are rapidly deploying technology, and it is forcing the channel industry to get smarter.

These trends are reshaping the channel, not replacing it. As with every other threat in the past 30 years, the channel will come out stronger, more nimble, and better able to serve evolving customer needs.

Happy New Year!
 

Guest blogger Jay McBain is CEO of ChannelEyes information technology services

http://channeleyes.com. He will be presenting the session “Five Future Channel Trends That You Need To Be Planning For Todayhttp://www.strategic-alliances.org/page/sum16sessions, at the March 1–4, 2016, ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland, USA.

Tags:  channel partners  Channel Trends  ChannelCon  ChannelEyes  cloud  CompTIA  connectors  influencers  integrations  IPED  Jay McBain  line-of-business  manged services  revenue business model  SaaS  technology channel  Todd Thibodeaux  vendors  vertical specialties 

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