Attributed to Vincent Tang, Regional Vice President, Asia Epicor Software
Business success and longevity is often built on a foundation of trust and strong partner relationships. During the ‘new now’ that all businesses currently find themselves operating in, it is more important than ever for technology vendors to empower their channel partners so they can cement their role as ‘trusted advisors’. Partnerships between company and reseller, and reseller and customer, need to be based on a good understanding of business pain points and goals, as all organisations look to survive and thrive at this current time.
It might sound simple, but in order for partners to achieve business growth, vendors should make sure they are ready and aware of how to address all market opportunities. In a culturally fragmented region like Asia, different countries’ cultures determine the local expectations and demands for businesses. This means focusing on how to—not only create demand for a product or service—but how to then manage this demand. It is the responsibility of the technology vendor to ensure partners are equipped with the right skillsets and are able to understand customer problems—as well as how to address them on time and within budget. Respecting the cultural differences is crucial and often more important than just economic benefits. For partners to fulfil their advisory role, vendors need to equip them with the necessary tools, local insights and opportunities for success. With great partnerships, businesses with clear goals and steps to achieve those goals can mitigate anticipated risks.
Realistic and relevant
A key part of any successful partner program has to be staying relevant in the current market. Only then can partners help their customers address immediate and future industry and technology trends—which is crucial as business models continue to evolve. Technologies and trends including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Big Data, and IoT are now increasingly available and valuable to the manufacturing industry. As such, brands need to ensure their partners can access, and take advantage of, these emerging areas of innovation, and add real value to customers by offering additional services, including analytics tools.
To build a partner program that works—and continues to work, through both market and technological change—vendors should consider how they can create further opportunity for their partners. After all, partners won’t be in the program for a one-off deal—they need to develop a business which is focussed on value creation and sustainability. Any partner program or agreement must therefore support partners to add more value beyond the products they are offering, to give customers a better experience and encourage brand stickiness. This will help partners unlock reoccurring revenue streams and ensure vendors can build long-term relationships.
Realising cloud ROI
Whilst sometimes seen as a threat to traditional product or on-premise sales, cloud offerings can act as an equalizer—presenting an opportunity for businesses to access new innovations and technologies at a different price point. Cloud continues to be one of the fast growing areas for IT spend within the manufacturing industry, but at the same time it is also important to recognise that technology partners will be at different stages of cloud adoption. An effective partnership needs to address this and understand that, for partners to make the move to cloud, there are different business challenges that need to be overcome.
For example, moving customers to the cloud and away from on-premise means moving from upfront margins and guaranteed revenue, to monthly or even annual agreements. This can present a number of potential issues for resellers—from cashflow and revenue management to a lack of long-term customer relationships.
Vendors should be aware of these challenges and prioritise resolving these so that partners can move in line with the direction the market is heading. To do so, they should create solid, annuity-based revenue streams, that reward partners for continued margins and customer retention. This will help support business growth and predictability.
If approached in the right way, partners will be able to add products to their portfolio in key areas of integration and security, that they wouldn’t have been able to 10 years ago. This will provide additional value-added services to their customers and encourage brand loyalty.
Shared vision and values
In addition to product and service support, a strong cultural fit between vendor and reseller is essential to facilitate easy and open communication and collaboration across the channel, for further success. Software companies should be working closely with partners through joint planning sessions, ensuring they have a shared vision and financial model that works for both parties.
Ultimately, vendors should be empowering their channel partners to thrive and represent them in the best way possible. As an extension of the brand, it is in the best interests to provide partners with the correct tools for success—no matter how customer needs might evolve and change.