As a channel leader you are constantly bombarded with marketing from vendors touting solutions that will help your channel. There are now more vendors than ever on the channel scene offering everything from portals to incentives, MDF management, deal registration, content syndication, co-marketing and much more. With these new options it can seem daunting to remember who does what and who does what well. Here are 4 things to keep in mind when you are trying to work your way through the growing list of vendors popping up.
After seeing multiple product demonstrations, the lines between each offering can easily blur. In order to keep solutions straight it is critical to take good notes. We suggest creating a simple scorecard that will allow you to rate the vendor on the items you are evaluating. Your checklist should include the key items that will be shown along with a notes and rating section. Keep in mind that there will be capabilities that come out of the demonstration that you will not have on your scorecard. Make sure you add those items for the vendor and then clarify with the other vendors on their capabilities. This will help you align the strengths with the proper vendor and prevent you from assuming all vendors have the same capabilities. You wouldn’t conduct a job interview with out a set of questions don’t engage in a product demonstration without your score card.
More isn’t Better
Your detailed list of requirements and scorecards are created and you are now on the hunt for the perfect vendors, yes vendors plural. Depending on the length of your requirements you should be looking for multiple vendors to ensure you get the best solution. Many vendors will try to check all of your boxes and pieces of their solutions will be a good fit. However, for more complex programs and processes you should be looking for vendors that specialize in things like MDF, rebates, incentives, training, and marketing. There is not a single vendor that does everything well so do not be fooled. Traditional portal vendors will offer many components but their solutions are likely lightweight and no comparison to a specialized offering. Checking a box doesn’t equate to the RIGHT solution.
Now that vendors have started to see opportunity in expanding their offerings into the growing channel space it is critical to make sure these vendors understand your business. While no two channel programs are exactly the same there are similarities that run through the bloodstream of channel programs. With many of these vendors repurposing direct sales solutions to fit the channel model it is critical to make sure that vendors understand your business. Make sure there is tribal channel knowledge within the vendor’s sales and executive teams. If the channel knowledge doesn’t exist it is likely that the vendor will have a hard time understanding your requirements. Red flags include: the demo not aligning to your requirements, slide ware vs. a live demonstration, getting the same questions multiple times, being told it can be done but not being shown how, and a lack of best practices. Don’t be fooled by a vendor in channel clothing.
The Long Haul
Now that SaaS vendors have fully embraced the channel marketing space it is critical to make sure that the vendors you are evaluating have staying power. Ask your vendor’s the hard questions: how long have they been in business, are they profitable, do they know channel, what does their roadmap look like, do they have a roadmap, who are their customers, what is their support model??? The answers to these questions as important as the solution they are offering. Make sure you are informed in all areas of their business these things can be included on your score card.
If you need help navigating the confusing world of channel vendors we would be happy to help and share best practices and tribal knowledge. Make sure your vendors truly earn your business.