Why Channel Partners should connect with vendors and current customers in social media


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Beth Vanni – Director, Market Intelligence at Amazon Consulting (not related to Amazon.com) recently wrote:

doesn’t it stand to reason that solution providers will be more effective selling the technology, building custom applications around it and helping customers with the supporting business process if they themselves understand the power of collaboration and social networking?

It sure does, we’re with you Beth!

Beth goes on the say that in their 2009 study focused on Partner Collaboration and the Role of Social Media, nearly 50% of solution providers indicated they are only “opportunistically” collaborative with peers, and “In fact, nearly 30% said they don’t use social media in their normal course of business at all.” And most of the others use social media “mostly to find new customers and do outbound marketing of their services and solutions – not to collaborate with their vendors or their [current] customers”.

Partners are missing a real opportunity, because many of their vendors are extremely social media savvy, I wrote previously about EMC, and Microsoft.

This means the vendors have a large investment in social media assets and connectivity which can be re-purposed by Partners to grow their business. And after all “same shopper sales” are the easiest to get, as compared to new customers.

The Gilwell Group and @mikedubrall has found there are three important social media benefits that channel managers are beginning to understand and quantify:

  1. End-users are already using social media to get information about products. Depending on which study you read, 60-90 % of customers begin their purchase process online by gathering information and looking for current customer comments. Increasingly aware of this pre-sales activity, channel managers want to make sure their products are well-represented. 
  2. Communication between vendors, resellers and customers is noticeably improved using social media. Messages, attachments, and links are sent and received more quickly (usually getting through all those pesky corporate firewalls) from smart phones, netbooks, and other devices. And using social media drives down the cost of communications, sometimes by as much as 80%. It’s just cheaper to post a video on YouTube and send out a link than to maintain/expand a usable partner portal or distribute (and redistribute) a bunch of PDFs.
  3. Social Media is extremely effective at building and maintaining more intimate relationships. A reseller can maintain weekly contact with 50 customers in just a few hours by connecting with them at their online spaces. This replaces the 50 phone calls and scores of emails flying off into the ether. Most important, social media is personal in a way that good salespeople and their customers appreciate.

That’s why channel managers are keen, and it mirrors why partners/resellers themselves should be keen. And that is why we’re a partner of the Social Media Academy and a big fan of the High Tech Partners Social Media training course because the potential for partners is so high.

If you think about distribution channels in software and IT in 2010 then we’re on the cusp of major disruption. Think about the “cloud”, and SaaS, and vendor cloud infrastructure undercutting independent vendors and partners – it’s big.

In fact, a long time ago Peter Drucker famously said every enterprise should regularly ask itself “If we were to go into this now, knowing what we now know, would we go into it the way we are doing it now?’.  AND, perhaps far less famously – that:

this applies with particular force to an area that many enterprises tend to neglect…distributors and distribution channels. In a time of rapid change distributors and distribution channels tend to change faster than anything else. It is also on distributors and distribution channels that the “information revolution” is likely to have th greatest impact.

Drucker was again so right, and from here on for the next 18 months or so the channels of the IT industry are about to be ripped apart and re-formed.

That’s potentially a big reason behind Microsoft just a week ago switching out one of their most respected world-wide partner executives for a tough new guy to shake it out.

The channels in for change, and it will happen whether “the channel” agrees or not, so best to try to help the leaders get ahead of the curve, and social media enablement has to be part of that plan. Not for it’s own sake, but for the sake of more meaningful customer engagement.

Do you think IT channels/resellers are facing their biggest challenge in a decade?

Do you agree that social media will play a role in the reshaping of the channel?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Walter Adamson
I help firms create optimal customer experiences by integrating social data, teams & processes with enterprise systems. The much vaunted 360-view of the customer can be a bottomless pit without a clear data strategy. I help you deliver a greatly improved customer experience starting with a "45-degree" view of the customer, fully utilising social data analytics. I clarify your objectives and what data you need to service them, and guide you to operationalise "social at scale" to consistently deliver valuable customer experience at every social touch point.


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