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Poor communication means vendors are failing their partners

KickPost CEO Richard Rodriguez examines why channel communications haven’t evolved beyond the flawed 1990s partner portal

A rendering of wireless mobile communications

Communication underpins any successful business relationship. Even in our personal lives, sharing information continues to evolve at a rapid pace with the development of social media and messaging platforms. 

We can announce an engagement with thousands of friends via Facebook, share an image with thousands of people via Instagram or a job promotion with thousands of colleagues via LinkedIn. But imagine how hard that would be to do if every person you know had their own personal Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn system? That’s where the channel is at today.

So why has the communication between IT vendors and their channel partners failed so dismally to keep pace with society? Why has it failed to evolve beyond the widespread adoption of the partner portal from more than 20 years ago?

The fact is, there isn’t just one reason for why our information delivery systems haven’t evolved in the channel – there are several. 

  • A ‘follow the leader’ mentality: Many vendors see a competitor do something and they feel they must do the same thing to be successful – keeping up with Joneses’ mentality, if you will.
  • Poor perspective of the problem: Vendors are focused on solving their problems, not their partners’ issues or industry-wide problems. By starting with the question, how can we best deliver information to our channel partners, most companies fail from the beginning. The question to start with is actually what’s the best way for our partners and their people to receive information? 
  • Sticking to the status quo: Vendors fall into a ‘this is how it’s always been done’ mentality. When asked, most vendors will admit that their partner portals don’t work. Yet they keep pouring time, money and effort into them. This is attributed to two things: the sunk cost fallacy and a lack of any better options.
  • Many vendors have abandoned the idea altogether: For companies that don’t have endless resources or funds to keep shovelling down the rabbit hole, many just throw up their hands. They succumb to the idea the problem is too complex for them to change. And, we agree. Individually a vendor can’t solve the problem.
  • Partner portals are stuck in a rut: Partner portal companies can’t afford to make a quantum leap forward. There are numerous companies offering ‘partner portals’ and they all have two things in common. One, their systems are fundamentally designed the same way, and two, they know that they don’t work. Obviously, they can’t admit that, so they keep adding bells and whistles to try and ‘add’ value.

Information overload 

So where does that leave us? With a huge innovation gap and a mess. For channel partners and their teams, dealing with the never-ending wave of information being thrown at them becomes a burden. They are dealing with an overload of partner portals, email blasts and handouts that just keep multiplying. For them, it’s like drinking water out of a fire hose; they can never keep up.

For the vendors, it’s a lot of time, money and effort. They create all kinds of content, videos, files, price lists, flyers and line cards, but most of it goes unused. Unfortunately, it either gets ignored or it gets lost in the shuffle. 

It’s not that this information isn’t compelling, or useful. It’s just that it is so difficult for the partner to find and access the right information. This failure to progress has led to a big gap in productivity and efficiency for everyone involved.

So how do you make networks work for companies and their channels? When you have thousands of channel partners, and tens of thousands of employees trying to represent hundreds of vendors with tens of thousands of products, you can’t afford to adopt a siloed approach. Each vendor having a different method for distributing information and engaging with the channel is not sustainable or beneficial for anyone.

With an explosion of partnerships, alliances and other non-traditional relationships, the channel ecosystem is quickly evolving. It is vital that the way we engage our channel partners evolves too.

Richard Rodriguez is CEO of KickPost

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