Have you noticed how the concept of “Channel” is evolving?
A few years ago, the Channel Partner was the-guy-who-actually-got-your-box-to-the-End-User: Distributors, Aggregators, Importers, Resellers, Retailers, etc..It didn’t matter if you produced Hardware or Software, you still had to get a box to your customer. On the other hand, the Channel wasn’t that involved in Services (or just a little).
Application software came as a dozen diskettes (remember the diskette, 8″, 51/4″, 31/2″, POP!) that might contain up to 900 kilobytes each of data (remember the kilobyte?). You would invariably spend half your evening stuffing diskettes into the computer when it asked for more.
Suddenly, the Internet came of age and with it, e-Everything: e-Tailers, e-Commerce, e-Business have now acquired a significant share of the day to day business and with that change, the way we do business has fundamentally changed. When we talk of the IT Channel today, we have to include a whole spectrum of new players. We now dowload 200Mb applications via ADSL connections and pay the license with the company credit card.
Enter the Influencer family: Consultants and System Integrators, Web Integrators, Telecom Resellers, Network Integrators, ISVs, Specialized and Managed Services Companies, are now considered part of the “Channel” (although they rarely deliver a box to an End User).
As a result of this new granularity, designing a good Channel Program has become increasingly complex and now requires us to go well beyond the “Buy one-get one free” (Push) or “Sell loads and get a rebate” (Pull) concepts that seemed to work before. Instead of that, we now have to design Influencer Programs and guess what…when you ship you product through a traditional channel, it’s really tough to convince your CFO you need to pay a guy who says he actually created the opportunity for you! It’s not a rebate or a discount: if he didn’t buy anything from you, it must be a bribe!
But that’s another story and one of these days, we’ll talk about why Dell is still best placed to influence the Influencers.