Independent research and advisory firm Forrester
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What I See Coming For The Channel In 2020: Part 3

3rd Feb 2020
Independent research and advisory firm Forrester
Blogger
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In my last two posts, I shared seven of the 10 predictions I see coming for the channel in 2020. See below the last three of what I think is to come this year. 

2020 Trends

Channel Account Managers Turn Into Community Managers 

The average channel program will grow the number of partners by 10X in five years, and 80% of these new partners will be nontransacting partners. The complexity of finding, recruiting, and managing these new partners, each with their own unique set of business practices, target markets, value proposition, and culture, will be daunting. We estimate that there are over 600,000 partners worldwide when you include broader technology channels such as IT, telecom, print, pro A/V, etc. This doesn’t include the millions of companies that are converging into the tech services space from far and wide. 

The small- and medium-sized business channel, which makes up over 90% of these firms, is significantly influenced inside its own chosen communities.    

Communities offer a smaller group of like-minded people (perhaps even competitors) who share similar experiences and challenges, can collaborate, and help improve decision making. The feeling of belonging is strong, as well as the affinity of membership. There is a feeling that communities are more democratic, as they are built by the membership, and participation is encouraged and celebrated. 

Brands will create mini channel chiefs (or community managers) for each part of the channel Venn diagram they want to succeed in. 

Superconnectors Pave The Way To Channel Recruitment 

Channel leaders are struggling to find ways to expand recruitment across many new partner types without making significant investments. Superconnectors provide a gateway to diverse partner ecosystems and play a key role in guiding vendors to maximize their visibility and influence in front of these new channels. 

Leveraging online resources, a brand can easily map out a channel ecosystem based on a buyer role, subindustry, geography, sector, size, segment, partner business model, or solution specialty. Mapping what partners read, where they go, and who they follow is a key activity in understanding the makeup of the influencer communities and, more importantly, the top 100 superconnectors in any niche. 

As I listed out in detail in 2019, the global channel community reads a total of 54 channel magazines, listens to 64 podcasts, belong to 24 associations, participates in vendor and distributor communities, and follows thought leaders to over 150 channel-related trade shows per year. If you collect all of the speakers, board members, contributors, digital creators, consultants, analysts, and media professionals and scored them on visibility, you will have a stack-ranked list of the most influential people. 

You then need to meet the top 100 superconnectors, educate them enough to be dangerous (to the point that they can explain to others what you do and how you are differentiated), and most importantly, get them to endorse you (unprovoked) across their platform(s). 

The Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) Takes The Channel Reins — Beyond The Org Chart 

In the technology channel, I estimate that there are 10,000 vendors that publish a channel program and actively support it with personnel and technology. When we ask about organization structure and reporting lines, we still see about 80% of partner organizations that are siloed. 

Even if the reporting structure is directly into sales or marketing, the channel organization usually employs its own channel sales, marketing, operations, and finance teams that report to the channel chief and don’t collaborate much outside the silo. In the partner-obsessed world where partner experience is paramount, attribution is a key measure for most partners and nontransactional programs become ubiquitous; the ability of a channel organization to succeed on its own is becoming improbable. 

Ten years ago, organizations looked at their direct sales and marketing organizations and (correctly) decided to pull them under a single leader. To reduce the friction and put responsibility in the right buckets, the CRO focused on the entire cycle from top-of-funnel activities to customer success. 

In 2020, organizations will start to break down silos and get the channel integrated into the entire customer cycle. This means neutral compensation, strict rules of engagement, and a cultural DNA that squashes channel conflict. 

This post was written by Principal Analyst, Channel Partnerships & Alliances Jay McBain, and originally appeared here. 

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