If you look at a list of partners sorted by size of partner, major vendor’s partner ecosystems usually look like very flat pyramids. They will have a few very large partners, companies that may be of the same size or exceed that of the vendors, and a large number of companies that are smaller – many very much smaller. For smaller partners, acquiring new customers is challenging. Based on a study I did recently, the smaller partners value very highly the traffic and leads generated from a vendor’s site.
For vendors with a partner network in the tens and hundreds, it is usually pretty easy it put together a simple to use directory that connects prospects and partners. Microsoft, on the other hand, never seems to get this right, in spite of the fact that partners are its main route to market. Having worked on a number of projects for Microsoft and Microsoft partners, and prior to that for Microsoft competitors, I have always used their partner directories. Though I appreciate the depth and breadth of their ecosystem, I have always been baffled at the company’s inability to classify and serve up partner information in a way that is simple enough for ordinary customers to make use of. Their latest attempt, Pinpoint, which overlays results on a map is still off the mark. Because the partner network is so vast, the task of accurately pigeon holing each and every partner never seems to get addressed. And it is a poor showcase of their technology. Perhaps as part of their ecosystem revamp, this gap will finally be addressed. Meantime, if you need to find a reliable Microsoft Partner for hosted messaging, I can recommend a very good one.
Like a few other vendors, Novell cancelled its partner event, Brainshare, this year and has announced that it is reviving that vendor/partner meet.
In speaking with technology partners, particularly ones from Europe and Asia, I am often told how much they value networking with other partners, learning what solutions work for partners in other regions, learning what overall trends are likely to affect their customers and establishing a personal, trusting relationship with vendor sales, marketing and technical personnel through face to face dialogue.
A year’s hiatus is not too bad a thing – it makes people on both sides of the fence realize the importance of that mode of learning and personal contact. No newsletter, webinar, account visit, training class, let alone blog or tweet can come close to the hurly burly, frenetic, serendipitous speed dating that occurs when gaggles of partners mingle with other partners and their strategic vendors. It is the fastest way to build a trusting ecosystem and has a high ROI where companies depend upon indirect channels as significant routes to market. That ROI is all too often not measured (one of the things my company can do) in terms of partner loyalty and pipeline which is one of the reasons why partner events suffer early blows from the accountant’s axe when sales turn south. It is like turning off your email system and handing in your mobile phones to save costs. It is a direct communication medium, just as essential to a healthy indirect business, as those media we regard as fundamental utilities.
Yesterday, the European Commission imposed a record €1.06 Billion fine on Intel for violating EC antitrust rules on the abuse of a dominant market position. Between Oct. 2002 and Dec. 2007, the company had a global share of x86CPU sales to OEM’s of 70% and the EC found that Intel had secret payments with its OEM channel and a large retail channel to muscle out AMD. These payments were took the form of conditions that prohibited the OEM from purchasing any AMD CPU’s or beyond a stated percentage. To one computer manufacturer, AMD offering a million free CPU’s. In the end the customer took only 160k, fearing losing its Intel rebate. The EC found such practices illegal and resulted in EU customers paying more for computers. Intel, naturally stated that it will appeal.
While not condoning anti-competitive behaviour, this does prove the point that much of commerce, particularly in oligopolies, is sotto voce.