How Canon revamped its Australian channel strategy in two years

Technology vendor re-engages with partners to improve its local channel business

Canon Australia’s channel strategy is back on track after years of being in “disarray,” according to partner channel assistant general manager, Brad Thomas.

When Thomas joined Canon two years ago, he saw that the channel business was far from ideal.

“We had very poor relationships with many of our partners, they didn’t understand where we were going, and they started to drift away from Canon as their primary vendor,” he said.

Since then, the company has been busy rebuilding those relationships and refocusing its indirect sales channel.

“The focus returned to growth and profit, and we undertook a much more proactive approach to bringing our products to market,” Thomas said.

As for how Canon’s channel found itself in this situation, Thomas said that “familiarity can breed contempt.”

“Many of our partners have been with us for a very long time, and historically they operated in regional Australia and places where Canon did not want to go directly,” he said.

Thomas adds that Canon as a sales organisation has been and is very focused on direct sales.

“We took that for granted and expected partners to follow along meekly in our wake, accepting what we did or did not say,” he said.

“They felt disengaged and disconnected, didn’t understand our strategy, didn’t see us investing in the channel in any effective way, and that ultimately caused a huge amount of dissatisfaction.”

A new direction

As for how Canon ultimately turned this situation around, Thomas attributes it to having a strategy and sharing it with partners.

“We surveyed our partners over the last two years, and we identified the areas where they are not happy,” he said.

“That feedback enabled us to put a strategy in place to engage, enable, motivate and simplify.”

The initial result of that survey was that 35 per cent of channel partners voiced an active dissatisfaction, and Canon took that feedback onboard in order to implement improvements.

“We changed things to make Canon easier to do business with, such as ensuring we have multiple formal and informal communication methods with our channel partners,” Thomas said.

That included being more transparent about the overall strategy, where the vendor foresees the market heading, and what its responses are to those market changes.

“It has been an interesting journey, going from a disorganised, almost dysfunctional, channel back to something that is growing again and is quite engaged,” he said.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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