Simply put, partners don't have the time to read a stack of magazines or a bunch of newsletters - they tend to choose only one brand to follow. How does this align with your media strategy?
2 - Associations
There are numerous associations, both generic as well as hyper-focused. Surprisingly, the largest association in the world (by far) doesn't even reach five per cent of the intended audience. Looking at your product portfolio, are you aligned with the macro and micro based communities where your partners are engaging?
3 - Analysts
Depending on the size and maturity of partner channel you are recruiting, analyst firms can have a major impact on whether you are considered for your product category. Research by firms such as Forrester, Gartner, IDC, SiriusDecisions, and ZS Associates tend to carry a lot of weight as the size of partner grows.
There are hundreds of mid and smaller sized analysts that carry weight as channel consultants that also have power in making vendor decisions. Are you spending enough time building relationships (and getting into the right quadrant) in the analyst community?
4 - Distributors
Depending on your product category, making the commitment to broad-line or niche distribution will be important.
From an influence perspective, the distributors have out-sized reach and marketing budgets to drive partner influence. Many small and mid-sized partners use distribution almost exclusively for learning and community.
5 - Vendor communities
Several companies have built impressive communities that serve their ecosystem. For example, in the managed services world, companies such as ConnectWise and Autotask have built large and loyal followings of partners that they offer others opportunities to market through.
There are many more examples ranging from SaaS ecosystems such as Salesforce Dreamforce to traditional vendors such as HP, Dell, Cisco and Lenovo.
6 - Peer Groups
Many partners that I have worked with swear by peer groups. The ability to engage with like-minded folks and solve problems in a very human-centric way is a huge benefit for them. There are larger, more formal peer groups run by companies such as HTG, Taylor and TruMethods.
In most cases, these peer groups try to avoid outside influence but do have sponsorships for events available. In some cases, vendors can actually participate.
7 - Bloggers / Thought Leaders / Consultants
This is a broad group, but one that is important in breaking into several partners. Because they tend to be very visible, they have influence on a large number of partners across many of the communities mentioned here.
8 - Tradeshows
There are hundreds of technology trade-shows each year. The majority of channel professionals will only attend one or two events so understanding your target partner and having a healthy trade-show calendar is a must.
9 - Social
Being on social means more than having company Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts.
There are some vendors currently winning this medium, with very socially-minded channel managers engaging at a personal level on these platforms. There are thousands of partners engaged, with real business being conducted by "people they like".
10 - Shadow Channels
This is a major influence. With 72 per cent of technology decisions now being made by line of business professionals, other types of partners such as consultants, integrators, ISVs, industry-based professional services firms, born-in-the-cloud, and start-ups are all disrupting what traditional channels look like.
(Want to learn more about the rise of Shadow Channels? Check out my keynote speech at EDGE 2017)
The shadow channel is currently the wild-west, but the professionals do need to connect, learn, and engage like everyone else.
The question, as it applies to your business, is which of these types of partners are important and how do they answer the who/what/where questions asked above?
Jay McBain is principal analyst of global channels at Forrester, specialising in research and advisory for global channels, alliances, and partnerships. McBain focuses on B2B marketing in the age of the customer; understanding and navigating the complexity of multiple routes to market; ensuring contextual and relevant content to accelerate the indirect sales process; and describing the technology infrastructure to build and support channel relationships.