The True Meaning of Channel Relevancy

McAfee worldwide channel chief Gavin Struthers

McAfee worldwide channel chief Gavin Struthers

At last week’s McAfee Focus conference, global channel chief Gavin Struthers spoke at length during his partner summit keynote and in side conversations about relevancy, or what it takes to make a vendor more relevant to partners and vice versa.

McAfee is going to great lengths to make itself more appealing to its partners through its interconnected security products, which provide greater situational awareness and actionable intelligence to thwart hackers and viruses. From a business perspective, McAfee is enhancing its appeal through its profitability stack of incentives, not its margins, rebates and rewards for solution providers with greater attached sales.

Efforts such as these are paying off. McAfee reports an 85 percent increase in eligible deal registration bookings, a 40 percent increase in rebate qualifications, a 25 percent increase in rebate payments, and a 33 percent increase in rewards program membership.

But, as Struthers points out, relevancy is something that matters more than rewards.

“How do you become more relevant to McAfee? How can we help you grow your business and be more profitable?” he asked.

The math behind Struthers’ questions and quest are transparent. A solution provider may resell and support products of a company like McAfee. They may even enthusiastically endorse the products and services of a company like McAfee. But if they’re only earning 5 percent of their gross revenue based on a McAfee product, while earning 20 percent or better through another vendor, the relevancy isn’t very high.

McAfee’s solution to this relevancy problem is twofold: better, integrated products and a channel program that incents and rewards performance. The better and more valuable the products, the more they will sell and generate revenue. The better the channel program and profitability, the greater the likelihood a partner will build a practice and generate more revenue. The net-result, the vendor has relevancy to the partner – or so the theory goes.

Struthers isn’t wrong in his hypothesis. Vendors like McAfee must create the conditions in which solution providers have the opportunity to be successful and profitable. By that, McAfee is doing what it can to earn relevancy among solution providers.

That’s only half the equation, though. Solution providers, too, must earn relevancy. Vendors may create the conditions for partner profitability and success, but they are not responsible for it. Just as vendors must earn relevancy with their partners, solution providers must demonstrate their value to earn relevancy with their vendors.

Ultimately, vendors look to partners to help drive their revenue and profits. Relevancy, though, isn’t just a matter of sell through. Solution providers must demonstrate competency and capacity to their vendors to earn relevancy. In practical terms, this means showing vendors that they have the technical skills and resources to sell and support products. Additionally, they just show that they have the ability to scale their business to meet their vendors’ growth expectations.

Solution providers demonstrate commitment to a vendor through the attainment of technical and sales certifications. That’s good, but not enough. Solution providers need to capture relevancy by marketing to their vendors – telling and educating them on their capabilities, investments and successes. By demonstrating these characteristics, solution providers will earn the attention of their vendors. That translates into greater levels of lead sharing and co-selling.

It’s nice for a vendor like McAfee to want to be more relevant in the eyes of its partners. But relevancy cuts both ways and true channel success comes when vendors and solution providers are mutually relevant.