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We often talk about the IT channel as if it’s a single entity; it is anything but. Independent, owner-managed businesses are as part of ‘the channel’ as large multinational resellers, they just operate in different areas, with different customer focuses and, more often than not, with different means of reaching those customers. Those differences must be embraced and celebrated where they create a competitive advantage, but where they hold back progress, something needs to change.
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If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that ‘business as usual’ is not a recipe for success. However, when you’ve done things a certain way for as long as you can remember, how do you make the first step towards change?
The role of channel partners, of course, is to sell IT devices and services to end users, but the stark reality is that some are so deeply entrenched in the ways that they do this that they’re in danger of not only never growing that customer base but, in fact, of seeing it migrate to other partners.
And whilst we must embrace and celebrate the diverse nature of all partners within the channel, it’s truly terrifying to witness both the extent to which some are so set in their ways, but also that they point to not only a lack of inclination, but notably a perceived lack of time or money as their reason for not keeping up with trends.
I’ve had conversations with channel partners who’ve balked at the idea of reaching me via WhatsApp, who would consider it entirely inappropriate to include a friendly emoji in any type of business-related correspondence, and who (dare I say it) still utilise a fax machine!
These are, I hasten to add, the extremes and mostly in a minority and in many respects these foibles are to be cherished as much as they are to be criticised. The fact remains though that these partners will not flourish, and they risk failure as the market continues to innovate.
None of this is to say that traditional means of communicating have become obsolete – far from it! It is, after all, a welcome surprise to receive a phone call in an era of endless Zoom calls. A one-size fits all approach will never work and we shouldn’t wish to make it so, we do however need to create a level playing field in terms of potential to succeed.
And it is amongst the smaller channel players who recognise the need to innovate but who simply don’t know where to begin that our focus should be directed.
Amongst the smaller channel players exists a raft who have taken the tentative first steps towards greater digital communication. They’ve got a Linked In page (who wouldn’t want to be part of the old boys’ network, after all), but they’re not actively utilising it to its full effect; they might have also invested in an email marketing system, but resort to sending out cookie cutter messages on a rigid schedule that lack any distinction or impact. These partners know that people buy from people, but in the shift from the traditional, friendly phone call, they’ve in fact lost that personal touch.
It is this tranche of the channel that needs to be supported in creating stand-out in a busy, noisy, crowded marketplace; supported in building the confidence to become more agile and ready to respond quickly to changing customer needs; and supported in realising their own potential.
So no, ‘the channel’ most certainly isn’t a single entity, but if there’s one team that understands and appreciates all of the distinct players within it, it’s Consenna. But don’t just take my word for it: keep an eye out for a series of exciting announcements that we’ll be making over the coming weeks that demonstrate we not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.