For many IT vendors and solution providers, cultivating a network of reliable partners that drive growth and sales is a struggle. Moreover, as the IT space becomes more complex and competitive, organizations are facing the ongoing task of winning and maintaining mindshare among resellers, vendors and SIs — which is central to overall success.
AccessData is a provider of digital forensics, cyber security and e-discovery software. Part of the ever-growing cyber crime prevention space, AccessData has spotlighted the partner program as one of its “top three success factors,” according to Chad Gailey, VP of Worldwide Channel Sales.
“We are putting millions of upfront investment into our channel program and key partnerships,” Gailey said in an interview with Channel Marketer Report. Due to this ongoing dedication and focus, AccessData has established its partner program tremendously over the past six months, expanding its channel sales team from three to eight worldwide. Moreover, the company has transitioned the channel from traditional alliance managers to field-based channel sales managers, who, according to Gailey, are “in the trenches and responsible for driving revenue.”
Since investing in the channel sales force, which has historically been a direct model,
AccessData has increased annual channel revenue to represent more than one-third of worldwide revenue.
Growth also has come in the form of new managed-service provider/hosting partnerships with notable vendors, including D4, IBM, HP Enterprise Services, SAIC and Verizon Business.
“Over the last 10 years we’ve grown organically very fast, and are expecting to exceed the $100 million mark,” Gailey explained. “But to get to 150 million, we have to do something different., We can’t just keep hiring direct sales people; we have to look at channel growth, too. Some organizations don’t understand the type of investments that need to be made to succeed in the channel.”
Investing In Partner Success
To further channel sales, AccessData has created a new program built “from the partner’s perspective,” according to Gailey. For example, the software company has put $1 million in upfront investment for partner marketing activities, he explained. These MDF funds are unrestricted, providing partners with more options and freedom to explore marketing opportunities.
As of July, AccessData has spent $600,000 on partner marketing efforts to help reaffirm their positions as consultants and thought leaders in the space, Gailey explained.
“One cultural shift our CEO has instilled in us is the want and need to integrate our channel marketing efforts with our direct marketing efforts as much as we can,” Gailey said. “That’s the desired goal. It only adds to our brand value to have another brand in our marketing.”
Along with white papers and E-books, AccessData also hosts several webcasts, road shows, events, and cover the costs for partners.
Partner involvement is “an integral part of our DNA,” Gailey added. “If we don’t treat our partners like they’re a part of our company, it’s not really partnering. It’s just a vendor who has a distributor. The majority of the time we also look for ways to include partners in E-books white papers, and other forms of thought leadership.”
Moreover, AccessData has thrown 44 events for the channel, including ice fishing, Ferrari racing and other off-the-cuff gatherings. Confirming the value of these activities on overall partner and customer loyalty, these events have generated $18 million in pipeline over the last five months. The company also throws a series of annual in-person events, including the Worldwide Partner Summit (which has been held in the Cayman Islands and Singapore over the last two years) and the AccessData User Conference (held annually in Las Vegas), and participates in key vendor partner shows for HP, Dell and McAfee, among others.
Other vital investments that attribute to channel success include a web-based global partner learning management system, seven field channel managers, a full-time technical account manager and ongoing access to all field sales, marketing and product resources.
“Bottom line, we treat and train them like we do our own people,” Gailey said. “We eliminated and reduced most of the upfront barriers and program requirements and focused solely on sales and customer alignment. Our approach was to build a program that required heavy investment and benefits from AccessData for the first 12 to 18 months allowing our partners to realize profit before they had to make any investment in us.”
This strategy is contrary to the common approaches from many ISVs, vendors and solution providers who take a “show me first” attitude via their partner programs, according to Gailey.
“The ISVs take an ‘It’s all about me’ approach,” Gailey said. “They say ‘You go sell my product, go through my training, and invest your marketing money,’ and then it all comes at an upfront cost to the reseller. And only once the reseller has developed a certain revenue stream, they will see the profit on their side. That’s a huge mistake most ISVs make.”
Gailey noted that AccessData as turned the traditional model “on its head and thought about the partners’ profitability first. As a result, we have seen an increase in loyalty and overall investment in our product line.”
Tackling Communication Gaps
While AccessData makes an ongoing effort to include partners in all forms of marketing efforts, it would be impossible without ongoing communication. The company invested in ChannelEyes, a social media platform, and developed a branded mobile app using ChannelCandy to make channel-wide communication more seamless.
“ChannelEyes allows our partners to cut through the noise and clutter and have all our information in one place, improving the level of engagement and real time feedback,” Gailey explained. “Using the platform, we can streamline our social interaction with our reseller community via a single secure place for suppliers and Channel partners to virtually connect every day.”
The AccessData branded mobile app also enables all channel players to use any model of smartphone or tablet to access up-to-the-minute product and event alerts, program updates, and sales and education materials. Because mobility is the new normal for many B2B and channel organizations, AccessData received a surge in partner participation: Approximately 144 unique partner domains registered in the last four months, leading to 100% adoption.
Now, the ChannelCandy app is “the only way we communicate with the channel,” Gailey explained. “We have standardized on the app from the very beginning and our partners love it because they’re squarely in the mobile generation. No one lugs laptops around anymore, this is the new normal, especially in the cyber security field we’re in.”