At its inaugural Americas Partners Summit last Fall, Infoblox reviewed how the company had expanded its BuildingBLOX partner program to include additional investment in accreditation, deal registration enhancements, new partner tools, and rebate rewards.
During the past year, Infoblox had expanded its partner alliance ecosystem with the addition of 100 new partners, boosting channel revenue 12%. The company plans to continue that momentum in 2019 by simplifying the process for partners to sell products and bring them to market with enablement toolkits. Approximately 95% of all Infoblox business flow through the channel.
A few days before the holidays, Channel Marketer Report talked with Lori Cornmesser, vice president of worldwide partner sales, and Sandy Janes, senior director, global partner programs and operations, about some of the important partner marketing elements of their channel program
CMR – Making it easier for partners to represent a brand is an increasingly-popular strategy for channel-oriented companies. What are some the big steps you’re taking in that direction?
Lori Cornmesser — As a company we are much more focused on the way that partners go to market. A lot of what we were doing was talking mostly about our technology, which is interesting and innovative. But that’s not how partners go to market, in terms of cloud security networking in data centers. So one of the first things that Sandy and I collaborated on is our partner activation kit, which aligns our products in the way that partners go to market, giving them a simple view of what to know, what to show and what to do. Making the elements of the activation kit actionable was key.
CMR – Is the activation kit winning over partners?
Sandy Janes – It’s been very well received by the partner community because, to Lori’s point, we are less focused on the technology, and more focused on a business-level conversation about the customer problems our partners and we are solving. Equally important, we are mapping our technology into the related solutions our partners are already selling today to ensure that a specific activation kit will fit into a partner’s ecosystem.
Of course, we had to ensure that the kit was partner-friendly with easily downloadable content that the partner could give directly to an end customer. Everything is completely packaged for them – handouts, infographics, PowerPoint presentations – in a very easy place to find, so they can have ice-breaking conversations with customers. Marketing materials for follow-up calls, such as demos or customers success stories, are also easy to access.
CMR – How do you ensure that partners are aware of and have access to the new marketing materials you create for them?
Sandy Janes – We use a platform by ContentMX to push out new materials to them on a weekly basis that they can then distribute to their customers and prospects via email or social channels. It’s been very well received by partners, especially those that are heavily focused on social media.
Lori Cornmesser – By providing our partners with a steady stream of new content, we enable them to combine our industry-focused messages with those that they are already sharing with their customer base. We spent a lot of time getting feedback from partners on the easiest way to complement the things that they’re already building into their branded communications. We’ve worked hard to roll into their rhythm, so it’s been very well received.
Sandy Janes — We’re seeing active participation on our platform, and it’s been exciting to see more requests from our partners for content that will help them position Infoblox technology with solutions from other vendors that they sell.
To make sure we were meeting the partners’ needs, we present use cases that demonstrate how they can position Infoblox with other vendors’ solutions. And then we allow the partners to vote on the content assets that they’d like to see next. We’ve seen a lot of very positive feedback that tells us our partners want to see more of the vendor plays.
CMR – This sounds like a pretty heavy lift for your team, coordinating messaging with other vendors.
Lori Cornmesser — It’s not too big of a process. A lot of our technology alliance partners are very collaborative with us in terms of how we complement their solutions. They really look at it as a benefit, and certainly something that we can promote to the community as joint solutions. In the end, it just means more opportunity for us both. So it’s seen as a very positive interaction.
CMR – I get the impression that your partners seem to be more genuinely interested in participating in marketing activities, for themselves as well as the brands they represent.
Lori Cornmesser — Yes, I definitely agree with that statement. One of the things that we’re starting to see, which has been interesting, is that there’s been an increase in partner interest in Infoblox, mainly due to the de-emphasis of some of the traditional networking solutions. Because the network business can be flat in some areas, if not down, partners really have taken an interest in the vendors that are surrounding complementary networking vendors and then marketing their own capabilities.
CMR – Is the often-discussed transformation of the channel and its different components a concern?
Lori Cornmesser — Well, transformation is one of things that we talk about a lot. New business models, and transformations to SaaS and managed service models, are continuing. The challenge is that partners are at very different degrees of this transformation, so sometimes we have to be able to align and craft our message and our activation with a partner that may be fully engaged in this model and have more experience than necessarily we do. With others, they’re coming to us trying to break into this business model and asking how we can help.
I think another important topic is that MSP models are becoming more sophisticated. And as a result of all of that, the business needs and goals are changing in terms of what’s required from the vendor and what is required from the partner. So, ultimately, more partnership is required in support of the customer around these changing MSP models.
And then, I guess the third thing — and it’s no surprise – is that technology is becoming more complex. So, as a vendor, we’re always looking for way to connect the dots and drive relevance. And there’s more players, right? There’s more technology partners that surround solutions, so instead of just engaging, and having three of four vendors that are in support of a customer, sometimes you’re one of kind of 15 different pieces of the equation. So, it’s understanding how all those things sort of work together, in support of the partner.
CMR – Is there anything that keeps you awake at night?
Lori Cornmesser — I’ll tell you what I’m not worried about is channel growth. It’s real, and it’s strong. Partners continue to kind of show up and they continue to be a real deliberate dependence on our go to market.