With the soaring adoption of secure access service edge (SASE) architecture, providers have been making significant efforts to enable their channel ecosystems to meet the on-going demand. Earlier this year, for example, Netskope launched Netskope Prime, an invitation-only program for distinguished Netskope partner technical experts. The intention of the program is to recognize and develop partner professionals who demonstrate advanced technical expertise across the Netskope Security Cloud portfolio. “Our goal with Netskope Prime,” wrote Dave Rogers, VP Alliances and Global Channel Sales, “is to build a distinguished group of experts that champion Netskope’s cloud-native solutions, extending our reach and accelerating the adoption of a SASE architecture.”
In a conversation with CMR earlier this month, Rogers and Melissa Nacerino, Netskope’s Head of Global Channels & Alliances Marketing, talked more about how the company is enabling its partners to take advantage of the demand for SASE technologies.
CMR – As data indicates that interest is SASE is continuing to grow, our research shows that B2B buyers are doing a lot more of their research before contacting solution providers. Are your partners asking for help to get identified by potential customers?
Dave Rogers — Absolutely. That trend is very real and it is shifting the way a lot of our partners are adjusting their marketing. That started happening even before COVID. The buying community is clearly more intelligent than it has been in the past. But since everybody is looking for the first way in, you need to have a unique value proposition.
One of my favorite CSO friends was addressing an audience of resellers and they asked the question, “What would get your attention?” His feedback was very specific. “Don’t come talk to me about things I already know, or things that I expect my leadership team and my best technicians to know. Come talk to me about something that’s different.”
And number two is everybody’s found it easier, particularly in COVID, to get wider in their existing install base, selling new products, new lines of business, whether that’s a network company now selling security and network security or compute to security or wider within the security teams.
Today, we have made great investments on the marketing side, especially digital marketing. Melissa (Nacerino), who we brought onto our team earlier this year, has brought a tremendous amount of experience.
How we take our own IP and make it readily available for our partners, whether that’s technical IP, like our assessments, or it’s marketing collateral that they’re able to then use and put their logos on, has been huge. We’re also investing in personal relationships, investing in more people in the field, doubling the size of our team.
CMR — How is that expanded team supporting your partners?
Dave Rogers — One of the investments that we made is channel business development reps. This is a resource that we have in the field and in Atlanta. When we get marketing leads, people come into our website or people reach out to us directly into our website or other collateral, the channel business development resource team takes those leads, and because they’re in market and have personal relationships with the partners, they know which partners have relationships within the customer base that might be reaching out to us.
The rate at which we’re able to take our leads and convert them to opportunities has doubled since we’ve created these roles. Our partners love this. This is true value in differentiation. Nobody has a team in the field whose job it is to take internal leads and help convert those into meetings with partners. We actually pay this team on getting meetings with the customer, with the partner. So when partners sit down with us and talk about their strengths and how we can help them get wider, we’re bringing the best of both worlds to them.
CMR — How do you gain insight into which partners have a relationship with specific customers?
Dave Rogers — That’s field engagement. This is why the traditional SDR model doesn’t work very well. Our teams in the field are meeting with the partners on a daily basis. They’re doing planning sessions with them, marketing events with them. We build those personal relationships in the field, in the market with the partners, and that commitment from them leads to joint opportunities for both of us.
It’s a little bit of science, but it’s probably more art. It is relationship building in the field and making sure that we’re investing in those relationships.
CMR — Have you noticed an uptick in partners either driving awareness for themselves or for their relationship with you? Are they doing more of their own marketing?
Dave Rogers — I’ve seen a very strong increase in marketing. It is both their own brands, as well as their partners, with a heavy push towards services in particular as a lot of partners are in the process of rebranding themselves. They’re asking early stage for Netskope particularly to help them put those programs together, to help them mature those offerings as they’re getting ready to brand those offerings uniquely to their customers.
CMR—What other investments are you making to support your channel marketing initiative?
Melissa Nacerino — As we’re growing and scaling our channel, as well as our channel marketing efforts, we’re consistently evaluating our marketing tech stack, and that is also specific to our partner marketing offerings. We just recently fully automated our partner rewards program. We have implemented a new partner portal, automated deal registration, and we have just onboarded a new dedicated partner marketing campaigns manager. One of his key priorities is really building a digital partner marketing center of excellence that really incorporates the newer ways that both we and our partners are going to market.
Our partner marketing go-to-market strategy is three pillars — awareness, enablement, and demand generation. We really hold true that jumping to demand generation is doing our partners a disservice. They need to be aware of our solutions or resources and enable to do that. Of course, the entire spectrum of marketing tools and resources falls under that umbrella and into one of those pillars.
We’ve brought on a new program specific to our partner engineers. All of that, again, is looking at content development, both technical and sales enablement, as well as real marketing enablement and training — how we use the expertise that is internal to Netskope and share that with our partners.
CMR – Netskope is clearly a channel-focused company. Are you striving to generate even more of your business that your channel ecosystem?
Dave Rogers — Well, we expect to be nearly 100% channel. That is our goal. That is not a sales strategy. I would expect to see our partner numbers continue to grow. What I see is that our partners’ Netskope business has taken off and will continue to grow.