The enterprise software market continues to grow at a healthy rate; many analysts are forecasting between 7-8 percent worldwide growth over the next few years. That growth will create scores of startups, emerging growth companies and new initiatives within established software companies. As is the case today, they will need to direct a significant level of effort towards winning and keeping mindshare of their channel partners.
Why mindshare is critical
The formula for getting some level of initial mindshare hasn’t changed a great deal. Demonstrated demand for your solution, a predictable go-to-market approach and a willingness to invest in a channel partner’s success will get you in the door. Companies have partner networks that evolve over time. Some partners perform well, some do poorly and, if you’re fortunate, the majority come close to or slightly exceed expectations in any given fiscal year.
Longer term, consistent success requires a partner network that helps you enter new markets, find new accounts and keeps your competitors off their line cards and out of your mutual accounts. The more you have, the more proactive your partners will be in helping drive your business. Without it, they simply react to the short-term needs of their clients.
The level of mindshare you have with your partners and how well you’re able to maintain or increase it will be a major factor in the success of your partner initiatives for several reasons:
- Understanding the level of mindshare provides greater insight to your ability to withstand competitive vendor pressure within your partner community. This is increasingly critical as technology becomes increasingly service oriented and product switching costs become less of an issue.
- A high degree of mindshare enables real engagement and execution around new product introduction, new market entry and new account development.
- A high degree of mindshare enables you to withstand short-term issues in areas like pricing pressures, product gaps, partner program changes and competitive programs directed at your customers and partners.
- Understanding the level of mindshare across your partner community also instills a higher level of confidence in forecast evaluation.
- Establishing a benchmark allows you to build and measure programs focused on improving mindshare, building another barrier to entry for your competition and increasing the overall level of positive engagement with your partners.
How to measure mindshare
You can establish a mindshare benchmark for a point in time and as an ongoing indicator of future performance. You formulate objective and measurable assessments for three elements, each designed to get at the core drivers of the relationship you have with your Partners:
- How does your product rank within their line card of products and services? Very few resellers carry a single product; and most only truly focus on two or three, regardless of how many vendor relationships they have in place. Keeping track of where you stand over time is key.
- How much of your interaction with them is conflict or collaboration based? “Easy or difficult to do business with” has become an overly convenient way to categorize the effectiveness of partner operations. It’s much less important than working towards a high degree of the dialogue being mutually goal based.
- How important is your product/company to the long term performance of their business? Individual transactions drive quarterly performance and get constant attention. Complementing this with an objective, long-term picture provides much needed balance.
Gathering and analyzing insight from the partner executive leadership as well as selective members of their sales team will give you a complete picture by partner and across your overall program. Significant mindshare differences will impact your performance but also provide a great road map for improvement programs.
The level of mindshare you have with your partners and how well you’re able to maintain or increase it will be a major factor in the success of your partner initiatives, especially if you are planning on new market and new account growth. Establishing a benchmark allows you to build and measure programs focused on improving mindshare, building another barrier to entry for your competition and increasing the overall level of positive engagement with your partners.
Rich Aroian is the managing director and founder of KP Channel Growth Associates, a business development consulting firm based in Boston. KP Channel Growth Associates helps emerging growth companies grow their business faster and more profitably through all types of channels. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.