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Four top tips for channel organisations looking to differentiate themselves from competitors

By Ian Ashworth, EMEA Channel Director at Netwrix

Every channel organisation has the potential to stand out from the competition, depending on their approach to meeting customer expectations. Put simply, that the better an organisation can meet demand, the more likely it is to win the deals. However, there are four tips that every channel organisation can use to strengthen its position in the market.

1. Cooperate with vendors for incentive programmes that boost sales

Vendors can become a valued partner in helping to grow a channel organisation’s business in a long-term, if the organisation makes use of incentive programmes. Such programmes can provide sales people with benefits that will motivate them to achieve targets as well as to build customer loyalty. Often vendors have resources to provide various benefits to a channel organisation, such as financial rewards, marketing developing funds (MDF), and free certification. It is important for a channel organisation to discuss new incentive programme development with a vendor at the early stage. Not everything will work from the beginning, so an organisation can run a pilot test to give a vendor feedback on whether this incentive is applicable to its business.

Communicating incentive programmes to the sales team can be the most challenging stage , which a channel organisation can help with. Communication is key to success for all parties, so all information about incentives should be delivered to a sales team operatively and in a clear manner. If a sales person cannot access explicit information about a particular incentive quickly, they are likely to simply give up, no matter how attractive the benefits are.

2. Build reputation of a trusted advisor

Channel organisations that are able to develop the entire communication strategy emphasising areas where they are particularly strong will advantageously stand out. For example, if a channel organisation serves mainly the public sector, it should highlight its vertical focus as a unique selling proposition in all communication assets, from press releases, case studies, to email. Positive and relevant references from clients that share how their expectations have been met will also add to the image of a trusted advisor.

Contributed content for the media that positions a channel organisation as a thought leader will further support the strategy. The main topics can include market trends, burning customer needs and ways to overcome the challenges, even if it goes well beyond an organisation’s focus. For example, if a channel organisation specialises in cyber security, it can create educational content regarding compliance, prevention of data breaches or incident remediation, as well as about IT infrastructure investments. This versatile content will help establish the reputation of a cyber-security thought leader among the customers.

3. Adjust offerings to satisfy specific customer requests

Channel organisations typically assemble a range of generic software in their portfolio. However, customers might have specific needs that off-the-shelf products do not cover. If a channel organisation is able to customise its offerings to meet particular needs, it can become a unique differentiator for customers.

Leveraging an API integration can be an effective and cost-effective way to add new features that the generic software might lack. A channel organisation that offers unique solutions and extensive support will definitely beat competitors. The requirement for internal devops teams can be considered as a downside by some channel organisations, but in my experience it is worth it, especially if the competition on the market is tough.

For example, one distributor gained competitive advantage after it enhanced functionality of a popular SIEM product by enriching its output data with actionable information.

“We integrated SIEM with another technology by an open API. Without such integration, SIEM solution would give customers raw logs in a barely readable format, and a customer would need a group of security analysts to handle them. We also developed similar integration with DLP software, providing customers with more comprehensive and actionable data,” says Tolga Turan, General Manager at TRN Teknoloji from Turkey.

4. Invest in employees to encourage them deliver better expertise and service to customers

When many companies today struggle financially, they cut down their investments in employees in response. However, when customers make purchase decisions, positive experiences when communicating with company’s personnel has a considerable impact.

One of the ways to differentiate from the competition is to have a strong sales team of trusted advisors and experts. A channel organisation can leverage channel certification programmes from vendors to educate its sales and pre-sales teams. The team should be able to analyse customer challenge and find the most suitable solution for the best price. Cooperation with a vendor can help a channel organisation to build up a team with an explicit expertise without additional investments.

Another area that requires attention is corporate culture that encourages employees to deliver high-level customer service. However, it is not as costly as it may sound. It requires an organisation to improve workspaces, encourage managers to praise their teams for successful deals, and to simply make an office a positive environment. For example, one of the largest UK IT infrastructure providers says that its financial achievements result from unique and positive corporate culture with 95% employee satisfaction rate. The company is highly appreciated by customers: its NPS (Net Promoter Score) is 63.7%, compared with 16% at SAP, and 25% at Oracle.

Differentiation from competitors requires continuous daily work that involves all departments within an organisation. If a channel organisation does not know how to start, here is a simple tip. No matter how competitive a market is, there is always an opportunity to find new ways to differentiate by simply asking customers – why do you choose us? The answer will help highlight organisation’s strengths, and start building its unique differentiation strategy.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Netwrix .

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