You hear about it every day, a relatively new technology company discussing the “partner friendly” nature of its products, services, and programs, yet never delivering on those promises. Based on conversations with many MSPs and other IT services business owners, that scenario plays out too often in the channel.
It takes a community of committed people with quality products and services to forge strong IT services partnerships. MSPs deserve vendors willing to stand behind their team, helping ensure that every client gets the most value out of their technology investments. Those prospective partners must be able to “walk the walk” with a strong portfolio of goods and services and deliver a fair margin for your team’s “value add” in the equation.
Everyone should play by the rules of the channel. One of the most important of the make-or-break relationship guidelines is making sure the alliance remains mutually beneficial for the MSP, supplier, and all who use or rely on the shared technologies. That fair and equitable engagement model helps ensure satisfaction for all parties involved and ongoing advances to the services and solutions.
Commitment goes three ways. Your business clients provide the environment, opportunity, and, of course, the funding, while devoted channel vendors develop platforms MSPs can leverage and adapt to their customers’ needs. Providers bring it all together, implementing, integrating, and modifying various technologies to meet the unique requirements of each organization and, in some case, each individual user.
Of course, the interdependent relationship between MSPs and their vendor partners is an extremely critical part of that IT experience and the long-term success of everyone involved. A committed channel partnership plays a key role.
A valued MSP/vendor alliance may not take much time to develop if each side is bringing the right things to the table. Providers typically offer some, if not their customers and skills sets, and the ability to land and support a variety of business clients. The list of things MSPs look for from vendors to validate their commitment to the channel and their partners, include:
- Branding: with few exceptions, MSPs should have the ability to put their company name and logo on applications they deliver to their clients. Branding is your billboard that keeps your company front and center, reminding end users, including key decision makers, which company provides their IT systems and support. Good vendor partners understand why MSPs need to build upon their own name, including to help drive more cohesive sales and marketing efforts and to increase customer retention and brand loyalty.
- Expertise: Very few MSPs have the bandwidth and personnel to master virtually every possible technology solution in the business ecosystem today. Most focus their efforts on core infrastructure and basic systems and often rely on valued partners to provide backup wherever and whenever needed. That backend support is critical, especially when MSPs shift their business model or enter new markets and need a hand up to get through the transition. Vendors often provide expertise and guidance for their partners across a variety of specializations.
- Engagement: delivering and supporting quality solutions can be hard at times, and maintaining viable partnerships to power channel business models requires continuous time and attention. It’s important that your vendor contacts keep in touch as much as needed without being intrusive and can quickly assess and address your needs. Striking that balance isn’t easy, but successful channel companies spend a fair amount of time listening and adjusting their programs (and people) to meet the needs of each partner.
- Control/Management Capabilities: the “M” in MSP is one of the most important aspects of your company’s value proposition to its constituency. Your customers expect you to be in control and to continuously watch over their systems and their people. It only makes sense to partner with vendors that understand those expectations and empower MSPs with the tools to make that a reality, including management consoles and partner portals.
- Training: does the company offer channel-specific education tailored to those who support end customers? That may sound strange, but direct sales organizations may not differentiate MSPs from IT departments (or even end users), and that “one-size-fits-all” mentality is often reflected in the training resources. Look for channel-specific programs and tools that will allow your team to provide the best possible support to its SMB clients.
- Pricing and Margin Control: Does your current vendor give you the flexibility to improve your managed services profitability? No two markets are the same, so MSPs should have the option to price accordingly. For example, ConnectMeVoice enables its partners with two provider-friendly features. First is Call Path Pricing, which charges your clients only for the lines they use each month, not the total number of phones. That saves them money and makes it easier for you to land new VoIP customers. ConnectMeVoice also gives MSPs pricing freedom, allowing firms like yours to customize pricing and increase recurring revenue margins. That’s a real partner benefit.
- Strategic Vision: partnering should be seen as a long-term commitment between both companies. With that in mind, MSPs are best served by investing in relationships with vendors that share their future plans willingly. Some develop specific product/services roadmaps or openly discuss their long-range priorities with partners, and adapt those plans based on the feedback from MSPs and their customer communities. Sharing and communicating are two essential elements of a good partner program.
Commitment is more than a phrase or two on a company’s website. It requires real investment to make those words meaningful, and real channel vendors spend a lot of time, money, and resources developing partner-specific programs and offerings. The end goal should always be to build long-term relationships that result in a fully satisfied partner and end-user community.
If you enjoyed this blog, you might also be interested in the blog: Use VoIP as an Entry Point to Dealerships