Over the next few months, in the run up to the Channel Awards 2007, CRN will take a look at last year’s winners in the vendor, distributor and reseller categories. This week it is the turn of the vendors.
To win a Channel Award, vendors must demonstrate a strong commitment to their partners, make sure that they put together a good entry and ensure that resellers give them their support.
There were some big names among the winners of last year’s vendor awards – including the likes of Software Vendor of the Year Microsoft and Storage Vendor of the Year Hewlett-Packard (HP). Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC), winner of both the Systems and Components Vendor Award, and Vendor of the Year, is also a big fish in the channel pond.
Networking Vendor of the Year Netgear has also grown to become one of the major forces in the networking sector. McAfee, winner of the Security Vendor of the Year Award, is now one of the key players in the security software market.
However, the outstanding winner in the vendor categories last year was Entanet which, in taking the Specialist award, managed to overcome challenges from some firms with significantly higher profiles than its own.
Winning the award though has elevated the vendor’s profile and Entanet has become more well-known in the industry as a result. The key to its success – as it was to a significant extent with all the winners – was the support it received from the channel. Get this right and the acclaim and wider recognition will usually follow.
The level of voting for Entanet was such that it was hard for the judges to consider any other company for this award. Resellers would not vote for a vendor unless they felt that it deserved the award and had done something to help them.
Any company that receives strong support at the voting stage cannot be set aside by the judges without serious deliberation. This is a crucial aspect of the awards, according to John Tsai, managing director of Entanet.
“The awards reflect how good the channel thinks we are rather than just what we say to the judges,” Tsai told CRN. “That’s important and gives the accolade enormous credibility.”
When the short-lists are selected, the reputation of a firm in the industry has a powerful influence on the judges. But the quality of their entry must at least match that reputation if the company is to be put forward for the voting stage. However, a really good entry from a firm that is less well-known, can be enough for a company to be given serious consideration.
If an entry makes a good enough impression on the judges to validate it being on the short-lists, then vendors are at the mercy of the channel – and with their backing and support, any of the companies that make it to the final stages can be a winner. It is important to get the entry right – this is not something any vendor can be complacent about, no matter how revered they might be in the industry or how many awards they have won in the past. One company that has set the highest standards in this respect is Netgear.
Peter Airs, VAR channel manager at the company, said the firm puts a lot of effort in because it wants to reflect the effort it puts into supporting resellers.
“Winning a Channel Award is a great validation of the hard work we have put into the channel over the year,” he said. “It is difficult to measure whether it has contributed to growth, but it shows new partners that we are serious about the channel.”
Vendor winners usually attract new resellers as well. “The Award has had an immensely positive impact on our business,” Tsai added. “A significant number of new partners have come on-board because of our higher profile.”
As well as being an aid to recruitment, an award helps to build confidence among existing partners.
“Throughout the voting period we received countless messages of support from our channel partners and, when our win was announced, many more saying it was well deserved,” Tsai said.
Rob Eatwell, regional channel manager for McAfee, said: “Winning a Channel Award has acted as a real proof-point that the McAfee channel team and our messaging to the partners was having an impact. It also enabled us to re-enforce our messages to new partners that we are a vendor that works with and through the channel and is worth investing in.
“It has had a positive impact on channel team morale and created greater awareness in the rest of McAfee for the worth of the channel team. It has given us the confidence to maintain our reseller recruitment and enablement process. We don’t have any metrics that prove additional impact, but our rate of bookings growth from new partners is increasing.”
Winning a Channel Award can also be a reflection on resellers and the contribution they make, according to Karl Noakes, UK director of partner development and marketing at Microsoft.
“Winning the Software Vendor of the Year Award was a significant achievement for Microsoft and a great recognition of the evolution of the Microsoft Partner Programme,” Noakes said. “Equally it paid tribute to our partner network. Without their expertise, creating what we believe is the most comprehensive partner programme out there would be impossible.”
Inevitably, winning also gives the vendor’s own staff a boost.
Gary Fowle, marketing director at FSC, said: “It puts a smile on people’s faces and makes them hold their heads that little bit higher. That can make all the difference to the whole approach as an individual and as a business. It makes organisations more positive and decisive and helps to make everyone feel that they are part of a team that is genuinely achieving something.”
Winning underlines the commitment that a vendor shows to the channel, according to Fowle, and if firms can feature in the awards in successive years that makes a difference.
“The fact that we’ve won two awards in successive years makes it even more valuable,” he said. “It says a lot about our commitment to the channel and to supporting the development of higher value business
Winning a Channel Award certainly does not harm business either, Airs said.
“It gets noticed by our customers and competitors alike,” he said. “I don’t think it has a direct impact on customers except that it encourages manufacturers to raise their game and focus on the channel, which can only be a good thing for resellers.”
By driving vendors to re-examine their commitment to reseller partners and make more of an effort to deliver genuine value, the Channel Awards help to drive higher standards of service delivery among suppliers. They encourage vendors to try even harder to make a positive difference to resellers. They also compel vendors to focus on how they really do add value through the process of putting together their entries. Putting together a good entry – one that reflects the investment that a company has made in the channel – takes real effort.
Preparing a decent entry and then following that through to ensure the channel gives its support is, in itself, a reflection of just how committed a vendor is to the channel. In the end, that is what really makes the difference. Vendors that do not make that effort cannot expect to win – those that do can reap the rewards all year round. It is well worth making that investment and this is why vendors that win are eager to win again next time around. At the same time, they know that the bar will be raised every year and to win again, they will have to do even more.
“It would be foolish to ever become complacent about winning such awards,” Noakes said. “To win an Award is an honour and we will be aiming to do so again in 2007. However, we recognise that we will face stiff competition and we will endeavour to meet this challenge head-on.”
In an industry in which most of the key sectors recognised by the Channel Awards are dominated by a handful or players, winning is more valuable than it ever has been. Being recognised as the leader – by the channel community and with the sanction of the Channel Awards judges – presents the victors with an opportunity to set themselves apart from the competition and tangible evidence that what they do for their partners really makes a difference.
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