A successful relationship between a vendor and its channel partners can make all the difference between being the market leader or just another manufacturer.
For such a relationship to be successful, vendors need to keep their partners happy - particularly if, like Toshiba, they sell exclusively through their reseller channel. So given the importance of harmony, why does it so often go wrong?
A vendor's relationship with its channel partner is similar to a marriage.
As in any relationship, trust is vital. A lack of honesty or poor communication between the partners can often degenerate into a lack of mutual respect.
And insufficient support from both partners may lead to a level of frustration that can end a relationship.
Perhaps the five most important things vendors should do to keep their channel partners happy are: manufacture a high-quality product; create demand and build a strong brand; invest in the relationship; provide a wide range of support, including training, pre-sales support and technical marketing; and offer plenty of incentive and reward.
But it is the reseller's responsibility to take advantage of the support provided by the vendor - it's a two-way relationship. Resellers must put something into it by using support effectively to represent the vendor and sell the goods.
Building a strong channel relationship does not happen overnight. Many vendors have damaged the relationship with their channel partners by taking a short-term decision to go direct and later coming back to channel.
Those who have refused to employ such tactics have consequently built a stronger relationship with the channel.
Such vendors value the broad expertise that resellers can offer and acknowledge that they are the best route to market. In return, resellers treat the vendors as allies instead of perceiving them as a threat.
But, having established what appears to be a good relationship with the channel, how do you know it is working?
Without feedback from the channel, this can be difficult to evaluate.
One way of doing it is through a well structured reseller satisfaction survey programme. To be effective, such a survey should be undertaken annually and involve all vendor departments.
But there is no substitute for regular, face-to-face meetings with resellers.
Vendors should make a point of being accessible to their channel partners - an arrogant approach helps no-one.
Arguably, one of the best ways to judge if vendors and resellers are working well together is through a customer satisfaction survey. At the end of the day, only if the customer is happy can the vendor feel its channel relationship is working.
Alex Pidgley is marketing programmes manager of Toshiba Information Systems.
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