Vendors love winning a Channel Award just as much as anyone else. This is perhaps most of all because it gives them a huge boost in the reseller community.
Gary Fowle, marketing director at Fujitsu Siemens, which last year won the Systems Vendor of the Year and overall Vendor award, said the firm’s successes really grabbed the attention of resellers.
“We definitely noticed a spike in activity and interest from potential new partners at the start of the calendar year,” Fowle said. “I believe the awards had a lot to do with that.
“They raised awareness in the channel and sent out a message that we were supporting partners in the right way. There were a few people out there who had perhaps never thought of working with us that closely before, or who had drifted away and have since returned to the fold.”
Terry O’Loughlin, UK channel sales director at Computer Associates (CA), which was last year’s Software Vendor award winner, said the awards helped to improve the perception of CA as a channel vendor, particularly in the storage and security markets.
“Certainly more partners have felt that CA is now a strong brand and looking beyond the channel,” she said.
“The recognition has also helped raise our profile with other vendors. This has paid dividends through a number of alliances, in particular with Microsoft.”
O’Loughlin believes that the award even contributed to helping CA recruit new partners, build closer ties with existing resellers and improve commitment within the company. “The importance of the channel has been heightened within CA,” she said. “We’ve been able to place more emphasis and budget behind channel-specific programmes.”
Mark Power, country manager, UK and Ireland at Netgear, which was the 2005 Networking Vendor of the Year, praised the internal impact on a company that wins an award.
“You always hope you’re making the right noises and doing the right things, but when you get this kind of industry backed recognition, it feels like a true vindication of your efforts. It’s a real shot in the arm,” he said. “It has helped galvanise our channel focus internally. We’ve expanded our channel team and activity, and our business-to-business product set.”
Of course, winning a Channel Award is not the only reason that all of these things happen. But the achievement does spur vendors on to do more for and more with their partners. Also, their renewed confidence undoubtedly results in benefits for both resellers and the company itself.
It can even help vendors raise their profile and get more respect from end-users, according to Ian Moyse, channel director at BlackSpider Technologies, which claimed the Specialist Vendor Services category in 2005. “Winning the award has helped us attract large names, such as the Morse Group. In doing so, this has enabled us to interact with more end-user customers,” he said.
Fowle added that, in a very competitive market, winning a Channel Award is a big deal because it is a clear sign of commitment to resellers.
“It underlines and enhances your credibility with the channel: resellers feel that they can trust you,” he said. “They are also more confident in taking your products to market. There is no direct impact on the end-user, but I do think VARs feel better and more assured about taking products to their customers now. Everybody loves a winner.”
Winning again is never easy, although the year after they have won an award many companies build up such momentum that they become real contenders a second year running. But it is important to try to do something a little different. For example, Fujitsu Siemens plans to put more emphasis on the skills training it has been providing for resellers this year.
Everyone who has won an award wants to win again. Vendors have their eyes on the coveted Vendor of the Year award, for which only the reseller votes count.
Check Point has won the Security vendor award for two years in a row but Viv Francis, channel director for UK, Ireland and South Africa at the firm, is aiming for a hat trick. “It would be unique to win this award three times in a row, and there is no better accolade than to have your channel vote for you,” she said.
Terry Woodjetts, StorageWorks category manager at Hewlett-Packard (HP), has a similar view. “It would be great not just to retain Storage Vendor but to also win Vendor of the Year,” he said. “We want to win again to confirm our leadership position and show that our channel strategy is working and partners want to sell HP solutions and customers want to buy them.”
Power feels the same the way but knows that to win again is asking a lot. “We’d love to ‘unify’ the two big belts by putting ourselves into the overall Vendor of the Year bracket, but we know there’s bound to be some stiff competition,” he said.
There certainly should be, as long as vendors are mindful that they need to get a decent entry put together and entered by 17 July. Some vendors are remarkably conspicuous by their absence. As O’Loughlin said: “Microsoft is a strong contender. The channel is its lifeblood, but it has not become complacent and remains very pro-active in supporting its partners. This is an approach we hold in high regard and have adopted at CA, particularly in the SME space.”
The standard of the entry is important too. It has to demonstrate that the contender is serious about its commitment to the channel, and about winning. The experience of last year’s winners underlines this point.
“We felt that of the many strings to the bow of last year’s entry, the incredible encouragement and backing we received from our partners – particularly by way of the testimonials they gave us to support our entry – may have swung things our way,” O’Loughlin said.
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