The email and web security market has changed in recent years. There has been a move away from hardware towards software- and appliance-based products, a transition from perpetual to subscription-based licence models and a general acceleration and intensification of competition.
The impact of these changes has been significant. As the market matured, price-led offers become much more prevalent when securing new business, and both customers and channel partners must be supported more rapidly as sales cycles shorten and procurement processes focus more on the tactical.
We have all had to become more agile. So we decided to overhaul our channel strategy, and we replaced the two-tier model with a leaner, streamlined and more responsive single-tier approach.
It is not a decision we made lightly, and nor should anyone. Although single-tier channel models are not necessarily that rare, they are not particularly common in the IT security sector.
However, resellers were telling us they needed to be able to react instantly to opportunities, accessing the appropriate sales, marketing and pre-sales resources, and specifically suggested that distribution only slowed things down.
Over the past year, we saw more of our Catalyst partners approaching us directly to obtain sales support, evaluations and solution proposals. We strongly feel that our partners will be better positioned for success and ultimately better served by working directly with us as opposed to via a distributor.
This view, when discussed with my peers at other security vendors, only confirms my suspicions that we will definitely not be the only vendor that chooses this path. I know several security vendors are watching this move closely, with a view to gathering enough data to enable them to perhaps follow suit.
Distribution does retain its place. When we dealt mostly in hardware, the provision of storage and logistics support from a distributor was incredibly valuable.
But our products became increasingly software- and appliance-based, as our customers looked to leaner, frequently virtualised IT environments.
There are of course other services a distributor may provide – such as partner recruitment, certification training and marketing support, plus sales assistance. But we feel we are in a stronger position to deliver and expand upon all these elements without a distributor.
Plus, the financial resources released through the cessation of our distributor relationship mean we can invest a significant sum in this type of support, and provide it directly to our channel partners.
As a starting point, for example, we have decided to double the size of our sales team, to identify and nurture new customer prospects while expanding considerably what we spend on partner marketing initiatives.
We are not afraid of taking bold steps that are an appropriate reaction to changes in our market, and the opportunities that present themselves as a result. As an aggressor in our field, simply maintaining the status quo is not a option.
We listen to our partners and try to deliver the most appropriate environment for fuelling partner sales – while removing unnecessary bottlenecks and freeing resources to be redeployed or reinvested in better ways.
We see the change in our channel strategy as a key opportunity to differentiate ourselves in a displacement market.
And as anyone who knows us will appreciate, being different is something from which we never shy away – from the way in which we talk about email and web security as a value-add proposition right through to the way we approach our pricing strategy.
Miles Rippon is vice president of worldwide channels at Clearswift
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