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How Large Cybersecurity Companies Maximize their Channel Partners

Examining what channel operations larges, established IT security companies focus on

Relayware Partner Relationship Management

How Large Cybersecurity Companies Maximize their Channel Partners

By Jim Somers

In my blog post last week, I examined how high-growth IT security companies are accelerating their success via channel partners. These smaller, newer companies have needs and strategies that are distinctly different from larger, more established IT security vendors.

Today, I’d like to turn the spotlight on large IT security enterprises and their operational focus running channel partner programs. Like their smaller counterparts, many large IT security companies depend heavily on channel partners to sell their products, deploy them, and service/support them as well. In fact, many of these companies go to market entirely through indirect channels.

How are we defining “large, enterprise” security companies?

  • Annual Revenue: >$250 million
  • Channel Size > 1000 partners
  • Channel Focus: Enhance and monetize

Furthermore, many of these established cybersecurity companies rely on large electronics and IT distributors, like Arrow Electronics, CDW and Ingram Micro. And, of course, these distributors represent lots of security products, so staying top-of-mind with call center and sales associates is critical to ongoing success. Considering that upwards of 70% or more of sales can happen through these distribution houses, motivating and incentivizing them can also be the difference between success and failure.

Channel Management Transformation – How Kaspersky Labs Optimized its Partner Program

Some of our earliest customers are established security vendors, like Kaspersky Labs, who do all of their business through channel partners.

“In 2015 Kaspersky Labs North America will celebrate its tenth year of business operations … from five partners in 2005 to 3,500 partners today … and 500 new partners joining in the last year.” (source here)

When Kaspersky Labs North America announced significant enhancements to its channel partner program in March 2015, they promoted the exceptional profit and growth opportunities for partners through added investment in lucrative deal registration and incentive programs. They announced a new tiering structure that gives partners the ability to earn hefty margins and more incentives for hitting targets and closing new business. a tremendous amount of analysis went into the new program structure to ensure there is mutual benefit to both the partners and Kaspersky. Such an analysis can be time-consuming, and even overwhelming, but with a consolidated partner system-of-record and powerful analytical tools, what would normally take months to accomplish is done in a fraction of the time. Partnering automation systems that include embedded business intelligence, segmentation and tiering capability enables smaller cybersecurity firms to leverage the same capabilities that was once only available to the large cybersecurity vendors.

The Battle for Mind Share in Channel Sales

Many of these established cybersecurity companies funnel of a lot of their business through large electronics and IT distributors like Arrow Electronics, CDW and Ingram Micro. It’s common for these distributors to represent multiple security products, which means staying top-of-mind with call center and sales associates is critical to ongoing success. Considering that upwards of 70% or more of sales can happen through these distribution houses, motivating and incentivizing them can be the difference between success and failure.

Finding New Avenues for Growth

Although a majority of sales go through these larger distribution firms, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to mine more growth from this channel. This could be why a growing number of large cybersecurity companies are looking for new growth opportunities across several new areas:

  • Mid-market / SMB: Go down-market to find new buyers that can be sold online or over the phone.
  • Broader global distribution: Extend into new markets previously difficult and expensive to reach with a direct sales model.
  • Value-added Services from VARs & MSPs: Work with solutions providers to deliver enhanced service offerings like managed security, incident response, threat intelligence and analytics.
  • Acquisitions: Acquire new product functionality to broaden portfolio and enhance value of core solution set.

Whether a large cybersecurity supplier employs one or all of these growth strategies, what’s clear is that they need channel partners to make it happen. And as new partners come into the fold, whether through recruiting them or through an acquisition, they need to be on-boarded, trained and enabled quickly. Partner churn will be higher here so it is critical that companies execute flawlessly and let automation handle a lot of the manual channel management tasks.

Powerful, Agile Partner Portals

"Channel marketers report less than 20% of their partners regularly participate in training, access portals or take demand generation offers.” -SiriusDecisions

Many of the large cybersecurity companies will likely have a partner portal already, but the real question to ask is: how flexible and manageable is the current portal to support the company’s need to extend into new markets, expand to further geographies and add additional partner types? Because things are always changing in the security space, the portal needs to be an agile system to address myriad changes that occur. Things like:

  • Changing partner tiers
  • Changing partner roles & responsibilities
  • New products available for partners to sell
  • New messaging and/or pricing
  • New competitive threats

Channel Partner Automation

Cybersecurity companies need a high-performance partnering automation system that makes these changes easy on the channel professionals at the vendors. You don’t want difficult, clunky systems to hamper progress and take the wind out of the sales of progress.

On the front end top-notch portals that give channel partners the fuel to advance success have these:

  • Single Sign-on: SSO means partners need only one username and password to access a variety of information and content (from training to incentives to deal registration). The result, more satisfied partners and less support calls for you.
  • Personalization: Dynamically serve content that is relevant to each partner’s partner tier, status, certification, tenure and expertise.
  • Localization: Make sure content is delivered in their local language and acknowledges specific regional policies and regulations.
  • Partner Locator: Allow customers to find local partners on the vendor website or portal.
  • Partner Collaboration: Allow partners to collaborate with each other– not just the supplier – to assist on key deals and get extra support when needed.
  • Feedback Loop: Give partners the ability to provide feedback to the portal and the entire partner program through polls, ratings, and social streaming.
  • Mobile: Make sure the portal is mobile ready. Your partners will want to access content, take training, capture leads, register deals and get support from their account managers – all when in the field and in front of customers.

A high-performance portal is the gateway to a world-class partner program that on-boards and enables channel partners quickly, and keeps them engaged and motivated over the long term. In the case of Kaspersky Labs North America, a “re-vamped partner portal resulted in usage of 30% year-over-year (YoY) from 2013.” (source here) But it’s not the portal alone that matters. It’s about how all the pieces come together into one unified system that provides a holistic view of partner performance and their impact on business growth.

Conclusion

Cyber-terrorism is on the minds of every enterprise CIO as society’s dependence on the Internet continues to rise with innovations, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technologies. As has always been the case, organized crime follows the money, and these new innovations only bring even more malware. This is new, unchartered territory for all parties involved, whether you’re the security buyer, the vendor or channel partner that serves as the trusted advisor between the two. What’s clear is that better communication and collaboration strengthens the command and control that is needed to make it all work for the security vendors and their channel partners, and that is where Partnering Automation, like Relayware, delivers its greatest value.

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