• SIMPLIFY. EXPAND. GROW.

    SIMPLIFY. EXPAND. GROW.

    #SMB #MIDMARKET #CHANNEL
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    DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

    Delivering Connected Business
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  • SECURITY RESEARCH

    SECURITY RESEARCH

    SMB & Midmarket Security Adoption Trends
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    US SMB & Midmarket Managed Services Adoption
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    SMB & Midmarket Cloud Adoption
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    Transformation or Consolidation
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  • COVID-19 IMPACT

    COVID-19 IMPACT

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    COVID-19 IMPACT

    on SMB IT Spend Growth Rates
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  • FEATURED INFOGRAPHIC

    FEATURED INFOGRAPHIC

    2020 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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    2020 SMB PREDICTIONS

    Top 10 SMB & Midmarket Predictions for 2020
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    2020 CHANNEL PARTNER PREDICTIONS

    Channel Partner Predictions for 2020
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  • NEW SMB CUSTOMER RESEARCH

    NEW SMB CUSTOMER RESEARCH

    PC and software purchasing trends
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  • WHITE PAPER

    WHITE PAPER

    SMB Path to Digitalization - Prologue and Epilogue
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    ANALYTICS & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

    SMB & Midmarket Analytics & Artificial Intelligence Adoption
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  • BUYERS JOURNEY

    BUYERS JOURNEY

    Influence map & care-abouts
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  • SAAS RESEARCH

    SAAS RESEARCH

    US SMB & Midmarket SaaS Adoption
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Worldwide focus on SMB and Channel Partners market research and industry analysis.

Post-pandemic lead generation is proving problematic for channel partners

Six months have changed how SMBs and enterprises operate, how employees work, how customers purchase, and how products/services get delivered. A shift in go-to-market imperatives has become problematic for channel partners. Techaisle leveraged its panel of 225K channel partners to understand the impact of the pandemic on channel business. 49% of channel partners have allocated resources and budget for lead generation, but 60% rely on leads from vendors, an increase of 18% from pre-pandemic. 29% more channel partners than previously are finding social media as one of the most effective methods of lead generation. 46% of partners have increased their usage of analytics to drive leads, and 60% have increased influencer marketing.

Techaisle survey research data also shows that for 42% of channel partners, driving growth is the top business issue, especially with a clear focus on increasing the effectiveness of sales and marketing. Despite pandemic, 68% of channel partners expect revenue increases in the next year but have tempered their revenue growth expectations from 19% to slightly over 10%. Channel partners deploying digital transformation solutions expect ~2X revenue increase compared to those who are still not focused on digital transformation offerings for their customer base.

The requirement to focus on digital discovery conveys some hard truths. The first is that channel partners need to reach a large and diverse buyer population, extending beyond the IT department into business units and the executive suite, which means that marketers need to create and place various messages to keep the sales process on track. Another important implication is that prospects who engage with a vendor will represent a relatively small subset of the total potential market, as many buyers will disqualify suppliers before drafting a potential vendor list. The third implication follows the first two: to maximize the addressable market; channel partners need to embrace digital marketing as a way to gain entree to accounts that have not yet self-identified as prospects. Channel partners that rely on traditional lead generation campaigns realize that these funnels are reaching a diminishing share of the market.

Marketing has not been a primary focus for most channel businesses, and those that have invested in marketing staff have typically tasked them with optimizing access to vendor investment funds. Marketing’s need to add advanced digital competencies is challenging most channel partners. Vendors will need to provide programs that support content and digital marketing to ensure that their partners can engage with the largest possible number of prospective clients. Techaisle’s research highlights the core issue. Buyers, working in teams that average 5.1 individuals, typically don’t have meaningful contact with a supplier until they are 70% of the way through the purchase process.

All four of the top IT suppliers – Dell Technologies, Cisco, HPE, and IBM – have made partner marketing a priority.

  • Dell Technologies’ Cheryl Cook, SVP, Global Partner Marketing, is made it a mission to equip and educate partners with a series of guided podcasts and webinars
  • Cisco’s Boon Lai, VP, Global Partner Marketing, is enhancing the marketing velocity program
  • HPE’s Laura Seymour, Senior Director, Global Channel Marketing, is focused on Marketing Pro and Partner Marketing Concierge
  • IBM’s Catherine Solazzo, VP, Partner Ecosystem Performance Marketing is driving My Digital Marketing platform

If the customer journey begins with research conducted via the web, the marketing imperative must start with digital discovery. The channel partner marketing teams should take advantage of their IT suppliers’ initiatives, invest in putting thought leadership messages in front of prospective customers, and in the processes required to nurture new contacts to the point where they become sales-ready leads. Leaders at traditional channel partners will recognize this endpoint – but the process needed to arrive at this point is much different in the post-pandemic world.

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Why I liked Lenovo Flex 5G – work from anywhere and anytime

If devices define an office, the location of the user of the device determines the workplace. I wrote this entire review from my temporary workplace, Bryant Park, New York City, using M365 on a Lenovo Flex 5G notebook with Verizon Wireless 5G. The big deal is Windows 10 Pro running on Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 8cx processor and Qualcomm X55 modem, which delivers 5G - mmWave/Sub6 - connectivity from Verizon Wireless.

It was fortuitous that I was in New York City, where 5G is more widely available as opposed to being in San Jose, where Verizon 5G is almost non-existent. Lenovo Flex 5G provided me the flexibility and versatility to continue with my work, participate in video-conferences, and deliver webinars. The Qualcomm Snapdragon processor did not create any app compatibility issues for me. I use very few applications outside of productivity, collaboration, and communications – all of which worked without any hitch. Although startup was slower than Intel-based PCs, I was okay with sacrificing a few seconds for connectedness. Verizon 5G is spotty at best in New York. I downloaded the Verizon 5G coverage map and had to make efforts to look for 5G at street corners or some public spaces such as parks. The maximum download speed I ever got was 570 Mbps and the upload speed of 54 Mbps. I do like larger storage capacity and memory. With only 256GB SSD availability and 8GB RAM on Lenovo Flex 5G, I was always nervous about crashing massive data spreadsheets or running out of space.

Lenovo Flex 5G 2 in 1 notebook has an Iron Grey aluminum and magnesium chassis with an understated design. Yet, I found it imposing and business-like, weighs light at 2.9 lbs although slightly heavier than X1 Carbon, is thin enough to tuck under the arm comfortably, and has insane battery life. The interior is uncluttered with a hint of Lenovo and the Verizon 5G logo. The 360-degree hinge allows the Lenovo Flex 5G to be used in tent mode or fold it completely flat like a tablet. One evening, I used it to play some videos (in the tent mode) at the center of a table during a socially-distanced family get-together in Central Park. Even the Dolby Atmos sound through two speakers, on either side of the keyboard, was enough for us to enjoy. The Lenovo Flex 5G is a quiet PC as there is no requirement for a cooling fan since all processing happens silently as compared to Intel and AMD-powered notebooks.

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WW SMB customer-facing cloud applications adoption driving digitalization

Customer intimacy matters to SMBs. It is also a challenge. As per Techaisle's study of N=5505 SMBs in the US, Europe, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America, 77% of SMBs say that their business success depends upon a strong relationship with their customers, providing goods and services highly customized to their needs, and being responsive to their needs. Three facts stand out – customer relationship, customized delivery, and responsiveness. And neither of the three can be achieved without the use of relevant technology.

Every SMBs' survival is dependent upon customers. At the start of the year, Techaisle had predicted that 2020 would see a ground-breaking year when customer intimacy (acquisition, retention, experience & satisfaction) will drive IT adoption and business process evolution. We had said that by the end of 2020, for 45% of SMBs, the need for customer intimacy will drive digital transformation, and 76% of new SaaS adoption will be customer-focused. As a result of the investments, 15% of small businesses and 24% of midmarket firms will have a top-notch customer-facing digital presence. Pandemic has surpassed the predictions.

Recent global SMB research from Techaisle shows that within US small businesses, customer-focused SaaS business application adoption is likely to increase by 49% in 2020, rising by another 33% in 2021. Similarly, within the US midmarket firms, the adoption is expected to reach 82% in 2020, with another 74% planning to add adjacent customer-focused applications in 2021. Europe SMB research shows similar trends. 58% of European small businesses are adopting customer-focused SaaS applications in 2020, which will increase to 77% in 2021.

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Lenovo Partner Hub – a great beginning of a long journey towards channel empowerment

What should vendors do to build strong relationships with partner channel partners? Where should vendors invest in the success of current relationships? Techaisle data shows that it is generally tricky to replace channel partners that exit from the vendor's orbit. In many ways, the core challenge in channel management is determining the optimal allocation of enablement (effort) and investment (funding) options. A program capturing the best options in all areas would be prohibitively costly. Channel program management needs to allocate attention and investment to the areas that align with their specific goals.

The new Lenovo Partner Hub is the beginning of a long journey. It is one of the most massive transformations within Lenovo. What I like about the Partner Hub is its focus on providing excellent partner experience through a simplified content presentation, persona-based dashboards, bid requests, quoting, and product ordering for both PCSD (PC and Smart Devices Group) and DCG (Data Center Business Group). Simplification is at the core of any partner program, and Lenovo has nailed the beginning.

Lenovo's global process owners from business units and key partners in all geographies across thirteen countries contributed to harmonizing the design and tools. The single objective was to give time back to the partners so they could focus on their growth plans and customer conversations.

Vendors tend to consider channel enablement and investment as costs associated with specific product sets – and as a result, these activities get tied to product sales performance. However, although well-intentioned, often, this approach ends with the channel partner positioned as a vendor sales agent, which connects with internal vendor accounting requirements but poorly aligned with the core value provided by the channel partner to its mainstream business customers. The channel's role – and its most significant opportunity – lies in focusing on buyer needs. Successful vendors are building programs and partner platforms that empower channel partners to maintain vendor presence in complex solution environments – not sales agents. Lenovo is one such leading vendor who is trying to enable empowerment approaches through Partner Hub that focus on business outcomes and partnerships.
Designed and developed internally at Lenovo, five different portals combined into one platform with an agile approach rolling out new changes every single day. Lenovo's advantage is that it does not have to rely on nor negotiate with third-party partner platforms for customizations, unnecessarily prolonging the partner empowerment approach.

A grid-like dashboard has five distinct areas – Deal registration, Bid requests, Product Ordering, Asset Library, and myPitch. There are different dashboards with pre-defined quick links for PCSD, DCG, geographies as well as personas – Sales rep, Sales manager, Marketing and Admin. The quick links get updated with the use and memorization of frequently used tasks. There are also groupings for sales, product, and services, solutions, marketing, and training. An easy to use tool is available for contact and lead management.

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