Hey vendors, don’t sideline the channel

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This article appeared in the March 2015 issue of CRN magazine.

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Hey vendors, don’t sideline the channel

Lorenzo Coppa has some advice for vendors: don’t make him choose between you or his customer.

“The reason why we existed was to find products and services that resolve the problems businesses have,” says Coppa, who started Melbourne-based City Software Group straight out of university more than 23 years ago. 

“We’re always loyal to our customers first and when vendors don’t align to our clients’ interests, we have some robust discussions. They’re more the exception than the rule.”

One of those exceptions was Adobe. City Software Group, which has e-tailer estore.com.au and CSW-IT to serve B2B customers such as corporates and education, was one of Australia’s biggest Adobe channel partners. But not any more.

“We used to do over $4 million a year on Adobe and that has dropped by 80 percent – it’s the single biggest decrease I’ve ever seen in 23 years.”

“Adobe completely changed the channel engagement partner programs, changed how they went to market... so there wasn’t anyone to talk with, and the people you could talk with had no idea what they were doing.”

Coppa laments that what is in the short-term best interests of a vendor’s balance sheet might conflict with what is good for the channel. “It might work for shareholders for now, but at the end of the day, the channel does a lot of selling and if they can’t find one thing, they’ll just sell something else.”

Coppa concedes that Adobe’s Creative Suite, powered by Photoshop, Lightroom and InDesign, doesn’t have any credible competition – yet.

“Adobe is leaving us open for a vendor to take significant market share over the next few years.”

He contrasts Adobe with Microsoft, which Coppa says understands the value of the channel. “Adobe has gone direct with a lot of their licensing now. It will be interesting to see if paying an internal sales manager will be cheaper than having the channel.”

And he’s equally scathing of Apple: “They send over kids who don’t know anything.”

“When the iPad came out, they sent over an account manager who didn’t know if we would get inventory. How can we be a reseller with thousands of customers wanting to buy the product if we can’t tell them if we’ll get or not?


CHECKLIST

► Vendors that help the reseller navigate the supplier's bureaucracy.

► Work with the reseller to exploit opportunities including marketing and going to the customer together.

× Vendors who don't properly train their staff or who have unknowledheable product mangers.

× Vague ideas of the company's unique value propisition and who don't deliver on their promises.

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