There are many factors that influence channel mindshare. One thing is certain, if you are a vendor and you sell through channels, you need channel mindshare and you need to constantly innovate how you go about getting it. Don’t kid yourself and think that you are doing okay at it. Do you really know?
I have been in Silicon Valley for a few months now and it is not too hard to identify some winners and losers in this guerrilla war. The winners are often not doing anything proactive to capture mindshare, they often just have a product or service that is so hot at the moment; everywhere you go, everything you read and all your water cooler conversations are about it. These mindshare giants as I call them change constantly, some are at the top of the list longer than others and some disappear quickly.
To understand the impact of not having mindshare, let’s think about a salesperson that sells technology for a large global IT Reseller. These resellers typically sell lots of products, they have lots of services and they represent multiple tech vendors every day in their customer conversations. Channel salespeople don't operate in a bubble, they hear and read the same stories about these hot technologies all the time and so do their prospects. Does it influence what they talk about in their prospect meetings? Of course! How could it not. I am pretty certain there are not too many virtual infrastructure conversations going on in the market today that don’t include talk about Nutanix. I am pretty sure there are not too many enterprise voice conversations today that don’t include talk about the Microsoft E5 plan. My point is - what does this mean for all those other good, mature, stable, well priced, comparable and innovative vendor technologies that could be a topic of conversation in the prospect meeting? I guess it means they lose out.
So to capture mindshare what do we do? We invest in sales enablement for partners, we create and launch campaigns, we have partner conferences and we insert channel management resource into partner ecosystems. But do we really know if we are shifting the dial and improving our baseline mindshare metric? A baseline mindshare metric would be for example how many conversations were had about your technologies, services or propositions in the partner base at a particular moment in time. Is your mindshare metric increasing or decreasing?
As margins get tight, as customers buying habits change and as hot new technologies come and go, you need to accept that you are in a guerrilla war for mindshare. This means you can’t just invest in what you have always invested in to capture channel mindshare. You need absolute clarity on what is working and why, to best determine the ROI on your investments.
Channel mindshare is a leading indicator of future sales revenue. Get your war paint on, get your plan together, make sure you can measure mindshare and experiment with your tactics!