Show Me the Money!

Harry's Corner

dollar signA day doesn’t pass without an inquiry from a sponsor/vendor/PR agency in the IT community proposing a great partnership. Those making this

offer are well-schooled in a solicitation dialect that is ambiguous at best and deceptive at worst. In our experience, it’s been like the famous “money transfer scam,” repackaged in 2014 for the IT community.

Partnership Opportunity

Here is a representative e-mail from a vendor in the cloud space:

“Harry: I saw “SMB Nation’s” profile and found partner opportunities to work together. We have a proven track record & have worked with Microsoft in the past, happy to share references & work samples.

I’ll set up a brief call accordingly to present a summary of our credentials and competencies and how we can, mutually, benefit from each other as a development partner. Kindly share a date and time for a quick call.”

Although SMB Nation has done Strategic Alliances in the past, they have been limited to our event promotion. After trying our hand at a new kind of partnership, my staff and I casually added up these opportunities and concluded we could spend all day, every day “partnering” with vendors and not getting real work done, much less garner cash flow, the lifeblood of any small business.

I don’t have any budget…

The next assertion we’re seeing currently from the vendor community is that “my budget has been cut or I have no budget.” Ranging from Fortune 1 to start-up, we’ve heard this more often the past few months than ever before. The conversation continues about providing free services or products. For example, a small established cloud services broker started a recent phone call asking for a booth at our long-standing fall show for free because they didn’t have any budget. My response? Not sure I want to insert this under-capitalized vendor into the business motion of the SMB Nation community. Can’t risk the blow back. SMB Nation values its community as much as vendors/PR agencies value their product.


Another barrier to doing good business concerns specific cases of exclusivity. I recently had a Microsoft competitor in the open source community suggest we only promote its server-side solution as the new “SBS” server. As SMB Nation is a fairly agnostic community, we try to represent a good mix of available products and resources to help community members find the best fit for their business models.

Member Benefit

Over the years, we’ve had numerous vendors approach us with a “freeium”-type offer disguised as a “member benefit.” Giving an SMB Nation tribal member the privilege to use your product for 90-days without the vendor paying for that privilege reflects a relationship that is not in balance. It’s like a mobile phone company providing free umbrellas (with logos) to everyone at an outdoor Super Bowl football game without paying the NFL.

Revenue Share and “Pay per Lead”

Understanding that the SMB IT space is maturing and it’s all about lead generation, I can appreciate the aggressive incentive programs being proposed by vendors and their PR agencies. I have to give credit where credit is due. These vendors sure are creative (I once heard a particular vendor refer to its OEM partners in the same vein as obtaining joint marketing funds). Unfortunately, the revenue share proposals crossing my desk typically amount to working for free, behaving as Commission Junction 2.0. That’s not why I get up in the morning and it’s certainly not why I created the vaunted SMB Nation community. I have too much respect for our members to abuse them with non-blue chip offers.

On the "pay per lead" proposals, we’ve done a couple, and we usually find it’s not a “good for me; good for you” business practice. Here’s why: we worked with a well-known vendor who thrived on disqualifying lead attribution rather than playing it straight and paying it up. It felt like a game of “wrong rock.”


I end with one point and one point alone: SHOW ME THE MONEY!