By Pete Engler
It’s a fairly common practice for technology vendors to maintain partner advisory councils. Yet, there are varying opinions - and questions - as to the value these councils provide. Who benefits the most? Is it worth everyone's time and energy to participate? Partner advisory councils are usually made up of a vendor’s select partners and designed as a means to collect insight and feedback on everything relating to products, markets and customers. With the right process in place, partner advisory councils can benefit everyone from the vendor to the end-user customer.
The overarching goal of the group is to help improve all aspects of the product and the selling process for both the vendor and its partners. Typically, it’s the top tier of resellers, or the highest revenue generating partners, who are tapped for a council position. The meetings can range from a recurring conference call several times a year to semi-annual or annual in-person events.
Without such councils, love them or hate them, vendors may steer off course over time to the point where channel frustration and neglect becomes prevalent. When vendors and resellers aren’t engaged and synced with their market and customers, the customers eventually spend their money with someone else.
In reality, partner advisory councils hold significant value for vendors on many levels. Feedback from partners, who are on the front lines of customer interaction, is essential in driving both product and sales activities. If a vendor is out of sync, based on customer needs, losses could mount quickly. Resellers are uniquely tuned into the market and can help a vendor realize a new trend or validate what they are already experiencing while selling into that market. Partners have intimate knowledge on the pain points of varying industries and business types of all sizes. Another extremely valuable aspect is potentially gathering crucial information regarding competitive products and sales methods, which could help a vendor pivot and correct a potentially negative path.
For resellers, advisory councils can have significant benefits - even outside that of strengthening their relationship with a key vendor. One such benefit is receiving advanced information on products and services that a vendor has on its roadmap. Such information could lead to an advantage on how to sell, and possibly open up the opportunity for the reseller to beta test new features or services. With this advanced knowledge a reseller could be more prepared to sell than competitors who have the normal notification window of product releases. In addition, when a reseller participates in an advisory council it serves as validation that the reseller is indeed considered a trusted partner.
Most of all, advisory councils are good for the customer. It starts with the vendor hearing and acknowledging the problems that an end customer needs to solve, as relayed through partner advisory councils. Once the vendor understands that the partner feedback is consistent with its internal market research, then the resulting outcome is likely the improvement of products and services - which is what the customer ultimately wants. Customers are one of the best resources to help a vendor improve their solutions and the selling process, so why not lean heavily on the partners that are speaking to them on a daily basis.
If you are a partner interested in serving on an advisory council with a vendor, there are various ways to get involved. Start by reaching out to your channel account manager (or other vendor point of contact) and ask for guidelines on qualifying and participating on an advisory council, and make known your interest to participate. You may also be able to find guidelines for being nominated to serve on the vendor’s partner portal. Even if you’re not currently eligible, or you’re not ready for the full commitment of serving on the council, reach out to other resellers serving on the advisory council and ask them for the best way to communicate ideas and customer feedback to the council so that your voice is being heard.
Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.