CompTIA: Channel Partners Are Becoming More Marketing-Centric

IT channel companies are becoming more self-reliant when it comes to branding, marketing and sales activities, according to CompTIA.

The move to take greater control comes at a time when channel firms are being pushed in new directions by technologies such as cloud computing; by customers demanding different delivery models for IT solutions; and by the emergence of a more varied lineup of competitors.

“Many channel firms have learned that they can’t run their business today the way they once did, even in the recent past,” said Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis at CompTIA.

CompTIA’s Fourth Annual State of the Channel study examines the size, shape and growth factors impacting the IT channel today. It found that a majority of channel firms plan to up their marketing game, including individualizing their branding and fine-tuning their messaging to customers. More than four in 10 companies expect to accelerate social media activities to reach customers, drum up new business and promote themselves. Their goal: to position themselves as skillful, unique providers of technology services rather than simply product resellers.

“Most customers are not knocking on the door to ask what brand of product you’re selling,” April said. “They want to know what expertise you have and why you’re different than the guy down the street.”

The shift away from product-based reselling to a company reliant on recurring services revenue is having a tremendous impact on sales operations, the study found. A net 47 percent of companies surveyed said the addition of new business models will increase the complexity of their sales and marketing structures. A net 74 percent added to their sales forces in the past 12 months, while nearly as many (72 percent) added marketing talent.

“Many channel firms have embraced a hybrid model, selling some products and some services,” April noted. “The structure of their sales teams may take on a similar look, with some reps excelling at product sales and others at service contracts.”

In fact, among companies that added new sales reps in the last year, two-thirds of firms hired from outside the IT industry.