Beware of Google's Channel Intentions

By Elliot Markowitz  |  Print this article Print


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Google wants the channel to help it get into corporate accounts, but the company is limiting marketing support for partners. Something is amiss here.

Have you heard the news? Google is looking for channel partners. Zippity doo dah.

If I had a dollar for every company… No, scratch that. If I had even a dime for every company that for the past 15 years has told me it is aggressively recruiting channel partners, then I probably wouldn't be in Midtown Manhattan right now writing a channel column but instead sitting on a beach somewhere with drinks that have those tiny umbrellas in them.

But such is life.

While it is admirable that the search engine megalopolis is looking to crawl into even more nooks and crannies in the abyss-like realm of searches, and has identified the VAR community to help it do that, I am not totally convinced Google is an ideal channel partner. I may be a lone voice on this one, but hear me out.

What Google mainly brings to the table is a big brand name with which to partner and probably the most efficient search capabilities. Better search capabilities inside corporate databases are sorely needed. But, my friends, there is more to being a good channel partner than brand recognition. Much more.

If you asked any VAR on the street—yes, they are easy to pick out—what are their top three gripes when dealing with a technology partner, I bet more often then not two of those issues revolve around fear of direct competition and not enough support.

Is Google's intention to build a true value-added channel, or is it temporarily using VARs as a means to an end to get its Google Mini and Google Search Appliance technology more into the corporate world than the consumer world? If you are considering being a partner and investing time, money and training, and willing to bring Google into your prize accounts, you had better have a strong comfort factor that this is a long-term relationship, not a flash in the pan that will leave your services out on the front stoop in a year's time.

Short-term business partners are bad business partners. Oh by the way, they want you to pony up $10,000. This from a company that has more cash on hand than some third-world countries.

David Coursey asks, "What's it all about, Google?" Click here to read more.

If I were a VAR, I would be very skeptical of Google's long-term commitment to the channel for the mere fact that it said sales and marketing support for this effort will be limited. Come again? One thing Google does not lack is a sales and marketing budget. In fact, the company's massive branding reminds me of the mighty Microsoft marketing machine. So if the company is so committed to the channel, why isn't it putting more resources behind it? This is a question every VAR talking to Google executives should ask before signing on.

The company doesn't seem to have a problem spending on brand awareness all over creation, but limits its funds when it comes to supporting the channel. That to me, folks, is where the rubber meets the road. (I was trying to think of a cute search metaphor but couldn't, sorry. Crankiness makes me tired.)

My point in all this is that VARs need to be careful about their partnering choices. Brand recognition takes a back seat to commitment, trust and long-term support. Google may have good intentions here, but I am not so sure, based on what they have said to date.

Feel free to e-mail me if you want to try to change my mind but I have seen many shallow channel programs in my time and VARs need to proceed with caution before jumping on the latest bandwagon.

Elliot Markowitz is Editor-at-Large of The Channel Insider. He is also Editorial Director of Ziff Davis Internet's eSeminars. He can be reached at elliot_markowitz@ziffdavis.com.

Elliot Markowitz Elliot Markowitz is Editorial Director of Ziff Davis Media eSeminars responsible for the editorial content of all eSeminars. Markowitz is a 14-year publishing veteran and was previously Editor-in-Chief of CRM Magazine and the destinationCRM.com website and related live events. Before CRM Magazine, he was Business Editor at TechTV, responsible for helping to manage the TV station's website as well as conducting live on-air interviews with key industry executives.

Markowitz also spent 11 years with CMP Media's award-winning weekly newspaper Computer Reseller News (CRN), where he held many key editorial positions including News Editor, Business Editor, and Senior Executive Editor. In 1999 he was named Editor of CRN, responsible for the entire editorial operation of the newspaper and in charge of coordinating its redesign and re-launch in June 2000. While at CRN, Markowitz initiated many key alliances including the Industry Hall of Fame event in Las Vegas and the annual CRN/Raymond James Conference. Early in his career Markowitz was a news reporter on Long Island for the Massapequa Post.

He holds a B.A. in journalism from Hofstra University and is a graduate of the Stanford Professional Publishing Course.