Common Vendor Miscues That Hinder the Partner Experience

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When the vendor–channel partner experience (PX) goes well, both sides benefit through increased sales, higher renewal rates, and a smooth relationship with relatively few glitches or missteps. But when it goes wrong, it can drastically hurt your business.

The four most common vendor miscues that can thwart PX include inadequate security, insufficient marketing support, overconfidence in partners’ business skills, and failure to nurture relationships with partners. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Inadequate Cybersecurity

Security is a touchy area. Traditionally, it’s been the province of highly specialized vendors. These days, however, the looming threat of attack and the high incidence of ransomware shutdowns has pulled most IT providers and a whole lot of managed service providers (MSPs) into the security business — whether they like it or not. Anyone in IT must ensure their products provide adequate protection. Nobody wants their software to be infiltrated and downloaded by customers.

“Supply chain attacks are not new, they are not going away, and state-sponsored threats will always look to third-party compromises they believe can get them into bigger fish,” said Neal Dennis, threat intelligence specialist at Cyware. “We often see threat actors targeting softer access points to get to the bigger targets.”

Within the MSP space, every MSP is now required to provide an adequate level of security as the cost of doing business. Any vendor they partner with demands it, as do many of their customers. No wonder many MSPs have now entered the managed security service provider (MSSP) area.

Michelle McBain, global lead and channel evangelist for MSP and XaaS at Cisco, has observed a tendency on the part of some MSPs to transition into the MSSP space. She called out the need for vendors to step up and find ways to facilitate this transition. That might take the form of training that encompasses both the technical and business sides of cybersecurity.

The last thing a vendor wants, after all, is for a partner to fail when they introduce cybersecurity services. It reflects badly on the reputation of the MSSP and associated vendors. Vendors, therefore, need to not just sign up MSPs to take on cybersecurity services, they need to work closely with them to ensure their success.

Insufficient Marketing Support

CompTIA survey results reveal that the shift from a product to a subscription services model has placed extra strain on marketing. While large vendors have big marketing departments as well as the services of their public relations agencies on hand, this isn’t the reality in the bulk of the channel.

There are so many small MSPs serving tiny slices of the market, and these firms typically have small crews that are generally overloaded. Expecting them to take on sophisticated marketing duties is unrealistic.

Yes, they’re spending more on marketing, but according to CompTIA, vendors need to crank up the availability of marketing-related skills training and services for partners. This might take the form of regular training, on-site visits, or providing MSPs with programs that make it easy for them to upgrade their marketing efforts with limited personnel.

Overconfidence in MSPs’ Business Skills

Vendors tend to overestimate the business prowess of their partners. While they may be skilled technically in some areas, many evolved from one-man shows that organically expanded as word spread about their capabilities. Such ventures tend to focus on the technical and combine other functions such as finance, marketing, sales, legal, and management. This kind of organizational setup typically does fine up to a certain level. Beyond that, it doesn’t scale.

Vendors taking on MSPs, therefore, should be aware of this phenomenon and offer training that goes beyond an orientation to their products and discounts. Those vendors that fail to help partners expand their operations via the availability of business training are likely to see sales stutter.

“This is not just about technical training or ‘let’s talk about the product and its new features,’ but about how to run your business better and connect with other partners in the industry for success,” said Nick Hansen, director of product management at N-Able.

Failure to Nurture the Vendor-Partner Relationship

Vendors and their many partners each have a stake in fostering solid working relationships. Those vendors that actively seek to create the best partner experience are likely to win out in the long term.

I’m reminded of Computer Associates, which dominated the enterprise software market in the ’90s. Some say it expressed arrogance toward customers and partners alike in ways such as high renewal and maintenance fees. It appeared to believe that due to its size, it was doing its partners and customers a favor by continuing to do business with them. The company became harder to deal with. It’s no longer with us, yet it was the biggest software provider on the planet at the start of the millennium.

Thus, vendors need to pay attention to any areas that cause friction with their MSPs and act to smooth things out. That means paying attention to complaints, always having a listening ear on how things are on ground from the partner perspective, and working to ensure the relationship is beneficial for the vendor and the partner. Those that fail to heed this advice are likely to find it hard to bring on new MSPs. Word gets around and they look elsewhere for compatible solution providers.

“Pick your vendors carefully and diversify, so a dissolution, change in direction, or general crappy behavior does not negatively impact your business,” said Whitehat Virtual Technologies CEO Val King. “Carefully select where and who your team is getting its ongoing training and certifications through, so you can concentrate your efforts to get the attention you will ultimately need to support your customers.”

According to CompTIA, the areas that show up in surveys of MSPs the most that indicate a vendor that may be difficult to deal with are lengthy technical support response times and lack of the availability of technical and business training. Those vendors wishing to expand their reach via MSPs, therefore, must pay close attention to these points.

Bottom Line: Vendor Miscues

Vendors who want to succeed over their competitors in the marketplace need to be aware of these four common miscues regarding cybersecurity, marketing support, their partners’ business abilities, and the vendor-partner relationship. Those who make an active effort to improve all four areas will find it easier to maintain their current partnerships and acquire new ones.