The SaaSy Wheel “GETS” the Channel

Advice for SaaS Start-Ups & VCs

Contributed on November 30, 2014 by IT Channel Media Veteran, Consultant and Angel Investor Keith Newman

I live in Silicon Valley- more specifically VC-valley (aka Menlo Park, the city of the famous Sand Hill Road and now the zip code of Facebook HQ). As a “channel guy” I’m often a resource to VC’s who’s companies play in the sales channel space .  “The Channel” is not particularly sexy to VC’s, but the smart ones understand the relative importance of how a contemporary, effective channel marketing strategy can accelerate and broaden sales. So I’m the guy they ask to meet with their start-ups to see how they view the channel, and if they are ready and able to build a channel sales effort.

When I talk with most of these companies I find them amazingly bright, spirited and with IQ’s off the charts. Then I start talking about the appropriate routes to market and sales channels to reach the elusive customer and key tactics for recruiting partners to reach their desired market segment. But as soon as I start talking about terms like MSP, MDF, Portals or RFP, I see that deer in headlights, glazed-over look come across their faces.  I understand that there is often a generation gap between start-up founders and the traditional IT sector, but it’s astounding to me that even the basic sales strategies –  hunters, closers, farmers, funnels, etc.- are alien to so many tech start-ups.

It’s at this point I go into my role of ‘truth teller’ (picture the George Clooney character in “Up In The Air”) and I tell them the basic facts of Channel Sales and Marketing.  A great product can only get you so far. Yes, a cool website, inside sales ‘rockstar’ or two, a budget  for SEO (search engine optimization), ASO (app store optimization) and social media are all part of the marketing formula,  but those alone  won’t get the job done if you’re looking at capturing your total serviceable market before your competition does.

Whether you’re a SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, ISV, Mobile App, Internet of Things product or other Tech Start-up, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time up front to learn about developing partner programs, recruiting resellers, and providing resellers with training, marketing enablement tools and great incentives.  And in particular, price your product with sufficient margin so that your Resellers can earn a worthy commission!  There is an entire sector of IT Channel Consultants who exist to help companies to create and grow their reseller programs.

I fell in love with SaaSMAX because they’re all about connecting the right vendor with the right partner(s) to create traction and drive sales. It’s comprehensive marketing platform offers ways to recruit, promote and engage with partners fast and cost effectively. SaaSMAX is not a silver bullet that takes care of all your channel needs, but it does offer quite a lot at very affordable prices. Today, its Matchmaking Program is a unique and compelling service that delivers great ROI, and they even license a customizable reseller portal with world-class templates if you want to affordably set up your program in a matter of just a few days.

Bottom line: Great companies drive every aspect of their business and value the role of sales and technology equally. Don’t “go with the flow” when it comes to creating your sales plan, take a serious look at how you are going to reach net new customers in markets outside Silicon Valley and strongly consider leveraging channel partners.   And of course, leverage SaaSMAX.

About the author: Keith Newman has more than 20 years of channel marketing and media experience and is a former editor of CRN  LinkedIn:

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