Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast

05 - How Channel Partners Help Build a Brand’s Authority

January 26, 2022 Magentrix Season 1 Episode 5
Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast
05 - How Channel Partners Help Build a Brand’s Authority
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast, we bring on Matt Soloman. He has been in channel-related roles for nearly a decade. Currently, he is the Chief Business Development Officer & Co-Founder of a consultancy, The Channel Program. He is also the CEO of Channel Halo and he runs an insightful channel-related newsletter: Navigating the IT Channel. 

Topic summary: 

As we know, channel sales is an efficient way to cast a wider net and increase sales – But, did you realize that your channel partner program is also one of the greatest marketing tools you’ll ever have? 

Acting as agents on your behalf, channel partners engage in a variety of activities to promote a vendor, and all this additional marketing for your brand can really help build its authority far beyond what you may be capable of independently. 

So, what can you do to get the most out of the marketing opportunities from your partnerships and strengthen your brand authority, as much as possible via partners? 

Matt discusses how channel partners help build a brand’s authority including: 

  • What to define in the channel marketing strategy 
  • Through-partner marketing best practices 
  • Joint-marketing activities between partners and vendors that produce the highest ROI 
  • Best practices for enabling your channel partners to build your brand authority 

Listen to the episode to hear Matt cover these topics and more. 

Read the blog: https://www.magentrix.com/articles/blog/How-Channel-Partners-Help-Build-a-1-2-2022

(0:00) Introduction 
(2:11) Matt Soloman’s background in channel sales 
(4:36) The Channel Program 
(7:42) Channel partners building a brand's authority: what to define in the channel marketing strategy? 
(9:19) How to strengthen partner relationships and differentiate yourself from other vendors 
(13:26) Measuring the success of your efforts: can you use KPIs? 
(15:21) Through-partner marketing best practices 
(20:38) Partner-vendor joint-marketing activities for high ROI 
(24:06) Setting realistic expectations for through-partner marketing 
(25:25) How to reverse the damage of a partnership that is affecting the ecosystem 
(27:14) 3 best practices for enabling your channel partners to build your brand authority 
(31:05) Can the growth rate of a vendor's channel be too fast? 
(34:39) Conclusion 

Paul Bird 00:05  

This is Partner Relationship Management: The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast.

Welcome to another episode of the Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast. I'm your host, Paul Bird.

As we know, channel sales is an effective way to cast a wider net and increase sales. But did you realize that your channel program is also one of the greatest marketing tools you'll ever have? 

Acting as agents on your behalf, channel partners engage in a variety of activities to promote a vendor, and all this additional marketing for your brand can really help build its authority far beyond what you might be able to do yourself. 

So, what can we do to get the most out of the marketing opportunities for our partnerships and strengthen your brand authority as much as possible via partners? 

We'll cover many aspects of this question and more in this episode. 

Our guest today has been in channel-related roles for nearly a decade, and some of the highlights being: employee number one at ID Agent (now acquired by Kaseya) and he's interviewed Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretzky as part of panels for MSPs on business tactics. 

Currently, he's the Chief Business Development Officer and Co-Founder with Kevin Lancaster of a consultancy, The Channel Program. Which is the ultimate MSP-vendor platform for uniting the best MSPs with the best vendors out there.

He's also the CEO of Channel Halo, which helps vendors and MSPs with go to market strategies, messaging and presentation skills. Further to that, he also runs an insightful channel newsletter: Navigating the IT Channel. He's here today talk about how channel partners help build a brand's authority.

Please welcome Matt Solomon. Matt, welcome to the show. It's great to have you here. 

Matt Soloman 02:03

Thank you, Paul. I think that might have been the longest intro I've had, so you really made me sound important, actually. So I appreciate it.

Paul Bird 02:11

Well, maybe give us some highlights in your career as it comes to managing a channel, being a channel chief so far. 

Matt Soloman 02:18

Yeah. I almost fell into the channel basically with my now co-founder of Channel Program, Kevin Lancaster.

So I was working at a consulting company called Winvale, that he owned and still does, that was doing government consulting. And he came to me one day and said, hey, we've got this idea for this dark web monitoring company.

Mind you, I'm in sales. I don't know anything about security and dark web at all. I was like, I mean, it sounds fascinating and it really did sound like an interesting idea. And I took a leap of faith and it’s a startup, you'd struggle a little bit in the beginning.

And we did. We were a little ahead of the curve when it came to compromised credentials being exposed on the dark web and those first eight months were tough. The product wasn't always working and we were in the enterprise.

Paul Bird 03:04

It happens. 

Matt Soloman 03:05

Yeah. But, I can distinctly point to a meeting we had where I thought I was sort of going into his office and going to lose my job because we had just come to this point where it felt like the enterprise just wasn't working.

Something wasn't resonating and the sale was taking too long. And we had a conversation, and at some point we had talked about managed service providers in the channel. 

And I said, why don't we just check it out? I mean, what do we have to lose at this point? 

Paul Bird 03:31

Absolutely. 

Matt Soloman 03:32

And he's like, fine. That'll be kind of like the last thing we try. And, I started looking into the MSP industry, the channel and what events were out there.

And an editor of one of the publications back then got wind of what we do. Thought it was interesting. Wrote an article about us. And like, literally overnight, our entire business changed. We went from all outbound leads to 20 inbound leads the next day.

Paul Bird 03:56

Wow. 

Matt Soloman 03:56

And, mind you, we didn't actually have an MSP program at this point. We were just getting inbound leads from all these MSPs now. And we just had to pivot incredibly fast. 

And it was like I was running to work every day because all I was doing was demos ten times a day.

I just didn't even have enough time in the day to just continue the demo demand that we had, and we went from zero MSP partners to 2000 in two years and got acquired. It was insane. 

Paul Bird 04:24

That is remarkable.

It's like, you have the boots on the ground, the early guerilla start, and then you just hit it and it becomes remarkable. That is a great story, that's for sure. 

So tell us a bit about where you are now with The Channel Program.

Matt Soloman 04:39

Yeah. So after the acquisition, I was at Kaseya for a couple of years doing a similar role of when I was an ID Agent, which was really being a product evangelist. 

So I really was that person, you talk about guerrilla marketing. I was at every event for two straight years pre-COVID, really around the world. 

I think I was at 100 different events over that two year period. And one of the things you learn quickly in the channel is, the bigger players get the bigger stages and we were one of them and we were fortunate to benefit. 

But I did always think about, what if I didn't have that advantage of having the money and having the trajectory we had? How would you as a new vendor make a name for yourself in this space? 

And after myself and Kevin left Kaseya separately at different times. We both were doing separate consulting companies, but we were having the same conversations over and over again. And it was with emerging vendors who were really struggling, particularly in this COVID world, of how to make a name for themselves, how to build brand recognition. 

And on the MSP side, we were seeing, in the channel, just all the acquisitions were happening. I.T. providers feeling like they had less of a voice of what was happening in this space.

And so we really were kind of taking both pain points and like, how do we fix this? And so what we came up with was Channel Program, and it's very broad right now in terms of what we're doing, but the first two pieces, and I'll be very brief about it.

Channel Pitch is what we've launched with and the idea is to give everybody a main stage speaking slot. You're not just stuck in a booth in the corner. It is virtual and it's seven minutes. Everybody gets seven minutes.

Doesn't matter if you're a 1,000,000,000 dollar company or - 

Paul Bird 06:10

A brand new start-up. 

Matt Soloman 06:11

Yeah, brand new. 

And what we're doing is we're getting immediate feedback, so we're putting out quantitative and qualitative questions. So Paul, if you were up there and you had your seven minutes, you're going to hear directly, later that day how everybody felt and whether it resonated with the audience. 

And the MSPs can attend anonymously. And that allows them to one, be more honest with their responses and two, it lets them control whether they want the vendors to reach out to them.

They can give them permission if they choose to. So it's kind of a safer environment to hear about emerging vendors. And so we think we're bridging that kind of gap and really disrupting some of what has been taking place in the channel prior. 

Paul Bird 06:47

Absolutely. Giving value to both sides.

I mean, as one of those people that would love to be able to present the value proposition for my brand to a wide audience, getting that feedback and getting it almost instantaneously, that's going to really be a game changer for me as somebody in my go-to-market.

At the same time, if I can then peruse a number of different vendors, pick and choose whether or not I want to enter that engagement cycle. There's great value there on both sides. 

Matt Soloman 07:15

Yeah, we certainly think so and we've gotten great feedback so far.

And particularly you think about again, an emerging vendor. There's some vendors who are launching their channel program with Channel Pitch. It's going to be the first time going out to the channel. And some of them may find out they don't belong in the channel. That's possible. 

Paul Bird 07:32

Absolutely. 

Matt Soloman 07:32

But my kind of message to them is, well, do this before you spend $100,000 on a main stage at some really big event. Get that market research first. 

Paul Bird 07:41

Yeah, for sure. 

So if we think about how channel partners help to build a brand's authority in the market, what do you see as some of the main factors that people should give some thought to when defining their channel marketing strategy and considering the impact of brand authority as well? 

Matt Soloman 07:59

Yeah. So I think it's pretty key early on to get these influencers, these MSP influencers, they become the evangelists for you.

And part of that could be getting on an advisory council early on so that they're really invested in what the product does. 

A lot of the industry has different peer groups and you don't always have access directly to those peer groups.

And so identifying who are the champions of those peer groups? Because they all have a leader in each peer group. And so one of the things that was just incredibly effective at ID Agent was us reaching out to people who were the captains of their peer groups and getting them engaged with us.

And it's just a fascinating industry. I've never been part of an industry where you can sign one partner and it can turn into ten partners in the next month because they speak to each other. And it's one of the unique industries that really talks to each other and recommends. 

So that, to me, is one critical piece in helping build brand awareness and really have those evangelists from within the MSP community. 

Paul Bird 09:02

For sure. I mean, there are a number of Slack channels that I'm a member of that are dedicated just to MSPs, and they're active.

And you're right, it gets around pretty quickly for the positive and the negative within that community, it is such a tight knit group. 

So what are some of the things you can do to kind of strengthen those relationships, make yourself a little bit different than other vendors playing in this space? 

Matt Soloman 09:27

Yeah. So there's a couple of different things that kind of come to mind. One of the first things that comes to mind is really put out educational content. 

You really got to gain the trust of this community.

As much as I love virtual events, there's also being part of the communities both virtually and in person, if you can. It's obviously tough right now, but they do want to see you.

And so again, that could be in-person, it could be virtual, but they definitely want to see you. 

They want to know you're sticking around and that your organization is actually committed to the channel because they have seen vendors come in and leave, right? So I think part of it's just trying to be as many places as you can. 

Again, I had the advantage when I was at ID Agent because we were sponsoring everything. I did build a reputation where people would come up to me, just say, like, man, you're everywhere, right? It just kind of built on itself. 

And then when it turned virtual, I was kind of worried. I was like, well, how am I going to be that same person? And I just attacked the virtual environments, whether it's the Facebook groups or the Slack groups.

And I just try to provide as much content that's valuable to people without being too salesy. And then I started having people in the virtual world say, man, you're all over the place. Every time I go onto this forum, I see your posting and whatnot.

It's making friends with both the MSP and the other vendors because the other vendors in the industry can help you a ton. Datto did a lot for us early on when we would go to their events, they would introduce us to people. 

If you're not a competitive product, other vendors can be really helpful. 

The other piece, I would say specifically to the channel partners, that was really helpful for me, was featuring them in various things like panels, thought leadership opportunities and really looking for more voices.

That was one of the things I was very aware of maybe the first year or two of being in the channel. I just started noticing the same MSPs were always featured. And rightfully so, they're really smart and deserve to be there. 

But there's a lot of really intelligent people in our community that just - maybe they didn't have the relationship with some of the vendors. 

So I purposely went out of my way to find other people that weren't necessarily being featured and said, hey, why don't you come on, we're going to do this thought leadership panel. 

And that’s something that really helped me, and I think it established some respect and trust that I was not just out for myself, but also trying to give other people opportunity.

Paul Bird 11:41

No, absolutely. And the approach is really - you're casting a very wide net with these types of initiatives. 

What are your thoughts on getting to kind of individual personal cadences with certain either strategic partners or people that are in your community?

Do you see that there is an advantage on that? Or do you think the wide net is more effective? 

Matt Soloman 12:02

I don't know if this is the easy answer to say both. But, I love the individual reach out because I get probably the most value out of it. 

Because if I'm having a one on one conversation. I can ask really pointed questions and get real feedback. You have to be strategic with your time. So of course, that's where the wider net comes out and can give you broader visibility.

But I do think, particularly early on, establishing those strategic relationships, and that could be a variety of things when I say strategic. Some could be, they're the captain of a peer group or this person's in this peer group and I don't know anybody in this peer group.

And this person's from APAC or EMEA. So I always was trying to find a blend really of different contacts within different areas, geographical things.

So that's the way I look at it. But, I know it's the easy answer, which is I do think it is both, though, because there's no replacement for the - I'm just a big proponent of the grassroots efforts, and that's the individual stuff. I feel like a lot of that pays off on the back end. 

I mean, it might not pay off like day one when you're establishing the relationship, but the trust level you get and the respect you get when, maybe something goes wrong with your product and, you talked about it, how quickly the negative stuff can take over Facebook.

Well, I felt like I earned a lot of respect and people were, compared to, I'd say, others, what I would see on some of the forums. There's a lot more benefit of the doubt given to you and your organization, which is really valuable.

Paul Bird 13:26

When I think of the approach I've always taken, is I want to measure it, right? I want to have some kind of KPI so I can manage it.

And in looking at the approaches, the strategies, the suggestions that you've been sharing with us so far. 

I'm wondering in the back of your head, are there certain indicators, certain measurements that you're looking for to understand if you're going to continue to invest your time? Or is it very much a feel? 

Matt Soloman 13:54

Yeah, it's always tough in business development activities, right? For that KPI. And I've been finding that my entire channel career because I've been that proponent of like, you can't put a lot of this into a KPI.

So I think it comes down to different strategies for different platforms. So some of the Facebook groups that a lot of the channel people are in, it's hard to measure me posting in there and whether there's some direct correlation. 

Now, depending on the level of involvement you have, you might do a webinar with them and that's where you can get KPIs because you do a webinar within that forum. 

So I think it does come down to each different category, but a lot of it to me is a feel. But for us, when I was at ID Agent we were also closing deals at events so we would get the KPIs there.

But the relationship stuff, that's tough to put into a KPI. You have to have an organization that really buys in. You have to have somebody you trust that's out there and that these things are going to matter, regardless of whether a deal is being closed in that conversation.

But at the end of the day, if you're not hitting the team's numbers, that's what's going to matter, right? 

So when I was doing all these activities that may not have been trackable, we were closing deals. So, we were hitting the numbers we were being asked to hit.

And so, you kind of get left alone at that point because then it's like, alright, well, whatever this person's doing is working. But it's not as clear cut as like a sales role where it's either you hit your numbers or you don't. 

Paul Bird 15:16

And then you want to try to replicate it and grow it at scale, right? 

Matt Soloman 15:20

Yeah. 

Paul Bird 15:20

So, when I look at it one of the things that it looks like you've been able to do really effectively is cast a wide net, get some attention, even involve people that don't seem like they're a direct benefit at the time, but end up through a strategic partnership, helping to grow the business. 

But now, as we start to get more tactical, one of the things that we suggest to everyone is they've got to equip partners with the tools that they need and the support in order to effectively represent your brand in the market. 

So any thoughts or do you have any kind of best practices as you were kind of moving from the awareness generation now to the tactical around kind of through or to-partner from a marketing perspective?

Matt Soloman 16:05

Yeah. I mean, you're talking about some like sales enablement and stuff like that, is that correct? 

Paul Bird 16:09

Yep, sales enablement,the education, sales and marketing collateral. Do things like market development funds, co-op marketing funds, do these work?

You built this kind of community, that's really excited. Now how do we get them to be tactical and help us generate the numbers we're looking for? 

Matt Soloman 16:26

Yeah. So that's certainly the hardest part.

I mean, you have to then educate, particularly in an MSP channel community, how to actually sell the product and have it at the forefront. And especially around security products, which are obviously very hot right now.

And so a couple of things, I mean, one, I always would tell owners I'm not super technical and the way I present it to them was not technical at all. So I would often say, I was like, how I'm speaking with you is how you need to speak to your customers.

And we led with a lot of that type of education. I think when ID Agent, at the time, when we started off, we really honed in on the sales enablement was going to be critical.

And it's really interesting. Not only did it end up being critical just to help our MSP partners, but it really was critical into making us one of the biggest name brands and trusted brands in the industry because people were just, I guess, surprised or maybe impressed with the content we were constantly putting out that was really making them better at hopefully selling the rest of their security stack. 

It wasn't just about selling our product, it was about selling everything. And so that really, I think, took us to another level. And you have seen vendors now really jump on that train, right?

I mean, I think now every vendor knows education, sales enablement, it's a requirement. 

I think now it's shifting into, ok, it's great you've given me all of this stuff, how do I execute it? 

And now, I think the next phase is, how do vendors then get their partners to execute on this stuff? 

You mentioned MDF, which is a really interesting topic. It's something we've really talked about at Channel Program as well because MDF sounds fantastic on the surface, but in reality, depending on the vendor, it can be a real pain for a channel partner. 

There can be lots of requirements. It can be a big thing you have to fill out, a big application.

Obviously, you have - and rightfully so, you have to sell that product, offering at whatever event you're doing because they're providing you MDF for it. And a lot of times you're being requested to have ROI reports. So there's some pressure involved in a lot of this.

And that's actually one thing that, personally, we came out with as a direct response to this, which was, we're just going to give away MDF and we don't care - it's not that we don't care. We want you to have ROI, but we're not telling you to use it on a certain product offering. 

We just want you to use it. For us, it's a marketing cost and our ask is, hey, come participate in our platform, be part of our community and we're going to give out, the grand prize would be like $5,000 in MDF. 

And, also going back to how to execute on that, we're going to come out with some things on, alright, here's how to run an event and here's how to do it effectively. Because again, you can give them the materials for the event. But if they still don't understand the execution part, I think that right now is a big gap in the industry.

Paul Bird 19:12

Well, it's interesting because throughout my career, I've built channel. But then for half my career, I worked in the channel and I can remember working for some technology vendors that had that exact approach. It's like, oh, you sold $1,000,000 last quarter.

Here's a check for ten grand, go and do some marketing. We don't care what you do with it. Yet at the same time, I worked for one of the big three in the tech industry reselling their product, and they said, alright, you have $15,000 in MDF to spend.

Here's exactly what you can spend it on. You have door number one, door number two or door number three. Let's make a deal. So it was an interesting way of approaching it. 

And, now I found both programs were effective. But the freedom in saying, ok, I now have the ability to do whatever I want with the funds in order to promote that specific brand was a lot more flexible than here's your three campaigns you can run. Which one do you want to do? 

So, I can see both sides, but I love the idea of saying, we're going to give away MDF. Just be part of the community. 

Matt Soloman 20:19

Yeah. And it's interesting. I mean, I know for a fact, I know there's vendors in the space that are offering MDF and MSPs and channel partners are not taking it. Like it's sitting there for them. And again, it comes down to some of the hurdles that they have to go through.

And, again, each vendor's different when it comes to their MDF, there's certainly no centralized version of MDF. 

Paul Bird 20:38

Do you think there is any one or group of kind of joint marketing activities that end up producing a higher ROI?

Anything you think a vendor should focus on outside of content creation, these training and ecosystems and events? Is there any kind of one specific or group of activities that you think work better than others?

Matt Soloman 20:59

That's always tough. I mean, I'm a big proponent of a blended marketing approach. 

What worked for us personally was being part of the communities. That was by far our biggest, in terms of ROI, was being part of events, speaking. I would say that's pretty critical too. Whether that's in-person or virtual. 

It's always that dilemma of like, do we spend a little extra to be a speaker versus a booth? And the truth is, I mean, we slaughtered our competition because we were speaking and they were at a booth.

We would finish our presentation and just get swarmed. And so I think being strategic and figuring out where are we going to spend our money? Are we going to be a booth at ten different events? Or are we going to speak at five? So I think that's one place. 

One of the other things that's pretty effective is some of these educational ebooks that are reusable by the channel partner.

So you put out an educational piece of content that they can actually reuse as a white paper. That was very effective for us. And really, again, for me, it was just educational content.

We drove a lot of lead gen by putting out webinars that were really more focused on education versus product. And we found ways to weave the product into the conversation, of course. But yeah, we got the best ROI in terms of when we would do webinars, when it was, hey, here's the top ten ways to sell through social media, that type of thing. 

Paul Bird 22:19

Well, I think your event strategy, it really makes a lot of sense because if you're in a ten by ten booth buried in the middle of the trade show, it's a sea of sameness, right?

Everyone's dropping by if you're working the booth, as I have throughout my entire career. You're trying to find some introductions. 

I have these sparkling purple spiked shoes that I wear to trade shows because I am stopped and it becomes a conversation piece and ends up being a lead in.

Yet at the same time, it is, you're sitting there with every other vendor and people just hanging around waiting for somebody to come by. 

But from a speaking engagement, even if they're just walking by, they can hear you, right? Your audience is a lot more captivated. 

So I really love that strategy of being able to - and maybe it is that omni-channel mix that you do a little bit of booth work but have the speaking engagements. But sounds like it really was a home run for you, that's for sure.

Matt Soloman 23:17

Yeah, for sure. 

The other thing as you were speaking, of course, I thought of, reaching out to other people, leaders in the industry. It's kind of that idea of borrowing somebody else's credibility, right?

So looking at who the influencers are in this industry. And everybody has podcasts now. And trust me, you might not think they want you as a guest. Who knows, I don't know how you feel about yourself. 

But a lot of times, reaching out - like I would put on panels and I would love if like a vendor or an MSP would reach out to me and just volunteer themselves because it was work for me. I had to put work into, like, figure out who is going to be on a panel, and I would love for an MSP to reach out to me.

Or if you're a vendor and you reach out to another person who's doing podcasts and things like that. The worst thing they could say is no, you know what I mean? So I think that's another piece of it because that's free brand awareness and things like that.

So I think to do that as much as you can. 

Paul Bird 24:05

For sure. 

So what about setting expectations? So let's say somebody's talking to you and they've done things the old fashioned way, right?

They go get a booth, they're not really ecosystem-friendly because they don't want partners talking to each other. They want everyone on an island. And if they start to now embrace the social groups, embrace the speaking as opposed to just the standing in the aisle ways.

Do you think there's some real expectations that we can set on some of the things that they could achieve. Maybe how things would be a little bit different if they make that switch? 

Matt Soloman 24:41

So this goes back to some of your KPIs, right?

I mean, you do want to do these activities with some goals in mind. I think, when you talk about peer groups, the goal is to penetrate the peer group and get on as many of those people as your customers.

I think part of that is setting a realistic expectation of, ok well, there's 100 MSPs in this peer group. What is a realistic number for us to try to get from this group in year one?

That also, if you have that business development person, that becomes their goal. Even if it's ultimately a salesperson who has to close the deal. I think that actually is a way to kind of tie back some actual goals to a business development person.

And that is one thing we looked at pretty hard was, alright, how do we, year by year slowly take over a peer group? So I think that would help bridge that gap a little bit. 

Paul Bird 25:24

Now at the same time, we talk about these peer groups and, hey, positive, it helps grow the group, right? People always want to talk about great things. 

Yet, if something happens negative within the peer group, that can run like wildfire. Any suggestions, ideas on what you could do to potentially reverse the damage in the event that a partnership has gone a little sour and it's starting to affect the ecosystem? 

Matt Soloman 25:47

That is very tough. And by the way, that can happen without a peer group now that there's all these Facebook groups and it can run like wildfire.

So one, I think it does go back to that trust early on, because you'll get benefit of the doubt where it's less likely somebody will go negative on a public forum, they'll take it to you first.

It's tough. I think part of it is you have to be responsive to it. You have to pick and choose your battles too. In some public forums, you may have to respond, but you just don't want it to turn into a back and forth.

And sometimes it's just saying, hey, I've read the feedback. I'd love to take this conversation offline. I mean, sometimes you just have to take it offline. And you can respond individually to those other people who have chimed in.

And maybe you want to give a little bit of your side to the story. It's tough to really control a negative kind of thing that's gone down. But if you're responsive and you're respectful to the person who has maybe not even been that respectful back.

I do find if you kill people with kindness back, even when they've been hostile towards you, a lot of times you can get them to take it down. 

I've had that like, hey, I know you felt how you felt. I've now reached out to you. We've had this conversation. We've taken care of it. Would you mind removing it? 

And nine out of ten times they did when there was resolution. Now if you don't have resolution, I don't know if I have the answer for that today.

If they're still mad at you, that's tough. 

Paul Bird 27:07

Kill them with kindness, that's the approach that I've always taken. And I think that is definitely sage advice. 

So if you could maybe summarize some best practices with the idea of, you want to enable your channel partners or empower your channel partners to kind of build your brand authority. 

What kind of three points can we take away from this? 

Matt Soloman 27:29

Yeah, I mean, again, education, education, education. That's probably the number one for me. Think of what challenges your partners are facing. 

Kind of part two, and we didn't really get into depth with this, I would actually say is, get your partners involved with your organization, whether that's through advisory councils or just could be quarterly town halls. 

Paul, really, some of the best ideas we had came from our own partners because I'm not an MSP. 

I can learn as much as I can through everything I do to do research. But at the end of the day, they're the ones on the front lines. And I think as a vendor, you do have to listen a lot more to them.

And, again, some of our best features that we came out with came directly from partner feedback. So I think being open to those conversations is critical. 

Paul Bird 28:16

Ya dealer advisory council, town halls. I love the idea of a town hall because you've got open dialog, open feedback. Give people the opportunity to tell you what they like and dislike, and you may get consensus really quickly. 

So, that's a great comment. 

Matt Soloman 28:32

And I think the final thing I would say is just really focus on being authentic in whatever areas you're putting yourself out there.

Everybody has different character traits. I look at some people, I'm like, oh man, they're so much more energetic than I am. And there's different things about everybody, but just find whatever your playing field is and just be yourself.

And people tend to respect that. And I think that's the biggest key is you don't need a front like you're somebody else, just be authentic to who you are. And again, always keep in mind your partner and sometimes their end customer.

And I'll give you an example. This is really interesting. I would put out video content around security. And let's say it was something in the news. And again, I'm not super technical and I'm not super - I can read a headline and deliver what the message is around. 

And when I started taking off some of my own branding on this video and really honed in on like a message of, hey, this is what's happened. And if you're an MSP out here, you should be talking to your end customers about this. 

And by the way, if you're a small business owner, you should reach out to an MSP. And the amount of shares I started to get from other MSPs is from that video content versus some other video content I was putting out.

It was like five times more effective in terms of getting the word out because they saw that I was not just speaking to them, but I was actually kind of helping them speak to their end user. 

Paul Bird 29:52

You had the perfect use case for TikTok five years ago. You see. 

That would have been the best way to deliver that type of content. 

Matt Soloman 30:02

I know and I'm thinking about TikTok, to be honest. There's some business applications there, for sure. 

Paul Bird 30:08

Oh, absolutely. I mean, that ability to deliver quick, digestible content.

And you talk about the relevancy of it, being able to have a situation like that. I remember at a point in my career where I was selling security and locally there was a car that got broken into, a laptop stolen out of it that belonged to a doctor in the city. And a whole bunch of patient records on there that probably shouldn't have been. 

But at the time, I worked with a lot of banks, insurance companies and things like that and had said, have you heard about this?

It was just more of a sidebar discussion and this was before laptops were bricked. That you could take the hard drive out of it and access the files. So, talking to them about the importance of device level security and things like that. 

But how you broadcast that message to a wider audience, I think you found the right way to do so, that's for sure. 

But again, easy, digestible content. 

One of the things that I like to ask is a question that seems like it's pretty obvious, but if people follow your advice, do you think it translates into higher sales for the channel? I think the answer is pretty obvious. 

But what about the impact on growth? Like, is there a point where, as you're addressing the ecosystem and you start looking at now this hypergrowth model, is there a growth rate that's too fast? Is there a growth rate that's too slow? 

If you're trying to feed the ecosystem, what do you do if the growth rate is hyper? 

Matt Soloman 31:37

Yeah, that is going to obviously be by organization, so I'll speak to ID Agent.

No. Hypergrowth was exactly what we wanted and needed. We were not a super technical product. Like adding a bunch of partners, like 100 partners, didn't really do too much to what we had do from a hiring standpoint. 

I mean, we definitely needed to bring on more channel success managers and things like that as we continued to grow. And that was maybe one of the challenges. 

But I think for the more technical products where it requires the staff to have that level of intelligence. Yeah, I think there is probably too much growth and that's going to affect the ability to deliver. 

And actually that was interesting because we had competitors at the time that would offer free trials and it was always hard to combat that, right?

Who doesn't like a free trial? And part of my message was like, hey, if we offered a free trial, we'd sign the entire room. But what we wouldn't do is we wouldn't deliver top level partnership to you because you can't. 

If you're onboarding that many people because of a free trial, how can you really give them a real partnership? That's not probably a partnership. That's a sign up. And hopefully, some of them work out, some of them don't. 

And that was always my message against that type of tactic.

I think I'm now stating the obvious, which is, you have to make these decisions based on your own bandwidth of an organization. 

Paul Bird 32:57

I think any organization, they have to be prepared, right?

And whether they're a direct organization or a channel organization, the whole concept behind channel is growth at scale. So, this all comes back to that initial channel strategy of what happens when you go viral? 

And that's what you've done in the past with your platforms.

And it's got to be, from my perspective, it's part of the channel marketing strategy, is growth at scale? 

Matt Soloman 33:23

Yeah. Although, it's been interesting, Paul. I've had some conversations recently with vendors who are saying they have too many MQLs. So, who knows? 

Paul Bird 33:33

Too many? I have never heard that there is too many MQLs or SQLs for that matter. 

Matt Soloman 33:39

But I guess maybe that's to your point of like if they haven't prepared for that level of growth. And that's why they're saying that, probably.  

Paul Bird 33:45

And by the sounds of it, that's something that you can help them with at The Channel Program. 

Matt Soloman 33:49

 Yeah, absolutely. That's what we're - well, I would say we're trying to deliver them more leads ultimately. 

But yeah, I mean, our vision is to really be more transparent. Have a place that both the vendors and MSPs can communicate in a totally different way than they have in the past. Have more open dialog. Really, again, hone in on what's the most important things to the partnership and really focus on those types of things versus some of the fluff in some of people's presentations? 

Let's get down to what matters the most to a partner, which is typically what problem are you solving? What makes you different? What's your pricing structure? How do you make me money, more secure, or more efficient, depending on your offering? And what's your partner program look like? 

Getting back to all that sales enablement, the education, the training. When I've had all the conversations over the last couple of years, that's what MSPs care the most about. 

Paul Bird 34:38

Absolutely. So if somebody wants to find you at The Channel Program, what's the best way to find Matt's details?

Matt Soloman 34:44

Yeah, just go to channelprogram.com that's the easiest way to find us online. 

I'm very invested in LinkedIn, so if you just look up Matt Solomon Channel Program, you’ll probably find me. I try to do as much educational stuff that I can out there.

And I do try to make a difference as much as I can. And try to make people, including myself, this is why I love having conversations with people like yourself. There's always things to learn. 

Again, and you've been at all these events, too. There's so many different tactics. You talked about your shoes. Every time you go to an event, you come up with a new idea or you see somebody else and you're like, ugh, why did I not think of that? 

So there's always learning to have happen here. 

Paul Bird 35:20

Absolutely. 

Alright, Matt. Well, thank you so much for being our guest today. It's been a pleasure to have you. And I hope that we reconnect here real soon in the future.

Matt Soloman 35:29

Thanks, Paul.

Paul Bird 35:34

Alright guys, thank you for listening to The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast and please don’t forget to join us next time. For more information, please visit channelsalespodcast.com.

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See you next time on The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast!

Introduction
Matt Soloman’s background in channel sales
The Channel Program
Channel partners building a brand's authority: what to define in the channel marketing strategy?
How to strengthen partner relationships and differentiate yourself from other vendors
Measuring the success of your efforts: can you use KPIs?
Through-partner marketing best practices
Partner-vendor joint-marketing activities for high ROI
Setting realistic expectations for through-partner marketing
How to reverse the damage of a partnership that is affecting the ecosystem
3 best practices for enabling your channel partners to build your brand authority
Can the growth rate of a vendor's channel be too fast?
Conclusion