Channel Management Gets Hosted
There is good reason why partner relationship management (PRM) is an essential part of CRM: Your customers' customers are your customers, too. Improving communications with your indirect sales force will mitigate confusion and bolster end-user satisfaction. While there is a strong business case for PRM, however, it hasn't always been attainable for SMBs.
Analog Method, recognizing that market need, has introduced a partner extranet solution for SMBs called Channeltivity. After some prodding from customers the Web design and development company commercialized what was once a proprietary partner extranet, designed to help SMBs communicate more effectively with channel partners and collect BI. The payoff for user companies, Analog Methods maintains, will be increased revenue and cost reduction.
"The option that small and medium businesses have if they need to communicate with partners is to purchase PRM solutions. [Several vendors] offer these solutions for large enterprise clients, but...there's nothing that allows [SMBs] to quickly deploy PRM that's scaleable and affordable," says Zach Smith, managing partner and cofounder of Analog Method.
Throop Wilder, vice president of marketing at Crossbeam Systems, the first beta-tester of Channeltivity, has been using the product for more than a year. His company, he explains, needed a way to connect with customers, distributors, and partners worldwide, but the available alternatives were overkill, overpriced, or both.
"We're in a highly competitive market in the post-Internet boom. The requirements that companies have for expense control and profitability are so different from preboom...in the preboom and boom days you'd find small companies making huge investments in Oracle or [other] big companies, or making hundreds of thousands of dollar investments that small companies couldn't afford. So finding anything for our segment is incredibly difficult."
Crossbeam Systems, a five-year-old manufacturer of high-end security switches, has to compete with much larger security and networking vendors in its industry; it relies heavily on its 200 resellers to do so. In fact, Crossbeam's reseller partners generate about 90 percent of its revenue. A major concern for Wilder was to make marketing or product information available to hundreds of thousands of end-user customers. That's why, Wilder says, "having an extranet is core to our operations. This is the only thing I found [for an SMB] that takes into account the tiered differences and the regional differences between tiers."
Channeltivity enables companies to create various access levels for individual people. Salespeople, for example, can add customer accounts, while only marketing people can add product literature to the extranet. Channeltivity also provides BI tools for tracking, reporting, and analyzing partner activity in real time, and determining which content is of most interest to customers and partners.
"It gets used all the time, all day long. When we leave work here at 8:00 p.m., our Asia/Pac team is going into work at 8:00 a.m., so they can get the information they need at any time," Wilder says.
To keep costs down Analog Method provides Channeltivity in an on-demand environment, similar to Salesforce.com. This enables SMBs to get a complete PRM extranet without buying hardware or software, and without paying for the ongoing upgrades and maintenance required to run the system.
"I can't imagine living without it. It really works with my business, as opposed to my business figuring out how to twist itself into it," Wilder says.
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