IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Channel Growth Strategies: How to Succeed in the New Normal

Channel pros should prioritize adding business value for existing customers by aligning more robust capabilities with their emerging needs. By Ariel Cruz

MANY CHANNEL PARTNERS today are finding that their traditional approaches to doing business are no longer viable. For one thing, the COVID-19 pandemic has all but eliminated in-person meetings and networking events. That’s a crushing blow for a people-based industry where many partners rely on ongoing personal interaction to cultivate contacts and drive growth.

Those who have managed to expand their customer base via virtual events and online outreach, meanwhile, face a deeper problem. As basic technology functionality becomes increasingly commoditized, shrinking margins lead to diminishing returns from new business.

In this evolving environment, achieving sustainable growth requires a shift in mindset. Rather than focus on winning new logos, channel partners should prioritize increasing wallet share and profitability within their existing pool of customers.

This involves a two-pronged strategy. First, partners need to integrate the capabilities of innovative digital technologies into their portfolio of offerings. Second, they need to gain deeper insight into industry trends, requirements, and use cases. By aligning more robust capabilities with emerging customer needs, channel partners can establish themselves as strategic, value-adding business partners.

Flexible Connectivity

Consider, for example, how software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) tools helped businesses adjust to remote work following COVID-19 lockdowns. Having set up makeshift remote offices, many workers found themselves competing for bandwidth capacity against similarly homebound neighbors (not to mention spouses and kids). By enabling flexible zero-touch provisioning and application prioritization, SD-WAN solutions could ensure that mom and dad’s Zoom calls with their bosses took precedence over their kids’ video streaming.

While the shift to remote work posed a relatively generic challenge, other business requirements are more industry-specific. Retailers deploying pop-up locations or kiosks in malls need connectivity to securely process online transactions—here again, SD-WAN offers a compelling value proposition. SD-WAN’s zero-touch provisioning functionality is also attractive to banks deploying new digital branches, or manufacturers looking to integrate IT and shop floor operations.

Extended Reality

Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) tools present another opportunity for channel partners to add value for existing customers, particularly those looking to redefine their business models. A retailer of home furnishings, for example, knows that shoppers love to browse showrooms to get a sense of how a kitchen cabinet or granite countertop will look in their home. Today, of course, many shoppers are reluctant to spend time in shopping venues. An AR application that realistically depicts how a given piece will look in an actual room can provide an innovative and cost-effective way to engage with customers.  

Extended reality tools can also help manufacturers train safety engineers by realistically creating virtual hazardous environments. Quick-serve restaurants, challenged by thin margins and high turnover, can use VR to train new staff without wasting food. And even in a post-pandemic setting, virtual tours will help hotels and venues sell to both individual guests and corporate meeting planners.

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