What is a Channel Partner, Anyway?
Channel partners are an exciting revenue-generating strategy that can unlock value in new marketplaces by enhancing the product of the partner.
If you’re involved in business and you don’t know what a channel partner is, then it’s time to get up to speed on one of the most lucrative sales partnership strategies out there today.
When we talk channel partnerships, we’re thinking Microsoft, Shopify, Hubspot, Dell, —companies that are collectively doing trillions of dollars in revenue every year, and they just keep getting bigger and bigger.
Channel partnerships are helping companies get products to market faster and at impressive scale, and it’s so hot the channel marketing SaaS game in the United States is already a billion dollar industry in its own right.
Without a doubt, channel partnerships are going to continue redefining value, revenue, and partnership strategies for decades to come, so we’re going to dive in and answer that awkward question you’re afraid to ask your friends in the partnerships biz when you’re out at the bar:
“Sooooo…what is a channel partner, anyway?”
Channel partnerships are when two companies partner up to sell each other's products to their customers. You can call them middlemen, value-added resellers, co-sellers, or anything you like, but their role in the partnership is to create value for your products and boost revenues by increasing market exposure by getting them into the hands of enthusiastic customers.
What your partners get in exchange for their efforts is a share of the profits, brand exposure, and access to quality products to take to market they could never produce on their own. Additionally, channel partners can further benefit from offering supporting services for the products they’re moving to extract further value from the partnership.
The Added Value of Channel Partnerships
When identifying what is a channel partner and what is not, it’s important to realize that the business relationship is more valuable than a simple producer/seller arrangement. Channel partners access markets they likely couldn’t without their partner’s experience in the space.
But it doesn’t end there. As a result, they also develop unique expertise about how the product can be marketed and sold that is of intrinsic value to the partner. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of information a sales team under pressure would kill to get their hands on when they’re facing a hard number in a frosty climate.
Therefore, the job of a partnerships leader pursuing value through channel partnerships is necessarily far more nuanced and sophisticated than it might appear on the surface. It’s critical to consider all the angles of a channel partner—from the top of the funnel through partner marketing strategies— to develop the partnerships ecosystem.
Legends of Channel Partnerships: Hubspot
Hubspot is one of the heavyweight champions of channel partnerships. Hubspot is a customer relationship management platform (CRM) that allows a company to integrate marketing, sales, customer service, and content management.
Hubspot’s platform tracks and crunches huge amounts of data in order to give management a clear picture of how products are moving through the marketplace. Because it’s SaaS, Hubspot has developed a Certified Partner program of affiliates who help companies manage their businesses through its software.
Every Certified Partner has their own scope and expertise, but the entire ecosystem is overseen by Hubspot. From there, the Certified Partners can seek their own industry partners, and everything ultimately flows up to Hubspot’s CRM. The result? Hubspot’s generating over a billion dollars a year from its SaaS and channel partnership business.
Common Channel Partnerships Worth Pursuing
There are several different ways channel partnerships can be set up depending on what value is available, and selecting the right relationship is crucial to maximizing time and money for stakeholders and customers.
Service Delivery Partnerships
Service delivery channel partnerships focus primarily on providing implementation support for their partner’s products and services. They create added value for customers by becoming experts in how to implement a product or service, and as a result make the product they’re selling through the channel partnership more valuable as well.
Cloud Service Providers
Cloud services are channel partners that can be so massive they look like the senior partner in the relationship. They’re often not engaged in co-selling, but they nonetheless provide channel support for their partners and therefore add value and promote customer buy-in.
First Time You’re Heard About This Stuff?
Don’t worry. That’s why we do what we do. Firneo’s community of partnerships experts knows exactly how hard—and how lonely—it can be to bear the partnerships burden of your company while feeling like you’re the only one in the room who has no idea what’s going on.
And let us tell you: after decades of partnerships experience on the biggest stages with the biggest players, it’s not your fault.
Everybody’s excited, but the fact of the matter is, we got into partnerships before they were cool. We’re the OG’s, and we started Firneo’s community of partnerships experts and mentors because we don’t want you to have to go through the ringer of learning about them on the job through painful trial and error.
Don’t cringe inside wondering “what is a channel partner?” Do something about it. We lived it, and we’re going to make sure it’s not you. We’ve got the answers, and we’re here to share.
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