Google Is Your Enemy, But So Is Everyone Else
That’s right. The company most well-known for its search technology is an enemy to the solution provider channel. So is any company that offers IT consultative services, hosting solutions, or any other value-added service related to the purchasing, deployment, upgrading and servicing of technology. This can run the gamut from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) to IBM (NYSE: IBM) Global Services to the Apple Store to any telecom master agent that insists on holding on to direct customer relationships.
Call me paranoid, but after the covering the channel for the past 20-plus years, I’ve seen retail stores that sell everything from CDs to TVs provide IT support to small and medium businesses. I’ve seen what started as a clone PC and telemarketing sales effort turn into a massive corporate takeover and now a cloud and virtualized service force. That would be Dell (NADAQ: DELL). I’ve also seen a near-defunct Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) capitalize on the mobile craze with constant reiterations of smaller music players and cell phone devices and massively brand its service in a special store, hire generation Y snobs who are now called gurus — and SMBs are actually going there for support, advice and service.
So yes, Google is your enemy if you’re a solution provider today. And so is every vendor partner and service company you currently are aligned with in your accounts. Google Docs allows for the creation, sharing and collaboration of documents, spreadsheets, presentations and other files through the web. Quite simply, it’s a cloud service offering that competes with what many solution providers are offering their customers.
I had this conversation earlier this week with Clark Atwood, president of Concierge Communications. Most describe Concierge as a master agent in the telecom space that works with telecom services and the channel, but Clark prefers to refer to the company as a communications and technology broker assisting organizations in choosing the technology and communications services to meet their unique needs.
Clark is a former VAR so he knows the model well and, like me, believes the model is under continued attack as more companies offer more services that impinge on the IT solution provider’s business model. Clark even goes as far to say that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Lync is a competitive threat because of the collaboration it allows in the enterprise, which is now being adopted by SMBs. And I would have to agree at a certain level. The entire self-service model is at odds with the solution provider model. That may seem a bit extreme, but that is where the industry is heading.
So what are solution providers to do? The answer: Do what they do best. This is still a relationship business. Knowing more about your customer’s needs and partnering with other companies to provide them is critical. No solution provider can be all things to all customers. But what they can be is the single point of contact for their IT, telecom and service needs. Don’t give up the beachfront by allowing one of your partners to take point on any program. Take ownership because everyone is your competitor–if not now, then they will be some day.
Knock em alive!