Anatomy of a Channel Program: AWS’ Customer-Obsessed Partner NetworkAnatomy of a Channel Program: AWS’ Customer-Obsessed Partner Network
Talk to the channel chiefs of most vendors, and they’ll tell you their channel partner program is focused on meeting the needs of their partners (or the vendors themselves). But Amazon shifted the focus of its program to meet the needs of its customers—a strategy that is paying off in many ways.
April 8, 2015
Talk to the channel chiefs of most vendors, and they’ll tell you their channel partner program is focused on meeting the needs of their partners (or the vendors themselves). But Amazon (AMZN) shifted the focus of its program to meet the needs of its customers—a strategy that is paying off in many ways.
One of Amazon’s company tenets is “customer-obsessed,” which means every decision the company makes must be done with the customer in mind. “With customer obsession, we start with the customer and work backwards,” said Dorothy Copeland, head of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Global Partner Programs. “So when we decided to create a channel partner program, we were tasked with, how do you build a channel with customer obsession?”
It was one of many challenges AWS faced when deciding to put a program in front of what had always been an easy technology for the customer to procure on its own. “How do you create a program, when AWS was available to anyone with a credit card? How do you make it relevant?” Copeland said.
The answer: Make it all about the customer.
“We needed to make sure partners were focused on solving customer challenges. So we needed to add value and ensure they were taking the next step beyond just offering the service,” Copeland said, addressing attendees at the Channel Visionaries event in Newport Beach, California.
The company also needed partners who could deploy and manage AWS for customers, and, “we needed partners who could go the next mile and help customers actually use AWS in more efficient ways.”
Amazon also needed robust partners to provide applications on AWS. “No one uses servers without doing something with them,” Copeland noted. And at the end of the day, she added, AWS needed to make sure its partners help their customers save money.
AWS Partner Network (APN), she said, is based on these core customer-based needs. Today, the program boasts thousands of partners and enables those partners to differentiate based on their particular skill sets.
Creating a customer-focused partner program wasn’t easy, even with customer needs established, Copeland noted.
“What did we learn? We learned partners need AWS training and certification. So we spent a lot of time focusing on this in the past few years, and now starting in 2015 we require certification by our partners to be in certain tiers of our program,” she said. “This was at the request of our customers, who wanted to be sure partners were technically able to address their needs.”
Partners also needed help differentiating their skill sets, so AWS implemented the APN Competency Program, which highlight APN Partners who have demonstrated technical proficiency and proven customer success in specialized solution areas.
AWS also learned partners need to take a solution-oriented approach–“Instead of talking about products partners should be able to provide databases and full application solutions for customers,” she said.
APN also needed to address partners’ different delivery models, so it created programs for managed services providers and software-as-a-service providers to help them increase their value proposition to their customers.
Finally, AWS saw a need for partners to have a platform to sell their solutions, thereby enhancing that customer experience. Thus, AWS Marketplace was born.
Copeland noted APN still is a work in progress, as partners move along the maturity model and customers’ needs and expectations change. Still, however, AWS has its finger squarely on the pulse of its customers and is molding its channel appropriately.
Such a simple, yet elegant, idea.
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