The Doyle Report: How Impartner, Channel Mechanics, ChannelEyes and Others Reduce Friction and Drive Sales

Without the legion of third-party entities that help advance its agenda, doing business inside the channel would be a lot more difficult. In this article, we showcase the recent work of several up and coming companies.


December 15, 2015

8 Min Read
The Doyle Report: How Impartner, Channel Mechanics, ChannelEyes and Others Reduce Friction and Drive Sales

If you follow the channel, you know that there are a legion of third-party entities that help advance its agenda. There are software developers, sales consultants, market analysts and thought leaders wide and far. Many we showcase here at The VAR Guy, MSPmentor and The WHIR. Without these companies, frankly, the channel wouldn’t have the level of influence that it does.

In addition to the “Industry Xperts” that we feature on our “IdeaXchange,” we like to keep you apprised of other companies making waves in the channel. This week, I want to discuss several enablers working to reduce friction inside the channel, including Impartner, Channel Mechanics and ChannelEyes.

First up is Impartner, a developer of partner relationship management (PRM) software that helps vendors manage their sales and consulting partners. The traditionally reserved Utah company has undergone a makeover and is making bold predictions about the future of the channel. (One prediction from a December 2015 Impartner blog I find interesting: “Director of Onboarding Becomes the Hottest Job in Channel Sales.”)

The story of Impartner began in 1997 when entrepreneur Craig Flynn founded the company in California and later moved it to Draper, Utah. For years the PRM provider went by the name TreeHouse Interactive. Although the company was profitable from the get-go, it remained an underappreciated gem throughout most of its existence. That is until Joe Wang, former CEO of WatchGuard, a Seattle technology company known for its security appliances, stumbled across it. Wang had been previously CEO of LANDesk, a Utah-based enterprise software company, and hence was well acquainted with the challenges of managing large channels.

During Wang’s tenure, WatchGuard managed its ecosystem of partners with a home-grown partner portal. When it came time to update the portal after Wang’s departure, the company’s marketing leaders and a team of web designers met for a whiteboarding session. After realizing that their wants and capabilities were far apart, they agreed to look around and see if there were viable third party options. When it was suggested that TreeHouse might be one, WatchGuard took a serious look. The marketing team at WatchGuard liked the product very much—so much, in fact, that when Wang and Kennet Partners decided to acquire a majority ownership of the PRM platform provider in March 2015, several WatchGuard alum quickly opted to come on board.

Since then, things have moved pretty fast for the company. A month after the acquisition, the company named a new CFO. Nine days later, it named Dave Taylor, a longtime ally of Wang’s, chief marketing officer.

Over the course of the spring, summer and fall, the company refined its strategy and added to its leadership ranks. The work culminated in July when it rebranded itself as “Impartner.” Since then, it has simplified its product offering and reduced the amount of time required to onboard a new vendor.

What’s next? Taylor says the company is mulling several things, including an expansion into other vertical industries. Today, technology represents 85 percent of its business. But there’s no reason why other verticals that rely on business partners for revenue could not leverage the company’s technology. This includes pharmaceuticals, autos and more.

So why does this matter to you, a technology business partner? Simple: many of the vendor portals that you rely on are managed by companies like Impartner. The more they know about your business, the better the experience you are likely to get from the portals they invest in. This is why Impartner’s primary focus for 2016 will be helping technology vendors adjust to new market realities, several of which Taylor outlines in that aforementioned blog, “7 Predictions That Will Set The Pace For 2016 Channel Sales.”

Poke around the web a little and you can see that the company, along with it’s competitors Channeltivity and PartnerPath to name a few, have plenty of opportunity to make life better for you. Consider one vendor partner portal Taylor examined recently. At the bottom it said, “Best used with Netscape Navigator 7.”

Think it was optimized to your current needs? Not likely, says Taylor.

“It’s clear some vendors are not thinking straight when it comes to managing their partners and getting away with bad business practices,” Taylor says. “If people managed their direct sales forces with the same level they do their indirect sales force, they’d be out of business.”

Next up is Channel Mechanics, a four-year old Irish company that has developed a SaaS platform that “accelerates revenue for companies leveraging the channel as their go to market model.” What the company does is help vendors run individual promotions and campaigns quickly and easily. For you the partner, this could mean better managed spot opportunities for driving revenue.

“The founders saw that inside the world of the channel, there are a lot of operations that take place between vendors, distributors and individual partners. Until recently, there wasn’t anyone who was using the cloud to impact business within the triangle of these three entities,” says Phil Wright, VP and GM at Channel Mechanics. “Our idea was to make something in the cloud that a vendor could use to put offers together that could launch quickly in a simple and straightforward manner and be targeted at specific resellers and would have no negative impact on ongoing channel operations.”

Channel Mechanics spent four years developing the SaaS platform, trying experiments in Europe and running successful campaigns there. About a year ago, the company approached Wright and asked if he could help drum up some business in Silicon Valley and beyond. Since joining, Channel Mechanics has gained traction in the U.S. Today, it does business with Cisco, Zebra Technologies, Sonus Networks and others.

One reason why the company is attracting customers is due to its straightforward marketing pitch, which revolves around a strikingly simple question: “Would you be interested in a tool that can accelerate your revenue this quarter?”

“The way you do that is you put together a very specific, highly differentiated set of offers directed to a particular set of reseller partners. This results in pulling revenue forward and provides a vendor a way to very quickly get offers out and gain traction,” says Wright.

What sold the former head of strategy, planning and operations for worldwide distribution at Cisco on the value of the company was that its SaaS platform could reduce the time to market with specific promotions from weeks to days, and with measurable results. “Most companies do not have the ability to quantify the value of promotions, programs and the like in a closed-loop system. They just hope for the best. But with the Channel Mechanics software as a service, it gives vendors the ability to know what’s going on the control their destiny in terms of return on investment,” he says.

As for partners, the capabilities that Channel Mechanics brings to the table could mean fewer end-of quarter “Hail Mary” campaigns or at least better, more targeted ones that have a higher likelihood of benefiting your business.

“Our platform can enable a vendor to put a program for specific set of SKUs and specific discount, say 5 percent, for a specific set of partners in a particular geography to be run for a very specific amount of time, say three months, and with a particular budget, say half-a-million dollars, for example,” says Wright. Once the offer is created in the company’s system, it takes just one click to send the offer to the target partners that it is intended for. Wright believes that partners will come to know that these offers are of a higher quality than the run-of-the mill offers that they are bombarded with daily.

The key to making this work, of course, was figuring out how to involve the distributors, which typically want to be the nexus of deal making in the channel. Channel Mechanics works primarily with the vendors directly. It promises to provide distributors with additional business that is profitable with no additional work. So far, they have been willing to go along and Channel Mechanics has flourished—so much that it recently announced a $2.3M round of angel funding from the founder of RRC Business Telecommunications, Ltd., the chair of the industry advisory board for Knowledge Transfer Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government agency dedicated to helping Irish businesses grow and internationalize.

Finally, I want to highlight the latest from ChannelEyes, a “cloud-based channel sales acceleration and partner enablement company” based in Troy, N.Y.

If you are familiar with the partner community, you know doubt follow if not know Jay McBain, the founder of ChannelEyes. McBain is the former senior vice president of community and channel development at AutoTask. After leaving AutoTask, he launched ChannelEyes in September 2011 with the stated goal of helping vendors increase channel sales and loyalty. The company developed ChannelCandy, which it bills as “the world’s largest mobile-first product for partners,” and OPTYX, “the first indirect sales workflow product to help sellers with predictive analytics and leverage big data science to drive more sales.”

OPTYX launched earlier this month and McBain is eager to get the word out. “The new platform automatically and intelligently processes internal and external data signals to help channel sales account managers work smarter, close more deals faster and continuously grow revenue,” he said in a prepared statement. According to McBain, it can help vendors deliver a 20 percent increase in sales.

Double-digit growth in some single-digit growth categories is almost unheard of. But ChannelEyes believes it is possible, thanks to advanced data science.

ChannelEyes isn’t the only company hoping to leverage big data to help drive channel business. Last week, Penton Technology Xpert Jim Lippe, the chief advisor at Clarity Channel Partners, authored an article that says his data suggest Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is poised for a breakout year in 2016.

Are McBain, Lippie and others onto something? I think so. Something big indeed.

You cannot help but benefit.

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