I’m Too Sexy for the Channel?
Okay, so I just dated myself with that title. Worse yet, now I have that stupid song stuck in my head. But I digress. It used to be the case that some products were just too sexy for the business space — they were seen as consumer-focused, and therefore, not ideal for the typical solution provider to sell. You know the vendors: Apple, Logitech, Google. As consumers, you want them because they have tuned functionality and intuitive design. Plus, let’s face it, you just feel a whole lot cooler using them. Yet the channel traditionally hasn’t led with them or kept them top of mind. It made me stop and think: What makes a product sexy for the channel?
Channel sexy used to include:
- Technology complex enough that end users couldn’t implement the solutions themselves but easy enough that partners could scale their teams and take on more than one product or service.
- Margin, margin, margin … need I say more? Okay — margin.
- Customer demand or necessity.
- Ability for partners to build a better relationship with their customers and end users.
The difference between the customer and consumer is the key shift in what was then and now what is sexy to the channel. The customer (one purchasing) and consumer (one using, generally an employee) now have more equal pull in the decision-making process.
Channel partners keeping the customer in mind are thinking about financials, efficiencies, keeping the end user happy and sometimes, but not always, keeping employees happy. But now channel partners are also keeping the actual consumer in mind. And what channel partners are now realizing is those products that are sexy to the consumer can be sexy to the channel partner and customer as well. With that in mind, here are our top five sexy products for consumers and channel partners and why:
- Consumer/Employee: Really? Do I have to explain this one? Stupid simple usability, never gets viruses and, of course, the coolness factor. Almost every time I walk into a meeting and whip out my MacBook Pro I get a sarcastic “oooohhh, aren’t we cool.” Yes, yes I am, and you’re jealous — and now everyone knows it.
- Channel Partner: So here’s something for channel partners to think about: I’ve never hated a computer before (and I’ve had them all) but I never loved a computer until I got a Mac. Would you like to be the person I think of who brought this wonderful machine into my life?
Logitech HD Webcam:
- Consumer/Employee: No longer does “working from home” mean hitting a few holes at the golf range or getting a mani/pedi. Per this great Ted Talk, “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work” by Jason Fried, working from home has shown to be more productive, efficient and does a hell of a lot for morale. We work so long and so hard these days that it’s nice to not have to drive home after a crazy work day or be able to take a break at 3 p.m. to watch your kid’s soccer game.
- Channel Partner: Businesses are recognizing this and spending the money to make working from home more and more professional. Every employee should have a high-quality webcam so meetings are taking place no matter the time of day or location of the team.
- Consumer/Employee: Ability to IM, video-chat, screen-share and share files should be simple. Skype has made it so they are. And if you have a good webcam (see previous entry) it’s both simple and fairly professional.
- Channel Partner: Well, if Microsoft just paid $8.5 billion — that’s billion with a “B” — for Skype you should certainly pay attention. While it may not be a channel play just yet, it will be or should be. Lots of improvements since it was released years ago have made this a great mode of communication for clients/co-workers/friends/family all over the world. Don’t forget all of the peripherals companies are going to need to use Skype (see Logitech Webcam, above).
- Consumer/Employee: Okay, so if you just can’t bring yourself to go Mac the Lenovo IdeaPad is pretty sexy compared to the iPad. Tons of storage (16GB) and ability to use any browser you want, so if your company uses apps that won’t load on Chrome or Safari, you’re not out of luck.
- Channel Partner: More and more companies are using tablets for their field personnel. When we planned our cross-country move, three of the five movers we talked to had tablets (none of them iPads, by the way) and one even had a fold-up printer so he could hand us our estimate right there. Think of every sales guy, manufacturing/construction/shipping foreman — basically anyone who usually carries a clipboard — now carrying a tablet. Another example: I recently went with clients to an upscale restaurant whose wine list was so long the restaurant put it on a tablet that the server left at our table.
- Consumer/Employee: Everyone likes to see someone give Microsoft a run for its money. For the consumer I say compatibility is great, not to mention having every one of your files wherever you need it whenever you need it — provided there’s Internet access.
- Channel Partner: Google Docs is at the bottom of my list because it still may be a little weak on sexy for the channel partner. Unless, of course, saving your customers money on this will allow them to spend it on a more margin-heavy product.
So while I may still have the stupid song in my head, there isn’t much out there that is still too sexy for the channel. What other products/services did I miss? Channel partners, what are you seeing as sexy products to customer and consumer?