infoTECH Feature

August 04, 2015

How Security Companies Fuel Their Channel Partners

By TMCnet Special Guest
Jim Somers, CMO, Relayware

Part 1: High-Growth Companies’ Channel Operations Focus

The cybersecurity market has been one of the hottest sectors in IT since the early days of the Internet, and it is now seeing renewed sense of urgency as “hackers and nation states are increasingly targeting websites in an attempt to gain illicit access to enterprise networks and highly valuable digital assets,” according to Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert) Network Security Analyst, Chris Rodriguez (Apr. 2015). Therefore, it’s no wonder that  IT decision makers’ spending on security technologies will increase 46% in 2015.

About 1 out of 4 of Relayware’s customers are cybersecurity companies with names like Arbor Networks (News - Alert), CyberArk, Gemalto/SafeNet, Kaspersky, Veracode and Webroot, to name just a few. Many of these companies are listed on the Cybersecurity 500, which according Cybersecurity Ventures means they some of the hottest and fastest growing companies in the market today. But they didn’t get there alone. Many depend heavily on channel partners to sell their products, deploy them, and service/support them as well. In fact, many of these companies go to market entirely through indirect channels rather than relying solely on their own direct sales force. 

We went out and spoke to some of our cybersecurity customers to understand why the channel is so critical to their businesses. (Since they’re in the security space, our contacts asked they remain anonymous). But here are some of the reasons they told us:

  • “Because security touches so many industries, we rely on our partners to reach all the different verticals (e.g., government, healthcare, education, etc.). We can’t be experts in so many different types of industries, so we rely on partners to do that for us.”
  • “We want our direct sales team focused on the big enterprise buyers, which require a lot of time and attention given their sheer size. But for us to hit our growth targets we need to target the mid-market too, and it’s not practical to do that without partners.”
  • “Security challenges vary by country and can depend on specific government policies and regulations. Therefore, our customers need a trusted advisor in-region that understands their business environment and how all the pieces must come together.”

So what are cybersecurity companies doing to drive a higher level of performance from their partners and accelerate their growth?

To answer this question we looked at the best practices and processes being used by our cybersecurity customers. But to lump all into one cybersecurity bucket would be foolish and not very helpful. Some of our cybersecurity customers are quite large with well over $500 million in revenue and have worked with channel and distribution partners for many years. Therefore, their needs are quite different from those younger, hyper-growth cybersecurity companies that leverage the channel as a means to enter new markets and scale quickly. While they’re not household names, they’re driving a lot of innovation, getting significant VC and private equity funding, and sometimes going IPO or getting acquired (i.e., Gemalto acquiring SafeNet (News - Alert)).

The chart below is a simple division of how we’re separating the large IT security industry for the purposes of analyzing channel operational focus.

Type

“High Growth” cybersecurity company

“Established” cybersecurity company

Annual Revenue

Less than $250 million

More than $250 million

Channel Size

< 1000 partners

> 1000 partners

Channel Focus

Establish & Grow

Enhance & Monetize

Operational Focus

Recruitment

On-boarding

Training

Lead Distribution

Deal Registration

Analysis/Tiering

On-boarding

Training

Motivation

Incentivization

Examples

CyberArk

Kaspersky Labs

In this first part of this two-part series, I’m going to dig into the high-growth security companies, and next time I’ll examine the established companies.

The High-Growth Cybersecurity Company Example: CYBERARK

CyberArk is a security company based in Newton, MA whose stated mission is striking down targeted cyber threats before they can escalate and do irreparable damage to the enterprise. The company does over $100 million in revenue annually and went public in September 2014. In a recent investor presentation the company discussed its reliance on partners as a critical go-to-market channel to get to both large and mid-size enterprises around the world. 

CyberArk partners with tier-1 system integrators, like HP and Wipro (News - Alert), who have deep relationships with large, global multi-national companies, but they also have a robust ecosystem of reseller partners that take them into the mid-market. 

Frequently, the first point of attack for high-growth cybersecurity companies like CyberArk is partner recruitment and identifying the right value-added resellers (VAR), systems integrators (SI) and managed service providers (MSP) to take their products to market. This can be a resource-intensive effort that involves strong public relations, social media and digital marketing programs to generate awareness and interest. 

Once partnership opportunities start rolling in, that’s when its time to optimize partner on-boarding using a partnering automation system to offload the myriad tasks associated with enabling new partners.

Below is a best practices list of 12 steps to get channel partners on-boarded quickly and generating revenue:

  1. After registration, immediately send a triggered email with access rights to the portal welcome pack. Don’t wait on this and do it through an end-of-day batch message. Your partners will expect immediate response so they can start looking around before they get distracted with something else.
  2. Upon entering the portal ensure that “welcome” and “how to work with us” content is prominently displayed.
  3. Consider a “how to use our online tools and resources” video tutorial
  4. Invite them to update their profile and share their own interests in the partnership to help your targeting
  5. Track open and click-throughs to make sure they saw the welcome pack.
  6. If they don’t engage immediately, send additional follow-ups (2/week). If they don’t respond after 10 working days, follow up with phone calls to make contact.
  7. After the first portal visit, track their activity constantly. Apply scoring and nurturing techniques to segment your channel base into usage, engagement, activity-level groups so you can optimize future touches to increase activity.
  8. Use time and event triggered communications (e.g. Partner does X today, so in days they will receive Z), using email and social updates.
  9. Gently introduce training, but don’t use tests, certification or anything too onerous to begin with. Start with short, interesting video clips of no more than 5 minutes to wet their appetite.
  10. Reinforce the partnership value proposition regularly. When doing so, ensure that portal content is tailored - not just to channel partner organization but to the individual so they feel it was created for them.
  11. Encourage partners to enroll in your communities and start interacting. Keep communicating regularly with messaging and content relevant to their individual needs and based on their interests.
  12. If they falter or appear to have lost interest, you may be moving too fast or too slowly for them. Re-engage directly and ask them for feedback so that you can understand what to improve on to help them get to the next level.

The first 30 to 90 days is critical to the future success of a new partnership. They’re like marriages, and sadly it’s not uncommon to see 1 out of 2 fail to deliver long-term success for both parties. The secret is not to continuously recruit new partners, but rather to invest in proper on-boarding techniques and partnering automation to do the heavy lifting for you. Statistically, suppliers that use partnering automation software to onboard new partners see:

  • 10-times more partner portal visits
  • 5-times more trained/certified partners
  • 6-times more engaged partners
  • 6-times more value in deals being registered by partners

A critical aspect of onboarding is training and enablement. In 2013 Gartner reported that the most successful companies with global channel partners “are investing time and resources in expanded university relationships, rotational programs, multichannel learning options, certification programs, leadership development and others.” And yet, this is an area to which companies throw a lot of money and see little results. To make trainings have a positive impact, the most successful partner programs offer trainings in a variety of formats, delivered a number of different ways.

Training Format Examples

•Breakfast seminars

•Lunch and learns

•Presentations

•Role plays

Training Avenue Examples

  • Live webinars
  • Classroom
  • Written materials
  • On-demand vid   

The trainings, or if a live event the training announcement and registration, are available via the partner portal, so partners do not have to go to multiple websites for every aspect of the partner program. 

And finally, these high-growth IT security companies need the leads and deals from partners, so it’s essential to reduce hurdles. Like training, make lead registration and deal registration easily accessible via your partner portal, so your channel partners only have to sign into one place for every interaction they have with you.

These are the key areas of successful channel partner programs that high-growth IT security companies focus on. In part two of this series, I’ll dissect the operational areas of focus for established IT security companies. Stay tuned! 

With more than 15 years of experience in SaaS technology, marketing automation, mobile apps and cloud collaboration, Jim currently leads the company’s global marketing strategy - overseeing demand generation, product marketing, global communications, and corporate branding efforts. Prior to joining Relayware, Jim spent over a decade in the mobile industry heading up marketing for Antenna Software (acquired by NASDAQ: PEGA) and Fiberlink Communications (acquired by NYSE: IBM (News - Alert)).

Prior to his time in mobile, Jim was Director of Marketing Services for Responsys (acquired by NYSE: ORCL) where he established the company's marketing consulting practice. Jim started his career in advertising as an Account Executive for Ogilvy & Mather and Lintas Worldwide, and worked for AT&T as a Marketing Director in their Consumer division.   @JimatRelayware 




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
FOLLOW US

Subscribe to InfoTECH Spotlight eNews

InfoTECH Spotlight eNews delivers the latest news impacting technology in the IT industry each week. Sign up to receive FREE breaking news today!
FREE eNewsletter

infoTECH Whitepapers