I was asked last week if it is possible to rank partner accreditation programmes. The honest answer is “I don’t know.” I’m not sure whether anyone has ever tried to do it, although most channel partners probably have their own rankings when it comes to assigning value to particular vendor accreditations. But that probably varies partner to partner depending on what kind of business they wanted to do and who they wanted – or needed – to do it with.
A vendor could have an incredible partner programme, for instance, that offered and provided everything a channel business might want or need, but it might not have the product or service the partner wanted or needed. On the other hand, a vendor might have a run-of-the-mill programme that was a big heap of ‘meh’ for channel businesses, but because it has a product or service that customers want or need, the partner would attach a much higher ranking to that accreditation.
So you can see how trying to rank partner programmes could be problematic. It’s not impossible to design a metric that takes account of the nuts and bolts of partner programmes, assigning values to different features of the schemes, such as training, incentives, lead generation, vertical markets, marketing etc, etc. You could easily put a grid together and mark the different programmes accordingly and come up with a ranking.
But that wouldn’t give an entirely accurate picture. For example, I can imagine that for some channel partners the attraction of doing business with a particular vendor is that it has a good balance of partner numbers versus market opportunities. For many channel businesses, this gives them an incentive to devote time and energy to selling and supporting a vendor’s products or services.
Competition is fine but they don’t want a free-for-all that fails to apply some distinction between a partner that has a strong services focus and one that has a more transactional approach. Many channel businesses see partner programmes as a mutual recognition of the value they provide for vendors. If those programmes are too wide open, there’s not much room for value.
Channel businesses are not a homogenous mass so it’s next to impossible for all of them to agree on what the best partner programmes are. You might get wider agreement on what vendors most of them need to have some kind of relationship with, but it will never be unanimous.
Objectivity is pretty near impossible because they have different motivations for valuing one programme over another. As I said, many partner programmes share the same features and benefits, but there are several factors that can help to separate them.
For example, what’s the demand for a particular vendor’s programme? As I said before, it could be the best programme in the world but that’s no use if no one wants the vendor’s product. How effectively is the programme being delivered? Again, it could look absolutely fantastic on paper, but delivery of the programme could fall far short of the promise, potentially damaging the partner’s relationship with the customer. I somehow don’t think a channel business will be able to assuage an angry customer with “I know you’re upset about the delay on vendor X’s product delivery but, on the upside, its partner programme is absolutely fantastic”.
Maybe someone out there knows how to rank partner programmes in an objective way that makes sense for the vast majority of channel businesses without the rankings being skewed by a range of factors beyond everything contained in the schemes themselves. But I wouldn’t like to rank their chances.