Last week I was onsite at a client to help them develop their customer centric business model to drive increased product adoption and usage.
The company employs a channel partner strategy to drive revenue growth.
In other words, the company’s revenue model relies on its customer’s customers, or end users, to use its products.
Its channel partners are software vendors that integrate my client's products into larger software platforms, and then the partners sell, deploy and drive adoption of the resulting solutions to end users.
Consequently, my client’s focus has been on its partners and product integration, not on the enablement of the end users who ultimately use the capabilities.
They have left the responsibility of the latter up to their partners to execute (or not as it turns out is the case).
Up until now, the business model is very vendor-centric and works for its core products in large part due to industry regulation mandating the use of these solutions.
Specifically, the government is generating end user demand and ongoing usage of my client’s products, therefore the company has not had to consider enabling its partners to do so.
End users are already “motivated” to adopt and use the solutions anyway, so the partners are not worrying about this.
The problem is that the model is not working for their newer, non-regulated products where the absence of regulations means that demand is no longer being created for them.
Not surprisingly, the utilization of those products is not where the company would like it to be.
We are therefore developing a customer centric business model that takes into account the need to enable both the channel partners and, indirectly, the end users who ultimately drive utilization.
But how does a company transition from a vendor-centric to a customer centric approach?
The concept between the two is logically understood, but when it comes to creating the plays to execute, my client is reverting back to a direct, vendor-centric approach.
Old habits die hard.
Their tendency is to want to conduct direct education for their partners and now, for the end users as well which is not scalable.
Instead, they should be employing a customer centric strategy that generates pull-through demand and aligns the interests of all parties.
They should use the customer journey and corresponding use cases to influence the partner product roadmaps (i.e. ensure the functionality is made available to end users faster), and build enablement programs that partners can use to improve end user demand and adoption (i.e. create the tools partners can use to increase customer interest and usage).
So, what was the trick in changing the thinking around this?
Tune in next week to read the unlikely analogy that surprisingly resonated in driving the point across.
Bottom Line: A Customer Centric Approach is Key for a Channel Partner Strategy
Using a channel partner strategy, where vendors rely on partners to first integrate, then release, sell, train and deploy solutions to end users, it is arguably more important to operate using a customer centric approach.
When end users understand and want the value that the functionality offers, they influence partners, through their active demand, to integrate the features as a high priority.
Using a holistic customer centric approach, the customer journey and associated use cases that will generate the end user demand can be identified.
The use cases also form the basis for enablement programs that allow the partners to better sell and train its end users on functionality that is important to them.
If a company relies on end users through a channel to drive business, then it better be sure it generates pull through demand of its products by focusing on the end user’s use cases and aligning the business interests of all three parties accordingly.