How Channel Partners Help Build a Brand’s Authority

    Table of contents:

    • Introduction  
    • Channel partners building a brand’s authority: what to define in the channel marketing strategy?
      • Get evangelists from within the MSP community  
    • How to strengthen partner relationships and differentiate yourself from other vendors  
      • Be omnipresent to partners, gain trust and educate
      • Feature channel partners in thought leadership opportunities - find new voices
      • Engage in strategic one-on-ones with channel partners
    • Measuring the success of your efforts: can you use KPIs?
    • Through-partner marketing best practices
      • Educating your channel partners on how to sell the product  
      • Sales enablement is critical for building your brand
      • Does MDF work? Different approaches to providing MDF
    • Partner-vendor joint-marketing activities for high ROI  
      • Speaking at community events
      • Publishing reusable, educational content
      • Reach out to leaders in the industry for brand awareness opportunities
    • Setting realistic expectations for through-partner marketing  
    • How to reverse the damage of a partnership that is affecting the ecosystem  
      • 1. Establish trust early on
      • 2. Be responsive to it
      • 3. Be respectful and come to a resolution  
    • 3 best practices for enabling your channel partners to build your brand authority  
      • 1. Education 
      • 2. Get your partners involved with your organization
      • 3. Be authentic when putting yourself out there
        • Deliver relevant, digestible content  
    • Conclusion  
      • Can the growth rate of a vendor's channel be too fast?
      • Necessary growth vs. too much growth, too fast
    • Closing comments  
      • Matt Soloman’s background in channel sales
      • The Channel Program  



    As we know, channel sales is an efficient way to cast a wider net and increase sales – But, did you realize that your channel partner program is also one of the greatest marketing tools you’ll ever have?  

    Acting as agents on your behalf, channel partners engage in a variety of activities to promote a vendor, and all this additional marketing for your brand can really help build its authority far beyond what you may be capable of independently.  

    So, what can you do to get the most out of the marketing opportunities from your partnerships and strengthen your brand authority, as much as possible via partners?    

    We’ll cover many aspects of this question and more in this episode.  

    Our guest, Matt Soloman, has been in channel-related roles for nearly a decade – with some highlights being employee #1 at ID Agent (now acquired by Kaseya) and interviewing Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretsky as part of panels for MSPs on business tactics.  

    Currently, he is:

    • The Chief Business Development Officer & Co-Founder (with CEO Kevin Lancaster) of a consultancy, The Channel Program: the ultimate MSP-vendor platform for uniting the best MSPs with the best vendors out there.
    • He is also the CEO of Channel Halo: which helps vendors and MSPs with go-to-market strategies, messaging, and presentation skills.  
    • Further to that, he also runs an insightful channel-related newsletter: Navigating the IT Channel  

    He’s here today to tell us all about: How Channel Partners Help Build a Brand’s Authority.  

    Channel partners building a brand’s authority: what to define in the channel marketing strategy?  

    Paul Bird: If we think about how channel partners help to build a brand's authority in the market, what do you see as some of the main factors that people should give some thought to when defining their channel marketing strategy and considering the impact of brand authority as well?  

    Get evangelists from within the MSP community  

    Matt Soloman:  

    "It's pretty key, early on, to get MSP influencers, they become the evangelists for you."

    Part of that could be getting on an advisory council early on so that they're really invested in what the product does.  

    A lot of the industry has different peer groups and you don't always have access directly to those peer groups. So, identify who the champions of those peer groups are, because they all have a leader.  

    One of the things that was incredibly effective at ID Agent was reaching out to people who were the captains of their peer groups and getting them engaged with us.  

    It's a fascinating industry - I've never been part of an industry where you can sign one partner and it can turn into ten partners in the next month because they speak to each other. It's one of the unique industries that really talks to each other and recommends.  

    So that, to me, is one critical piece in helping build brand awareness - have those evangelists from within the MSP community.  

    Paul Bird: There are a number of Slack channels that I'm a member of that are dedicated just to MSPs, and they're active.  

    And you're right, it gets around pretty quickly for the positive and the negative within that community, it is such a tight knit group.  

    Strengthen partner relationships

    How to strengthen partner relationships and differentiate yourself from other vendors  

    Paul Bird: What are some of the things you can do to strengthen those relationships, make yourself a little bit different from other vendors playing in this space?  

    Be omnipresent to partners, gain trust and educate  

    Matt Soloman: There are a couple of different things that come to mind. One of the first is to put out educational content.  

    You really have to gain the trust of this community.  

    As much as I love virtual events, there's also being part of the communities both virtually and in person, if you can. It's obviously tough right now, but they do want to see you.  

    That could be in-person, it could be virtual, but they definitely want to see you.  

    "They want to know you're sticking around and that your organization is actually committed to the channel because they have seen vendors come in and leave. So, part of it is trying to be in as many places as you can."

    I had the advantage when I was at ID Agent because we were sponsoring everything:

    • I built a reputation where people would come up to me and say, “man, you're everywhere”. It just kind of built on itself.  
    • Then when it turned virtual, I was kind of worried. I was like, well, how am I going to be that same person? And I just attacked the virtual environments, whether it's the Facebook groups or the Slack groups.  

    "I try to provide as much content that's valuable to people without being too salesy."

    Then I started having people in the virtual world say, “man, you're all over the place. Every time I go onto this forum, I see you’re posting” and whatnot.  

    Make friends with both the MSP and the other vendors because the other vendors in the industry can help you a ton.Datto did a lot for us early on when we would go to their events, they would introduce us to people.  

    If you're not a competitive product, other vendors can be really helpful.  

    Feature channel partners in thought leadership opportunities - find new voices  

    Matt Soloman: The other piece I would say, specifically to the channel partners, that was really helpful for me, was featuring them in various things like:  

    • Panels
    • thought leadership opportunities  
    • and really looking for more voices.  

    That was one of the things I was very aware of, maybe the first year or two of being in the channel. I started noticing the same MSPs were always featured. And rightfully so, they're really smart and deserve to be there.  

    But there are a lot of really intelligent people in our community that maybe didn't have the relationship with some of the vendors.  

    So, I purposely went out of my way to find other people that weren't necessarily being featured and said, why don't you come on, we're going to do this thought leadership panel.  

    That’s something that really helped me and it established some respect and trust that I was not just out for myself, but also trying to give other people opportunity.  

    Paul Bird: Absolutely. You're casting a very wide net with these types of initiatives.  

    Engage in strategic one-on-ones with channel partners  

    Paul Bird: What are your thoughts on getting to individual personal cadences with certain either, strategic partners or people that are in your community?  

    Do you see that there is an advantage to that? Or do you think the wide net is more effective?  

    Matt Soloman: I don't know if it’s the easy answer to say both.  

    "But, I love the individual reach out because I get probably the most value out of it. Because if I'm having a one-on-one conversation, I can ask really pointed questions and get real feedback"

    1. You have to be strategic with your time. So, of course, that's where the wider net comes out and can give you broader visibility.
    2. But I do think, particularly early on, establish those strategic relationships. And that could be a variety of things when I say strategic. Some could be, they're the captain of a peer group or this person's in this peer group and I don't know anybody in this peer group, and this person's from APAC or EMEA.  
      • I was always trying to find a blend of different contacts within different areas geographically.  

    I do think it is both, though, because I'm a big proponent of the grassroots efforts, and that's the individual stuff. I feel like a lot of that pays off on the back end.  

    It might not pay off day one when you're establishing the relationship, but the trust level you get and the respect you get when, maybe something goes wrong with your product and you talked about how quickly the negative stuff can take over Facebook.  

    I felt like I earned a lot of respect and, compared to what I would see on some of the forums, there's a lot more benefit of the doubt given to you and your organization, which is really valuable.  

    Measuring the success of your efforts: can you use KPIs?  

    Paul Bird: The approach I've always taken is, I want to measure it. I want to have some kind of KPI so I can manage it.  

    In looking at the approaches, the strategies, the suggestions that you've been sharing with us so far. I'm wondering, in the back of your head, are there certain indicators, certain measurements that you're looking for to understand if you're going to continue to invest your time? Or is it very much a feel?  

    Matt Soloman: It's always tough in business development activities for that KPI. I've been finding that my entire channel career because I've been that proponent of, you can't put a lot of this into a KPI.  

    It comes down to different strategies for different platforms:

    1. Some of the Facebook groups that a lot of the channel people are in, it's hard to measure me posting in there and whether there's some direct correlation.  
    2. Now, depending on the level of involvement you have, you might do a webinar with them and that's where you can get KPIs because you do a webinar within that forum.  
    3. When I was at ID Agent we were also closing deals at events so we would get the KPIs there.
    4. But the relationship stuff, that's tough to put into a KPI: You have to have an organization that really buys in. You have to have somebody you trust that's out there and that these things are going to matter, regardless of whether a deal is being closed in that conversation.  

    So it does come down to each different category, but a lot of it to me is a feel. But at the end of the day, if you're not hitting the team's numbers, that's what's going to matter.  

    "When I was doing all these activities that may not have been trackable, we were closing deals. We were hitting the numbers we were being asked to hit."

    So, you kind of get left alone at that point because then it's like, whatever this person's doing is working. But it's not as clear cut as like a sales role where it's either you hit your numbers or you don't.   

    Paul Bird: And then you want to try to replicate it and grow it at scale.  


    Through-partner marketing best practices  

    Paul Bird: One of the things that it looks like you've been able to do really effectively is cast a wide net, get some attention, even involve people that don't seem like they're a direct benefit at the time, but end up through a strategic partnership, helping to grow the business.  

    But now, as we start to get more tactical, one of the things that we suggest to everyone is they have to equip partners with the tools that they need and the support in order to effectively represent your brand in the market.  

    Do you have any best practices as you were moving from the awareness generation now to the tactical around through or to-partner from a marketing perspective?  

    For example:

    • Sales enablement
    • Education  
    • Sales and marketing collateral
    • Do things like market development funds, co-op marketing funds work?

    You built this community that's really excited. Now how do we get them to be tactical and help us generate the numbers we're looking for?  

    Matt Soloman: That's certainly the hardest part.  

    Educating your channel partners on how to sell the product  

    Matt Soloman: You have to then educate, particularly in an MSP channel community, how to actually sell the product and have it at the forefront. Especially around security products, which are obviously very hot right now.  

    So, a couple of things. One, I always would tell owners, I'm not super technical. And the way I presented it to them was not technical at all. I would often say, how I'm speaking with you is how you need to speak to your customers.  

    We led with a lot of that type of education.  

    Sales enablement is critical for building your brand  

    Matt Soloman: At the time, when ID Agent started off, we really honed in on: sales enablement was going to be critical.  

    Not only did it end up being critical just to help our MSP partners, but it really was critical to making us one of the biggest name brands and trusted brands in the industry because people were surprised or maybe impressed with the content we were constantly putting out that was really making them better at selling the rest of their security stack.  

    "It wasn't just about selling our product, it was about selling everything."

    So that really took us to another level. And you have seen vendors now really jump on that train. I think now every vendor knows education, sales enablement, it's a requirement.  

    I think now it's shifting into: “it's great you've given me all of this stuff, how do I execute it?”  

    The next phase is, how do vendors then get their partners to execute on this stuff?  

    Does MDF work? Different approaches to providing MDF  

    Matt Soloman: You mentioned MDF, which is a really interesting topic. It's something we've really talked about at The Channel Program as well because MDF sounds fantastic on the surface, but in reality, depending on the vendor, it can be a real pain for a channel partner:  

    1. There can be lots of requirements. It can be a big thing you have to fill out, a big application
    2. Obviously, and rightfully so, you have to sell that product offering at whatever event you're doing because they're providing you MDF for it. And a lot of times you're being requested to have ROI reports. So there's some pressure involved in a lot of this.
      • One thing that we came out with as a direct response to this was: we're just going to give away MDF and we want you to have ROI, but we're not telling you to use it on a certain product offering. We just want you to use it.  

    For us, it's a marketing cost and our ask is: come participate in our platform, be part of our community and we're going to give out, the grand prize would be like $5,000 in MDF.  

    Also, going back to how to execute on that, we're going to come out with some things on: how to run an event and how to do it effectively.  

    "Because you can give them the materials for the event, but if they still don't understand the execution part, I think that right now is a big gap in the industry."

    Paul Bird: It's interesting because throughout my career, I've built channel. But then for half my career, I worked in the channel and I can remember working for some technology vendors that had that exact approach:  

    • “You sold $1,000,000 last quarter. Here's a check for ten grand, go and do some marketing. We don't care what you do with it.”  

    Yet, at the same time, I worked for one of the big three in the tech industry reselling their product, and they said:  

    • “You have $15,000 in MDF to spend. Here's exactly what you can spend it on. You have door number one, door number two or door number three. Let's make a deal.”  

    It was an interesting way of approaching it.  

    I found both programs were effective. But the freedom in saying, “now I have the ability to do whatever I want with the funds in order to promote that specific brand” was a lot more flexible than “here's your three campaigns you can run, which one do you want to do?”  

    Matt Soloman: I know for a fact,  

    "there are vendors in the space that are offering MDF and MSPs and channel partners are not taking it. It's sitting there for them. And it comes down to some of the hurdles that they have to go through."

    Each vendor is different when it comes to their MDF. There's certainly no centralized version of MDF.  

    Partner-vendor joint-marketing activities for high ROI  

    Paul Bird: Do you think there is any one, or group. of joint-marketing activities that end up producing a higher ROI?  

    Anything you think a vendor should focus on outside of content creation, these training and ecosystems and events? Is there any one specific or group of activities that you think work better than others?  

    Matt Soloman: That's always tough. I'm a big proponent of a blended marketing approach.  

    Speaking at community events  

    Matt Soloman:  

    "What worked for us personally was being part of the communities. By far our biggest, in terms of ROI, was being part of events, speaking."

    I would say that's pretty critical too. Whether that's in-person or virtual.  

    It's always that dilemma of: “do we spend a little extra to be a speaker versus a booth”? And the truth is, we slaughtered our competition because we were speaking and they were at a booth.  

    We would finish our presentation and just get swarmed. So, I think being strategic and figuring out:  

    • Where are we going to spend our money  
    • Are we going to be a booth at ten different events?
    • Or are we going to speak at five?  

    Publishing reusable, educational content  

    Matt Soloman: One of the other things that's pretty effective is:  

    • Ebooks: Some of these educational ebooks that are reusable by the channel partner.
    • Whitepapers: You put out an educational piece of content that they can actually reuse as a white paper. That was very effective for us.  
    • Webinars: We drove a lot of lead gen by putting out webinars that were really more focused on education versus product.  

    And we found ways to weave the product into the conversation, of course. But, we got the best ROI in terms of webinars, when it was, “here's the top ten ways to sell through social media” - that type of thing.  

    Paul Bird: I think your event strategy really makes a lot of sense because. If you're in a ten by ten booth buried in the middle of the trade show, it's a sea of sameness.  

    Everyone's dropping by if you're working the booth, as I have throughout my entire career. You're trying to find some introductions.  

    I have these sparkling purple spiked shoes that I wear to trade shows because I am stopped and it becomes a conversation piece and ends up being a lead in.    

    Magentrix Purple Shoes

    Yet at the same time, you're sitting there with every other vendor and people are just hanging around waiting for somebody to come by.  

    But from a speaking engagement, even if they're just walking by, they can hear you. Your audience is a lot more captivated.  

    I really love that strategy. And maybe it is that omni-channel mix, that you do a little bit of booth work but have the speaking engagements. It sounds like it really was a home run for you.  

    Reach out to leaders in the industry for brand awareness opportunities  

    Matt Soloman: The other thing I thought of is reaching out to other people, leaders in the industry.  

    "It's that idea of borrowing somebody else's credibility."

    So, look at who the influencers are in this industry.  

    Everybody has podcasts now. And trust me, you might not think they want you as a guest. Who knows, I don't know how you feel about yourself.  

    1. But, I would put on panels and I would love it if a vendor or an MSP would reach out to me and volunteer themselves because it was work for me. I had to put work into figuring out who is going to be on a panel, and I would love for an MSP to reach out to me.
    2. Or if you're a vendor and you reach out to another person who's doing podcasts and things like that. The worst thing they could say is no.  
      • That's another piece of it because that's free brand awareness and things like that. So do that as much as you can.  

    Setting realistic expectations for through-partner marketing  

    Paul Bird: What about setting expectations? Let's say somebody's talking to you and they've done things the old fashioned way.  

    They go get a booth, they're not really ecosystem-friendly because they don't want partners talking to each other. They want everyone on an island. If they start to embrace the social groups, embrace the speaking as opposed to just standing in the aisle ways.  

    Do you think there's some real expectations that we can set on some of the things that they could achieve. Maybe how things would be a little bit different if they made that switch?  

    Matt Soloman: This goes back to some of your KPIs.  

    You do want to do these activities with some goals in mind:  

    "When you talk about peer groups, the goal is to penetrate the peer group and get on as many of those people as your customers."

    • Part of that is setting a realistic expectation of, “there's 100 MSPs in this peer group, what is a realistic number for us to try to get from this group in year one”?
    • Also, if you have that business development person, that becomes their goal. Even if it's ultimately a salesperson who has to close the deal. I think that is a way to tie back some actual goals to a business development person.
    • And that is one thing we looked at pretty hard: “How do we, year by year, slowly take over a peer group?”  

    So I think that would help bridge that gap a little bit.  

    How to reverse the damage of a partnership that is affecting the ecosystem  

    Paul Bird: Now, at the same time, we talk about these peer groups and how:  

    • Positivity helps grow the group. People always want to talk about great things.  
    • Yet, if something negative happens within the peer group, that can run like wildfire.  

    Any suggestions on what you could do to potentially reverse the damage in the event that a partnership has gone a little sour and it's starting to affect the ecosystem?  

    Matt Soloman: That is very tough. And that can happen without a peer group now that there's all these Facebook groups and it can run like wildfire.  

    1. Establish trust early on  

    Matt Soloman: It does go back to that trust early on, because you'll get benefit of the doubt where it's less likely somebody will go negative on a public forum, they'll take it to you first.  

    2. Be responsive to it  

    Matt Soloman: Part of it is you have to be responsive to it. You have to pick and choose your battles too. In some public forums you may have to respond but you don't want it to turn into a back and forth.  

    And sometimes it's just saying, I've read the feedback. I'd love to take this conversation offline. Sometimes you just have to take it offline. And you can respond individually to those other people who have chimed in.  

    And maybe you want to give a little bit of your side to the story. It's tough to really control a negative thing that's gone down.  

    3. Be respectful and come to a resolution    

    Matt Soloman: But if you're responsive and you're respectful to the person who has maybe not even been that respectful back. I do find if you kill people with kindness, even when they've been hostile towards you, a lot of times you can get them to take it down.  

    I know you felt how you felt. I've now reached out to you. We've had this conversation. We've taken care of it. Would you mind removing it?  

    And nine out of ten times they did when there was a resolution. Now if you don't have a resolution, I don't know if I have the answer for that today.  

    If they're still mad at you, that's tough.  

    Paul Bird: Kill them with kindness, that's the approach that I've always taken. That is definitely sage advice.  

    3 best practices for enabling your channel partners to build your brand authority  

    Paul Bird: If you could summarize some best practices with the idea of, you want to enable your channel partners or empower your channel partners to build your brand authority. What three points can we take away from this?  

    1. Education  

    Matt Soloman: Again, education, education, education. That's probably the number one for me.  

    Think of what challenges your partners are facing.  

    2. Get your partners involved with your organization  

    Matt Soloman: Part two, and we didn't really get into depth with this, is to get your partners involved with your organization, whether that's through:  

    • advisory councils  
    • or just quarterly town halls  

    Some of the best ideas we had came from our own partners because I'm not an MSP. I can learn as much as I can through everything I do to research.   

    "But at the end of the day, they're the ones on the front lines. And as a vendor, you do have to listen a lot more to them."

    Some of our best features that we came out with came directly from partner feedback. So being open to those conversations is critical.  

    Paul Bird: I love the idea of a town hall because you have open dialog, open feedback. Give people the opportunity to tell you what they like and dislike, and you may get consensus really quickly.  

    3. Be authentic when putting yourself out there  

    Matt Soloman: The final thing I would say is just really focus on being authentic in whatever areas you're putting yourself out there.  

    • Everybody has different character traits. I look at some people and I'm like, “oh man, they're so much more energetic than I am.” There's different things about everybody, but find whatever your playing field is and just be yourself. People tend to respect that.  
    • The biggest key is you don't need a front like you're somebody else, just be authentic to who you are.  
    • And always keep in mind your partner and sometimes their end customer.  

    Deliver relevant, digestible content  

    Matt Soloman: I'll give you an example. I would put out video content around security. And let's say it was something in the news. Again, I'm not super technical but I can read a headline and deliver what the message is around.  

    When I started taking off some of my own branding on the videos and really honed in on a message of: “this is what's happened and if you're an MSP out here, you should be talking to your end customers about this. And by the way, if you're a small business owner, you should reach out to an MSP.”  

    The amount of shares I started to get from other MSPs from that video content versus some other video content I was putting out:  

    "It was five times more effective in terms of getting the word out because they saw that I was not just speaking to them, but I was actually helping them speak to their end user."

    Paul Bird: You had the perfect use case for TikTok five years ago. That would have been the best way to deliver that type of content.  

    Matt Soloman: I know and I'm thinking about TikTok, to be honest. There's some business applications there for sure.  

    Paul Bird: Absolutely, that ability to deliver quick, digestible content.  

    And the relevancy of it, being able to have a situation like that.  

    But I think you found the right way to broadcast that message to a wider audience, that's for sure.  

    Vendor channel growth

    Can the growth rate of a vendor's channel be too fast?  

    Paul Bird: One of the things that I like to ask is a question that seems like it's pretty obvious, but if people follow your advice, do you think it translates into higher sales for the channel? I think the answer is pretty obvious.  

    But what about the impact on growth?  

    As you're addressing the ecosystem and you start looking at this hyper growth model:  

    • Is there a growth rate that's too fast?  
    • Is there a growth rate that's too slow?  

    If you're trying to feed the ecosystem, what do you do if the growth rate is hyper?  

    Necessary growth vs. too much growth, too fast  

    Matt Soloman: That is going to depend on the organization, so I'll speak to ID Agent:  

    1. No. Hyper growth was exactly what we wanted and needed. We were not a super technical product. Adding a bunch of partners, like 100 partners, didn't really do too much to what we had to do from a hiring standpoint.  
      • We definitely needed to bring on more channel success managers and things like that as we continued to grow. And that was maybe one of the challenges.  
    2. But for the more technical products where it requires the staff to have that level of intelligence. There is probably too much growth and that's going to affect the ability to deliver.  
      • Actually, that was interesting because we had competitors at the time that would offer free trials and it was always hard to combat that. Who doesn't like a free trial?
        • Part of my message was, if we offered a free trial, we'd sign the entire room. But what we wouldn't do is we wouldn't deliver top-level partnership to you because you can't.  
        • If you're onboarding that many people because of a free trial, how can you really give them a real partnership? That's not probably a partnership. That's a sign-up. And hopefully some of them work out, some of them don't. That was always my message against that type of tactic.  

    I'm now stating the obvious which is, you have to make these decisions based on your own bandwidth of an organization.  

    Paul Bird: I think any organization has to be prepared.  

    Whether they're a direct organization or a channel organization, the whole concept behind channel is growth at scale. This all comes back to that initial channel strategy of what happens when you go viral?  

    And that's what you've done in the past with your platforms.  

    Growth at scale, from my perspective, has to be a part of the channel marketing strategy.  

    Matt Soloman: Yes. Although it's interesting, I've had some conversations recently with vendors who are saying they have too many MQLs. So, who knows?  

    Paul Bird: Too many? I have never heard that there are too many MQLs or SQLs for that matter.  

    Matt Soloman: Maybe that's to your point of: if they haven't prepared for that level of growth. And that's probably why they're saying that.    

    Paul Bird: And by the sounds of it, that's something that you can help them with at The Channel Program.  

    Matt Soloman: Absolutely. I would say we're trying to deliver them more leads ultimately. But our vision is to really be more transparent:  

    1. Have a place where both the vendors and MSPs can communicate in a totally different way than they have in the past.  
    2. Have more open dialog.  
      • Really hone in on: what are the most important things to the partnership?  
      • And really focus on those types of things versus some of the fluff in some of people's presentations.  

    Let's get down to what matters the most to a partner, which is typically:  

    • What problem are you solving?  
    • What makes you different?  
    • What's your pricing structure?  
    • How do you make me money, more secure, or more efficient, depending on your offering?  
    • And what does your partner program look like?  

    Getting back to all that sales enablement, the education, the training. When I've had all the conversations over the last couple of years, that's what MSPs care the most about.  

    Matt Soloman’s background in channel sales

    Paul Bird: Give us some highlights in your career as it comes to managing a channel, being a channel chief so far.  

    Matt Soloman: I almost fell into the channel basically with my now co-founder of The Channel Program, Kevin Lancaster.  

    I was working at a consulting company called Winvale, that he owned and still does, that was doing government consulting. And he came to me one day and said, we've got this idea for this dark web monitoring company.  

    Mind you, I'm in sales. I don't know anything about security and the dark web at all. I was like, I mean, it sounds fascinating - and it really did sound like an interesting idea. And I took a leap of faith and it’s a startup, you struggle a little bit in the beginning. And we did.  

    We were a little ahead of the curve when it came to compromised credentials being exposed on the dark web and those first eight months were tough. The product wasn't always working and we were in the enterprise.  

    I can distinctly point to a meeting we had where I thought I was going into his office and going to lose my job because we had come to this point where it felt like the enterprise just wasn't working.  

    Something wasn't resonating and the sale was taking too long. We had a conversation, and at some point we talked about managed service providers in the channel.  

    I said, why don't we just check it out? I mean, what do we have to lose at this point?  

    And he said, fine. That'll be the last thing we try. And, I started looking into the MSP industry, the channel and what events were out there.  

    And an editor of one of the publications back then got wind of what we do. Thought it was interesting. Wrote an article about us. And literally overnight, our entire business changed. We went from all outbound leads to 20 inbound leads the next day.  

    Mind you, we didn't actually have an MSP program at this point. We were just getting inbound leads from all these MSPs now. And we had to pivot incredibly fast.  

    It was like I was running to work every day because all I was doing was demos ten times a day.  

    I didn't even have enough time in the day to continue the demo demand that we had. And we went from zero MSP partners to 2000 in two years and got acquired. It was insane.  

    Paul Bird: That is remarkable.  

    You have the boots on the ground, the early guerilla start, and then you just hit it and it becomes remarkable.  

    The Channel Program  

    Paul Bird: Tell us a bit about where you are now with The Channel Program.  

    Matt Soloman: After the acquisition, I was at Kaseya for a couple of years doing a similar role as when I was at ID Agent, which was really being a product evangelist.  

    I really was that person, you talk about guerrilla marketing - I was at every event for two straight years pre-COVID, around the world. I was at 100 different events over that two year period.  

    One of the things you learn quickly in the channel is, the bigger players get the bigger stages and we were one of them and we were fortunate to benefit.  

    But I did always think about, what if I didn't have that advantage of having the money and having the trajectory we had? How would you as a new vendor make a name for yourself in this space?  

    After myself and Kevin left Kaseya separately, at different times. We both were doing separate consulting companies, but we were having the same conversations over and over again. And it was with emerging vendors who were really struggling, particularly in this COVID world, of how to make a name for themselves, how to build brand recognition.  

    On the MSP side, we were seeing, in the channel, all the acquisitions were happening. I.T. providers feeling like they had less of a voice of what was happening in this space.  

    So we really were taking both pain points and, how do we fix this? So what we came up with was The Channel Program, and it's very broad right now in terms of what we're doing, but the first two pieces, and I'll be very brief about it.  

    Channel Pitch is what we've launched with and the idea is to give everybody a main stage speaking slot. You're not just stuck in a booth in the corner. It is virtual and it's seven minutes. Everybody gets seven minutes.  

    Doesn't matter if you're a 1,000,000,000 dollar company or a brand new start-up.  

    What we're doing is we're getting immediate feedback, so we're putting out quantitative and qualitative questions. So, if you were up there and you had your seven minutes, you're going to hear directly, later that day how everybody felt and whether it resonated with the audience.  

    The MSPs can attend anonymously. That allows them to:  

    1. Be more honest with their responses.  
    2. It lets them control whether they want the vendors to reach out to them.  

    They can give them permission if they choose to. So it's a safer environment to hear about emerging vendors. And so we think we're bridging that gap and really disrupting some of what has been taking place in the channel prior.  

    Paul Bird: Absolutely. Giving value to both sides.  

    As one of those people that would love to be able to present the value proposition for my brand to a wide audience. Getting that feedback and getting it almost instantaneously, that's going to really be a game changer for me as somebody in my go-to-market.  

    At the same time, if I can then peruse a number of different vendors, pick and choose whether or not I want to enter that engagement cycle. There's great value there on both sides.  

    Matt Soloman: We certainly think so and we've gotten great feedback so far.  

    Particularly, you think about an emerging vendor. There's some vendors who are launching their channel program with Channel Pitch. It's going to be their first time going out to the channel. And some of them may find out they don't belong in the channel. That's possible.  

    But my message to them is, do this before you spend $100,000 on a main stage at some really big event. Get that market research first.  

    Connect with Matt Soloman on LinkedIn.

    Connect with Paul Bird on LinkedIn, book a demo with him, or contact him via email

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