WatchGuard focusing on verticals as MSP numbers swell

Security player has seen its managed service provider relationships grow since it reached out to that segment of the channel community

Over the past two years there has been a scramble by security vendors to reach out to the managed service provider community and get those looking to sign up some of those looking to add data protection applications to their portfolio.

One of the first to realise that the general MSP was an important target was WatchGuard and the vendor has seen its channel base widen as it opens the door to different types of partner.

Not only has the security player set up programmes and increased support for MSPs but it has also taken steps to adapt its own internal culture to make the relationship with those types of partners work more smoothly.

“I think we are still ahead of the curve. We have accepted that it is a change in the marketplace [the emergence of MSPs]. What we need to do as marketers is now step away from our brand. The MSP is our partner, we don’t have a direct sales force as we are 100% channel, and if they are going to market managed services under their own brand we still need to be their partner doing that,” said Mark Romano,  senior director, WW channel and field marketing at WatchGuard.

“That has been a very interesting mental shift we have had to make to step away from our own brand to help them with theirs,” he added “We adjusted our channel programme to cater to the needs of more MSPs and we now offer things like secure Wifi and also have multi-factor authentication so we have changed the programme so they can receive discounts and benefits through those multiple doorways.”

Those different entry points have given WatchGuard the chance to expand its channel and make it easier for MSPs to find a way to work with the vendor and Romano said it had been successful in widening its MSP base.

The focus for the rest of this year is to strengthen the support around vertical markets to make sure that the vendor is reaching out to those managed service players that concentrate on a specific  industry segment.

Romano said that sit also needed to be prepared to offer guidance as some MSPs were often reaching out to vertical customers without formalising an approach. The vendor wanted to help them gain more traction with a specific focus on delivering the security applications that those customers would value.

“Part of that vertical market pitch is to become the trusted advisor to that end user customer and when you are that then you are becoming a true partner,” he said.

Romano has been part of the team that rolled out some recent changes to the vendor’s channel partner programme and he said those had been well received by resellers.

Back in May some changes were made to the WatchGuardONE partner programme with the emphasis on helping the channel base increase technical expertise around a handful of specific product areas, including MFA and secure wifi.

“It is a philosophy of mine to be very cautious about the channel partner programme because I know that although I am a very important part of a reseller’s business I am not their entire business. They only interact with me so often so I need to make it as easy as possible to understand how it works and to make the partner portal as easy to navigate as possible,” he added.

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