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Channel pandemic response: Virtual events are king, but support could improve

Feedback from MicroScope’s virtual channel event reveals some insights into the current thinking in the industry, with the majority focusing on virtual events and stating they're happy with support – but nearly a quarter say more could be done

It is going to be a while until the show floors are heaving and the delegates are packing out halls at hotels across the major conference cities.

One of the big impacts of the coronavirus has been on the channel’s events calendar, with the vast majority of scheduled shows and conferences cancelled for 2020.

This has forced vendors to move events online and, so far, those virtual alternatives have proved to be successful, with many reporting high number of registrations and decent levels of participation.

To get a handle on the outlook on the event front, MicroScope hosted its own virtual event entitled ‘Navigating a post-pandemic world’, and polled those who tuned in about the channel and the pandemic response.

The majority agreed that they had no plans to host events this year, with everything moving to digital. Only a lone respondent revealed that they had plans to do both physical and virtual.

Another question that was posed during the event was around the question of channel support and whether there was a feeling that vendors had gone far enough. From fairly early on into the pandemic, resellers have been given options to access market development funds (MDF), use vendor finance and gain access to training tools.

The audience at the virtual event largely saw the efforts by vendors in a positive light, with 85% saying they had done a supportive job, but the 15% who disagreed indicated that some in the channel had been frustrated with the levels of help that were made available.

The event also highlighted the challenges that many in the channel have when it comes to digital marketing – leads have been left on the table and others have been poorly acted on during the crisis.

When asked if email was the main vehicle for following up on a lead, the vast majority (74%) agreed that it was, but a quarter saw it only as an occasional method of keeping in touch with potential prospects.

Vendors have been under increasing pressure to help share best practice around digital marketing. One source said that it had stepped up the efforts it was making internally to make sure its inside sales team was sharing quality information.

“There is no point giving someone information that is cold, so we work hard to make sure it is hot before we pass it over to a partner,” said the source.

Others in the industry have already indicated that they are taking steps to provide more detailed information for partners.

In May, Jamie Farrelly, vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) channels and mid-market sales at Veritas, said that the vendor was increasing the depth of support it could offer its partners.

In the enterprise market, the arms are going around platinum and key partners with the activate programme, with the top 2,000 partners given a “white glove” programme with social nurturing and a handle on account-based marketing on what customers are talking about.

Juniper Networks is another example of those looking to make sure that it is giving its channel the best shot at gaining fresh customers. Sander Groot, head of EMEA channels at Juniper, said that the vendor is funding many ongoing demand-generation campaigns to support partner growth.

“We have freed up a lot of MDF, this is by far the biggest investment I have seen in the past 18 years I have been at Juniper Networks,” he said.

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