Elephant in the room:

“An English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed.” (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

I like working with my colleague Tim Harmon, our coryphée on channel enablement on the B2B marketing research team, one reason being that he works from his home office in Half Moon Bay, Northern California, and I can visit him for meetings. I know the area well because I lived there myself for three years back in my HP days. In 2000 and 2001, I had an exciting project managing several experimental joint ventures with companies like Ariba, Bank of America, Broadvision, and Yahoo. We wanted to offer an enterprise version of Yahoo.com to be integrated into company intranets and, in addition to planning the technology, I was also recruiting providers interested in being part of the “corporate yahoo” pages; for example, firms offering HR services such as retirement savings plans, executive wealth management plans, and health insurance to the corporate employees. The idea was that HP would take a cut when the provider sold something through the site. I guess we were somewhat ahead of our times; the technology, the status of Internet adoption, and the accountants in all the companies were definitely not ready for that business model back in 2001.

Which made me smile ruefully when I edited Tim’s latest report, “The Clash Of The Partner Channel And eCommerce,” last month.

I smiled because he is now able to cite examples of the above concept working after all. He calls them “brokerage-as-a-service” and writes: “This is akin to what some tech channel partners, such as Insight Enterprises, are doing in placing online app stores into their customers’ intranet systems.”

Tim cites many such examples of potential conflict between eCommerce and an indirect channel and his report is very important.

Not because it takes me back down my own private memory lane. No, because he points out, together with colleague Andy Hoar, who did the original B2B buyer research that we leveraged in the report, that:

  • The buyer now selects the channel, not the manufacturer. Vendors can no longer design their own go-to-market strategy and allocate channels to market segments.They are no longer in control.
  • eCommerce is also a channel.But it is a silo at most manufacturers: B2B firms are not planning their eCommerce strategically. They are invariably worried about “cannibalizing the sales channels” — an extremely short-sighted attitude.
  • Channel partners don’t know where they stand in their B2B manufacturers’ eyes.Tim, who meets channel partners all the time at the manufacturers’ partner events, reports that “Many channel partners tell us that they are feeling threatened by their B2B manufacturers’ eCommerce channel initiatives and are reassessing their loyalties.”

If you are a B2B marketing professional with responsibility for channel enablement, you need to read this report and take advantage of our insights and recommendations.  

And you know what? If you are a B2B marketing professional and NOT responsible for channel enablement, and your company sells a significant share of its business through indirect channels, then you should be considering WHY you (or your marketing department) are not responsible. At the very least, I recommend you pass the report on to your colleagues who are responsible (Forrester licensing terms notwithstanding).

As always, you can talk to Tim or me for more details.

Always keeping you informed! Peter