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The Key to P2P? Channel Community Investment

Networking and collaboration might seem fluffy; how can just talking to people be a real job? But in fact, successful partnering happens between people and organizations that trust and like each other. We see many so-called P2P efforts being wasted because there's no genuine interest from the parties involved to make it a mutual success. True and successful partnerships are created when all parties are looking out for each other's well-being and when the level of trust is high.

The networking aspect is a key component here. The channel ecosystem consists of several communities. Sometimes they intersect and sometimes they're isolated and exclusive. A community can be formal with a structured way to membership, but it is more often unstructured. Some communities are online, some are offline and many are a mix of both. Everyone that has an interest can participate.

Your customers might have their own communities, but increasingly, customers and vendors are participating in the same communities. These channel communities are the often the best way to find both partners and customers -- and they're growing in importance. If you join them, you'll need to make sure that you and your company are considered relevant. It's paramount that you contribute to these communities with true value and that you're not just pushing your own services and products.

Channel communities are a great arena for learning about key trends and different technologies, making new acquaintances and getting closer to specific industry vendors. Perhaps the most important benefit of investing lots of time in channel communities is that you will find companies to partner with -- and you might also find customers to serve. Every vital and active community has one or more thought leaders that drive the community forward. By being generous, knowledgeable and active in these communities, you can become a thought leader yourself.

It's important to constantly bring content to your community. All communities need to be fed with content, as that creates topics for discussion. You can deliver webinars that focus on knowledge-sharing. You might even be able to sponsor events at cost depending on the type/size of the community and the event. Sponsoring a get-together for a few people in a local bar is obviously less costly than a premier-level sponsorship at a big vendor's conference.

My point is, the value of a community is the sum of everyone's contributions. It's important to have a "giving" mindset and constantly strive to create value for the community. Taking an active part in communities should be a key component in every alliance manager's list of duties.

Don't limit community involvement tasks to just the alliance manager, though. Instead, make sure you do a thorough analysis of which communities you want to invest in and send the best-suited people to each community. Some communities need technical people, others need marketers and salespeople, or perhaps C-level people. For important communities, send multiple people with different backgrounds and seniority to gain the best outcomes. And don't forget, your "elevator pitch" needs to be thoughtfully written and well-rehearsed so that everyone can deliver it without hesitation. Read more in this article, "The 7 Pillars of a Strong Partner-to-Partner Relationship."

The list of channel communities is endless and constantly changing, so I'm not going to attempt to list them all. My advice is to make sure you have a structured approach and that you and your team participate in the ones where you find it meaningful. Invest a lot in the ones that are core to you -- and then add some more when it makes sense. Just remember that it will take time before you see traction, so wait awhile before you evaluate your participation. In my experience, it goes quicker in social media-based communities and takes longer in communities that meet in-person. However, the most strategic value is often in the groups that meet face-to-face and that occasionally also meet in-person.

Whatever direction you choose, making sure that you engage with various channel communities in a structured and thoughtful way is a job to be taken seriously and will give great return on investment. When you are an active and appreciated contributor in channel communities, doors will open to new partnerships and to winning new deals. In my opinion, investing in communities is the best thing you can do as a partner. Just don't forget that it is a long-haul flight.

Posted by Per Werngren on April 17, 2023


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