Ep. 21 – Larry Walsh: Sorry, Fresh Out of Silver Bullets

Larry Walsh is the CEO and Chief Analyst at the 2112 Group, as well as one of the most recognizable figures in the IT channel and security communities.  Larry also happens to be considered one of the more forward-thinking leaders in the channel marketing industry. A seasoned journalist, analyst, author, and industry commentator, Walsh is also the founder of Channelnomics, which is a leading provider of IT channel news and analysis. A specialist in the development and execution of channel programs, disruptive sales models, and growth strategies for companies of all sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 500 organizations, Walsh has worked with a roster of diverse technology players, including Ingram Micro, Intel Security, SAP, and Verizon.

A Laissez-Faire Culture of Failure

“That’s a cultural issue, that’s not an individual failing,” Larry quickly adds after sharing a story that may sound familiar to many:

Let’s say a company hires a research and consulting firm, such as the 2112 group.  The value of the engagement is not just the consultant’s broad experience in developing and executing great channel marketing programs.  The true value to be realized lies in the vast and specialized research the consulting company has performed.  As Larry puts it, “I need to have data on my side, otherwise, I’m just a guy with an opinion.”

The challenge arises when the hiring company can see that the research findings and the consultant recommendations are guiding them down an uncomfortable and unfamiliar path.  They are going to be forced to do new things or perhaps do their current stuff in a new way.  Concerned about the organizational unrest the change is likely to cause, they do nothing with the data.   The engagement has been a waste of resources, and the company continues on the same path – likely a path of prolonged and perhaps unnecessary struggle.

As marketers, we’re all very aware of the way channel marketing software solutions and other tools are changing the way we work.  With this in mind, we need to embrace the idea that being change agents is part of the work and, while that may occasionally come with risk and discomfort, it’s most often going to be the right thing for our organizations.

Legacy Systems & Getting Stuck in The Muck

Part of what makes Larry such a fun podcast guest is his propensity for being very direct: “You said the partners are changing – that’s a myth.”  He continues, “That’s a reason that we have problems with the channel today; the partners aren’t changing.”  Interestingly, from Larry’s perspective as a prodigious researcher, many partners are still highly reliant on legacy channel models and go to market models, legacy software systems and so on. 

A pervasive symptom of this truth is the vast number of partners who present themselves as offering value-added services to add value to their sales and deliver additional revenue.  Many are just not taking the time to build out a workable offering that enables them to take advantage of today’s marketing conditions and are therefore missing opportunities for both themselves and the vendors.

Here’s the surprising truth behind this revelation: Larry doesn’t place the blame on the partners.  To understand the path of responsibility for this reluctance around change, we need to follow the trail of incentives, particularly what behaviours the partners are provided incentives for.   It’s all well and good for a large vendor to decree the dawn of a new day and even offer programs meant to drive behaviours that support change, but as long as they continue to offer incentives that encourage the older behaviours (often in aid of shorter-term sales goals,) they are going to continue to see those old behaviours.  Much like the notion of trouble in entrenched organizational cultures mentioned above, it’s much easier for partners to continue to do what they’ve always done as long as they know they’re going to continue to more or less get what they’ve always gotten for doing so.

LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE CONVERSATION NOW:

FUN, HELPFUL BONUS: Check out the Channelnomics channel marketing dictionary, a comprehensive guide to the unique lexicon of the channel marketing world coupled with a smattering of saucy winking at some of our favorite marketing clichés. 

If you’ve got ideas for future shows, want to connect us with an exciting guest or send questions or comments in on the podcast, please free to email us at ChannelEdge@360insights.com

Also, if you enjoy the show please do share it with your colleagues and remember to subscribe using whatever your favourite podcast platform is: iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play or Spotify. Listen on Google Play Music