3 ways to support the channel during COVID-19

Last week, we wrapped up a survey with our channel partners, asking them for their input on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their current and future business. We knew there was a surge in activity for certain products, but wanted to understand if this was a global challenge, or if there were specific regions or specialties that this was affecting. As we work with thousands of IT channel partners, we thought it would be insightful for us to share those results, and highlight the three opportunities for brands to help support their channel partners.

Real-time product availability updates

The largest problem, across the board, is lack of supply. In total, 81% of our channel partners are reporting problems with product availability. Partners are looking for lists that are showing product availability in real-time. If that isn’t possible, they are looking for suitable replacement/similar product offerings to sell as viable substitutes. When asked how brands and distributors could help, one partner replied “Keep the warehouses and sales teams online as long as possible. Improve stock.” Channel partners understand that hardware (particularly around mobility devices, laptops, and desktops) are in high demand right now, though this period is going to fade away once everyone is properly set up to work remotely. Then the trend will move more towards software and security, which have less risk for availability issues.

Offer flexible payment options

Partners are struggling with a decrease in revenue. One of our partners said “Business has slowed to a crawl, [and] the primary things clients want I can’t get right now (laptops, VPN appliances, and like product).” Many partners are asking for more visibility into product availability, but also for flexible payment terms, and “forgiving credit solutions.”

The majority of the projects that have come up as a direct result of COVID-19 are both short-term and have a smaller average order value (AOV). As mentioned, many partners are seeing an increase in demand for hardware and communication services projects, but the bulk of them are under $50K, and roughy 90% of those projects will be completed within the next three months. Thus, channel partners are asking brands for forgiving credit solutions so they don’t have to pay all at once, and might be able to utilize that short-term cash flow for other necessary payments, such as rent or employee salaries.

Continue supporting partners’ marketing campaigns

We received numerous comments from the channel partners centered around continuing their marketing campaigns. It’s evident that channel partners are understanding the value of consistent messaging to their audience, and do not want that continuity to break. Based on comments such as “Keep providing marketing materials so we can be in constant touch with our customers/prospects and keep our name fresh”, it’s clear that channel partners want to remain top-of-mind with their prospects.

Though we’ve said this before, marketing during uncertain times is essential for a business to stay afloat. For channel partners, that is no different. Consistent campaigns will not only foster their reputation as experts, but it will show business stability to their customers and prospects, and ensure that partners remain top-of-mind when things return back to normal.

Everyone being relegated to working from home has drastically changed both revenue and demand for channel partners. Through our survey, we’re seeing the positive way that channel partners are navigating these uncertain times. Many are showing great resiliency, and are showing an understanding of the value and impact that marketing can and will have on their business.

While there is still short-term demand right now for certain products, our partners are anticipating a decline in business for the rest of this month and into May. Partners are hoping that continued support from brands – with product stock and staying in touch – will help keep them afloat during these trying times.

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