Monday, January 11, 2010

Channel Conflict Now Hits the Event Market

We certainly have heard a lot about channel conflict for a number of years, but the calendar now seems to be the latest battle ground as three networking giants have decided to all hold their partner events the same week - the last week of April. Our good friend The Var Guy wrote about it in his blog last week and posted the dates. The unfortunate thing is that those dates are also the same exact same week as our HTG members will be in Dallas for our Q2 event. Our dates have been set for 2010 and 2011 for some time so it is unfortunate that these vendor events overlay our dates.

So what's a partner to do? Whether you are a partner with Juniper, Cisco or HP - the challenge is the same. You can't be more than one place at a time, right? Well, not exactly. I think this is a great time to leverage the reality that most companies need to broaden their relationships with vendors and send a different person to these partner events. Having attended a number of them over the last 25 years, I have come to the realization that more often than not they really aren't targeted at the CEO/owner anyway. Normally there is a lot of technical and sales information, a handful of partner program info, and some motivational talks from the main stage. The CEO of the vendor normally is there to share his take on the future. But is attending this kind of event the best use of time for an owner?

Maybe, just maybe it is time to send your sales manager and service manager, VP of Sales or VP of services, or whatever label you may be using, in your place. My experience is they will get a lot more out of the vendor events because the information is targeted at them and it directly impacts their job performance and often pay. Owners may take a few notes but seldom get around to sharing with the appropriate folks they left home in the office. Am I right? Are you raising your hand on that one? Sure it was nice to get out of the office and go to a nice venue and spend a few days in the middle of a bunch of folks you don't know. Easy to hide and slip away for some R&R time during the breakouts. But in reality, we build our bench and increase our leadership and ultimately our organization when we send the folks in the trenches to the vendor events. It can also be a way to reward those in your company that have performed well and can enjoy the special treatment that typically goes with these vendor events.

Owners need to focus on running their organization, executing and strategizing for the future. That is what happens when HTG peers get together. While I am disappointed there is a conflict, there is little doubt in my mind where the value of those days will best be filled for owners. Having folks together in Dallas focused on their business working on their problems listening to their peers will have far more impact than a few days of vendor fire hose. Sorry to our vendor friends, but running events against what really matters like HTG will cause us to have to skip your event. Even if we are on the advisory council, which is my issue with HP. I hate to miss it but there really is no decision on this one - I will be in Dallas with HTG as that is where I get the most bang for my time investment.

Our calendar is posted through the end of 2011. I hope we can avoid these conflicts in future years. I don't mind if the three networking companies want to compete for my time, just don't expect me to give up the most important event which is spending time focused with my peers, to attend yours. It won't happen.....not now, not in the future. So if you want my attendance, a little planning will be necessary. Priorities dictate that peers come first. See you in Dallas!


Chris Brown HTG12 said...

Hey Arlin!
As usual you are right on the money! I was reading through the blog post thinking "...what am I going to do now, I always get so much out of the HP APC..." and then BANG the answer is right in your post. Of course this makes perfect sense and broadens our reach with our vendor partners.


Greg Johnson said...

Arlin - great perspective as always. The vendor fire hose analagy really hit home with me. Best time spent is with the Peers (HTG 13) focused on my business to make it better and give to the others around me. I can always catch up with the vendors, product updates, etc.

Thanks for sharing this perspective and issue.