Last week, our very own Bill Lipsin — vice president of partners and alliances — was named by CRN as a Channel Chief this year, an award we are thrilled that Bill was chosen for. CRN is viewed by channel partners and technology vendors as one of the key publications and source of experts in channels. This award reinforces that Arbor is taking the necessary steps to be recognized as an important vendor for channel partners to consider as part of their portfolio.
The following is a recent Q&A conversation we held with Bill, delving into Arbor’s evolving channel and Bill’s thoughts on what makes Arbor’s channel program tick in a way that sets the company apart in the industry.
Congratulations on being named a Channel Chief this year, Bill. In your view, how has this past year been an integral one for Arbor’s channel program?
We set upon this channel journey almost two years ago, realizing that it takes at least two years to build a channel effectively. We are at different stages of channel maturity within different geographies. The consistent element, however, is that Arbor continues to deliver to the channel technologies that address an ever increasing threat to companies doing business online. This increased dependence on the network requires improved visibility to understand what traffic is coming into the network and the ability to quickly and accurately handle attacks and bad traffic.
For years, we’ve been successful with our Peakflow solutions, providing visibility and DDoS capabilities to major service providers around the world. To constantly adapt to the evolving nature of network security availability threats, Arbor has invested in developing new products and solutions focused on enterprise-level DDoS application-layer attacks and the enterprise’s need for increased network visibility.
We realize that in order to have these products introduced effectively to our focused enterprise markets, we need to optimize our sales and support coverage. Meeting that objective requires additional resources that complement our internal Arbor expertise and, managed correctly, accelerates our access to market.
Coverage entails marketing, selling, consulting, packaging solutions, installing, and supporting Arbor products as either standalone offerings or as part of a more comprehensive security solution for customers.
In the past year, we have expanded our product offerings, recruited and enabled many new channel partners and added a new OEM partner. These are all building blocks required to solidify our channel foundation for growth.
How do you see the channel evolving this year, now that we are a few months into 2013?
In January, we introduced an updated channel program designed to provide for our next steps with the channel. This included:
- Vehicles to work more effectively with our partners at different relationship stages, from entry-level throughout their evolution as Arbor partners
- The ability to broaden our partner base, providing desired coverage across various verticals, geographies and skill levels
- Additional incentives for partners to evolve in their relationship with us, investing in the necessary skills and tools to grow their Arbor business
You’ve been with Arbor for two years now – what would you say sets Arbor’s channel program apart?
A channel program requires several elements to help drive the channels success. The first is a market that provides the ability for a channel partner to grow and financially prosper. Arbor has that opportunity in spades and the opportunity seems to grow with the increased security threats and breaches that we read about in the news or see our prospects and customers faced with. Our channel strategy and program is designed to offer partners the ability to generate a solid margin based on the market needs and a closed distribution model.
The next element is a longer term plan that allows channel partners to make the appropriate business decisions in terms of not only picking up a product line but also investing in the necessary skills and tools to effectively support that offering. We articulated that plan when we first announced Arbor’s channel strategy. We are now in the next phase of that plan. Having a plan then executing upon that plan should give channel partners a level of confidence to continue to invest WITH their vendor. We have that plan documented and supported by Arbor’s management team. We share that plan with channel partners at events such as our annual Summits or in business reviews.
The third piece of the puzzle is a win-win engagement with the vendor’s sales teams. Commission plans and rules of engagement are tools that help minimize the channel friction seen with certain vendors. However, these tools are not sufficient in and of themselves. The key to helping grow a healthy channel is how a vendor’s sales force works on a day-to-day basis with the channels. We have some geographies and individuals within Arbor that are leading the industry in how they work with their channel partners. We provide them the opportunity to put forth the channel partners that they believe will help them in their territory and, assuming that they pass our criteria, they can choose the partner that are authorized.
And last, but not least, are the investments that Arbor has made and is making in enabling our channel partners. This includes both sales and technical training as well as joint marketing and field collaboration.