Things I heard (and overheard) at the BlueStar Innovative Solutions Tour which attracted nearly 150 channel executives to Mississauga, Ontario on May 11:
Recurring Revenue Is All The Rage
I made sure to stop by every software developer tabletop at the conference and each ISV mentioned recurring revenue as one of their pitches to attract resellers. The functionality of the software ranged from restaurant online ordering apps to location-based marketing to digital menu-building to gift cards, but their commonality was offering VARs an opportunity to move away from the break/fix business model.
During the conference’s general session panel discussion (which I was honored to be a part of), recurring revenue was referenced frequently. I shared the story of a Vantiv reseller partner I talked with recently who told me details of his transition to more recurring revenue. First, his company created software when they saw the need in his niche of the grocery vertical, and they now sell that product to other VARs. Additionally, they regularly add new service offerings – some large, most small – to build up their monthly recurring revenue. “I do a lot of little,” the reseller told me.
Passion, Not Pitches
I’ve attended many vendor- and distributor-sponsored conferences during my nearly two decades in the channel, so by now I expect the company president to deliver a matter-of-fact state-of-the-organization speech. You know what I’m talking about – the basic message is “You’re great, we’re great, have a great event. Thank you!”
Michel Sirois, the President of BlueStar Canada, thanked the attendees for sure, but his talk wasn’t filled with self-praise and PR speak. “We’re going to challenge the way you do business,” he said. “Yes, your disty is going to challenge you.”
Sirois discussed disruptions in our industry, communication changes with millennials in the workforce, and the increased role marketing plays in today’s sales process. “We’ve got to change our game,” he said. “Sales is gone. It’s now education – we have to change how we go to market.”
One of Sirois’ slides was titled “Top Performers,” and he implored BlueStar’s partners to live up to these three standards:
- Have the ability to stop and take a hard look in the mirror
- Have the ability to include all stakeholders in the conversation
- Have the ability to let go of the existing behaviors and practices that are no longer serving the organization’s success
Where Is Our Channel’s Youth Movement?
The panel discussion I referenced earlier included Julian Lee, CEO of Technoplanet; Roisin Bonner, Social Media Lead at Microsoft; Lindsay Notwell, VP of Cradlepoint Canada; Jared Bernatt, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft; and me representing Vantiv.
One part of our talk that really stuck with me was when Lee asked the audience who in attendance planned to exit their business and our channel in the next 5-7 years. About 15 hands went up representing approximately 10-15% of the crowd. Then Lee asked for a show of hands to see who has entered our channel in the past two years. Only one person responded. Conclude what you will from that, but I thought the disparity was significant and slightly unsettling.
One way resellers can engage with the younger generation is through social media. I was glad to see most of the audience said they had updated LinkedIn profiles, and I was happy to hear Bonner’s measured approach to the role social media plays in marketing. It’s complementary to your overall branding and marketing efforts, not a replacement for them, she said. The panel was also fairly loud that before you start down the path of any new marketing effort, make sure your company website is up to 2017 standards. Your Facebook and Twitter posts should direct users to something like this or this … not this.
Opportunities Abound For Resellers, ISVs
At the conclusion of the panel, I shared one of my favorite reseller quotes from 2017. This comment was submitted by a Vantiv partner when we collected data for our POS Channel KPI Study: “There are threats and opportunities in mind-boggling abundance.”
The vibe of the BlueStar event was certainly more opportunity-focused than threatening to VARs and ISVs. The tools provided by the vendor community – both the products and the support – have never been better. Resellers certainly don’t have to go it alone, and the channel’s leading VARs and ISVs are aggressive in maximizing these partnerships.
Our industry is changing fast and increasing in complexity, but there is great potential for high-initiative resellers who know their vertical, own their customer’s network, and from that sell new products and services – the total solution. The key, as Sirois said, is letting go of the behaviors that are no longer moving you forward and adapting for the future.