When I launched this blog last year, I wanted to make sure I would post my observations/learnings from jumping into a new product (websites) and building a new reseller sales channel. I want to do that today with a focus on distribution.
First some background - when I was at Verisign, our distribution channel was obvious. We could sell to any Web Hosting company that became ICANN accredited. Pretty straight-forward. But that model lent itself to more of an Account Management approach and less of a true sales initiative (ie. starting from scratch and enrolling accounts based on the value of the product).
When I joined eNom, I was in a true highly competitive environment. We had a more mature established Resellers channel. My focus was again on the traditional web hosting companies and, for the first time, telcos came into play. In the second half of my tenure at eNom, I noticed that growing distribution was turning into a mash-up of the following:
- Protecting yourself from acquisitions of your channel partners. In other words, if your big resellers got acquired, you better make sure you protected that business and figured out a way to keep these Resellers on your platform.
- Positioning yourself to be on the positive side of acquisitions. In other words, building relationships with partners that are acquisitive and ensuring that when they purchased other hosts etc, they moved that volume to your platform. In my case, moving domains to eNom.
- Going beyond the Web Host space. As I said, the space was super competitive. So you had to look for opportunities beyond this space. Telcos were a good fit. But I was convinced that we had to find bigger channels to maintain growth. Ironically that is how I came to start researching the web builder industry.
I want to focus on this concept of looking for growth. When you are committed to launching a Channel business, you typically have three categories of customers:
1. Incumbents: Companies in the market using your product right now. In my case, Web Hosters & Telcos were the incumbents. They sold web site builders and had a long track record of experience using them, supporting them, and marketing them.
2. Known New Entrants: Smaller percentage of companies using your product. A perfect example of this is what I like to call Vertical Service Providers. In my Weebly world, these are companies focused on SEO/SEM, Design, Incorporation, Directory Listings. In short, these companies have a core product/service they sell to a specific base (most likely SMBs). Your product is very complimentary to their core product and thus you begin see adoption from these players at a steady rate as more of them understand the value of your product.
3. Future Candidates: This is the where the real work comes in. Getting to this answer demands the following action your part:
- Talking to your Incumbents: They are a huge resource in determining where the business is headed and what they obstacles are right now.
- Researching the journey of the New Entrants in to your product. How did they find us? What features are attractive to them? How are they using our product differently from Incumbents.
- Attend conferences and leverage your network. In my world, I find companies like 451 Research and Structure Research have great data.
So, with that being said, let me share some of my observations of where I think the channel is headed in terms of growth in my world:
1. Acquisitions will continue to have a big impact in the Hosting sector. I have been following and reading alot about the recent moves by Liquid Web (Rackspace), Host Europe Group (for sale), GoDaddy (ManageWP), etc. The obvious impact is that big players will get bigger. But more importantly, it shows their laser focus determination to ramp up SMB acquisition. Aligning your product with their strategic focus is critical.
2. International continues to drive more opportunity. Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America still have great growth potential. Included in the category are Emerging Markets who still need the basic online bundle. If you see the signs on your side of International adoption, then the next steps are obvious - adding new languages, local currencies, etc.
3. Marketplaces are driving big opportunities. As Cloud continues to become more pervasive, the introduction of Apps continues to grow.....and become essential to your sales growth. For example, when we launched in 2015, we launched with CPanel and WHMCS. These apps/modules allowed for speed-to-market and adoption by a variety of web hosts. So where are the new marketplaces? Thats what you need to look for. In my space, it is a continued search for the growing marketplaces that companies are flocking to launch new services. I want Weebly to be listed in that marketplace to allow for great distribution and quicker launches by big customers (which I think is the greatest strength of these marketplaces).
It has been almost two years since we launch the Reseller program at Weebly. It continues to be a rewarding experience building our channel each day and pursue the next growth opp!
I leave with a video I did at Hostingcon discussing next steps at Weebly. Enjoy!