Barnaby Wood, senior manager, EMEA channel programmes at Imperva, talks to Comms Business about what it really means to be a ‘channel-first’ vendor.
Imperva is a cybersecurity vendor that provides data and application security solutions. Barnaby Wood, senior manager, EMEA channel programmes at Imperva, explained, “Our offerings protect from the endpoint, or the edge, right through to the middle. We’ve recently acquired jSonar and that technology looks at how, products aside, ultimately the thing that any business cares about is its data. [In the past] perhaps we’ve had more of a focus on application security, but we’re now equally – if not more so – focused on data security. You have to have both, but you definitely have to have data security. Because [a business] can never recreate most of [its] data.
“If you’re not protecting data, that’s a fundamental problem. You can put all the locks on the doors and the windows in your house, but if you leave one of them open, and someone gets in and sets fire to your house, it doesn’t matter what locks you had on the door. Because somebody got in and did the damage internally.”
Wood joined Imperva following a stint at a cloud start-up, and before that he spent 18 years at Veritas. He explained, “From an industry perspective, you can learn the product, and you can learn the industry, but you can’t learn quickly how the industry operates in a go-to-market fashion. From experience, the ‘what’s in it for me’ for the channel partner doesn’t always come naturally to people.”
Imperva has put the channel at the heart of its go-to-market strategy. Wood said, “For our company’s success, we need to be in partnership with the channel. And when I say in partnership, I don’t just mean transacting through or giving them a bit of discount. What I mean is genuinely building partnerships.”
This means, that “it’s as important for us to understand what’s relevant for partner success, as it is to understand what success is for us”. Wood said that this is “clearly understood” at a leadership level, from the company’s CEO down to the rest of the organisation. For him, this mentality across Imperva is the key to success.
“It’s very easy to put channel-first on a slide and say, right, we’re channel-first now. But the channel needs more than that. Yes, our partners are an extension of our sales team, but they are also our customer. The ‘what’s in it for me’ for the partner is just as relevant as the ‘what’s in it for me’ for the end user. Otherwise, it doesn’t work because it doesn’t work for everybody.”
Making it easy
Putting partners first, Wood explained, is something that “stems all the way from designing a product for a new release” to “putting it in to the market”. This is because a vendor’s product offering and its go-to-market strategy must make sense for end customers, as well as partners.
Wood added, “We, as a team, treat our partners in the same way we treat our channel account managers. Our job is to make our partners successful, because if our partners are successful, our customers will be satisfied, and our business will be successful as well.
“Throughout my career working with the channel, I’ve very much held the belief that there’s three core things that partners care about. They want to make customer satisfaction a priority, they want to make money, and they want it to be easy. That’s the principle of how we’re moving forward this year: success for everybody.”
Understanding the relationship between resellers or suppliers and their customers is central to success. Wood said, “One thing I have I seen is an assumption that the customer [of a channel partner is] a vendor’s customer. But the customer is not our customer. The customer may be a customer of Imperva, but the reality is that they are our partner’s customer. They probably buy 10, 50, or 100 different products or platforms through a given reseller or supplier. We may tag on to that customer ownership relationship, but understanding that the relationship is owned by the reseller is, to my mind, fundamental to understanding how the channel works.”
As such, Wood aims to develop partner programmes that are about “taking what the channel community knows, and making it more productive to increase their success”. This Wood explained, comes “back to making it easier for the channel to do business”.