Sunday, March 09, 2008

Final Thoughts on "Everything Channel"

I have to thank Bob Nitro for introducing me to XChange. I'd heard of it, of course, but didn't know what it was.

In a nutshell, "Everything Channel" (formerly CMP Media)'s XChange conference is an event that's about the Channel.

SMB Nation, SMB Summit, SBS Migration, ASCII, ICCA, etc. are all about the business and technology of being an I.T. Consultant.

They all have technology. They are all places to learn about new products. They all help us do our jobs better.

XChange is a different animal. It is all channel all the time.

Vendors pay for the whole fiesta of fun. And they expect attendees to attend every single event on their schedules. Each attendee is placed in a group and goes through the conference with that group.

The literature always includes a discussion of "How you can partner with us?" or "How to make money selling our stuff." One of the session evaluation questions is about how well the presenter articulated the value of their channel program.

The extended event (Wednesday to Saturday) is a real opportunity to give feedback to vendors.

At most events, companies send traveling marketing people. But XChange is filled with high-level Channel executives. These are the VPs in charge of partner relationships. General managers clog the hallways.

And they do more than give speeches. They ask for feedback. They want to know how they can do better.

And the awards are focused on the strength of the companies' channel programs.


Two other aspects separate XChange.

1) Ingram Micro and Synnex join D&H on the vendor floor. As an SMB consultant, I'm happy to see the D&H folks at lots and lots of conferences. They are great supporters of the SMB space and work very hard to be seen as the vendor of choice for SMB.

But it is great to see Ingram and Synnex here. They say they are interested in SMB. But the truth is, they're here because XChange has resellers of all sizes. And these two companies are here because the larger resellers are here. I would encourage them to do more than print up flyers that say "We love SMB." I encourage them to show up at a lot more of the conferences.

2) XChange is also unique in that it has a wide variety of resellers. There are one-man shops, companies like mine with eight employees, and major national corporations with many outlets. You see this variety at single-vendor partner conferences (e.g., SonicWall partner conference or Microsoft partner conference), but this is the only multi-vendor conference that puts the focus on the channel relationship.

You always hear that the hallway conversations are the best thing about a conference. That's true here, in part because I can talk to people who have a significantly different focus, or who are several stages above where my company is.

I shared a table with Ira Gray from Detroit during my executive sessions. Ira was asking Dell about why he didn't get a price break above 250 units for certain computers.

I've never had a sale of 250 units of anything that costs more than $10 each. Clearly, Ira has different concerns with vendors than I do. So I enjoyed spending four days chatting with him about business.

Overall, I get the impression that a large percentage of the resellers here see SMB very much as the vendors see it: It's another segment they can sell into.


If there's a DNA in business thought patterns, the SMB segment is probably the most diverse. The closer you get to the enterprise level, the more in-breeding there is. After all, there are fewer of them and they spend most of their time talking to each other.

At the same time, I'm happy to have the opportunity to see how the larger VARs operate. My company can use some of that DNA.

Overall, XChange has been a spectacular conference. Well run. Extremely well organized. Refreshing focus. Refreshing honesty from vendors. Great attendees.

And I'm going home with a suitcase full of squeezy toys.

What more can you ask for?

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