I had the chance to hang out with the Ingram Micro VTN community last week in Boston, and witness the unveiling of a cool new tool from Ingram Micro for that group – a partner portal for the community that enables faster, deeper partnerships between members. For those of you not familiar with VTN, it is an opt-in peer-to-peer group with several hundred members. VTN launched the idea of the power of peer communities many years ago (Check out this background from when VTN founders were honored by CompTIA) and has continued to push forward as an elite peer community.
As with other peer-to-peer groups, VTN is subdivided into user groups by geography, which helps create tight mini-communities to foster partnership between businesses that need help with additional technology specialties, an expanded footprint or additional service capabilities. That interaction often grows across the U.S., with companies in different geographies working together. But now, with the new portal, those links can happen faster and grow stronger.
I would argue that as competition in the channel heats up – more and more companies are launching into the IT provider market as cloud allows faster ramp up and simpler solution deliver for those new businesses – partnership between peers can become a competitive edge. It allows you as a provider to add new technology expertise at the blink of an eye (and a quick phone call to a partner). It empowers a small solution provider to grow across the nation using partners to service customers when the need arises for an actual office visit. Working together may be as simple as stopping by to physically swap out a server; it can be as complicated as serving as each other’s redundant data centers if both partners are cloud services providers.
No matter how you approach partnership, having distribution or vendor partners that help you identify and connect with potential partners is incredibly valuable. For Ingram Micro, the goal of the new VTN portal is to help take face-to-face networking at events to the next level. For example, maybe you remember you met a provider from Atlanta that has a specialty in mobile, but that is all you remember. This portal will allow you to search for that VTN member with nothing more than that information. Pretty neat, eh?
I know not everyone is involved in communities, but I highly recommend you add that to your 2013 strategic plan. It opens up such opportunity – through Ingram Micro or another community – that you may find your partnerships become one of the key drivers for success.