Good communications with your customers is about as basic a business tenet as you'll ever find. But for SMBs that rely on channel partners to sell their products, communicating with them hasn't always been easy or affordable. That's why Analog Method a New York City-based Web-development company created Channeltivity, a partner extranet solution designed to make working with channel partners more affordable and less complicated for SMBs.
Here's an example of how a channel partner extranet works. One of the country's largest resellers, CDW, sells Cisco routers. Instead of calling Cisco when it needs the latest documentation or pricing for a new product, CDW simply logs on to its own password-protected area of Cisco's extranet and downloads the material.
According to Zach Smith, Analog Method's managing partner, Channeltivity is the first partner extranet solution for SMBs. "Most small business owners can't afford an extranet solution from the big guys," said Smith. "If an SMB wanted an extranet solution for its channel partners, it had to buy a custom built system. The only other option was to go ad hoc cobble together a combination of statistical sites, FTP sites and regular e-mail. Those options don't offer any convenience, scalability or flexibility."
Bridging the Channel
Seeing the need, the company developed Channeltivity so it can be used in two ways either as a hosted monthly subscription service (ASP) that you logon to over the Web, or as an enterpriser solution (software that you can buy and install on your own server).
Smith points out that the program offers SMBs a range of flexible, scalable features. "With a Channeltivity extranet, you can share any information with your channel partners. You can even segment areas so that you control who has access to certain information," he said. "For example, if your product pricing structure differs from one geographic region to another, you can customize your content based on the needs of each region, and limit access to the content based on a channel partner's location."
Other features include:
- Control over document sharing, user management and permissions. Potential benefit: reduced reliance on IT.
- Modular architecture lets companies customize and expand the extranet functionality to meet the needs of their partners' businesses. Potential benefit: the program's flexible enough to grow with your business.
- Streamlines communications and removes inefficient manual processes. Potential benefit: Increased productivity combined with very low maintenance.
In addition to letting you provide your partners with vital information, Channeltivity also provides you with information on channel partner activity. "The program's reporting feature really helps you keep your finger on the pulse of the channel and your partners," said Smith.
The program can tell you what information the partners access the most. "For example," said Smith, "you might notice that over time, a partner is downloading fewer price lists. You can then contact them to see if there's a problem. Or maybe they start downloading more lists. The software gives you an excellent overview of your partners' activity level. This kind of intelligence can help you figure out the best kind of content for your partner sites and also help you produce accurate sales forecasts."
Zach Smith calls Channeltivity a hybrid between a classic ASP and a custom solution. "Like an ASP, our product offers quick deployment with very low upfront costs, and just like a custom solution Channeltivity has the flexibility to give you what you need."
Hosted ASP model: $800 per month for 100 partners. Additional users cost $100 per month for every 50 partners.
Enterprise Solution: Pricing based on the number of servers and clients. Contact Analog Method for specific information.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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