The technology partner landscape is changing fast, including the incoming wave of marketplaces. As a profession, channel marketing and sales needs to evolve. Training is one part of the toolbox for companies operating in this space—but where do you go for reliable and effective training as a vendor or partner? 

We take a look at Channel Institute to see how it measures up in helping scale-up tech vendors to grow their channel sales. 

Industry-accredited training for channel professionals

The headline business of the Channel Institute is providing training for channel professionals. It offers certificates in channel marketing, channel sales, and digital co-marketing, and can also provide corporate training and consultancy services. All the courses are online, so can be accessed by channel professionals in their own time, and at their own pace. 

Supported by an Industry Advisory Council

The Channel Institute has an impressive-looking Industry Advisory Council, with representatives from companies including Microsoft, Cisco, HP, Oracle and SAP. This council reviews the Institute’s courses to ensure that the content meets their future needs for employees. This is helpful for these companies, and for those taking part in courses—and it’s also a very good way for the Institute to ensure that it retains market relevance.

It is not entirely clear who runs the company on a day-to-day basis

There is not a great deal of information about those behind the Channel Institute on its website or social media. It appears to have been founded in 2017 by Mike Kelly, a serial entrepreneur originally from Dublin. The main company contact now seems to be the training manager, Stephen Blake. 

Filling an underserved gap in the market

Channel marketing and sales have historically been seen as less glamorous and more complex than many other routes to market. There have been very few organisations that have provided training specific to channel marketing. The Channel Institute has therefore identified an important gap in the market. It has successfully highlighted channel as a profession in its own right, which needs industry-accredited standards of learning and capabilities.  

The main competition is likely to be vendors creating their own partner training programmes

The previous market leader in training for channel marketing was Channelcorp, which was founded in 1989, but ceased trading in 2021. The other main source of training has historically been vendors, sometimes requiring partners to attend training as an essential prerequisite to joining a partner marketing programme. The main focus has been to standardise skills and improve alignment across partners. 

Targeting global channel teams in the US

The membership of the Channel Institute’s Advisory Council suggests that its main market is global channel teams in the US. This is a logical choice, because these teams need to drive scale and performance across their partner base, and also have the funding to engage with this on a large scale. They have a choice: either use an organisation like the Channel Institute, or develop their own programmes. 

External accreditation is likely to be attractive to channel managers

The big advantage of using an external organisation is the external accreditation. This gives the whole programme much more credibility. It also makes it more attractive to partners, as well as staff at both vendors and partners. They perceive that they are gaining something from the experience. This may be especially important now, when people are reconsidering work in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking steps to make channel marketing recognised as a profession

The Institute has links to at least one university, Emory in the US. Anyone who completes the Emory course in Channel Management and Strategy can obtain a certificate in Channel Management from the Institute. The purpose seems to be to ensure that channel marketing and sales and co-marketing are recognised as professional paths. 

The longer view

The Channel Institute has developed a strong business model, and is clearly filling a gap in the market. However, will it become the provider of choice, or will vendors continue to develop their own partner training programmes? US-based vendors could well find it worth a look, especially as a way of outsourcing partner training. However, firms elsewhere may be better off developing their own programmes, perhaps in conjunction with local training or accreditation bodies.