Putting the Customer First in the Channel
At this point, most “inside baseball” followers of the revenue performance management space have probably seen Eloqua’s announcement late last week that they are terminating their relationship with The Pedowitz Group (TPG).
Eloqua’s stated rationale is that they are an “IP company” and that, as such, they can only partner effectively if it is on an exclusive basis. I find this to be unfortunate — for The Pedowitz Group, of course, since this directly affects their business and livelihoods — but also for the market at large, because there’s no way that this is a good thing for customers. Since TPG has grown rapidly to become one of Marketo’s largest and most trusted partners, I thought it appropriate to make a few comments on this topic.
First off, I find the “IP company” rationale to be somewhat odd. Software companies have a long history of partnering closely with integrators and service providers large and small, and the vast majority of successful partnerships of this sort are non-exclusive. When I was at Epiphany prior to founding Marketo, we were definitely an “IP company”, yet we partnered closely with Accenture, IBM Global Services, Deloitte, etc. — all of whom were also the most strategic partners of our arch-competitor Siebel. We all knew the drill. We shared our IP closely with these partners, and trusted that they had the integrity and processes necessary to protect our IP while delivering services to their end customers. Here at Marketo, we have taken this same approach in our partnerships with TPG and other expert partners in our space.
Putting the Customer First
If it stopped at being odd, this announcement would not merit comment. But sadly, Eloqua’s move is also profoundly anti-customer. The revenue performance management market is as dynamic and fiercely competitive as any I have ever seen in my 30-year career. The good news is that this competition is driving innovation and very affordable price points for customers. But the bad news is that prospective customers are easily overwhelmed during their evaluation and decision process.
Independent consultants like The Pedowitz Group play an essential role in this process. When independent consultants are knowledgeable about multiple vendors — and conduct themselves in a way that puts the customer first — everyone wins in the long run. In our year or so of working with TPG, we have had moments of anger and frustration when Jeff or a member of his team recommended Eloqua or another competitor into a deal where we thought Marketo would be a great fit. But in the end, we always made peace with it because we knew that we were on a level playing field and that Jeff was representing the customer and putting the customer’s needs first.
Moving forward, we have a clear compass. At Marketo, we will work with several strategic partners including The Pedowitz Group. We will share our IP with them, and seek to build the closest possible relationships. But we are also firmly committed to an open marketplace. We will expect our partners to be independent, to control their own destiny, and most important, to put customers ahead of any vendor interest, including our own. As a leader in this market, we are confident that independent decisions on an open, level playing field will fall in our favor more often than not — and that will help us to build a great company.