"We're not actively culling," said Greg Williams, channel and marketing director at the security vendor in Australia, but we think some might leave, when they realise it's the nature of their business to shift in particular directions. They might not do as much with anti-virus [as others]."
Trend Micro's revamped channel program better reflects obligations of the vendor and its resellers with the aim of building "stronger relationships" with channel partners, Williams claimed.
Some requirements had been removed, such as the stipulation that a Gold Partner be national "which didn't make sense," he said. He pointed out that it should not matter where a successful reseller was located, if Trend Micro was earning the same returns from that business. "The program will be more of a meritocracy," he said. "It will be clearer."
Trend Micro has nearly 400 resellers nationally of which a "large number" of those had not done much business with Trend Micro, Williams said.
"Trend Micro needs to understand its channel more efficiently [and] find channel partners that have synergies with our company," he said.
Williams said the new channel program would still have Platinum, Gold, Silver and Authorised reseller designations but include features that better aligned reseller needs and obligations with those of Trend Micro.
"The program itself has been developed with a lot of input from our channel partners and distributors. We asked them whether the changes would make a difference and whether they were meaningful to the channel," he said.
Silver partners, as part of the normal purchase process may opt to sell maintenance renewals if deemed capable. Previously, selling maintenance renewals was done through a rebates- and claims-based mechanism.
The company has also recently announced an SMB-focused Associate Partner program for its US channel. The Australian strategy incorporates some features of that program, but is tailored for local needs, Williams said.
In Australia, Trend Micro would also focus on SMBs due to the sheer number of businesses in this country with 500 or fewer employees, he said.
"This is the real growth area," Williams said. He saw the new channel program as encouraging resellers to become more proactive. SMBs in particular often required more pre- and post-sales service and support.
Resellers needed to stay involved, rather than resting on their laurels. With that in mind, Trend Micro would view the Authorised Reseller designation as a "nursery" of future Gold partners.
"What we have found is that over time, programs tend to become fairly flat. People don't manage them," Williams said. "We don't want numbers, we want a smart channel."
Trend Micro does 99.9 percent of its Australian business via the channel using a total 25 staff in Sydney and Melbourne. "Our channel is our business. We need to have a channel," said Williams.
Trend Micro in the US has made substantial changes over the past six months to drive 100 percent of its sales through the channel. The company's sales force was overhauled, with territory managers becoming regional channel managers, an accounts sales group folded into the overall channel sales initiative, and channel marketing spend up 40 percent.