Gavin Struthers has been the McAfee channel chief for just four months, replacing the veteran Alex Thurber. In that time, Struthers, a South African-national, hit a few milestones for the security vendor’s channel business.
For example, McAfee now has more than 2,000 SMB Specialized partners in its network. The San Jose, Calif.-based company also dramatically increased the number of SMB registered deals by 45 per cent. Struthers is also showing he’s a quick worker as 70 per cent of the SMB deals being registered in McAfee’s deal registration program are now being approved in less than 30 minutes.
During his short time in the role, Struthers has been travelling the globe meeting with channel partners and developing a battle plan for the channel focused primarily on the small-to-mid-sized business market. A market, he said, that is even more relevant to Canadian solution providers than in the U.S.
In an interview, Struthers told CDN that he understands channel partners have many choices in the market and that he’s coming to them with the approach of mutual profitability. “One of those profitable areas is SMBs. I want to put my money where my mouth is and deliver the money and muscle on those that deliver on SMB business,” he said.
Struthers made time for CDN to explain his company’s SMB channel plans. The following is an edited transcript.
CDN: Why such a heavy emphasis on the SMB market?
Gavin Struthers: After the top 50 accounts it’s a small business model. We talk about SMBs as a 250-person business and smaller. There’s an AMI study that states SMB is a $5.1 billion market opportunity with a nine per cent annual growth rate. That’s a global number, and fairly big. SMB is big business. For us, putting money and muscle with the partners and increasing our spend with them by 25 per cent will mean more marketing support, more sales support, and more inside channel resources. My view is SMB is healthy. We had the fad diets with SMB and there is no other vendor who has pulled together a comprehensive personal training program like MacAfee. We’ll give them 25 per cent extra margin on a new piece of business and that’s a great example of our momentum in the SMB with the channel. We’re offering rewards to partners and it will be tied to SMB deal dollars per node. We’re planning on doubling that reward to $2 per node. Our claims for those rewards have tripled in the first quarter. Partners showing that they’re responding in this area.
CDN: Last year, Alex Thurber announced numerous channel programs at the partner conference. Are you going to support all of those initiatives going forward?
G.S.: We put together a lot of things to create a compelling program and I’m going to support everything that we launched last year. We’ll round out the program in the short to mid term. It will all be about the support for partners, and that investment is to make sure we have back-end resource and profit offerings.
CDN: Some feedback I’ve received from channel partners is that margin levels are too stagnant in security. How can you drive those margins up with McAfee?
G.S.: Partners will want to make double digits margin and you want to reward them for their effort. You need to give margin up front and that’s when deal registration comes in. But that’s just one part of it. Margins in the deal registration program give individual partners some incentives. We provide rewards for sales people and for pre-sales engineers. It’s all about their profitability. From our research, if you can get a customer to invest in multiple solutions and products and get customers to that next layer in security, like host intrusion prevention, you’ll get a three-plus return on that spend, for example. Partners who go deeper and add more value can get three or five-times return on their dollars. Those more sophisticated solutions have more margin than just commodity solution.
CDN: In your latest blog you talk about strengthening channel partner relevance. What are you seeing in terms of areas they need to improve upon to become more relevant to customers?
G.S.: Relevance to MacAfee may be a revelation to them and the customer. I strongly believe that security is mystical and needs a lot of education. SMB customers are passionate about their business and would rather not worry about IT. They need to be protected. They need knowledge on what they could be facing; what it means to be at risk or have their customer’s credit card details stolen. The channel has to learn how to be a better trusted advisor to SMB customers. And that’s were PARC (partner acceleration resource centre) comes. McAfee created PARC to educate them and give them the tools and teach them a better way to do security. Today, too many partners do black listing on malware and that approach is no longer enough with the deluge of 60,000 pieces of malware a day. You can’t update a signature file 43 times in a minute; you need more protection in place and SMB partners have to tell that story.