I took the opportunity to attend the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas this week. Why, you might ask? Fair question. On a hunch I decided to attend what is billed as a gathering of 6,000 channel partners with the likes of AT&T, Vonage, Comcast 4 Business, Century Link and other household names among the event’s sponsors.

My first impression was that Vonage – sponsor of the first afternoon sessions – was privately disappointed with the turnout. While billed as 6,000 attendees, the opening sessions, paid for by Vonage Business, were sparsely attended.

But those Tuesday sessions were considered pre-conference. By the time things got rolling on Wednesday morning the halls of the Sands Expo Center were filled with many, many badges like mine.

Here’s a quick recap of the event. As I said 6,000 were reportedly in attendance. I am guessing that two-thirds of the attendees were SMBs — either master agents, agents, MSPs (managed service providers), VARs (value added resellers) or partners. A quick side note – one big business in this arena is in producing logo-embossed button down shirts.

In essence these companies are operating in the $1.3 trillion digital transformation arena (according to IDC), or the $1.8 trillion business insights arena (according to Forrester). According to Jay McBain of Forrester, there may be as many as 150,000 agents, MSPs, VARs or partners operating in some area of these mammoth sized markets in the U.S. McBain indicated that CMOs are now spending more on technology than CIOs as CMOs are charged with leveraging technology for delivering high value customer experiences. Gartner’s Public Cloud Services Revenue Forecast indicates cloud services spending will reach $300 billion by 2021.

OK so lots of big numbers, which explains why was I there. After a little while it became apparent that there may be some interesting opportunities for digital media participants to play in this large market.

For instance, one of the things I heard regularly from agents, MSPs and VARs that I spoke to was the need for more (drumroll please) qualified leads. I asked around and there are some marketing companies that came up in discussions. One was Austin-based MSPSEO Factory and another was Mojo Marketing out of San Diego. With some 150,000 potential prospects, I would think there’s plenty more room for others to serve this large, specialized market.

This morning Bryan Martin, CEO of 8X8 made a interesting case about the third wave of communications were are entering. This third wave is something he called the “One Cloud Engagement Platform.” His argument is that wave two was a shift to the many clouds — all that were individually good solutions but that many of the clouds weren’t integrated. As he said, today the Customer Experience is fractured because Employee Experience is fractured. In his words, the agent saying “let me get back to you” just won’t fly anymore.

So, here are my takeaways from 48 hours in Vegas. There’s something in this marketplace. Here’s why — there are 150,000 SMBs operating as agents, MSPs, VARs and partners that are serving millions of SMBs downstream. They all need to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, they need SEO solutions, they need reviews, they need CRM tools – they need help.

Will it be easy to march on into this marketplace. No, but with some discipline and patience, there may well be a jackpot for some lucky players.

Oh, and one more thing. I left Vegas up $25.

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