Channel Partners Turn To WhatsApp For Lead Gen, Networking
Mumbai: Communication and networking are the two key elements of the channel business. The IT channel industry has evolved over the years and the modes of communication have also changed over the time. Social media is rapidly replacing the traditional modes of communication and channel partners are increasingly leveraging on the platform to add value to their business.
WhatsApp which was earlier known only for chats and sharing of media files, has today become an integral part of channel business. Today, channel partners are heavily relied on WhatsApp not only for communication and networking but for generating business leads.
WhatsApp Penetrates Deep In Channel
The channel community can be an excellent case study for an efficient usage of WhatsApp in the business. Simplicity and multilingual support are the major factors responsible for the large scale adoption of WhatsApp among the channel partners. Channel partners mainly use WhatsApp for the broadcasting purpose. It is very simple to operate and offers features such as document sharing, data encryption, easy sharing of media files and so on. The biggest advantage of WhatApp is it enables the channel partners to stay connected with their respective business on the go.
Multilingual support is another added advantage WhatsApp offers to the channel partners. Most of the channel business is executed in regional languages and WhatsApp bring a lot of ease to resellers who prefer to communicate with their suppliers and buyers in local language.
Sanjeev Pathare, owner of Pune based Computer Shoppe says that WhatsApp is an excellent tool to share product updates with customers. “I am very active on WhatsApp in terms of sharing product updates with customers on a daily basis. If customers are interested in the product, they send us their queries via the WhatsApp group and share the quotations accordingly. So, it is a win-win situation for both us and customers. Now customers do not need to visit the shop to choose the product and we also get an idea about customer preference for particular brand,” Pathare says.
Pankaj Shah, Owner of Mumbai based Technoplus Systems says that WhatApp is very helpful to get quick responses, often leading to quick decision making. “All channel partners use smartphones and you will find them very active on WhatsApp. It is very helpful in generating leads and connect buyers and sellers. Whenever, we require any particular brand, we raise queries on WhatsApp and get an immediate update on the availability of that particular product”, Shah says.
Key Communication Tool For Associations
Today, all the major IT associations and channel partners have their dedicated WhatsApp groups. These groups are an effective tool to communicate latest industry updates to all the members. WhatsApp played a crucial role in the nationwide purchase bandh against vendors and national distributors by Federation of All India IT Association (FAIITA) in December 2014.
It as a crucial link between the national association and its parent bodies during the strike. Associations such as ASIRT, ISODA, IAMCP have dedicated WhatsApp groups which keep its members about the activities of the associations. Similarly, resellers and suppliers leverage on WhatsApp groups to connect with potential buyers and enhance their business network.
“We at ASIRT, leverage WhatsApp to raise members’ issues with vendors and distributors in a big way. It is an ideal platform to get members’ feedback on the association’s activities and initiatives. Similarly, it also helps to generate leads for our members and help them to connect with right stakeholders”, says Kshitiz Kotak, chairman of ASIRT.
Drawback Of WhatsApp
While WhatsApp is adding a lot of value to the channel business, it also has some disadvantages due to which many channel partners have suspended usage of the messaging app. Unwanted massages and irrelevant updates, continues hammering of product updates is very prevalent in some of the WhatsApp communities. Hence, many channel partners have left groups that do not add any value to their business.
Vimesh Avlani, CEO of Graftronics says that channel partners need to have discipline of using the massaging and networking platform. “WhatsApp is certainly helpful in the crisis situation, especially when there is an urgent need for material. However, many channel partners are yet to learn the manners of using social networking platforms. Partners must have discipline of using such platforms only, for the business purpose. Motivational messages, irrelevant videos and images should be strictly avoided from groups which are formed only for trading purpose”, Avlani says.
Similarly, WhatsApp group has a limitation of the number of group members due which many potential resellers cannot become a part of relevant groups. “ I have three groups specifically for CIOs, CTOs and IT Infrastructure managers. Everyday, I am flooded with request from people to add them to the respective group, but the current limit of group members does not permit to do so”, says Kshitiz Kotak, Executive Director and Chief Product Innovator at Gre@cells BlackBox.
Channel partners have also raised concerns over the data privacy and security on WhatsApp. The massaging app is accused of sharing users’ data with the parent company Facebook. However, WhatsApp has denied to have any access to users chat history. Some partners are very cautious about sharing the sensitive information of the messaging platform and prefer to have personal discussion over chat. However, Avlani says that partners need to get aware about how to activate the security features on the app to ensure data security.
“In my opinion, WhatsApp is very secure messaging app which offers end to end encryption. However, most of channel partners are not aware about this feature and therefore, they are not able to use it properly”, he says.
The benefit of technology is purely depends on its usage and the same rule applies to all the modern social media platforms including WhatsApp. Social media platforms enable partners to deliver faster by reducing the turnaround time. However, it is very important to have discretion while leveraging on the power of digital media.