Agile Programmes helps MSP’s and technology vendors accelerate growth. MD Barry Turner has over 20 years’ experience in cloud services, marketing & sales planning and project management. He’s an Associate level AWS Certified Solutions Architect and a certified Project Management Professional. We wanted Barry’s perspectives on managed cloud partner marketing.

How do you work with cloud partners?  Working through a primary contractor I provide 4 key services.  I audit partners for Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Oracle, who all require prospective accredited managed service partners to undergo capability audits.  I also help prospective partners prepare for vendor assessment.  I use Gap Analyses for organisations seeking proficiency in the Cloud with benchmarking, service development, sales and marketing strategies. Lastly, we also consult on sales and marketing strategy with SME’s in Wales.

What are the 3 characteristics of successful partnership? In the technology market ‘cool code’ just isn’t enough, close relationships – at a human level, between vendor and partner are key.  A commitment to joint funding – with shared investment of 50:50 regardless of partner size. A partner’s attitude to marketing is also critical they must be committed to marketing to offer limited long-term value. 

What Should Partners Avoid? Silos are dangerous – marketing and sales should work together without strong bias to either discipline. Internal politics need to be avoided (even in smaller companies). A lack of understanding of the end to end customer journey is – ideally partners deliver a smooth experience across marketing/sales/operations.

Is research important? Vendors appreciate the value of research, for themselves and partners. Partners value market data provided by vendors. A few years ago AWS commissioned Forrester to produce an economic value analysis of becoming a cloud partner.  This authoritative report benefitted the entire market, helping position a relative newcomer (with a nascent channel) as Thought Leader. Most partners don’t invest in research – of the hundred or so I work with 5-10% do this.  The largest investment is in market analysis, scrutinising customer and market data, with forecasts and modelling. 

What are the most effective Cloud Partner value-adds? Marketing support is a primary benefit of partner certification. Value adds include hands-on marketing advice, assets and opportunities to co-fund end-user marketing. AWS and Microsoft support partners with joint sales engagement, proof of concepts, tech support and help to transition clients onto cloud platforms etc. I think the three best value adds available are:

  • Case Studies: AWS, Oracle and Microsoft fund or co-fund partner case studies on new technology developments. They invest billions in R&D, adding around 2,500 new services and features a year to the cloud. Case studies and technology thought leadership helps support partner differentiation.
  • Partner meetings and conferences: CV-19 aside, Microsoft, AWS and Oracle deliver excellent partner conferences and events. They host events for specific large partners or larger multi-partner events. Microsoft host multiple conferences in country, with a commercial or technology bias. AWS host annual partner conferences in US and UK (over 15,000 partner attendees).

How important are propositions and messaging for partners? It’s getting harder to distinguish between MSP’s in a fast maturing market with complex services such as DevOps began to “commoditise”. 

Gartner has commented on the lack of differentiation between the providers they assess, it’s impossible to maintain leadership without a clearly defined market position and differentiation.  Microsoft produced a partner playbook to encourage the development of differentiation and messaging, before they hit the wall of competition, growth stalls and price pressure mounts. There are 3 ways to do this: by technology stack – by specific vertical market expertise and by specific technology capabilities. One Microsoft partner springs to mind who’s an example of why have a ‘why’, a purpose: the partner had expertise in databases. This specialism enabled a price premium 3x the industry standard for remote managed services.

Does community building play a role? Vendors cultivate partner communities on Facebook, LinkedIn and ‘closed communities’. Oracle’s Cloud Partner proposition links to their applications suite, focused on high-spending clients with complex, database-driven, business critical applications. Most vendors build communities of decision makers meeting online and offline. AWS support user group gatherings in many locations across the UK.

What advice have you for vendors developing partner programmes?  Help partners define their value – to articulate a clearly defined value chain. They must be able to differentiate. Share investments in sales and marketing – of funds and resources – be in it together. Prioritise partners who invest in marketing – with dedicated resources. Avoid those who only market when sales pipeline dries up or ‘encouraged’ by vendors. The best partners exhibit energy and marketing enthusiasm.  Most importantly Remember your partner’s goal is to grow their brand and their business. Help them develop their own messaging and marketing. Partner driven campaigns work better than vendor produced ‘insert your logo here’ activities.

Revolutions View

Successful partnerships, hinge on simple factors. Vendors that help partners position and differentiate, encouraging a healthy and unified approach to sales and marketing will win out. Above all, as with any successful human relationship – listening, learning and working together make the difference – as the African proverb teaches ‘if you want to go far, go together’.

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

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