Using Marketing To Get To The 'As A Service' End Game

The Channel Company and CRN have talked a lot over the years about the need for solution providers to get better at marketing. There are dynamics in the market happening today that are going to increase the pressure on partners to do so if they want to grow and stay relevant.

The future business model for cutting-edge partners being one of becoming Strategic Service Providers (SSPs) is part of what is driving the need. If your value-add is conceptualizing, building and delivering infrastructure as a service, the SSP brand needs to be the lead into the customer and has to mean something. The reality is as more compute is sold as a service, it's a natural evolution for the channel to become a quality services-focused brand. Cloud solutions certainly are the driver, but there are other elements at work as well.

Increasingly, devices will be sold as a service. We've already seen it happen in managed print services. Now get ready for the PC to be sold as a service as well. There is a compelling case to be made for the PC, which is already nearly exclusively accessing software that is sold as a service, to become part of the bundle.

The way I see it is this is a huge benefit to driving toward the SSP model because there is no vendor that can do everything for a customer. An SSP, however, can certainly bundle up the best-of-breed services from the appropriate vendors and package them into a monthly managed fee that in the future includes the devices sitting on the desktop.

This is just another indicator of why SSPs need to begin thinking about changing the brand marketing they do as well as the customer acquisition marketing.

The brand marketing is critical because would-be SSPs can't afford to be viewed as old-school on-premise infrastructure players with little innovation around the new services model.

One thing to remember is that if a customer is thinking about jumping ship, it is unlikely you will get much of a warning.

The sales and marketing teams need to be working together to rebuild the brand and present it as a cutting-edge leadership player capable of bringing the customer to the new compute model cost-effectively and seamlessly.

One of the challenges is that too many would-be SSPs with businesses topping $100 million have not driven the services business high enough for it to force this new marketing thinking and positioning. If you have more than $100 million in annual sales and services is only 5 percent to 20 percent, then the thinking, budgeting and everything else that goes along with it is focused on the old model.

It takes a focused CEO to force the change because the organization will resist it, given what it sees as driving the business. If the CEO doesn't commit

to swimming against the tide and remind every employee that it's not about what is driving the current business — it's about where it needs to be—then it will not happen.

Automating tasks is always a big part of what drives technology spend with channel partners and, fortunately, technology advancement is always a driver. The build toward the Internet of Things is a huge opportunity to automate and drive new revenue and another reason why marketing is becoming critical.

IoT practices are going to require a high degree of specialization, which in turn will require a marketing approach that makes it clear where the partner expertise lies.

For SSPs, it isn't enough to understand where you want to go — it requires working with marketing to make sure the current and future customer set believes you've already arrived.

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of The Channel Company. You can contact him via email at rfaletra@thechannelcompany.com.

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