There is no arguing that the cloud has arrived. Those of us who grew up in the world of technology and the channel know the role partners have played in educating and helping small and midsize business customers in their cloud transformations. Today, SMBs are using cloud to enhance their decision-making, their profitability and their competitiveness more than ever, and they’re doing it with their technology advisers — for now. As cloud adoption in SMBs continues to grow, however, the key question for channel partners is, “How do we build multi-year revenue streams and cement customer loyalty?”
In July of last year, my company, Concur, launched its Solution Provider program using a co-sell model for partners looking to expand their cloud practices. Since the launch, more than 300 partners have joined the program. Over the past year, we (along with our partners) learned a few things about what makes partners sticky for their customers, and what successful partners do to add continuous value in this cloud-first world.
Here are some of our top tips for gaining loyalty:
1. Have a portfolio of cloud services.
At a time when data visibility is increasingly the differentiation for companies, SMBs are embracing cloud to have faster, less expensive, anytime/anywhere access to information. To fully leverage that benefit, though, companies need at least three to four of their core technology needs fulfilled through cloud services and applications. Partners that become the customer’s technology consultant-in-chief, and can help customers around their digital and cloud transformations, win the customer’s loyalty and business. Our most successful partners have a cloud practice that includes an ecosystem of third-party apps that connect seamlessly, across multiple best-of-breed technologies. Assembling custom bundles that meet customers’ unique data and interoperability needs increases stickiness.
2. Continuous training increases knowledge retention and ensures success.
One of the key areas where partners struggle is keeping their sales teams and consultants updated on the latest training and information offered by the solution providers they work with. As customers get more sophisticated, partners who deliver timely and relevant information will succeed. With sales teams today exposed to information overload, balancing training with knowledge retention is a challenge. To be successful, it is important to look for technology providers that equip partners with training that ramps up their sales teams quickly and frequently and that employ training systems that emphasize retention techniques like short (2-5 minutes) training content, mobile delivery of training, gamified experience, and emphasis on recall. We’ve seen great success with these methods.
3. Helping customers maximize their cloud technology investments is the holy grail of customer retention.
Usage and continuous value are the only metrics that matter when it comes to cloud services. This is also where the channel partner adds the most value for the customer and the technology provider alike. At Concur, we know that a partner is the expert on all things customer. With the cloud, partner business models have also evolved, and the most successful are engaging with their customers through the complete cloud life cycle: pre-sales, sales and post-sales. The best partners – both for customers and the cloud providers – are those that add continuous value.
Not surprisingly, these partners also have the most loyal customers and the most profitable cloud practices.
The cloud has redefined the relationships among the provider, the partner and the customer. With this change comes the opportunity for channel superstars to differentiate themselves by shifting to the “continuous value” partnering model that emphasizes a solution-centric approach, continuous learning and value creation across the full customer life cycle.
This blog post originally appeared in Channel Partners.