Azure Partner Community: Considerations for your hybrid data center practice


Welcome to part 2 of this month’s Azure Partner Community blog series. Read part 1.  

   
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by Nick Johnson, PMP
US Partner Technology Strategist

The Microsoft US team I’m part of is focused on helping partners build and grow their Microsoft Azure and hybrid cloud practices. In my October blog posts for the Azure Partner Community, I’m taking you through the conversation I have with partners that want to add Azure to their data center practices as part of a hybrid solution. The framework and principles of this conversation can be applied to other cloud practices and capabilities as well.

In my first blog post in this series, I explained how the first step in growing your practice is a self-assessment, the answers to which lead to specific calls to action. In the hybrid data center example, here are two considerations in the self-assessment:

  • Can you commit to training and incenting your sales staff on the new solutions?
  • Can you commit to building complete solutions with necessary marketing plans and support?

Your cloud business model

In our hybrid data center scenario, you’ve made the decision to expand your business, but have you thought about how to be financially successful with it? Have you thought about how selling cloud based solutions is different than selling a traditional hardware or software solutions? We talked earlier about services you might add to a data center practice the go beyond traditional selling. Does your team have experience selling Managed Services or Intellectual Property vs. Project Services? How will you compensate sellers against recurring revenue?

Questions like these inevitability lead to a bigger discussion on how you run a profitable business in the cloud. Long term success will likely require transformation of current business models. So before diving into bringing a solution to market, spend some time on the business model.

To help you make decisions about your business model, we have some great resources from Microsoft and industry experts. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of resources in our online partner profitability guide. Here are three resources I recommend to help you get started, and in the online guide you’ll find additional resources for building and sustaining your profitability, aligned to different aspects of your business.

So now you’ve figured out what kind of solution you want to bring to market as a part of your data center practice. You’ve also figured out a profitability model you are comfortable with. Now, it’s time to build your solution and bring it to market. During this phase, we need to focus on the Technical, Marketing, and Sales aspects of the offering. Marketing and Sales considerations are below. I’ll cover the Technical aspect in my next blog post.

Readying your marketing efforts

Here are some pointers and tools relevant to marketing your first cloud offering and beginning to build your pipeline. Visit the Sales and Marketing section of the portal to find a wide variety of resources.

  1. Focus on the solution. Sell the value of your solution and services first, then describe how the cloud helps make that happen.
  2. Don’t neglect cloud, though. Customers are looking to be on the cloud—be sure to let new and existing customers know that you can help them get there.
  3. Tell your story through all of your customer-facing assets. Use your website, social media, printed materials, trade shows, live presentations, and webinars to best advantage.
  4. Utilize Microsoft partner marketing tools and case studies. Ready-to-Go Marketing campaigns, the Smart Partner Marketing website, and Marketing SureStep each address a different angle of your marketing. All three are available from the partner portal. In addition, Azure case studies may be helpful.
  5. Work with your local Microsoft team. They often have resources and expertise available to help with demand generation as well as connections to local marketing campaigns.

Readying your sales team

As your marketing plan is developed and you begin implementing it, your sales team needs to be ready to engage. In our data center scenario, we would discuss these two areas:

  1. If the sales team hasn’t sold many cloud-based solutions, they should first become familiar with the overall value of the cloud, and in the hybrid data center scenario, Microsoft Azure specifically. Sales teams need to be ready to help customers see the long-term value of the cloud. See my table of resources below for recommendations.
  2. Ensure your sales team can clearly articulate the value of your solution. With managed services, they are selling something different than they have sold in the past. Help them tell the story in a way they haven’t before.

Sales resources

Introduction to Microsoft Azure

Virtual Machines

Virtual Networks

Storage

Backup and Recovery Services

Site Recovery

Compliance, privacy, and security

Additional resources for Sales Leads

In my next post, I’ll explore the technical planning aspects of bringing your new solution to market.

Join me on October 15 for the Azure Partner Community call. We’ll look at a key component of the hybrid data center, Azure Express Route.

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