Strong Need for SMB Cloud Channel Partners to Offer Vertical Solutions

Techaisles “SMB Channel Partner Trend” study shows that there has been a big leap in the percentage of SMB channel partners offering cloud computing services to SMBs in the last year across several countries. For example, in the U.S. the percentage offering cloud services has jumped from 38 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2013 and another 22 percent are planning to offer cloud solutions. Similarly, in Australia the percentage has gone up substantially from 34 percent in 2012, and in Germany from less than 30 percent to more than 60 percent. The biggest change is seen among the VARs. In 2012 only 34 percent were offering cloud solutions and in 2013, 74 percent of them are offering cloud solutions to SMB customers. In Germany, the biggest jump has been within the service providers (SPs).

However, not all channel partners (VARs, SPs, MSPs, SIs) have become successful in selling cloud to SMBs. Techaisles “Winning Strategies/Best Practices of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners” study finds that there are quantitative, meaningful and actionable differences between channel partners who are successful in the business of selling cloud and those that have not developed successful cloud practices.

Industry expertise and the ability to offer vertical solutions is one such area that is creating a distance between the successful and unsuccessful SMB cloud channel partners. Techaisles SMB studies have shown that SMBs are increasingly looking for vertical industry solutions but channels have been relatively slow in offering such solutions. 2014 will be important as it is the first year SMB business issues have flip-flopped from reducing operational costs to increasing business growth, and cloud-based line of business vertical solutions is an important area of investment.

Combining the data from their SMB and Channel Partner studies, Techaisle found that a significant gap exists between the percentage of SMBs adopting vertical cloud solutions and the percentage of SMB channel partners offering such solutions, though they pointed out the gap has narrowed in the last two years as shown in the chart, “ SMB Channel Partner vs. SMB Vertical Cloud Gap.”

The “Winning Strategies of Success SMB Cloud Channel Partners” study data shows in the chart, “Percent of SMB Cloud Channel Partners Offering Vertical Solutions,” that 21 times as many successful cloud partners are offering vertical solutions to SMBs as those that are not successful.

Most of the successful SMB cloud channel partners have product/service portfolios that are mapped to the full set of SMB technology needs: compute and storage infrastucture, applications, communications, support for test/development, and solutions addressing specific vertical requirements. The majority of unsuccessful SMB channel partners have limited their offerings to storage, backup and basic SaaS offerings like Office 365 or Google Apps.

Some may argue that there is a “chicken and egg” effect, that successful partners have broader portfolios because they have more engaged SMB customers. As with the chickens and eggs themselves, though, it may not matter where the cycle begins, Techaisle said. If SMB channel partners that are not currently successful in the cloud wish to compete with those that are, they will need to develop portfolios that extend beyond IaaS to vertical-specific applications.

The chart on industry expertise (above) from the Winning Strategies study shows that 50 percent more successful cloud channel partners than unsuccessful channel partners report that vertical industry knowledge is a key component of the value they bring to their SMB customers. These successful channel partners are able to demonstrate knowledge of the SMBs’ industry and are therefore able to create confidence within their SMB clients. These channel partners are also the most likely to build and maintain long-term relationships with their SMB customers.

Unsuccessful channel partners claim that they are able to demonstrate understanding of their SMB customers’ business needs  but at a technical level and are constrained by a lack of vertical understanding. Seventy percent of unsuccessful channel partners emphasize their technical expertise during interactions with SMBs as they lack the understanding of their SMB customers’ industry vertical to be able to offer sophisticated cloud solutions. They emphasize service quality without necessarily understanding what this means in a cloud context. In addition, many of the unsuccessful partners tend to stress price when positioning cloud computing solutions.

Therefore, according to Techaisle, it is imperative for SMB channel partners to go beyond technical knowledge and really understand the dynamics of the industries in which their SMB customers operate, and to become industry subject matter experts.

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