Microsoft's channel chief Gavriella Schuster has revealed the four things that the most successful channel partners have in common, urging those which don't tick all the boxes to work towards doing so.
In her keynote speech at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto, Schuster said the company recently conducted a survey of its best-performing partners, and she said the findings revealed the best practices and "secret sauce" they have in common.
"Number one: differentiation," she declared on stage. "You can differentiate around partnerships or IP, but there are many more ways: vertical solutions, solution aggregation, across the breadth of the Microsoft portfolio, across the breadth of the industry. There are probably millions of points of differentiation.
"Number two: 55 per cent of business buyers make their buying decisions before they ever talk to a salesperson. You need to be where your customer is. You need to be in their community and in their professional network. You need strong digital marketing and footprint.
"Number three: the most profitable partners run their business like a factory. They find repeatability, standardisation and efficiency in every corner of their business.
"Four – and probably most importantly – is focus on delivering customer lifetime value."
Schuster's second point, digital marketing, has been a hot topic in the industry in recent years. Many partners still rely on "traditional" methods such as emails, mail campaigns and events, but vendors – including Microsoft – have begun encouraging the use of social media and digital marketing instead.
Brent Combest, Microsoft's director of partner profitability and compete, told CRN that some UK businesses, specifically RedPixie, which includes the former Cloudamour business, have been leading the way with their use of blogs, online content and social media.
He said embracing digital marketing is essential.
"I always make a joke in my presentations that I don't answer my phone unless I know the number, I don't read an email unless I know who it's from, or unless the subject line is very, very interesting, and I don't visit the mailbox," he said. "Why would we expect customers to, right?
"Partners that are seeing the highest rewards were leaning towards the digital element. They're building rich content. It's got pretty crowded out there in terms of SEO so it's about rich content and regular content which is highly relevant."
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