Channel Call

2012: The Year of Cloud Acceleration

All this cloud hype will finally come to a head next year. Here's what your business needs to do to get ready.

During the past 18 months, the talk around the cloud has been pervasive. At every turn at every conference, you couldn't avoid the cloud topic. What I noticed, though, was that the momentum in the market didn't quite match the momentum of talk … until now. This is why I believe 2012 will be the year you'll need to accelerate your channel plans.

With the cloud, partners and customers have a better understanding of exactly what the cloud can do for business. I confirmed this recently during a conversation with a leading VAR who indicated that the salespeople at his firm aren't having to educate prospects or customers on the cloud as much as they had to during the previous 12 months. In fact, this VAR told me that he's expecting 2012 to be a breakout year for the cloud. Talking to executives at a major distributor, they also confirmed this notion because they have plans to substantially increase their cloud portfolio to accommodate the surge in interest.

From a platform perspective, keep an eye out for the power of Windows Azure. This platform will allow resellers and ISVs of all flavors to more quickly produce and release cloud applications. And these applications will be more business-oriented, meaning that there's a shift toward more user adoption of business applications in the cloud.

So, if you know this will occur, what should you be doing to take advantage? The key is acceleration and you need to break it down into three primary areas within your business: sales, marketing and operations.

Sales
Take action and immediately get your sales team aligned to the types of sales for which they're best suited. What I mean by this is that your inside (or telesales) folks should be aligned to highly transactional sales -- defined by a certain number of seats. More-seasoned sales reps will obviously be aligned to higher-value, but more long-term, sales opportunities. In order to accelerate anything, you must become efficient internally. [See Ken Thoreson's December Selling Microsoft column for more on cloud-based sales strategies. -- Ed.]

Marketing
In order to accelerate in marketing you need to do something simple first. For instance, your marketing cadence is extremely important as you message to your marketplace. Write out the plan for the first three months of 2012 and make sure the plan includes weekly, biweekly and monthly marketing vehicles. This will immediately start you on the road to a proper flow with your marketing.

Operations
For operations, I've mentioned in previous columns that the successful partners out there have at least four cloud products in their portfolios. If you don't have four, go get them! Having multiple points of entry to the customer will allow you to quickly start gathering the volume of customers you'll need to truly take advantage of what the cloud was meant for.

Regarding increasing your cloud portfolio, take a hard look at areas that are poised for growth. For instance, mobility is going to be huge in 2012. It's already becoming clear how mobility will increase cloud adoption. One recent survey showed that 38 percent of respondents indicated that the need to support greater workforce mobility is a trigger for more cloud adoption.

Seems cut and dry to me: go find a cool mobility-aligned cloud product and then you'll have an excellent product to leverage across your entire portfolio.

Movement and action will define 2012, and those resellers who continually strive to become more aligned across vendors' portfolios will undoubtedly be the winners in the marketplace.

About the Author

Keith Lubner is Chief Business Strategist at Sales Gravy, the sales acceleration company, and managing partner of C3 Channel, a global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies. For more information about Keith, visit www.c3channel.com, www.channeleq.co or www.salesgravy.com.

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