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It's Time for a Seismic Shift in Partner Value Propositions

Businesses need partners for different reasons than they did in the past. Partner implementation services are being marginalized through vendor promises of simpler technology experiences in the cloud. Customers no longer see partners as an essential part of the implementation of new applications -- they can click the button themselves.

But what comes next -- the challenges of using those applications to improve business productivity and solve operational problems -- is where customers need help. Partners need to convince customers they can deliver.

Regardless of whether it is true, businesses are being bombarded with marketing messages suggesting that the cloud eliminates the headaches of technology. The value propositions of software vendors make it seem so simple. Google claims, "All you need to do your best work, together in one package that works seamlessly from your computer, phone or tablet." Microsoft says, "Run your small business better with Office 365. Work anytime, anywhere, with the latest Office 2016 apps and extra OneDrive cloud storage. Plus it's always up to date, and your data is protected with world-class security." And, "QuickBooks makes online accounting easy."

All of these statements plant the idea that software today is easy. With hardware a thing of the past, businesses don't think they need a technology provider. Just buy the licenses and go. Every Microsoft partner has war stories of the customers who did just that and now have cloud-based inefficient and disconnected business management applications.  

It's Time To Get Specific
If customers don't know why they still need partners, you need to tell them. Since technology is no longer the lead, customers need to know you can help them apply the software to solve business problems.  Building a value proposition for today's market is all about specialization. In the new reality for Microsoft partners, value propositions must focus on the specific business benefits your services bring to customers.

As with all marketing, the first step has to be a clear definition of which customers you are going to serve. Choosing the solution for your target market can take two potential paths: vertical and functional. Understand the business challenges that your target market faces and define a set of solutions and services that will address them.

Building the value proposition that will actually mean something to your prospects needs to answer the following questions:

  • Who you are addressing? Identify who you are speaking to by role or function.

  • What problem are you solving? In specific terms, describe the challenge that your target audience is facing.

  • How does your solution solve the problem? List the benefits that your solution will deliver.

  • What validates your claim? Provide some evidence, like how many clients you have worked with or years in business.

Commonly, value propositions include a couple of sentences and three bullet points. You don't have to be wed to one version of the value proposition. Take different approaches to find messaging to work in different situations. For example:

  • Summary value proposition: Create an overall statement to describe how you solve the top challenges for your clients.

  • Value propositions by challenge: Identify a number of your customers' top challenges and describe how your solution addresses each one.

  • Value propositions by role: Focus on the specific challenges of each business decision maker you work with. The CEO, CFO and IT director each have unique daily challenges.

As you work on different approaches, you will likely see some patterns that help you hone in on the most important points. Developing a great value proposition isn't easy. It takes work and time.

Business decision makers are being told they can turn on software to transform their business. You know that is not the case -- you've seen the results. With a clear understanding of your customer and the problem you can solve for them, you can make the case for the value you can add to their business. As customer perspectives change, your marketing and messaging need to change with them.

How are you adjusting your messaging to connect with cloud customers? Send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 25, 2017