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Chris Bliss

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We Need To Stop Failing The Future.

The going is good, and we’re still screwing it up

We’ve been helping companies utilize new and powerful technology for just under three years now. It has been fantastic. We’re growing rapidly and seeing the sea-change in how some businesses are using software. But what’s even more astounding is the fact that so few people really are aware of just how available fantastic new services are.

If anything has become evidently clear to me, it’s a profound disconnect between the businesses we’re helping and the awareness about the next generation of software that is readily available to them.

Where SaaS vendors are hoping to gain traction and market share, a disjointed scattering of tech blogs and communities have risen in hopes of educating the greater business population. With the exception of Salesforce and Google, this has been a monumental failure on our collective part – from both the channel and the vendor.

My experience in the last few  years at several “Cloud Conferences” has led me to witness a total ostracism of the customer. We get a bunch of SaaS vendors and resellers all sitting around patting each other on the back and bragging. I understand that, to a certain extent, that’s what these things are for, but when I’ve asked the question (several times) of where we can actively engage the market the response is always the same: go and get yours.

Fair enough. We’ve definitely done that at VM Associates. But it seems really shortsighted. If we’re going to grow the market and push for serious adoption, it’d sure be handy to get an idea what the market thinks of all our fancy toys.

Channel People (var, isv, blah blah):

Back in the day, our job was to upsell people on new versions of old software. But you and I both know that the real way to make money was to set up cushy retainer contracts to make sure nothing broke down. When it did break down, we would essentially have our account by the sword, and charge them exorbitant fees to bring their company back to life.

That old channel model is over. Associated Software Sellers are dead.

We are not in charge of product. We never should have been, and now, thankfully that responsibility is going back into the hands of the people who are passionate about making product better. Simply put, the onus is on vendors to make sure everything runs because they’re in charge of product. 

So what are we in charge of!? How do we extract tons of money from the doe-eyed businesses we’ve been preying on?

We stop thinking like that, and we start thinking about how to add more value. And for many, this is a struggle because adding value in the traditional model is hard. Preventing catastrophe and restoring things to their norm has been our modus operandi for decades – and while those things are all good and swell, they’re not adding value, they’re preserving the value that already exists.

The channel needs to find new ways to offer value. 

Vendors:

Yes, I know. You’ve grown by 300% this year. Your valuation is through the roof. You’re going after low hanging fruit. You don’t have the time or resources for outreach and education. But if that’s the case, why is it that every single conversation I’ve had with the best SaaS vendors has been about how to grow the top of the lead funnel?

If you’re doing it right, you as the vendor are focused on product. You’ve got a mean lean agile machine that’s cranking out features, improvements and innovation at a blistering clip. You are tuned into customer feedback and have a vision of where your tool set is going to be in the next 10 years.

Here’s what you’re not focused on: client focused training, on-boarding and long term adoption strategies. 

This isn’t to say you’re not an essential component of that process, but the reality is you can’t treat your customers like clients. The only people who can do that are companies that are providing billable hour services… like your channel partner!

We, the channel, are in a perfect position to take top level strategy and build your solution into that package for our clients. In fact, the next generation of partners will use this as a competitive advantage to differentiate ourselves from all the “resellers” out there.

Anyways:

I’m tired of complaining about this, but I’m going to anyways: We need to build the new channel together. It’s not going to be referral based. Let’s just set that to bed right now. I want to hear from you all: Professional Services, Vendors, and Bloggers. Give us a shout in the comments about what you see for the future of this more-or-less untapped market.

So what’s the VM Associates solution for moving forward? I’ll let you know next week.

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Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.