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How to drive new business with your cloud service provider

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Erez Yaary, Senior Director, Cloud Chief Technology Officer, Micro Focus

Cloud service providers (CSPs) are a growing power on the enterprise landscape. This has allowed them to shape not just how software is technically delivered, but how it is offered, bought, and consumed.

If your organization is an independent software vendor (ISV), partnering with a CSP could be instrumental to your business success. But such partnerships are often unlike those with traditional systems integrators; these organizations think and operate differently. 

In many cases, correct triangulation with systems integrators, be they global or regional, could further amplify your business, since they front many cloud engagements, most often as part of hybrid cloud initiatives.

Here’s how to take a holistic approach to driving effective business with your CSP.

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Take a swim-lane approach to working with your CSP

To win business with enterprise customers and cloud service providers, consider the full gamut of steps to successful enterprise software delivery, such as cloud engineering, raising awareness of products and services in the market, enabling sales and pre-sales teams, creating demand, and engaging with and executing business with sales.

That might seem trivial—just part of your normal company activities—but it gets more complicated and elusive when you need to coordinate those activities with your CSP in order to leverage its growing market reach and influence. You'll need to align with the CSP’s marketplace and supporting commercial teams, such as sales and solution architects.

As you look to structure an engagement approach to win with CSPs, choose an approach that lets you run different activities in isolation while maintaining an overall perspective on progress toward your business goal.

By designing an approach that allocates an engagement activity category to its specific "swim lane," you can progress at an optimal pace, without disruptions from neighboring activities in adjacent lanes.

The swim lane approach is a proven way to successfully engage with CSPs. The major facets of what your approach should include are explained more below.

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Product and architecture: Build a technically aligned portfolio

Getting to a technically aligned portfolio requires that your engineering team align the technology to the target CSP platform and make it available on your CSP-certified solutions lists. This can mean the product is in a CSP marketplace for commercial activities or any other certified lists for one-click access.

Start with mapping to the CSP's portfolio to assess areas of mutual benefit, and align your product with your CSP's core competency and areas of potential cooperation. Identify where the CSP lacks services, and double down on those as joint business opportunities.

Once you have a prioritized list of products that align with the CSP's platform, your engineering teams should align and certify those products on that platform. Getting the CSP to certify your products increases your prospective customers' confidence in consuming them.

Next, build relevant marketing and other materials for the sales, marketing, and channel partners of both your firm and the CSP, as appropriate to enable CSP marketplace and catalog listings. In other words, you want to make sure your product is included in the catalog posted on a CSP portal identifying notable and well-architected ISV products, for customers to easily find them.

This is also the list where the CSP field teams, such as sales and solutions architects, go to pick solutions for customers. In addition to a CSP marketplace listing, being on those cloud catalogs could boost presence and increase success chances.

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Awareness: Energize your customers and partners

To create excitement in the market, spread the word about new use cases available from the CSP's marketplace and listings. 

This presents a great opportunity to engage with leading systems integrators to demonstrate your alignment to customers across technology, platform, and services. This also allows you to engage with your favorite partner that's proficient with the CSP platform to deliver a webinar series showcasing your new offerings.

CSPs usually have market development funds (MDFs) available for qualifying ISVs that you can use to drive awareness. Typically, your CSP will match you dollar for dollar.

Leverage those MDF dollars to create and execute your awareness. Successful elements might include co-authoring a post on the CSP's blog system, creating a social media marketing campaign in target market segments to drive leads, and taking on joint speaking engagements with your CSP.

Usually your CSP will agree to provide a quote for your product press release, if it complies with its branding guidelines. Check on this as early as possible to avoid unnecessary delays.

Field and channel enablement: Engage sales and solutions partners

When engaging with your CSP, get the field teams of sales and solutions architects excited about your offering. Having both groups onboard will be key to driving joint sales efforts.

Each will require different sales tools with the right information and graphics that they can use as they engage with customers.

CSP solutions architects are more technically savvy and will want to lead with the solution's reference architecture and supporting technical material. Make sure those materials highlight the differentiated value for your product, not just the CSP's platform, and how it benefits customers.

CSP sales teams need CSP-branded battle cards, solution briefs, first-call decks, and supporting customer case studies.

Both teams should be comfortable enough to present the value of your products in solving the customer's problem, and to engage with your technical and sales teams to jointly pursue opportunities.

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Demand generation: Excite your customers

Getting prospective customers excited about how your products can support their cloud journey with your CSP requires meeting them in person. You need to tell the compelling story of how your product, with your CSP's offerings, can transform their experience.

Cloud is no longer about cost reduction, but about new and differentiated customer experiences. So the entire narrative should be tailored to support that.

Next, establish your demand generation and lead follow-up strategy with your CSP. Joint sponsorship of your CSP, ISV, and other industry events is a great way to display uniformity in the market. Present a cohesive narrative that is CSP-enforced and that will be picked up by both potential customers and the media.

Another great way to excite customers is to create a private, invitation-only event to select customers that you and the CSP organize.

Once you're driving market activities, you'll need a dedicated lead-follow-up campaign that you jointly execute with the CSP. Make sure both sides capture leads from events and have a plan to notify account managers for follow-up for deal execution.

Sales engagement: Coordinate selling activities and pipeline

The first step in engaging your sales team and that of your CSP is to select your target market segments and geographic locations. Demonstrate success in one region first, then expand to others to increase your chances of success.

Once you've defined those targets, do some joint account mapping to select the opportunities you want to approach together. Using the sales kits you've created, both teams should agree on how to engage prospective customers and approach them in a coordinated way. And if each customer requires a tailored approach, discuss that with the CSP's customer account team before scheduling any joint engagements.

Use a shared lead-tracking mechanism so both teams can keep tabs on business and demonstrate progress to executives in both organizations.

This is also a great opportunity to engage with relevant systems integrators to harness their reach within the enterprise space to drive additional business.

Consumption: Optimize consumption with technical excellence

Successfully creating your product requires that it be engineered, tested, and, in the case of SaaS, delivered on the CSP's platform.

To do this you'll need to enter into a customer/provider relationship with your CSP (in addition to your other partnership) and drive consumption activities. These include setting up a cloud center of excellence team to govern consumption and to lead cloud architecture across the organization.

Most importantly, make sure you align cloud expenditure with revenue. This will ensure that all costs associated with developing and delivering software and services on the CSP's platform align with the revenue projections in your business plan.

It is easy to spend much more on cloud than initially planned. Development and operations teams within the ISV or enterprise company, for that matter, could easily over-consume cloud resources. To counter this, financial governance should be put in place to allow for centrally managing cloud accounts, governing monthly spend for each team as well as providing show-back reports on a periodic basis to those teams to raise awareness for how much they have consumed.

Time to get aligned

CSPs are a rising force within the enterprise software space for driving customer purchase decisions, and so they can greatly affect every ISV's revenues. That's why a strategic partnership with a CSP—when executed correctly—can greatly expand your business.

A successful partnership requires tight alignment of your needs with your CSP's business and technology strategy for product selection, as well as its go-to-market strategy. Follow the steps above—and stay in your swim lane—and you'll be well on your way to driving new sales with your CSP.

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