With the global anything-as-a-service (XaaS) market projected to reach almost $345 billion by 2024, having a clear understanding and strategy for transforming a channel for XaaS will be one of the most important factors in an organization’s success in 2020 and beyond.
In their recently published whitepaper, Accelerating Partner Transformation in an XaaS World, authors Kristine Stewart, Vice President, Client Success & Marketing at Channel Impact, and Robert Saxe, Founder and Managing Director of nVision Consulting Group, write that “it’s critical that companies build upon their partner success strategies and further evolve their channel initiatives to guide partners into a new model of value exchange for XaaS transformation.”
Channel leaders may have to make significant changes to their partner ecosystem. To align their channel strategies with the modern buyer’s digital journey – which in a recurring revenue model is a perpetual task – marketers will need to enable a comprehensive channel ecosystem that includes go-to-market influencers, high performing transactional partners, and customer-attentive retention teams.
To position partners to continuously manage the post-sale experience, the whitepaper explains, vendors must clearly define the phases of the entire customer lifecycle that they would like their customers to experience. They need to identify partners’ role(s) in each phase, and also understand points of intersection with each partner’s customer engagement framework and lifecycle journey.
Vendors also need to develop journey maps to outline customer touchpoints and opportunities and share data insights and analytics. These resources will equip partners to deliver new service offers with a focus on long-term customer success and help instill a customer experience culture within their channel.
As Saxe commented in a recent conversation with CMR, the challenge for vendors and partners is to evolve their organizations and mutual relationships to “more effectively market exquisite service capabilities to the people that are going to buy them or consume them throughout the customer life cycle.” And because XaaS offerings are generally purchased on a subscription-based model, vendors and their partners should have a mindset that they will need to re-earn each customer’s business every 30 days.
Monitoring and responding to the signals that can offer insight into prospect or current customer intentions will be critical. “This is really becoming the time of automation and data platforms,” said co-author Stewart. “When we talk to some of the vendor executives or clients with whom we engage, one of the biggest issues is that they have data, but it’s all still siloed within multiple groups.”
Equally challenging is making that data and analysis of it available to partners. As customer applications and solution infrastructure becomes more sophisticated, they are becoming capable of sending signals that indicate their level of usage and satisfaction. Being able to share this information and the insights generated with partners will be vital. However, being able to accomplish that efficiently and effectively is “going to be the hardest piece and it’s going to take some time,” said Stewart. “If you’re not looking at or working on it now, you’ve got a long, long way to go.”
It’s critical that vendors capture data on customer interactions with partners, Stewart stressed. “We get so focused on the user experiences and how they relate to us as a vendor, but many companies are not thinking about every interaction that customers have with the partner.”
Because customers might not differentiate vendor from partner experiences, it’s important for brands to understand every event impacts their relationship with the customer. “The partner experience is inextricably tied to the overall customer experience when we map out that journey,” she said.
Having better access to aggregated data will help to inform smarter decisions about marketing activities, MDF allocation, and incentive planning to support a recurring revenue model. “How do we get in front of a customer to make them aware of relevant product or partner services, at the point in time in which they might be ready to consume them?” said Saxe. “Especially if offers vary by user persona. And it’s almost in real time. If I’m a user and you send me some sort of marketing that I’m not quite ready to consume, it can be a missed opportunity. But if you send me something that is really relevant to how I could utilize the solution in a way that’s going to provide me value, that is very impactful.”
The desire to sell more XaaS solutions is already having an impact on incentive strategies, said Stewart. Vendors are adjusting incentives to support “getting the adoption of those new services once customers deploy them, and having the capability to then work with the vendor on upselling and cross selling — continuing to extend lifetime value with that customer.”
Stewart and Saxe present a nine-step framework to evolving a channel go-to-market strategy for XaaS offerings in their whitepaper. Patience with the process is advised, they note. “These efforts will take considerable time to play out and pay off. Vendors can’t expect partners to change in an instant, but they can provide partners with the strategies, framework, tools and resources so they can evolve incrementally – because the reality is, the old way of doing things simply won’t work anymore.”