Creating SMB customer success stories is a hot topic in IT, particularly in the Cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) ecosystem.
IT channel partners leverage these stories to expand their businesses. Customer success stories become strong indicators of channel partner success.
Before your channel teams create another customer success story, consider revising your strategy for the SMB (small to mid-size business) marketplace.
Why? You will have different stories to tell: stories that are strong indicators of your SMB clients’ overall business success.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is an Internet or Cloud-based subscription software distribution model. The lifecycle of the customer-vendor relationship impacts provider profitability. The majority of the purchase/subscription value is realized over time. Therefore, the longer the customer relationship, the greater the profitability to the vendor.
Can you customize enterprise strategy for an enigmatic marketplace?
Focusing IT channel strategy on customer success is not new. What is challenging, however, is applying typically enterprise-level customer success strategies, models and tools to new targets: enigmatic SMB clients.
There are many business model variations for SMBs. Decision-makers shape-shift and are risk-averse. Workforce competencies, leadership acumen and presence (or absence) of business processes are other important variables in their customer success equation.
The often-enigmatic SMB marketplace requires a flexible channel selling strategy and mindset. IT channel partners selling SaaS solutions into the SMB marketplace need to identify ideal SMB customer personas and viable business models.
SMB opportunities abound!
Perhaps the enigmatic essence of SMBs is a reason that the vast majority of the SMB IT marketplace remains largely untapped. It can represent a nearly $200B USD opportunity for channel partners.
McKinsey projected, in the Big Business for Small Business Study on Cloud Services for SMBs, that Cloud services market share would top $28B USD by the end of 2015. IDC reported strong SMB marketplace growth over the same time period, particularly in Cloud- and mobile SaaS solutions for customer-facing business pursuits, such as customer relationship management, ecommerce solutions and collaboration tools.
Iconic IT brands, like IBM, are actively pursuing the SMB buyer. However, the SMB buyer scenario may represent greater opportunity for smaller, alternative IT vendors having more time, energy and patience to develop strong relationships with the SMB IT segment.
SMB challenges abound, too!
With that type of opportunity dangling like a carrot on a stick, new IT channel partner strategies are being forged. Vendors are repacking affordable solutions for the SMB marketplace. Larger channel partners are seeking harmonious matches in their dating relationships with SMB-focused VARs (value added resellers), ISVs (independent software vendors) and the plethora of MSPs (managed service providers) and CSP (Cloud service providers) in the ecosystem.
That is a wise strategy.
Larger channel partners leverage complex-selling initiatives and enterprise-level solutions. The pace and cadence of their companies may not be aligned with SMB marketplace needs. Expanding their reach into the enigmatic small to mid-size business segments challenges existing channel models.
Therefore, these wise and entrepreneurial channel partners marry up with SMB channel partner “partners”. The potential strategy: get your foot in the SMB door with XaaS (sell anything as an initial subscription service offering). Then upsell to SaaS.
Before you walk in the SMB door, get your Channel Partner House in order.
Customer success initiatives typically involve teams responsible for creating and managing customer relationships, customer retention and optimizing how successful customers become when using specific products and services. Customer success managers are responsible for driving customer engagement, acquisition, retention and success of specific customer segments. Client health is monitored. Vendors schedule interventions when a client is less-than-healthy.
Take your own channel partner pulse.
- How does your company create, manage and measure the customer success of your current clients?
- Is your customer success strategy enterprise-specific versus SMB-specific?
- Is the customer success function in-sourced or outsourced?
- Can your customer success model be down-scaled?
Now take the pulse of the SMB-specific channel partner “partners” you are courting. Do these potential partners have successful customer success programs? How do they compare and mesh with yours?
Customer success looks different to SMBs.
Now get your SMB customer’s house in order, sometimes literally. An SMB client can continuously wrestle with:
- unpredictable revenue streams
- inconsistent workforce competencies
- incomplete or undocumented business processes
- potentially Cloud-inappropriate business models
- inconsistent leadership
All your channel sales team wants to do is get your foot in SMB doors! “All” SMB customers want to do is stabilize their revenue streams!
Potentially, the SMB customer success stories your channel team creates are of heroic proportion.
The various IT solutions your company places, and the quality of the relationships you develop, impact that SMB client’s competitiveness, growth, expansion and sustainability.
Compelling SMB customer success stories involve more than selling SaaS services, monitoring customer health and reporting the success of implementation. SMB customer success represents a holistic shift in how IT channel partners currently think about customer success across their entire customer base.
Tune in for Part 2 of this series, next Friday. We will build out the story.
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, professional development coach, analyst and content creator. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring and developing technical and non-technical employees focused on customer success. She catalyzes compelling strategies and processes for cross functional communication and collaboration. She is the author of Do YOU Mean Business? – her playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks to drive revenue through your organization.
Image source: iStock
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