Vendors Must Help Partners Differentiate

Establishing a value proposition that sets oneself apart from competitors is the key to cloud success.

By Larry Walsh

Transformation and disruption were hot topics at last week’s Ingram ONE event. Vendors, solution providers, and, of course, our distribution host – Ingram Micro – talked at length about the imperative to transform business models and disrupt competition amid rapidly evolving market dynamics and elevated customer expectations.

The imperative is real. The market is changing rapidly. Customers no longer want products; they want better outcomes and a superior experience. Call it the “Apple Effect,” with customers expecting technology to just work, and work simply. Or call it the Elon Musk axiom; the famed inventor said, “Any product that needs a manual to work is broken.”

For years, the technology industry preached about the need for consultative selling and building “solutions” of integrated products and services to meet customer need. In truth, the industry meant to sell more products per engagement; systems are a secondary consideration.

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Advancing and emerging technologies – automation, predictive analytics, mobility, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) – are creating conditions in which customers need systems to achieve greater outcomes. The foundation for these systems – the medium that connects all these technologies – is cloud computing.

While people use words like transformation and disruption (they were thrown about at the Ingram ONE event as well), we must keep in mind that neither has a lot of value if it doesn’t result in differentiation. The entire point of establishing a value proposition is to separate your business from competitors to attract and retain customers.

In partnership with Microsoft and Ingram Micro, The 2112 Group created 2112 Cloud Altimeter, a tool that enables solution providers operating in the cloud to see how they stack up competitively to peers nationally and in their immediate regions. The idea behind Altimeter is to give solution providers a sense of how differentiated they are from those they compete with for sales.

Differentiation isn’t just important; it’s crucial. Think about it like a job interview. We’ve all been there. We show up at a company’s offices wearing our best suit. We sit patiently in the lobby with other people who are there for the same reason. And we’re all holding crisp, freshly printed resumes in folders that show our training and education, skills, and experience.

Now that you have that picture, you probably recall that slight twinge of anxiety. You have no idea who your competition is or what’s on their resume. They could have far greater skills and experience than you. You may have more experience, but they have more tools and capabilities. Or they may have other skills and experience that makes them more available to the hiring manager. It’s a complete mystery.

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The Altimeter gives solution providers the ability to measure the completeness of their cloud practice, particularly as it relates to similar companies. The tool goes beyond just comparing the types of products in a company’s cloud portfolio; it also reveals other critical measures of success such as business planning, sales capacity, customer engagement effectiveness, investment and capability development, and revenue and profitability effectiveness.

Solution providers tell us that they’re seeing their operational and strategic gaps with the data provided by the Altimeter. And with that data, solution providers are able to make some decisions about where to invest their cloud development resources.

Vendors need to engage their partners more in differentiation, providing them with the support and guidance they need to create irresistible value. Customers no longer perceive value as an intrinsic part of a product or service; they perceive value in the outcomes produced by complete systems and experiences.

Vendors can easily talk about transformation and disruption as it relates to adopting their products and services. But vendors can’t forget that disruption is a byproduct – a result – of differentiation. With that in mind, vendors need to encourage differentiation as the goal of transformation and disruption.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.