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As-a-Service at Your Service—Citrix, Ingram Cloud Blue Executives Educate Summit Attendees on Marketplaces

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Whether you have stopped to think about it lately or not, marketplaces are now a big part of our life. Most of us can’t go too many days without purchasing something from Amazon, Google, and Apple. Similarly, millions of businesses of all sizes have turned to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) for any number of software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) subscriptions rather than hosting these IT solutions themselves.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of marketplaces are popping up all over the business landscape. Many other companies with a sizable customer bases and partner ecosystems are opening up their own virtual shopping malls for clients to browse and transact on their own terms, such as major carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile and enterprise tech bluebloods Oracle and Salesforce.

The growing trend toward marketplace shopping has confronted businesses with several questions. Should they build their own marketplaces for their customers and channel partners? Should they invest in campaigns around other ones? These are the issues that Glen Kuhne, director of major accounts at Ingram Cloud Blue, and Roger Williams, senior director of mobility and marketplace alliances at Citrix, wrestled with in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Marketplaces: The New Buying Centers in the Age of As-a-Service,” which is on demand now for those who have registered for the event.

More Than Just a Place to Purchase

Williams began the session by outlining some of the trends driving the rapid spread of marketplaces—according to research firm Gartner, they will be the dominant channel for infrastructure software by 2024. Consumers are getting more and more comfortable making purchases via mobile and voice, and millennials, who have grown up in the digital age and know no world where they can’t browse an app store, are expecting the B2B universe to offer similar options. The proclivity toward self-service browsing and purchasing is forcing companies to incorporate marketplaces as part of the organization’s broader omni-channel strategy or “holistic point of view,” as Williams put it.

Marketplaces aren’t just forums for purchasing; customers are conducting more and more research and holding dialogue about products and services of interest in these virtual shopping centers.

“You have more buyers essentially getting their information about prospective products from their marketplaces than their sales reps,” said Williams, who noted that more than one-third of buyers in Citrix’s market now gather background from a marketplace, compared to 27 percent who tap their sales reps for details about an offering of interest.

Cataloging Your Marketplace Strategy

Is a marketplace right for your company, or is it better to piggyback other established virtual bazaars? Do you make your marketplace offerings available to everyone in your ecosystem?  Kuhne took the floor to go over these questions and other finer points of marketplace strategy.

First, marketplace activities are shaped in large part by whom you sell to and how you reach those audiences. Consumer companies generally make their entire catalog of products and services available to any marketplace browser. However, there are different routes to market in B2B. Ingram Micro, for example, sells largely through resellers and, thus, must ensure it doesn’t undercut these channel partners. There are other instances where it may only make sense to offer marketplace buying options to a limited subset of enterprise customers.

Another good question to address: who owns the company’s marketplace strategy? Is it the reseller division, alliance management, or product management? Perhaps it is the CEO? Someone has to take charge of the overall vision of for building your own marketplace and/or a platform that works with one or more other marketplace channels. Kuhne did warn viewers that executive changes can disrupt marketplace projects.

“They’ll make a strategic decision and then the efforts toward whatever project you were on might be curtailed or redirected,” he said.

Kuhne also cautioned listeners to be cognizant of potential new legal and accounting burdens that result from marketplace selling. If buyers in different regions are purchasing from your company directly through a marketplace, then the finance department may have to sort out the resultant tax implications.

“The states are getting aggressive in revenue collection,” chimed in Williams. 

Are Your Buyers Ready?

Kuhne then urged listeners to ascertain how ready their buyers are. Although marketplace adoption is growing rapidly, there are many that aren’t going down this path willingly. Some are old school and would simply rather deal with a sales rep or order from an old-fashioned website. Others may prefer traditional transactions but understand that these online markets are the future. These businesses might be good candidates for beta testing, as they might want to make sure they are not getting left behind if the marketplace becomes the standard conduit for conducting business.

Kuhne then outlined a number of potential challenges companies could confront as they assemble their marketplace strategies, including:

  • Product complexity – If your product portfolio contains many interdependent components, it may make sense to offer only prepackaged bundles. Maybe it is only economical to offer best-selling products. If your customers are savvy, perhaps you grant them more options and configuration control.
  • Education – Marketplaces are places for self-service research as much as they are for shopping. Thus, it is critical that product specs, reviews, how-to videos, and forums are easy for your buyers and channel partners to find and understand. If a product is too complex for self-service, it may not be ready for a marketplace.
  • Security – Customer verification, fraud protection, credit card verification, and payment authentication must be built into all marketplace transactions. In fact, there are many ready-made services available in these areas, so companies do not necessarily need to develop these capabilities from scratch.
  • Data privacy – If you sell online to customers in the European Union (EU) or California, make sure your customer communication complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), respectively.
  • Catalog management – In addition to deciding which products to sell via marketplaces and in which marketplaces to sell, businesses must support both one-time purchases and ongoing subscriptions. Some customers are accustomed to a mix of both. For example, many in IT buy hardware once but prefer to subscribe to software as a service.
  • Channel management – Find a way to enable both selling to customers directly and through resellers and other channels.
  • Standardization and maintenance – When companies sell through resellers, it is critical to make that process easier for them. Ingram Micro, for example, has an automated go-to-market tool that forces new vendors to fill out sales and product documents before they can resell Ingram Micro’s products.
  • Demand generation – Promote your marketplace offerings every chance you get, and have your channel partners do the same. Again, an omni-channel strategy involving mobile, voice, AI, and web is critical.

Kuhne then concluded by laying out a series of best practices:

  • It is not all or nothing. Businesses can test out a minimum viable marketplace option, then scale the operation by creating application programming interfaces (APIs) if the original proof of concept sparks optimism.
  • Secure executive sponsorship. Again, whether it is product management, channel management, or IT, it is critical to appoint and empower a respected leader to see these initiatives through.
  • Choose a technology platform that scales with your ecosystem. Whether your goal is to sell 200 units per month or 200,000, the technology underpinning your platform better support it without a hitch.
  • Start with a customer segment and its buying journey. Make sure there are no bugs in the process of browsing, selecting, customizing, and paying for products and services. Involve customers in the design and testing phases to ensure that the marketplace fits their desires and buying habits.
  • It’s not just a purchase. Customers expect their entire histories of interaction with your company to be accessible, including outstanding purchases, purchase history, past communication with support teams, and the like. “It’s more than the buying experience,” said Kuhne. “It can turn into a ‘My Account’ place if it’s your own marketplace.” If you sell through another marketplace, make sure the accounting, billing, purchasing, invoicing, and shipping processes—the entire “e-commerce cycle,” as Kuhne labeled it—are seamless.
  • Don’t underestimate the investment needed to take a marketplace to market. Kuhne counseled viewers to set aside a “decent chunk of your budget against that.” Customers need to know where to find you, and what you are selling. Remember, you must enable resellers to sell your marketplace, too. “It is not a build-it-and-they-will-come endeavor,” read a bullet on Kuhne’s presentation slide to hammer home the point.

Kuhne and Williams delivered more great insights during their session. Remember, Summit registrants can view the full presentation, as well as close to two dozen other sessions chock full of information and advice that will help improve your career and the alliances you work on each day.  

Tags:  AI  Channel management  channel partners  Citrix  customers  Data privacy  Demand generation  Education  Glen Kuhne  Ingram Cloud Blue  marketplace alliances  Marketplaces  mobile  mobility  omni-channel strategy  Product complexity  Roger Williams  Security  voice  web 

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ASAP’s Summit Kicks Off with Partnering as a Path to Growth, Even—or Especially—in a Pandemic

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Day one of ASAP’s first-ever virtual Global Alliance Summit got off to a great start today, with opening remarks by ASAP president and CEO Mike Leonetti and board chair Brooke Paige, along with two fascinating keynotes and the ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards presentation.

Leonetti began by thanking everyone not only for gathering together virtually, but for “sticking with us” as both the date and format of the Summit had to be changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also noted that alliances and partnerships everywhere are still working hard and driving business growth, as well as “saving the world” by collaborating in efforts to combat and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. He also reminded everyone that “even though we can’t get together, we can learn from each other” via ASAP tools and publications, 365 days a year, and that the goal of all our partnering efforts is “not only to survive the new normal, but to thrive and prosper.”

Paige also acknowledged that “the world looks completely different now from when we were last together,” but said that given the economic and health challenges of the pandemic, “there has never been a better time for alliance management.” She felt that alliances and partnerships actually have “an incredible role” to play in countering the pandemic and its effects.

Fighting Cancer and Learning to Be a Good Partner

This remark was reinforced by the first keynote this morning, given by Dr. Louis B. Harrison, MD, FASTRO, vice president, chief partnership officer, and chair of the radiation oncology department at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. “A Cancer Center’s Experience Developing Clinical Partnerships and Alliances: Opportunities and Cautions” showed how a top-flight US cancer research center has used partnerships to increase patient access and provide more widespread cancer treatment in various communities—especially important now, given the greatly reduced travel due to COVID-19.

Dr. Harrison admitted that he is not an alliance professional and is still “a rookie” when it comes to alliance management, but stressed that “we can’t just do business the way we used to” and that it’s up to institutions like his center to do their best to learn to “be a good partner” in order to further the goal of better and more widespread health care. And in any partnership, he said, “They have to want you, you have to want them, and you have to behave in such a way that you bring it all together in a win-win.” (For more on Dr. Harrison and his work, see my June 8 ASAP blog post, “‘A Commonality of Spirit’: How a Cancer Center Partners to Help More Patients.”)

Music to the ears of the assembled alliance management multitudes tuning in to ASAP on Vimeo for this virtual Summit, no doubt. Similarly, the next keynote also hit some familiar notes, but with variations appropriate to the different times in which we find ourselves these days.

Get Smart and Get Growing

Tiffani Bova is a growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, as well as the author of the book Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices That Will Make or Break Your Business (Portfolio/Penguin, 2018), the host of the What’s Next! podcast, and a frequent contributor to Forbes and other publications. Her presentation, “The Untapped Gold Mine of Building Trust, Unconventional Affiliations, and Iteration-Based Partnerships,” aimed to shed some light on what might be the best path or paths to the “New Future,” as she put it.

Bova challenged companies to ask themselves: “If we could do anything now, what would it be, in order to get us to this new future?” In her view, this should be subdivided into three phases, or tracks:

  1. Stabilize the business by mitigating short-term risks.
  2. Get people back to work—not necessarily back to the office, but productively employed as much as possible.
  3. Get back on track to growth, and remember that your customers and partners are going through this same journey as well.

In looking toward and navigating future growth, Bova highlighted four “focus areas” businesses can use. These are:

  1. Experience: This includes creating and delivering a beneficial experience to customers, partners, and the supply chain.
  2. Innovation: Noting that the pandemic-related shutdowns of retail and other businesses demonstrated a prior lack of investment in innovation, Bova pointed to shifts to digital, agility, use of communications, and ecosystems as ways of promoting innovation. (She also noted that “digital transformation” doesn’t mean just technology, but actually should be viewed through the lens of “people and process.”)
  3. Trust: Saying that studies have shown that businesses and consumers don’t trust brands—especially in the way they use their data—Bova posited trust as the “barometer” or “backbone of the relationship” between businesses and their customers and partners.
  4. Values: An important component of a brand in attracting employees, partners, and customers. At Bova’s own company, Salesforce, establishing values has meant supporting communities, using technology for good, and providing “help for everyone,” especially in the current conditions. This includes direct investments, having a 90-day no-layoff pledge, and collaborating with some of its partners such as AWS, Google, and Apple to provide aid to communities.

Pivoting and Partnering in the “New Future”

For Bova, “partnering in the new future” will mean maximizing existing business; entering new markets, regions, and industries; and launching new products. “This is not a time to cut back on costs,” she said, but rather represents an opportunity to leverage existing assets and capabilities to pave the way for future growth.

In looking back over the weeks and months of the pandemic, Bova said there’s been “a burst of learning” since early March, when the US along with many other parts of the world began in one way or another to shut down. One of the lessons has been “how quickly we needed to pivot,” she acknowledged, saying that using partnerships and coopetition are two of the ten paths to growth laid out in her book, Growth IQ. Even pre-COVID-19, more than half of CEOs saw creating new partnerships as a viable path to growth, but most of them also said that fewer than 60 percent of those partnerships have proven to be effective.

Bova added that the tenth path to growth in her book is “unconventional strategies,” and these include establishing partnerships with “unlikely bedfellows” and “disrupting current thinking.” She encouraged CEOs and other senior leaders to think seriously about what kinds of partnerships would help get them through the three phases of stability, getting back to work, and getting back to growth, and not to be swayed by some of the rumored downsides of partnerships: e.g., that they are too big and unmanageable, or that partnering means “we don’t make any money,” or that “we don’t own the customer.”

Tying some of these strands together, Bova asserted, “Your greatest sales force is your customers and partners advocating on your behalf.” If indeed partnering is one of those “unconventional strategies” she recommended, it looks like it’s one that, handled with care and best practices, should start propelling more enterprises down the path of future growth.

Keep checking this blog for more to come on the ASAP Global Alliance Summit, including the Alliance Excellence Award winners, highlights of the livestream presentations, and on-demand sessions as well.

Tags:  advocating  Apple  AWS  customers  experience  Google  Growth IQ  innovation  Louis B. Harrison  Moffitt Cancer Center  partner  Partnerships  Salesforce  supply chain  Tiffani Bova  trust  values 

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Vanguard Ecosystem Leadership: The Highly Successful Evolution of Salesforce’s Partnering Practices

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Salesforce’s vanguard leadership has been exemplary when building strong partnering ecosystems. As a rainmaker in the API economy, the company designed the largest technology ecosystem and most active cloud marketplace. Leslie Tom, senior vice president of AppExchange marketing and programs, has played a significant role in that transformation. In her session “API Economy: Salesforce AppExchange Partner Ecosystem” at the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum, “Reimaging Part­nering in a Disruptive World,” on October 17, at the Four Points by Sheraton, San Jose Airport, San Jose, California, she plans to share strategy and insight on how to build and benefit from a strong partnering ecosystem, and the invaluable role alliance managers play in fostering a healthy ecosystem.

“Our alliance managers at Salesforce are different than at other tech companies,” Tom began the interview. “They are involved throughout the entire process of recruiting partners to build solutions, onboarding partners, and working with partners on their go-to-market for business growth. They are building customer success from day one. Our alliance managers are critical to the success of the partners, [and we are] all focused on the joint success of our customers. When partners come into our ecosystem, the sole focus really is on partner and customer success. We have a saying at Salesforce to our partners: ‘When you succeed, we succeed.’”

In late 2005, Tom joined Salesforce and started recruiting partners for the AppExchange. The AppExchange was launched in 2006. From the beginning, Salesforce had “partner account managers” that acted like alliance managers, she explained. During the past 12 years, the company developed a much larger team that is now “100 percent focused on partners, their success and joint customer success.” Salesforce’s alliance managers work with one to many partners, depending on the company size and revenue opportunity. One of the company’s newest partners, Nokia, underwent a transformation similar to what many larger Fortune 500 companies are now trying to create—new revenue channels through partnerships, she continued. The former phone maker transformed to serve communications service providers, governments, and consumers.  Nokia created Nokia Intelligent Care Assistant solution on the AppExchange to provide holistic view of the customer to drive fast solutions to customer care issues.

The AppExchange—the #1 enterprise cloud marketplace—also goes by another name: AppExchange, the Salesforce Store. “We refer to AppExchange as the Salesforce Store because it offers much more than apps,” she said. “In today’s customer-driven world, we have apps, components, bots, data sets, and more. In 2006, we were more of an app directory where customers could find Salesforce extensions. Today, the AppExchange offers intelligent recommendations, personalized engagement and guided learning paths to help our customers find the right solutions faster. We have more than 5,000 solutions and more than 6,000,000 installs on the AppExchange.”

Other app marketplaces offer a one-to-one exchange, such as if you download an app for your phone, she explained about the difference. “On the AppExchange, one solution can be deployed to thousands of users; it’s not a one-to-one exchange. In fact, 88 percent of all of our customers are using AppExchange solutions and 89 percent of the Fortune 100 use AppExchange solutions. What is also unique about the AppExchange is that we think about it like Amazon in terms of customer reviews and ratings. If you go to AppExchange.com, there are over 80,000 customer reviews with star ratings, so our customers can look at multiple solutions, evaluate on peer reviews, and find the right fit for their business challenges.”

She then returned to the central theme of the session and reiterated the most important point: building a strong partner ecosystem focused on the success of your customers. “If your focus is on customer success, your partners and your company will be successful together. That is how we work with our alliance managers—to ensure that our partners are focused on customer success.”

Stay tuned for more of the ASAP Media team’s coverage of the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum on the ASAP Blog at www.strategic-alliances.org. Learn more about the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum at http://asaptechforum.org

Tags:  alliance managers  Amazon  API Economy  AppExchange  ASAP Tech Partner Forum  customers  ecosystem  Leslie Tom  partners  Salesforce  solution  transformation 

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