It's not good enough to just have a cloud offering – differentiation is key, says Stephen Parker, Newlease head of cloud strategy.
People are more compelled to be buyers when what you have is essential to them.
The cloud is one of the top industry priorities from a business and technology perspective, and areas such as business continuity, hosted desktop, infrastructure and security (all 'as a service') are experiencing strong demand.
The cloud is also becoming the de-facto model for traditional line-ofbusiness solutions, such as HR and CRM, that have been the bastions of 'on premises' delivery.
However, this rapid growth has meant the arrival of the global players and increased competition.
These global players have the capacity to offer services at price points that are hard for SMBs to match, with high quality products and services that are improving all the time.
This means just having a cloud offering is no longer a point of differentiation.
If you have developed a product offering differentiated from your competitors and become essential in the market, then the strengths of those global competitors will be irrelevant as you will be offering something they cannot.
Doing this and avoiding the 'It was so cheap I couldn’t say no' position, has always meant offering strong, domain-specific services, irrespective of the industry.
You need to know your customers’ business domain at least as well as they do. You need to know what keeps customers' key business stakeholders awake at night.
Be clear: for most of them, it is not technology. They're worried about business issues that your technology is supposed to resolve. You will have earned the right to sell more than just technology if you clearly understand the 'why' of your business.
For example if your business exists so that 'The owner of a small business does not have to work on Friday night', then of course you can sell them time saving technology solutions.
But you will also have the right to sell non technology solutions that address the same basic 'why'. Be careful that you don't differentiate in areas that are easy for others to replicate.
The local vs overseas case was made by a number of Australian service providers, only for the global players to enter the local market.
If you have answers to the following questions then you'll be well on the way to establishing your 'essential' positioning:
• What are the great skills and credibility you have today that can be built upon?
• What keeps the key business sponsors awake at night?
• What are the drivers in their industry: legislation, compliance, customer churn, peer pressure etc?
• Do you know and use their domain specific language?
• What are the domain specific technologies and other nontechnology business services that could be aggregated and integrated into a single solution?
• Where can you create smart 'configuration' that gives the impression of individual 'customisation' but allows you to have a manageable service?
• How can you reduce the 'time to value' of your service - a frictionfree purchase and deployment experience?
• How easy is it for a potential customer to qualify out – the easier it is then the more essential the service will be to those who stay?
• Where does training fit into your offering? (Happy users keep paying and ask for more)