Strategy & Best Practices

SMBs Can’t Get Enough of Microsoft. These Best Practices Can Help Resellers Win Their Business.

By Ideas @ AppDirect / April 23, 2018

Microsoft Office 365 Blog

Microsoft’s momentum continues to pick up steam. Commercial adoption of its popular cloud-based productivity suite, Office 365, is growing 45 percent year over year, with the software behemoth adding 50,000 new Office 365 customers each month for 28 consecutive months. Thanks to this tremendous growth, managed service providers (MSPs) and value-added resellers (VARs) are increasing their own revenues as they sell Microsoft cloud offerings.

But just offering Office 365 to your customers isn’t enough if you want to capture marketshare and grow your customer base, revenues, and profitability. You have to be prepared to think outside of the entry-level Microsoft reseller box to participate in the broader cloud services marketplace in a more scalable and profitable way.

Whether you’re a current Microsoft cloud solution provider (CSP) or are considering adding Microsoft Office 365 to your cloud services offering, the following best practices can help you understand what it takes to effectively plan for and scale your cloud business.

Best Practice #1: Grow Your Cloud App Catalog Beyond Office 365

While Microsoft Office 365 dominates the market for cloud productivity suites, your customers undoubtedly have needs that go beyond collaboration and document creation, management, and sharing. Understanding those needs and offering the solutions that help satisfy customer requirements—accounting, customer relationship management, security, and much more—not only expands your reselling revenue opportunities, but helps distinguish your offering from the
90,000 other partners Microsoft has for Office 365.

Providing bundled solutions helps distinguish your offering from the 90,000 other Microsoft partners.

Building a strong catalog of Microsoft cloud products as well as other third-party applications is also a great way to help your business expand its foothold in the current markets it serves and increase its appeal to more prospects across more verticals. You can build bundles of applications with horizontal reach—that is, bundling Office 365 with backup and security to appeal to a broad customer segment—or you can choose apps specifically designed for your vertical focus, if it is well-defined. If particular vertical applications aren’t already integrated with Office 365, consider creating integrations that you can sell as your company’s unique offering for higher margins and greater profitability.

While expanding your cloud services offering may sound daunting, it can be as easy as choosing a platform that already offers a large and growing catalog of cloud applications—including Office 365 and other Microsoft offerings. With the right cloud service commerce platform, you can mix and match apps that best meet the changing needs of your customers.

Best Practice #2: Offer Turnkey Solutions

Your customers can purchase Office 365 directly from Microsoft or any Microsoft CSP, so why should they buy it from your business? The answer lies in the value-add you provide. Besides your specific area of expertise, a major value-add comes in the form of managed services and bundled solutions that make it easier for customers to achieve their business goals.

When you deliver a turnkey solution, you help customers solve problems they either can’t or don’t want to handle on their own. These customers are willing to pay higher prices to get what their business needs without the hassle of everything involved in implementing and supporting the solution.

With turnkey solutions, you help customers solve problems they either can’t or don’t want to handle on their own.

That’s why it pays to bundle managed, value-added services—including software support and maintenance, data backup and recovery, data storage, network monitoring, management and security, and more—with Microsoft and other third-party products for a complete solution. Just make sure that you have a platform in place that gives you the flexibility to create your own bundles using various Microsoft SKUs and add-ons that you determine your customers need.

Best Practice #3: Provide Superior Customer Support

Speaking of turnkey solutions, providing customer support is a critical component of an end-to-end solution. It’s a requirement of the Microsoft CSP program, but it should be viewed as much more than just that. In fact, support services present a major opportunity to differentiate your offering, increase your solution’s perceived value, and justify charging premium pricing.

When you offer services such as on-boarding and migration that complement Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud products, you help make your customers “stickier” by streamlining the deployment and reducing the effort and cost of adopting new software. AppDirect research shows that partners that deliver a streamlined on-boarding experience within four business days after purchase see up to four times greater adoption of services than those who do not, along with a 50 percent drop in future support calls.

Streamlined on-boarding can boost service adoption up to four times greater than not offering assistance.

While planning and implementing your own in-house customer support capability can be daunting, there is a better way: partnering with a provider with specialized services and expertise for supporting Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud offerings. Look for a partner that offers end-to-end enablement services, including migrations, on-boarding, training, and 24/7 technical support.

To read the rest of our best practices for companies that resell Microsoft Office 365—they cover the critical areas of pricing and the customer lifecycle—click here to download our strategy brief, “Scaling Your Success with Microsoft Cloud Solutions.”

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