Building Your Cloud Services Portfolio: Three Key Questions to Consider

Our Parallels SMB Cloud Insights™ research indicates that 71% of small and medium businesses buy their business applications directly from the application provider. Going direct to individual providers is natural given the early days of the cloud market, but as services diversify and demand grows, the average SMB will find it increasingly difficult to manage multiple individual provider relationships.

Service providers, with their existing and often long-standing relationships with SMBs, have an opportunity to become the cloud services hub for their SMBs. In fact, this channel is necessary in order to fully realize, and potentially exceed, the predicted growth of cloud services.

For service providers, a critical challenge will be to determine the right services to sell to your customers. Below are three key questions to consider when building your cloud services portfolio:

  1. What services are you selling today?
    Cross-selling cloud services with your core services is the most direct path to volume, but the offerings have to have a logical connection to what customers are already buying from you. This is important from both a customer and a sales channel perspective as sales reps are as unlikely to pitch an ill-fitting service as customers are unlikely to buy it. For example, a hosting provider is likely to get more up-take on marketing-related web services than productivity tools; likewise, a communications provider will have more success with conferencing, or connectivity tools than web apps. Prioritize services that relate to your core offering, and opportunities for other cloud services will naturally develop for future sales programs.

  2. What sales channels do you have in place to sell individual cloud services?
    Many mainstream cloud services sell very well online – think hosting or email services. Others – such as hosted PBX, online backup, and even Office365 – prompt more questions from SMBs which require a conversation. Such services often have more package and feature options to consider, and some services may even impact legal responsibilities within certain verticals. If you primarily sell online, certain services may be too complex for online transaction and will drag down conversion. If you primarily sell offline through sales teams, certain services may not have enough margin to warrant the time investment by a rep. Build a portfolio that plays to your channel strengths.

  3. What support resources do you have to onboard and retain a potential customer?
    All cloud services are vulnerable to churn until a customer uploads data and begins using the service – this is why onboarding programs are so important in this space. Some cloud services, such as file sharing, are fairly intuitive, while others require more heavy lifting to get started. Service providers need to consider the resources they have in place – or need to get in place – to help SMBs successfully get their data online, and to adequately support them while they begin to integrate usage into their regular work streams. There are a number of solutions in the market that address these challenges, many of which are already in play with Parallels partners. Contact your Parallels account manager to learn more about onboarding and support resources available.

Cloud services are exploding, and there is a lot of market excitement around each new service. General market and customer demand certainly play a role in portfolio development, but it remains important to measure each potential service selection against your ability to effectively sell and support it within your core business operations.

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