Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Australia for the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference. With more than 1,000 partners attending the conference, it was a great opportunity to meet many of our Australian partners who impressed me with the innovative work they are doing with our customers. One of the highlights of the conference was recognizing their achievements through a number of prestigious awards. During the course of the conference, every person I spoke with had something inspiring to say about how, with Microsoft, they are helping their customers achieve more.
As you may have heard me present at WPC and across other worldwide partner events, I shared the skillsets and capabilities we are seeing in the most successful and profitable cloud businesses. During APC, I shared the stage with three amazing Australian partners who talked about their great examples of innovation, also demonstrating how they understood the skillsets and attributes that were crucial for success in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
Commonly, we see this as IP differentiation; digital marketing; customer acquisition and retention and people and measurement:
  1. IP differentiation: these partners are focused on their own first-party IP as the core of their business. Their innovation culture sets them apart from their competitors and provides new revenue streams.

  2. Digital marketing: successful cloud partners understand this practice has evolved far beyond SEO and is about establishing a digital profile, leveraging social to build your business and leveraging reputation engines to build credibility. These days, it’s possible to be an industry thought leader on a global stage, and digital-savvy partners are taking full advantage of the expanded market to reach customers they don’t have a traditional relationship with.

  3. Customer acquisition and retention: successful partners have recognized they must differentiate themselves in order to capitalize on the vast opportunity the cloud brings. They understand they have to have a closely integrated sales and marketing function to drive greater velocity through their sales funnel. They also know that cloud economics favor customer lifetime value, and building a customer for life is key.

  4. People and measurement: People and measurement: partners who’ve been successful have realigned their revenue recognition and performance indicators. Cloud revenue cycles pay out differently than we’re used to, so changing sellers’ compensation models to support an annuity or recurring business is crucial.
It was really exciting to hear them share their stories with the audience and learn how they were bringing these attributes to life.

 

The first partner to join me on stage was Karl Redenbach, CEO and co-founder of LiveTiles, a company focused on providing “user experience.” Three years ago, LiveTiles recognized the opportunity of the cloud and developing its own IP particularly as it related to creating an ongoing annuity. Karl highlighted the importance of focusing on innovation, finding niche opportunities and getting the right people involved in projects to develop strong IP.
Karl shared an example of a unique education solution they had developed which has two million customers globally and provides an ongoing annuity revenue stream. Karl said one thing that really stood out to me: “You can’t be scared. You have to be prepared to fail, and it’s important to get your right people involved led by a clear three-year plan.”
Scott Osborne, CEO of partner Total Synergy, also shared his story on stage about how Total Synergy has reimagined its digital marketing and customer acquisition and retention strategies.  Recognizing the way people buy has changed, Scott flipped his company’s marketing strategy on its head with a focus on building a strong digital profile for the business. They have completely changed the way they engage with prospects by switching from traditional marketing tactics like roadshows, eDMS, and trade press to a content-driven strategy. They provided a strong point of view on technology for their target customers with social channels at the heart of the strategy. And the results are impressive. With the same marketing investment, they have seen the length of their sales cycles drop from an average of 180 days down to 30 to 40 days, doubled new business revenue and been able to repurpose all of their content to continue the conversation with existing customers, significantly improving their retention.
The last partner to join me on stage was Oakton, a Microsoft partner with some interesting views on people and measurement. Oakton’s CEO, Neil Wilson, outlined the importance of aligning their internal measurements to support the shift to a recurring revenue business. He highlighted that it’s important for employees to understand that the customer is at the center of the equation and that they are changing, services are different, and consumption is the focus. He explained that it’s also essential to change the model to change the behaviors. He closed by saying that for Oakton, the IP-based annuity model is directly tied to incentives to reflect the changing business model to drive business results.

But it wasn’t just the partners on stage that had interesting stories to tell. I enjoyed touring the conference, and especially exploring The Hub floor where I had the opportunity to hear from many of the partners about the growth in their businesses. It was an invigorating experience and reinforced the opportunity for growth and success that cloud-based solutions offer to our Australian partner ecosystem.
This is an exhilarating time in the journey through our mobile-first, cloud-first world, and I’m committed to doing everything we can to help the partners who are trailblazing the future of cloud.