Branding in the Age of Cloud
LogMeIn recently did a study of our partners about what really mattered in a channel program. In other words, what would enable channel partners to be more profitable and successful in building their businesses. Some of the answers were expected – near the top of the list were things like lead generation, sales literature, and dedicated tech support. NFR programs were also close to the top of the list. Near the bottom were private label products. It wasn’t last, but it was nowhere near first, and it got me wondering if something that had been holy writ in the industry had changed, and if so, why?
Any number of industry experts will tell you that it is critically important as an MSP to have a recognizable brand in your market. They will also suggest that your core deliverables need to be branded as your own, or at very least, not branded as someone else’s tool. I think that both of these ideas make sense, and that every single MSP in the space should establish their own identity and value based on what they do well. Then they should spend a significant percentage of their annual income on marketing efforts. A business without a brand is nothing.
Delta and Brands
That having been said, I am becoming an absolute believer that the brand shouldn’t exist on an island. As I write this blog I am flying over either the Atlantic or some portion of Western Europe on the way to Amsterdam, then on to Barcelona. I am flying on Delta. Nice plane, has the Delta logo all over it. There is a flyer in each seat pocket all about the plane, and interestingly enough Delta doesn’t make the plane. A company called Boeing makes it. Ever more interesting is that I feel much safer knowing the plane is made by Boeing and operated by Delta. Delta does not suffer from a loss of brand recognition as a result of flying Boeing jets, it benefits from the relationship. If you doubt that, imagine how you would feel if Delta announced that they were going to start building their own jets. You might be ok with that, but I would be seriously considering different airline options at that point.
I believe the same to be true about the channel, and particularly about the MSP community. MSPs do not generally build their own tools; they leverage vendor tools to deliver best-in-class service. Best-in-class service, in a chosen geography or vertical, is what your business is known for. It is the story you should be attempting to sell with every single marketing dollar. An MSP with a fantastic reputation for delivering great service and driving stronger value doesn’t necessarily need to also be the company that built your collaboration suite or even your backup solution, it can also be the company that acquires those solutions from best of breed vendors, and provides great service for those solutions every day. Just like Delta. And JetBlue. And a bunch of others.
So, here is my suggestion. Figure out what your value proposition is (yes, I say this every month in this blog, and I will likely keep on saying it until every MSP I ask can rattle off a compelling value proposition without even really thinking about it) and brand that. Market that. Celebrate that. Then, find best-of-breed cloud solutions and make them part of your deliverable as their own brand. You just might be able to leverage those additional brands to drive more sales, more marketing, and more customer loyalty.
Ted Roller is VP of Channel Development at LogMeIn.