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August 24, 2022
By Bill Lapcevic
Vendor marketplaces hosted by hyperscaler cloud providers are tremendous opportunities for companies that offer compatible software-as-a-service (SaaS) products.
Unfortunately, many firms fail to realize the potential of a marketplace listing, because the sheer number of providers makes it challenging for any one firm to stand out. Still, with the right strategies, any firm can succeed. It’s possible to generate a steady stream of engaged leads eager to learn about your products — provided you’re willing to invest the time and effort necessary to build a meaningful relationship with your chosen cloud providers.
As part of modernization efforts, organizations are migrating their applications from private data centers to the public cloud. One of the biggest incentives that public cloud providers offer is discounts tied to certain spending levels, so it’s tempting for clients to commit more money than needed for the base project to hit the discount rate. This leaves many firms with excess funds tied to the cloud, and marketplace vendors in prime position to capture that spend for their services.
When you connect with potential customers on a cloud marketplace, the odds are high that their interests and funding will be aligned with your offering. A mature presence will lead to an increase in the number of transactions you achieve per quarter, with a higher per-transaction revenue value, compared with more traditional channel strategies. Plus, the after-the-fact listing fee you pay the marketplace won’t subtract from your margin (many companies account for this as a marketing expense), so the deals you make still count as top-line revenue toward annual recurring revenue (ARR).
It’s also worth noting the reputational “halo effect” that comes from working with a recognizable cloud provider. Public endorsements by a larger partner and access to the cloud provider’s marketing initiatives, funding and customer reach can have a tremendous impact on your company’s reputation. It’s not unreasonable to expect an outsized return on marketing dollars spent emphasizing the relationship.
Customer-facing sites typically rely on an algorithm to drive users to recommended products, but cloud marketplaces function more like a catalog. Strategic recommendations from the marketplace provider serve as a “human algorithm,” which means it’s essential to identify the cloud provider’s teams that will be most receptive to your products, and build a relationship with them.
First, look for synergies between products. If you’re selling networking software, for example, identify the provider’s complementary offerings. The teams that build and sell these services are a good place to start relationship-building.
Second, make sure to register opportunities formally. The teams that respond to your registration will be the appropriate sales organizations for you to work with. This can help with relationship-building, as marketplace providers rely on these registrations to assess traction with a given partner and identify worthwhile opportunities.
Third, and perhaps most important, make a conscious effort to remain connected and engaged with your contacts within the marketplace ecosystem. Take them through your strategy and educate them about your product to ensure they understand how your solutions will operate and will positively impact their customers’ environments. This will empower them to guide you to the right product, field sales and field technical teams.
Many companies misunderstand the potential for success on the cloud marketplace and assume their sales teams will be greeted with an instant flood of leads upon arrival. Comparing a marketplace listing to appearing in a phone book’s Yellow Pages is more accurate. Someone could stumble across your listing, but if you’re not driving awareness through your own marketing and field efforts, you’ll be disappointed by the volume.
To drive awareness and build your reputation, your entire company must be committed to …
… making the most of your marketplace listings, from executive leadership to individual salespeople. This requires product teams to prioritize and optimize integrations, and the marketing team to support campaigns that target marketplace customers and key teams within the cloud provider organization.
To make this a feasible process at scale, the financial team must be willing to enable it. A key incentive is that the team only needs to collect from one entity (the cloud provider). It’s less expensive than standard referral agreements, and transactions are faster because they go through a customer’s existing cloud budget, instead of requiring a separate approval process.
Sales leadership also has an essential role to play, perhaps even creating financial incentives for transactions through these marketplaces. Once the first marketplace deal happens, internal promotion is critical. The salesperson who completed that first deal should speak about it at sales and company meetings, explaining why it was easy to transact through the marketplace, and how the cloud provider helped in the deal, whether through providing customer information, introductions, guidance or influence. From here, awareness can be sustained through your win wire. Partner and partner/sales ops teams should take notes and create dashboards to show the increased number of transactions, and revenue per transaction, which result from leverage on the marketplace listing. Tracking success and momentum is important for keeping teams excited and executive leadership supportive of these efforts.
Succeeding on a marketplace requires bringing unique value to that cloud provider’s ecosystem. This is only possible if you immerse your firm in that ecosystem, demonstrating a deep understanding of it, the vision to help evolve it and the willingness to contribute to its success wherever possible.
Beneficial tactics include publishing content aligned with the provider’s messaging, participating in joint marketing initiatives and attending company summits. Refer business to the provider whenever possible. And ensure these activities are visible to the teams that matter through active and ongoing dialogue. Communicate and collaborate with the provider’s marketing teams so they’re aware and involved in your campaigns, foundational customer wins, product integration announcements and participation at events like AWS re:Invent. Create a newsletter, include key stakeholders, and host executive meetings to discuss your collaboration from a sales and marketing perspective. Push “good news” back into the cloud provider organization regularly to create a flywheel of positive momentum.
Cloud marketplaces can offer strong ROI, but it’s important to understand that it will take time before you see a meaningful payoff. Important groundwork must be laid and foundational wins must be secured to build your company’s presence and momentum within the marketplace.
It will likely take at least a year of effort before meaningful returns can be expected, with another year before things really accelerate. Still, participating in a cloud marketplace represents an invaluable opportunity to bolster your reputation, acquire engaged customers who have funds to spend and build a meaningful relationship with a partner who will support your ongoing success.
Bill Lapcevic is senior vice president of business development at NS1. A software veteran, he has held software leadership roles in business development, sales, and customer success. Lapcevic previously ran both business development and customer success at New Relic, was the chief operating officer at Sentry.io, and was responsible for all partnerships and channels at Auth0. He is also an adviser to several startups and accelerators such as Forum Ventures, HeavyBit, and Quarterly.ai. You may follow him on LinkedIn or at @NS1 on Twitter.
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