Some people, like Microsoft partner sales executive Justin Slagle, are saying that managed service providers (MSPs) need to stop pitching Office 365, which can come as a shock. However, it makes sense. Justin’s point is the importance of differentiation. In today’s market, where resellers are struggling to compete in a crowded market, you can’t just offer the same Office 365 solution as the vendor down the street. Let’s take a quick look at some ways to create a valuable offering for your customers while setting your business apart from competitors.
Intellectual Property: Make It If You Can
If you’re an Office 365 reseller, you’re probably looking for ways to deal with stiff competition—and if you aren’t, now is a great time to do so! Justin recommends creating and bundling in your own intellectual property package. This is a great option for partners who have an aptitude for application development and practice in content creation. Depending on the type of intellectual property you want to offer, this can require some concerted effort to define and develop.
Bundling: Expertise Required
There’s a natural opportunity to bundle complementary services from Azure, like single sign-on and mobile device management. This is an excellent idea, if—and only if— you have competencies in that technology and the skillset to build business processes that technology, and if you can deliver them as a managed service. If you’re one of the many partners who don’t have those capabilities yet, or if you’re a value-added reseller (VAR) trying to transform your business and offer managed services for the first time, you may need a different starting point.
Those first two approaches require a certain type of partner or specific expertise to be effective, but here are two other ideas that can work for every partner:
High-Value Management of the Environment
Offer a management tool that includes advanced security, compliance and alerting features to customers using Office 365. You can differentiate your offering with deeper reporting than what is available with Office 365, and you can market the service to customers who are looking to cut costs—which is true of most businesses. You benefit from staying relevant after they’re onboard, helping to make their Office 365 platform more secure. There are tools on the market that don’t require PowerShell and are easy to operate – even for a non-technical person.
Adding 24/7 Support
Bundle in 24/7 end-user technical support with your Office 365 package. Imagine how different your version of Office 365 looks if customers’ employees can call you directly, instead of calling Microsoft. If you’re establishing a Tier-1 cloud solutions provider (CSP) relationship with Microsoft, you need to offer the help desk anyway. Even if you aren’t a direct CSP, the help desk is a great way to maintain a strong relationship with your customer and find new opportunities to upsell your services. You don’t have to spend the money and time to set up your own in-house help desk. Several providers specialize in help desk outsourcing for Microsoft partners.
As you can see, you have many options for differentiating your own Office 365 package. Choose an approach that fits the strengths and capabilities of your company. You don’t need to spend time and money on training and hiring for your services expansion right away—or ever. Any (or several) of these paths can help your Office 365 offering successfully stand out from the crowd
Lon Clark is the Global Distribution Alliance Manager for BitTitan, a proud partner of Tech Data. Lon started his career in the Cloud almost 10 years ago by helping partners build their Microsoft Office 365 (Office 365) practice. Currently, Lon collaborates with distributors and their partners to help enable the move to a managed service model while scaling Cloud businesses.