The Cloud Solution Spin


In a recent interview with CRN, Rob Lloyd, Cisco’s executive vice president, worldwide operations, took a shot at HP and Huawei, essentially questioning whether the channel can trust his competitors.

Maybe it’s just because what promises to be the nastiest presidential campaign in history is heating up that I’m more cognizant of these types of statements, but the reality is we are going to see more of this as we move along the cloud solution path.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with Lloyd’s comments, which you can read on our Web site at www.crn.com. Any time a company has a chance to define itself by contrasting how it does business vs. its competition, it is fair game, in my opinion. In some circles, it’s called “position marketing,” or “spin.”

Whether or not what Lloyd is saying is true is open to debate and, frankly, something every partner needs to decide on his own. These kinds of statements were prevalent in the early days of the industry when standards were unheard of and all the titans were jockeying for competitive advantage.

My real point here is that when a solution provider sells a cloud solution, very few customers are really going to care about the underlying brands that make up that solution. As a result, position marketing to partners is going to become increasingly important to vendors as a point of differentiation.

Historically, the majority of position marketing spend has been toward end users and remains so today. Lloyd may not even have realized it, but with his statement he is positioning Cisco to the channel. It’s something I think will become more common due to the future loss of brand identity to the end user as a result of the cloud.

If the line-of-business manager isn’t concerned about the underlying brands that make up a cloud solution, then vendors are going to have to work harder to convince solution provider partners to select them as the solution recipe.

This is going to require a different approach to marketing at many levels. Through partner marketing, the emphasis will need to be on solutions, not product. Partners left the single product sale behind many years ago in favor of solution-selling, but to date solution-selling has still often come with an emphasis on the technology and brand makeup. That is going to dissipate as the line-of-business manager gets more involved in the buying decision and bases it on the problem being solved.

An example may be a partner that is building a practice in reducing storage costs for midsize enterprise companies, allowing a company to launch new products more quickly and cost-effectively by not having to build out storage infrastructure and buy storage beyond its needs.

If the customer’s products are storage-intensive, bringing a new product to market means that it has to add storage before it can begin selling it. But if the customer buys storage as a service and has a contract where it pays for what it uses, then a product can be launched and sold before adding costs.

The line-of-business manager is concerned about his costs because he has to return a profit. He is unlikely to care as much about the brand makeup of the solution because he is buying it from a solution provider that is guaranteeing the service.

My point here is that positioning to the partner base is going to become even more important in the future, and Cisco’s Lloyd may already inherently understand why.

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of UBM Channel. You can contact him via e-mail at robert.faletra@ubm.com.