Magazine Article | March 19, 2012

3 Strategies For Leading SMBs To The Cloud

By Justin Moore, CEO and cofounder, Axcient

Taking the time to lead hesitant businesses toward cloud solutions adoption can really pay off big.

“Putting my systems in the cloud seems risky.”
“I’m not ready to make a change.”
“The cloud is just a bunch of hype.”

You may have heard these or similar objections from SMBs (small to midsize businesses) when trying to sell them cloud solutions. However, many SMBs are rapidly embracing the cloud, understanding that a pay-asyou- grow approach is cost effective and easier to scale and manage than a traditional software and hardware approach. Forrester projects cloud computing to reach over $241 billion by 2020, and Gartner predicts that by 2015, 46% of all businesses will have more than half of their infrastructures and applications in the cloud. These numbers must always be viewed with a critical eye (analysts also predicted the world would be completely on virtual servers by 2010 and that Linux would become the dominant operating system), but whether you believe SMBs will move their entire infrastructure to the cloud or not, the reality is, a majority of them will leverage the cloud in some capacity in the coming years. And, to be relevant in a cloud world, VARs and MSPs will have to adapt.

As a channel partner, selling cloud solutions provides three significant benefits — highly desirable and predictable monthly recurring revenue, a new tool for customer acquisition, and increased stickiness with existing customers. If you believe that the analysts are even partially right, resellers not selling cloud solutions will soon be edged out by those who do. In speaking with more than 1,000 business owners and IT providers each year, here are the three most successful strategies we’ve seen at Axcient that resellers use to lead SMBs to the cloud:

Start Small. It’s a general rule about life that if you want people to say yes, you make it simple for them to do so. If you come on too strong at first, telling clients they need to move their whole business to the cloud, they’re likely to back off completely. It’s simply too big a decision to make for most and will intimidate the average SMB. A better tactic is to focus your initial recommendations on how cloud solutions can solve one or two of their biggest pain points. By doing this you will make it easier for clients to embrace the cloud. For example, a cloud-based data backup, business continuity, and disaster recovery service is an area where a cloud solution can really make a difference for SMBs, since it replaces multiple software solutions with one web-based service. Start there and then upsell customers on other cloud solutions once you’ve got your foot in the door.

Sell Value. A common mistake of vendors selling cloud computing solutions is to focus too much on the latest technology without clear examples of what it can really do for the business. In Silicon Valley, we refer to it as selling “speeds and feeds.” Instead, partners should focus on selling value first, putting the methodology second. SMBs care most about what the technology can do for them and rarely do they need to know how it actually works. SMBs want a solution. Lead with the real dollars they can save each month, along with the improved productivity employees will gain, and provide compelling use cases. Ask your cloud solutions’ vendors if they offer ROI calculators, then test their reliability — a good calculator can help you quickly and easily show businesses the real value they’ll receive from a cloud solution versus the cost of alternatives.

Provide Peace of Mind. Two of the biggest inhibitors to cloud adoption are fear and uncertainty. The “cloud” is a nebulous thing that SMBs can’t reach out and touch — for that reason, many are resistant to moving critical applications and systems to the cloud. One of the best ways to help SMBs overcome fear and uncertainty is by providing case studies and references from other customers. This provides the comfort that someone else has done it first and that those companies are seeing the real-world benefits you are presenting. If you don’t have other customers to leverage, then use research, statistics, and analyst data to support your sale. You can also deliver peace of mind with a hybrid cloud solution. Aside from the obvious replication and recovery speed benefits, part of the reason Axcient has an on-premise appliance as part of the solution is because of the security blanket it gives people in knowing their critical data and applications are physically present in their network.

Taking the time to lead hesitant businesses toward cloud solutions adoption can really pay off. After all, more than 70% of all SMB IT purchases today are going through the channel, and surveys of IT purchasers show cloud solutions to be one of their top priorities in the next year. By spending that extra time with customers to make it simple, show a clear ROI, and eliminate fear and uncertainty, resellers can make more sales.