How Dynamics CRM Partners can Survive in the Cloud Era

In a short video (4 min) Brad Wilson, GM of Microsoft Dynamics CRM talks about how partners can take action to survive in the era of CRM Online 2011.

It’s an uncomplicated presentation but one of his messages struck me as very significant. He said basically three things:

  1. You can build apps which can be quickly trialled by customers thus leading to a good pipeline;
  2. You don’t need “hands on” on-premise deployment and therefore you can take advantage of having teams of experts and others anywhere in the world;
  3. You can take advantage of better web marketing and digital engagement to on-board customers quickly.

I must admit that I don’t fully understand #2, surely a customer hosting their own on-premise CRM didn’t require partners to also be on-premise – “co-located” so to speak. Just as the customer’s staff have network access so do the partners – don’t they? The reason to be physically with the customer is to do with analysis, design, implementation, training and organisational change issues – which are independent of the code hosting decision.

The link is Digital Engagement

So I don’t quite get #2, but there is a connection between #2 and where I am heading.

Point #3 was one that excited me, and it is connected with #1. I’ll just complete that loop and move on. If you are going to do #1 well, and develop apps to be downloaded quickly and easily by CRM customers, and then follow up and convert, then you’ll need good digital engagement.

That is, a website that is not about your development skills but looks like a Dropbox or a Rule.fm – it is all about customers finding, self-qualifying, trialling, converting, upgrading, supporting, and spreading word of mouth in their own time and without calling.

By the way this apps development opportunity, using say the xRM development environment, comes in two flavors as explained in detail by Josh Greenbaum – “filling the gaping white spaces in enterprise functionality” and secondly creating the apps “that have never been built before”.

Think of the SaaS Business Model

If that sounds vaguely familiar then think SaaS and the keys to success. You’ll have to develop those skills as much if not more than your CRM apps development skills.

Point #3 says all of this directly. A good road for CRM partners, one which has worked for some partners such as those who spoke at WPC2010, is to move to a low-cost of acquisition, low-touch, high-pace inbound funnel through a total digital engagement cycle.

Online CRM is a new business model for CRM Partners

This is a new business model.

This is as new a business model to on-premise or even hosted service CRM partners as the SaaS business model is to ISVs who sell on-premise licenses. Fortunately we know a lot about successful SaaS business models, and that’s why I was quite excited to hear Brad Wilson emphasis this play

This is the big transition. It requires a transition in thinking, in go-to-market, in customer acquisition, engagement and support, and particularly in agility. You as a partner organisation need to become more agile and remain agile as you accelerate the “customer engagement motion” as Brad Wilson called it (it’s kind of an odd phrase but we get the meaning).

If you increase your “customer engagement motion” but your digital engagement assets cannot keep up then you have a problem, one which could quickly pull back that momentum.

Three common challenges in the transition

We know from our SaaS business consulting work that the three recurring and most common challenges for businesses moving to a SaaS model are:

  1. The go-to-market – the complete lifecycle digital engagement process – it’s not just a web front-end on a product offer!
  2. Financial planning and cashflow analysis – matching incremental revenues with expenditures;
  3. Business agility, or lack of it – the ability to move the business ahead as fast as the customers demands via their digital engagement. Remember most of these people you will have never met – they are interacting completely online.

We also know that “simpler sells” and this suits the online offer of CRM as there is a kind of perception among customers that “cloud is simpler”. So playing to that expectation and enabling it will accelerate customers signing up for trials. This is the connection with point #2. If you keep things simple then you may not need to be on-premise people at all.

Rethink your business model

Summary  – Brad Wilson’s opportunity to partners is to rethink their business models to become trial-based through web marketing and digital engagement – high numbers, low cost of acquisition, and convert a percentage to a longer-term value-play. In simple terms – acquire a higher volume of low-cost fast “trial” traffic.

The challenge is how to do that, and fortunately we know a lot from the SaaS experience and the key role of a planned digital engagement life-cycle, and go-to-market strategies. Applying this to the CRM partner transformation will make for some exciting business.

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About Walter Adamson

Call me (AU) +61 403 346 632 Follow me @adamson My social web: http://xeeme.com/walter Linked: http://linkedin.com/in/adamson
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