In my sixteen years of working in Microsoft Business Applications and twenty years of working for Microsoft Partners I have never come across a partner that has said “we have more leads than we can handle, we have more opportunities than we can pursue, we are making more money than we know what to spend it on”.
Why have Microsoft Partners struggled with the ability to grow a robust and successful pipeline, filled with quality customers that allow you to do your best work and establish yourself as a market leader?
Why do practices worry about the depth of their “bench”, and have their fingers crossed that the next deal is going to have everyone out billing?
Why do practices consistently face peaks and valleys in the business?
Of course, it is not just one thing, but I suggest it is due to a lack of focus.
FOCUS on one specific industry, gaining subject matter expertise and dominating that industry.
The reason for this, I believe, it is often easier to chase after the next bouncing ball than it is to focus. We gamble with the next RFI or RFP, driven by desperation, cash flow, and lack of focus.
Pick a Lane
It’s time to pick a lane, not two or three lanes but one.
Choose what industry you are going to focus on and don’t switch to another one until you have reached market domination for that industry based on your region size. Like for example, state, region, country, geography, continent, world, universe.
Once you are the market leader in this space for how you expertly use the Power Platform to meet your target industry’s needs then consider your second industry to target.
Unless you are at that point of making more money than you know what to spend it on, and if that is the case give me a call as I have many ideas on how to spend it 😊.
Crossing the Chasm – Establish a Beachhead
There is a book that has been in the market for some time, and I cannot recommend it enough for Microsoft Partners and Practice owners that want to get focused on what game they are in as a System Integrator (SI).
There is a story told in the book that suggests we look at June 6th, 1944 and the specific geography of Normandy, France. The long-term goal was to take Europe from the enemy, but rather than fight on all fronts, a beachhead was established in Normandy. The competitor was forced out of that space creating a niche to grow from.
This niche is the industry you are going to focus on. I have skimmed the story here.
Create a list of target accounts within target Industry
Once you have decided what industry you will target (if you can’t determine what industry, please get in touch, and we can have a chat about what industry should be a focus for you). It is time to start gathering data that you can use to support your gut feelings and track if what you are doing is a contributor to your success.
I am guessing that you may have completed a project or two in a specific industry that you have decided to focus on and now it is time to look at the size of that industry and the geography you want to serve.
Here are the steps I have found helpful in the past.
First, you want to come up with a system to rank the industry you want to target. Build a database of all the companies that sit in your geography that make up that industry. Data points I like to get are:
- Company Name
- Company Legal Structure (Public/Private)
- Company Age
- Company Digital Maturity (subjective) *
- Address (Head Office, also note if they have multiple locations and how they are structured)*
- Main Phone Number
- Website Address
- Company Blog
- Company News/Announcements Page (RSS)
- LinkedIn Company Page
- Facebook Company Page
- Twitter Company Page
- Size (Headcount and $$$) *
- Industry Leadership (subjective) *
- Logo (is the logo a desirable logo from an industry status perspective) *
- Strength of existing relationship to that business (who in this business do you already have a connection to, or could you get a link to through an existing relationship? We will look at this in the LinkedIn section)
It’s worth noting at this point, I have not focused on any people and most, if not all of this information will be in the public domain.
For the items above highlighted with an * I assign a rating between 1-5, you can use whatever numbering system that works for you.
My goal is that each of these items will have a value that will allow me to filter the results, so I can see what companies I should target first, based on the companies with the highest score.
The next step in the research strategy of my target industry is to start building the relationship map to the accounts I want to target as my future customers, and this is to answer the question of WHO?
- Who in my existing network knows someone in the target business?
- Who at Microsoft is the Account Manager for this target business?
- Who is the target role you want to engage with?
- Who is the existing Microsoft partner that you can partner with to get your technology into the account?
- Who is the line of business manager that will want your solution, do they have a specific title?
- Who do you know outside of management that could be a confidant in educating you on the best way to engage with the business?
As part of this and ongoing research, I would seek the following information:
- Is there any existing technology you can piggy-back on; in other words, how can your technology enhance what is already in place?
- Is there incumbent technology that your solution is superior to and can replace?
- Is there a specific buying process that affects the target business?
- Are there “movers and shakers” or influencers in the target industry that you could build a relationship with?
Events and Publications
It’s important to understand the business challenges facing the industry I am targeting. Once again, this requires questions that needed to be answered.
- What events do people in the target industry attend? Are there conferences or other events that you can visit and network at?
- What’s on the event agenda? You can be sure it will focus on the current challenges of the industry, giving you insights into pain points in that industry that your solution could address.
- Is there an opportunity to speak at the event and come across as a thought leader (note this should not be about pushing your product, but more about thought leadership)?
- What publications does your target industry learn from, here are some examples to consider?
- Industry Websites
- Industry Directories
- Industry Printed/Digital Magazines
- Industry Newsletters
- Industry News sites
- Industry accreditation, compliance or standards sites
- Industry Blogs
- Industry Podcasts
Social Media Engagement
Follow the target company’s social media accounts and read what they are talking about in their industry and business. This then provides you with a platform to engage in a non-sales way.
Engagement is not about you pushing your product down people’s throats. I have seen so many times when people hijack threads with a link to their product that screams desperation and a “choose me, choose me” mentality as though they are eight years old wanting to get picked for the touch rugby team in the school playground.
As a by-product of this, your name gets elevated in the eyes of the author and your thought leadership has a chance to shine.