Developing Competitive Advantage (Important, Please Read)

ExchangeDefender, Microsoft
10 Comments

I rarely put “Important, Please Read” in the subject so I hope you can set aside some quiet time and consider what I am about to tell you with an open mind. I will discuss the LiveArchive 2 product but this applies to a lot more than me and OWN. It’s important to you.

Earlier today, after an all night coding session to finally launch ExchangeDefender LiveArchive 2, I had an extensive dental surgery. It involved total anesthesia using Special K (Ketamine) which produced some awesome hallucinations complete with Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze. Spinning, twirling, unable to walk and even sit up.. doped up and high as a kite.

If you intend to offer ExchangeDefender LiveArchive 2 under the same terms that I have, you are absolutely insane. You better stock up with Special K because you’re going to need antidepresants if you don’t recognize that what I am offering you is just a template.

It’s just a tool.

It’s just a platform.

Your business profitability and survival depends on how you use my products to help your customers understand what you can offer beyond and above what the other guys do. Above and beyond what other ExchangeDefender partners can do. Above and beyond what Own Web Now itself can do.

It’s just a platform – platform for you to build your business on.

By marking it up 10%? No!

By marking it up 400%? No!

It is all about competitive advantage. I am giving you the building blocks to create a business that helps your clients create the kind of redundancy and portfolio that larger businesses spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to deliver.

But you have to ask yourself one important question: Am I in business to flip other peoples solutions and be a part of the implementation slave force to be displaced at the first client dispute by a similar alternative? Am I just a markup monkey?

If the answer to that question is a resounding no, then our mission at OWN is to make you successful – but how? By giving you a $216 freebie that you can resell for a few bucks more each month? So you can make a quick buck and move on? So you can sell it at the same price as the competition and be just yet another antispam jockey in a sea of similar solutions? You know me better than that.

Folks, this is an opportunity for you to create a business model that returns the profitability beyond minor markups and clients that are not interested in paying for consulting. How?

Understanding Your Role

If you’ve ever bothered to read my partner guide or this blog you’ll know I’m big on partnerships and relationships. But not in the pimp-pimp-ho relationship where I am only interested in having you sell as much product as quickly as you can. That is not how you build a great company. That is not how you build a company whose clients are loyal and believe in the vision of the company whose products power the very business they are building.

But how do you do that? How do you break through the cycle of ignorance – yours and your clients? I have lost the counts of the Geek Squad Dave’s around the world professing their inability to act like businessmen that can clearly communicate with their clients. Does this sound familiar: “Oh, my clients will not pay for that!”, “Oh, my clients would never trust anyone else with their data!”, “Oh, my clients are not interested in that!”

Please. Spare me the sob story. I’ve heard it a billion times. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It tells me that you suck at sales. It tells me that you don’t know your role. It tells me that the client may have picked the wrong IT company to work with. Want to know the truth:

The reason you are sitting in with the prospect to begin with is because they are interested in a business relationship. If they wanted a technology relationship they would have hired an IT person or a college kid to sit with on a weekend and figure out how to make their computers work. The very reason you are in the seat across from a business owner or a business decision maker is the fact that they do not care about the technology but what a technology can do for them in terms that they can understand. Customers don’t speak ExchangeDefender, StorageCraft or Volume Shadow Copy. Customers speak “no spam”, “getting back a file I accidentally deleted” and “what happens if our Internet connection goes down”

If you start talking about technology in a realm of technology you are clearly communicating that you are just a grown college kid. Sorry if that offends you but it’s true. You are setting your prospect, no matter how technical, into a position where they are no longer thinking business but thinking technology and as we all know there is a way to defeat every IT argument.

You think your customers don’t trust people with their data? Show me one that doesn’t have American Express or online banking.

You think your customers don’t trust cloud computing? Show me one that isn’t using instant messaging or VoIP of some sort.

You think your customers are paranoid, data hovering, sword swinging guardians of all their private information? Who handles their payroll and tax payments?

You see, there is an illusion of what you think, of what the customer is communicating to you and then there is the sea of opportunity for your business and your clients business if you can discuss it in the terms that they understand and sell them the dream that things are no longer the same they were a day ago, a month ago or a year ago. That is why you are a technology company, to offer them the benefit of the changes and an ability to take a competitive leap beyond what others in their market are doing.

Thats what I’ve done for my partners today.

That is what we continue to do for our partners.

That is why we have the highest account retention rate around and why our partners rarely ever walk – and when they do it’s clearly because they simply don’t get it. Good riddance. I don’t want to work with people that are nickel and diming and have a one month foresight.

How would you like to say that about your business. More importantly, how can you build your business to be that successful that you can afford to say something like that, in the plain sight of your prospects (as in you, while reading this blog). I’ll tell you how.

Focus on building a business that helps businesses be aware and ready for a disaster.

This is not an opportunity to sell more ExchangeDefender, or another offsite backup account, or move more StorageCraft licenses. This is an opportunity to sit back, review your offering and create a new level of services that you can clearly communicate, present and deliver. A line so big that it goes side by side to your Managed Services, or IT Consulting, or OEM Custom System Builder.

Think BIG. I am letting you, because we let you have these services for free as a partner. Prove me wrong.

I want you to sit down with a blank piece of paper and design a system that only your company can offer.

I want you to come up with a pitch that allows the business owner to have confidence in their ability to recover a single file, to continue working if the Internet goes down, to continue working if the building catches on fire, to continue working from home if the office is flooded, to be able to rebuild their business in another town, in another zip code, in another country in the case of an emergency.

Do you know an un-enterprising entrepreneur? (trick question, there are none).

I want you to sit down and think of how your local data backup works. Now I want you to think of it in the realm of the Own Web Now Offsite Backups with CDP snapshotting daily activity to a local USB drive. You see, unlike some of our competitors we don’t care how much data you backup locally, you should get as many and as frequent backups as you can. OWN Offsite Backup, $1/GB, with the new release coming in September comes with Continuous Data Protection (CDP) which allows you take snapshots of data as it changes. Jargon.

I am enabling you to go to your customer and equip them to roll back to a work in progress a minute ago. An hour ago. A day ago. A year ago. Without any IT intervention. Without a support ticket. Full self-service. Let the end user manage their own technology. EMPOWER IT.

With ExchangeDefender LiveArchive I am not just giving you some retarded archiving product with store/search/discover/forward functionality. That is worthless. I am not even stressing the fact that its clustered, enterprise, massively scalable and redundant either. I am not talking about RAID6, I am not talking about multiple power feeds, enough UPS juice to keep it running for days, elevated five feet off the floor with massive disk arrays that can deal with a flood and an earthquake. I am not even telling you how much I’m backing this thing up and to which data centers. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I am enabling you to tell your customer that you’re creating a replica of their communications platform in a secure, enterprise-class data center that is powered by the same solution they currently have, just in a more secure and resilient environment. I am enabling you to tell them that hardware fails, that software disappoints, that sooner or later there will be issues – expensive issues: and you’re telling them that they just need to go to the local Starbucks or fire up their iPhone or Windows Mobile phone and keep on working – even if their server is down, even if the Internet connection sucks, even if the building is on fire. The business goes on.

When your business is down you are only concerned about communication. People can tolerate downtime, but they cannot tolerate the inability to know what is going on – because that raises another risk in their business that they will lose sleep over. So let them sleep.

Let them know that their mail server has a replica in a data center that is as secure and far more powerful what they have in their backoffice. Without retraining the staff. Without new software. Without installing or configuring plugins and server extensions.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are working hard here to make it possible for you to be the savior of their business and get clients for a lifetime that keep on telling their other customers about you. Not just because you’re different, but because you do something nobody else has ever opened their eyes to the possibility of doing.

It is not about overcoming objections – it is about selling the dream of possibilities. Entrepreneurs consider that to be their lifeblood. Play to it.

What is in it for me?

Fair question. Crazy Ligman gave you the financial overview earlier today.

I now want to introduce you to another good friend of mine, Mark “Slim Shady” Crall. What does Mark know that you need to consider?

Let your clients risk tolerance guide how much they are willing to spend on the continuity and lifespan of their business.

Instead of you setting the price and providing the quote, provide the advice and the service template instead. Let them pick how many days of retention they take. Let them pick how many gigs of data they want to back up. Let them decide how many computers in the office are mission critical and what it would cost them if their receptionists PC was out for a day.

Think they will lowball themselves? By contrast, how many people do you think ever take your spec quote and run it by your competitors as well as your vendors?

People are smart. But they are also frugal and cautious and they will do whatever they can afford to protect their little baby, their business. They will pay more for that than what they would even consider looking to spend if you gave them a quote.

So thanks to Mark Crall, ExchangeDefender 4.0 will have a LiveArchive sizing manager. You get to set how many days retention they get. Let them do the risk/benefit analysis after you’ve sold them on the kind of reliance they can have on you.

Do you give them 365 days retention just because I gave it to you? Oh @#%@# no! I am not going to sell this product to them. I am not going to setup this product for them. I am not able to talk to them face to face and show them the smiling list of testimonials of my business clients that had their lifestyle saved because of the same solution I offered to them.

Do you think your clients are paranoid about the cloud and their data? I’m going to let you in on a little secret. They are even more paranoid about their office and the alarm system there. They worry about their clients privileged data security. They worry about that problem employee they need to fire and keep any backlash to the minimum.

They worry. You sell a piece of mind. You ease that worry with technology.

That is why you are there.

And you let their worry dictate just how profitable you are going to be with ExchangeDefender and LiveArchive and OWN Offsite Backups. Or with StorageCraft and Postini, this goes beyond me.

I can tell you that as my partners my organization relies on your feedback to keep on building the awesome products that we build. I need your expertise and your ears on the street. And I am offering you my competitive advantage because I am not just an antispam company. I am not just a security company. I don’t just offer colocation services. I don’t just sell offsite backup. I don’t just have Exchange Hosting around the world, in UK, in Australia, in Dubai and all over America. I don’t just offer AuthAnvil one token at a time. I don’t just ___. I have worked very hard to create a total technology solution business over the past decade and I am leveraging my competitive advantage to create more loyal partners.

Why? Because at the end of the day it’s a business relationship and technology/tools are just the medium for that relationship.

And with the lower complexity of technology, with the free and easy substitutes to some of the most complex and expensive systems traditionally available, with the ease of use and signup, without software to install and configure – and most of all – with the more tech savvy workforce, the very survival of the technology companies of today is the ability to offer businesses a business relationship and sell the opportunity the software solutions present – not the software licenses and the install time block of hours.

Welcome to the future. You are the brand, it’s all about how you sell yourself and how others perceive you.

P.S. Speaking of competitive advantage – this is where Microsoft and Own Web Now have very different visions of what the partner relationship needs to be. Microsoft wants you to be the sales force and implementation grunt monkeys because they look at quarterly licensing revenues. I want to empower you to build a business on my solutions, to come back to me and tell me what other solutions I can offer with my massive scale – because the survival of my business depends on the growth of your business and we all depend on the client getting the business tools to run their business. Competitively, I don’t think Microsoft has a chance against us – aside from the pennies they collect by powering the solution I’ve built. The future is in customization, the product will become a commodity. Today, we made message hygiene archiving a commodity – so go ahead and break out that yellow tape because I’ve just slaughtered the folks who only considered archiving their massively profitable offering – I gave it out for free. What can you do with that? (I hope that by reading this blog post again you come up with an easy business model, all you have to do to get started is hit this link.)

10 Responses to Developing Competitive Advantage (Important, Please Read)

  1. Amy says:

    You need to get high more often. This is the best post you’ve ever written.

  2. Paul says:

    Great post even under the influence! I am very impressed with what ExchangeDefender Live Archive offers our business as an end user, and so are the company owners. What I am unsure about is how the small end user guys like us sit with all this partner stuff. Are we still desired here at OWN or would OWN prefer us to be dealing with partners? Looking at the scales involved, we are very small fry compared to your core business with partners.

  3. vlad says:

    Paul,

    Basically, OWN does not provide level 1 support and sales. We’re not interested in going direct in the small or lower midmarket since those customers are virtually impossible for us to organize and support. If you’ve got an IT department then yeah, you’re not going to want a partner as I remember from the conversation with you. So that we’ll do on case by case basis.

    I think OWNs future is in high end enterprise contracts on one end, and software across the spectrum. One sort of fuels another. Our partners in the SMB bring us features, needs, implementation issues, field tests and in turn we build it into the product that we then sell along with services to the enterprise customers that want a business relationship not a more technical one. (as I covered to the long extent up there)

    Where that leaves you is up to you. If you like the product and you can live with the kind of support we offer without having a partner then you’re welcome to keep on sending us money 🙂 But if you need anything more, as I said previously, if you want a server I can send half the UK partner force your way 🙂

    -Vlad

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  5. Paul says:

    Vlad,

    I appreciate your comments, I guess it’s a service Vs cost dilemma and finding the correct balance. I will mail you direct for when you have a moment.

  6. Jeff says:

    Great post. One of the best. Here is where I see LiveArchive 2.0 being awesome for my users: They don’t have to learn a new webmail. They are already familiar with OWA 2007 and its functions/features. So if there is ever a disaster now, just point them to a different address (or redirect them) and they are operating as normal as possible. No new training. That’s worth money.

  7. Chris Knight says:

    Wot Amy said.

    What an awesome, inspiring post!

    Where’s that pen and paper?…

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  9. Dan McCoy says:

    Darn Vlad, Just when I thought you had gone completely insane… you come out with this gem 🙂

    As I sit here writing copy for my website, I think you just put into words some serious writers block for me. That is exactly what I sell… Thanks for putting it into words for me 🙂

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