I've continued to see 2 very different approaches to marketing hosted Email and UC services, one focusing on Quantity and the other on Capability. One thing we have learned over the years is that buying behaviors of Small Business Owners for our hosted services fall into several Personas: Innovators, Pragmatists, and Minimalists. Innovators are the ones that run out and buy the latest, coolest cell phones and believe technology is a competitive advantage - you know who you are!! We have been working with a company called Access Markets International (AMI), and according to their research, in the US Innovators spend 1.7 times their population size in IT services as a percentage of overall IT spend and represent 46 percent of the US market - you want these as your customers. Pragmatists believe technology is valuable to their business, "a necessary tool," and spend 0.9 times their population. Minimalists are the types that still have film cameras and are upset they can't develop their pictures everywhere and don't want to go digital - you know who those are too! Minimalists spend only 0.5 times their population in IT services.

I think the Persona data even makes intuitive sense - those that value the benefits of technology are willing to spend more for it.  So how should you package your hosted offerings to make sure they resonate with Innovators? I often see service providers trying to market Sliver, Gold, and Platinum packages where the only difference between the various types of email is amount of storage, or if archiving is included, or how long the email is retained. What buying type does this appeal to?  If the most lucrative buying customer is an innovator - will this excite them? It's likely to go over like a lead balloon. You want to inspire Innovators. Focus on what your solution can do, like Microsoft Exchange Group Calendaring to coordinate schedules and company address lists for getting contact info on the road, or access to stored files on a SharePoint securely anywhere you are - not storage amounts. Productivity is what gets innovators excited.  Consider packaging what you can do and not how much is included. Consider: Web only user, Desktop & Laptop user, Road Warrior.  You want to get an Innovator to think how they might apply your offerings to get them excited and they will pay you for the value you provide.  See Microsoft Communication Services on the Microsoft Partner Network for tips on how to market and position the value of hosted email and UC services.

 

Alex Danyluk, industry marketing director, Microsoft Communications Sector