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We hosted our annual Accelerate Cloud Summit last week, completing the first of a three-stage event designed to help managed services providers (MSPs) and Sherweb partners with strategic business planning. Taking place virtually on Oct. 21 and 22, Accelerate 2020 was a resounding success, generating impressive engagement and positive feedback from hundreds of attendees.

Featuring sessions from industry experts, interactive networking and tons of actionable resources and takeaways, these first two days of Accelerate laid the foundation for two phases of programming yet to come. Some highlights of the event included:

  • Sherweb keynote delivered by Co-Founders and Co-CEOs Matthew and Peter Cassar, which previewed new products and solutions and the company’s 2021 roadmap
  • Jason Brown, Vice President of Product at Sherweb expanded on product and solution updates, including new capabilities for Office Protect, the launch of Performance Cloud powered by VMware and Sherweb’s exclusive QuickBooks integration
  • Mark Stuyt, Chief Engagement Officer, Sharka Chobot, Chief Transformation Officer and Joanne Charley, Chief Marketing Officer of Neural Impact delivered respective sessions on business strategy, marketing and revenue generation for MSPs
  • Erick Simpson, Channel Growth Expert (ericksimpson.com) addressed attendees about growth plans, human resources and financials for MSPs and technology providers
  • Two live panel sessions provided additional time for Accelerate speakers to answer questions about their sessions, discuss current challenges facing MSPs and provide guidance on how to plan for the future

Missed the event? No worries—we’ve recapped each session below. You can also still get in on the Accelerate action, as long as you’re a Sherweb partner.

 

Accelerate 2020 session recaps

The first stage of the virtual Accelerate Cloud Summit was all about the engaging sessions delivered by channel leaders. Topics covered everything from challenges presented by COVID-19, to strategies for business growth, to marketing trends to hiring advice. In order of the agenda, here’s a brief breakdown of what each session entailed.

Sherweb keynote

Peter & Matthew Cassar, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs, Sherweb

Setting the stage for the next two days, Peter and Matthew Cassar laid out the three-phase approach designed specifically for Accelerate 2020. Given the obvious limitations imposed by the global pandemic, Sherweb had to rethink its programming in order to provide sufficient value in a virtual setting. The Sherweb Team worked diligently to produce an event with actionable takeaways to help attendees and partners future-proof their business and plan for the year ahead.

Peter and Matthew then covered Sherweb’s four pillars—cloud solutions, business strategy, operational effectiveness and expertise— explaining how the company has aligned priorities alongside its mission to provide exceptional value for partners. Next came Sherweb’s roadmap for 2021, including an increased focus on managed security services, launching additional solutions for clients and unveiling Performance Cloud powered by VMware.

Remaining relevant in a disrupted world

Mark Stuyt, Founder and Chief Engagement Officer, Neural Impact

Mark immediately addressed the elephant in the room: the pandemic has changed our business reality. The way managed service providers (MSPs) and systems integrators do business has been altered. His first session covered three main areas, beginning with exploring this new reality relative to COVID-19. Second, Mark challenged attendees to reimagine how they develop offers and bring them to market, given new market challenges and opportunities. Third, Mark invited viewers to focus on their business planning and prioritization, considering demand drivers such as working from home, new business processes and increased IT dependency for customers.

8 levels of change to becoming a modern cloud provider

Sharka Chobot, Chief Transformation Officer, Neural Impact

Picking up where Mark left off, Sharka presented how attendees can implement changes and trends created by the global pandemic to strengthen their own businesses. She highlighted what some of those changes are, including the shift for both providers and customers to remote work, buyer conservation of capital and an accelerated sales cycle due to an increased need for technology to facilitate working from home. Consequently, there are eight levels of change that cloud providers should strive to achieve to survive these tumultuous times: a financial model based on recurring revenue; increasing industry domain expertise; improving systems, processes and structural operations; digital transformation; products and services focused on delivering value and reducing customer risk; a customer service model that drives satisfaction and lifetime value; digital marketing; and shortened sales cycles to increase win rates and lower selling costs.

What’s your strategy for growth? Identifying objectives and business drivers

Joanne Charley, Chief Marketing Officer, Neural Impact

Every business needs a growth strategy if it wants continued success. Putting such a strategy into place is especially important for cloud providers right now, given the explosive growth of both SMBs and cloud services. Joanne drilled down on four strategies attendees can utilize to position their businesses for strategic growth: penetration, services development, market development and diversification. However, in order to put these strategies into action, there are four preliminary steps that MSPs should follow: identify your focus; understand the trends driving your market segment; identify your customer journey; and make a plan.

What’s your competitive differentiation?

Sharka Chobot, Chief Transformation Officer, Neural Impact

Sharka returned to the stage to discuss a top business priority for all channel providers—competitive differentiation. How do attendees provide value for clients versus everyone else out there? A surprising number of organizations use the exact same core messages to prove that they’re different, including how long they’ve been in business, their technical excellence and their focus on customer satisfaction. Sharka argues these are strengths, not true differentiators. The key to showing your company is unique lies in its ability to specialize services and establish an emotional connection with clients. Never resort to competing on price!

Do you have the right resources? Strategies to overcome the capacity gap

Erick Smith, Technology Business and Channel Growth Expert, ericksimpson.com

Hiring for technology positions and managing staff retention and turnover are significant challenges for MSPs. To address these challenges, Erick presented pathways for making data-driven decisions cognizant of your services growth. It starts with an organizational planning chart to outline what positions you have currently, and what you’ll need in the future as your business grows. MSPs should also think about developing a succession strategy, so that hiring and recruitment can be aligned with your organization’s growth plans. In addition to best practices for hiring, Erick shared important factors for evaluating current staff to help ensure the knowledge and technical requirements of your business are being met.

New programs and products at Sherweb

Jason Brown, VP Products, Sherweb; Dany Gauthier, Team Lead, Software Development, Sherweb; Erik Beauchamp Product Director, IaaS, Sherweb; Guillaume Boisvert, Director, Product Innovation, Sherweb

Expanding on announcements made during Matthew and Peter Cassars’ keynote speech, Jason, Dany, Erik and Guillaume took attendees through some of Sherweb’s recent product launches. Dany introduced attendees to Sherweb’s exclusive QuickBooks integration, presenting a short demo for both QuickBooks Online and Desktop. Erik revealed Performance Cloud Powered by VMware, showing Sherweb’s latest in-house development for cloud services and the IaaS market. Last but most certainly not least, Guillaume previewed new advanced reporting features available for Office Protect, and provided a walkthrough of Sherweb’s white-label Security Foundation Assessment, which Sherweb partners can customize to suit their specific security offering or their clients’ particular needs with regards to assessing security posture.

Marketing is the new sales—getting and keeping customers in a COVID world

Sharka Chobot, Chief Transformation Officer, Neural Impact

Digital marketing simply can’t be ignored if MSPs want to succeed in today’s business landscape. The messages we share with our target audiences are more important for business than ever before, and how we frame that messaging should in some way respond to what’s happening in the world around us. By being empathetic in their marketing, MSPs can align their solutions with problems that customers need solved. However, trust is a huge issue in marketing, especially when it comes to technology. So how do we get our audience to believe us? Sharka took attendees through ways to answer that question, including strategies for leveraging remote capabilities to reach global markets and qualifying potential leads with educational content.

Driving an effective remote sales cycle

Mark Stuyt, Founder Chief Engagement Officer, Neural Impact

Mark returned with more insights for how MSPs can drive business in the current, remote-focused work environment. He described the persona of Buyer 3.0, who needs an immediate emotional connection or problem resolution to be coaxed through a sales cycle quickly. Providers need to adapt to creating emotional connections virtually, through video chat and other relevant tools. More importantly, however, providers should tailor their offerings and associated sales motions to specific buyer categories to qualify as many leads as possible, without having them cycle endlessly through a marketing nurture that might continue to educate but not close deals. To make this happen, Mark recommends considering your customers’ strategic tipping point—the point at which they decide to complete their purchase.

Improving operations and margins

Erick Smith, Technology Business and Channel Growth Expert, ericksimpson.com

Getting into the nitty gritty of the MSP business, Erick reviewed key performance indicators (KPIs) to pay attention to for various operational areas such as finances, marketing, service desk and project management. With the goal of increasing revenue and reducing expenses to increase your business’s net profit, MSPs should constantly investigate their performance across such metrics to evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of their business. Erick also outlined factors that impact MSP profit margins, such as business model, consultative selling and cost of service delivery.

How will you increase revenue? Strategic initiatves to drive customer lifetime value

Joanne Charley, Chief Marketing Officer, Neural Impact

This session built on the growth strategies Joanne explored in her previous presentation, with an emphasis on facilitating and increasing customer lifetime value (CLV). It’s a known tenet of marketing that maintaining existing customers is far more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. This is especially true in the current climate, when customer acquisition is getting exponentially more challenging. To focus more attention on satisfying top-performing customers and attracting more like them, MSPs should pay attention to which services clients with high CLV consume most. By modifying them for a broader segment of their customer base, MSPs can then shift their offerings towards higher profitability over time. To do this, providers need to achieve a detailed understanding of their customer journey and when the time is right to introduce new services to existing clients.

All about the money—building to scale, acquire or sell

Erick Smith, Technology Business and Channel Growth Expert, ericksimpson.com

The final session of the Accelerate 2020 Cloud Summit centered on something incredibly dear to all of our hearts: dollar signs! Erick focused on three big-picture areas where finances are a major factor for MSPs: scaling up, acquiring another organization and selling. He reviewed metrics that all technology providers should care about for each situation, including customer and revenue churn, customer acquisition cost and lead-to-customer rate, among others. Additionally, this session covered important actions for each financial scenario, such as assessing the health of organizations your MSP is looking to acquire and maximizing your company’s valuation if your considering a sale.

 

Another great Accelerate for the books

Sherweb is absolutely thrilled with how our virtual Accelerate Cloud Summit turned out. We had fantastic attendance and engagement, as well as some very positive feedback from our partners and participants. We extend our sincere thanks to everyone who joined us for two days of learning, networking and strategic planning. We look forward to the next stages of Accelerate, where we’ll help participants optimize and execute business plans they started building during the first phase of the event.

Want to get in on the action? Become a Sherweb partner and get insider information on how you can benefit from knowledge shared at Accelerate 2020 and future-proof your business.

Written by Mathieu Leblanc Director, Partner Success @ Sherweb

An integral part Sherweb’s expanding partner network, Mathieu implements programs that allow MSPs and resellers with different business models to build a winning cloud strategy. His vision and knowledge of the channel helps Sherweb partners achieve growth and success. Mathieu's efforts have resulted in several award wins and recognitions for Sherweb, such as the Microsoft Global Cloud Partner of the Year Award.