Hmm – did that headline grab your attention – I hope it did.
Today it was exposed that Microsoft Australia are reaching out to their/our clients to “better engage with them”. They are doing this by sending out letters direct to the clients asking them to contact Microsoft and let them know the numbers of desktops, servers and the like that they have. In return the customer will gain untold riches, unlimited licensing and a 1GB USB stick (2 out of those three are lies – guess which yourself). This would be about the 5th or 6th time in the last few years that I’ve heard this going on. ALWAYS, without exception, I hear it from the customer first. NEVER have I heard it from Microsoft in advance.
Ok – so lets look at this from a few perspectives.
#1 – Am I personally concerned that Microsoft is talking to my customers? No – I feel that I’ve got a pretty good grasp on my customers and that if such contact was to happen that the customer would ask me about it before doing anything else. Certainly that is what has happened in the past, and I figure if I invest in the relationship with the customer then it will continue to happen in the future. Have you ever bought a new car from a dealer and then gotten mail direct from the car manufacturer? Sure – of course you have, but that mail normally tells you to see your dealer for the best advice right? What’s different here – simple the number of dealers and in particular the shonky dealers that are here today and gone tomorrow – this makes it damn hard for Microsoft to track which reseller is actually the clients CURRENT reseller. The car market is different in so far as there are far fewer dealers than there are in the IT industry. It costs a whole heap more to be a car dealer than it does to hang out your shingle as an IT Expert/Consultant/Guru – I mean – they are studying MCSE stuff in some high schools these days.
#2 – Does Microsoft know what is best for my client? Hell No!!! They have no idea what is best for this particular client – they never have and never will. It’s because each client is different. It’s up to us as resellers to add value to the products we sell in the form of implementation services and the like. I often think that we sell round holes to our customers, and the Microsoft product is the square pegs. It’s our job to know exactly how to make the square peg fit into round holes or at times even identify that no hole exists in the first place, therefore don’t go out and buy the square peg. Make sense?
#3 – Has Microsoft just released a range of Hosted Services that will make my clients flock to them tomorrow therefore sucking up my customer base in one fell swoop? Again Hell No… oh – actually – yes. Well Yes – Microsoft have released a number of products that MAY fit SOME of my customers needs. Note the use of the words MAY and SOME. See points 1 & 2 for clarification on what I’m getting at. They will not take my customers without my customers talking to me first.
#4 – Have Microsoft made it’s partners look absolutely silly by talking direct to them without telling us first? YES! AGAIN! Microsoft should be castrated over the lack of ability to clearly communicate things like this with the reseller channel. I don’t expect MS to give me a list of my customers, but hey – they should be able to tell me that this campaign is going to happen and this is what it looks like etc at least a few weeks in advance. Time and time again, Microsoft have undermined our reputation with the customers by NOT telling us about these things in advance. The first we hear of it is when the customer shows us the letter when we visit them asking us “what’s all this about…” I hear cry’s from Microsoft of “oh we can’t talk to you about this because of anti-spam / privacy laws”. Sorry MS – I don’t accept that. I SIGNED UP AS A RESELLER – THEREFORE I EXPECT YOU TO TELL ME THIS STUFF. If you have resellers that don’t want to hear from Microsoft about the marketing campaigns, then DON’T LET THEM SELL YOUR PRODUCT!
#5 – Is the IT Landscape changing and will we have to reinvent our business models to cater for it? Yes – Of course you do. It’s part of being a business, constantly refining how we do work, how we present our skills and services to the customers. Look at the Managed Services revolution that’s occurred over the past 4-5 years now… I lost a customer about 12 years ago because they were forward thinking enough to want what we now call a Managed Service. Oh – if only I had thought about it more then. Seriously though, if you FAIL to PLAN for the changes, then you are actually PLANNING to FAIL. Fact of life.
#6 – Why don’t Microsoft just ask me for the information and I’ll get it to them? Come on – seriously. You as a reseller are going to go out of your way to report back to Microsoft on this? What’s in it for you? What will you get? Surely you have enough 1GB USB sticks already? Resellers – particularly the smaller ones are busy enough running their business and attending to day to day things. Life revolves around the billable hour, or the margin on the next server install. Microsoft are not going to pay us to do this for them which is why they are doing it themselves. If you were going to do this for Microsoft, then think about this… what legal right have YOU got in reporting your clients licensing status to Microsoft? I would think that this type of thing was covered under NDA between you and your client. Therefore it’s only the client that can legally do this anyway.
Enough though for now – I’m keen to hear your comments on this.
Be under no illusions Microsoft is out to remove the middle person (ie reseller) from the loop in their efforts to compete with Google. If they could have cut resellers out already they would have.
Why should a client pay for upgrades every three years? Put up with software that is awlays outdated? Deal with security threats they don’t understand? Not have support available 24/7/365? An so on.
Sure, much of these features are beyond the control of resellers but look at it from a customers point to view. They want something that is simple and easy to work. They don’t care about technology, they have a business need. If Microsoft (or anyone for that matter) can do it better, faster and cheaper then customers will move that way. It may take a while but if you listen carefully you’ll hear the stampede a comin’.
Microsoft is in business for one reason, their shareholders. If they can make greater profits buy bypassing whinny small minded, backwards looking, unqualified, demanding, selfish resellers they will. Sure, the few good resellers out there will also go down in the rush but hey that’ll just be collateral damage.
It’s a new world order and it’s coming to a customers network near you!
Its called “margin shaving”. SolidWorks is doing the exact same thing with its resellers in the CAD software marketplace.
When a company must show growth to its share holders (or in this case the parent company, Dassault) and the business is no longer growing at the clip they require, they begin margin stealing from resellers as SolidWorks has – taking orders directly and distributing whatever credit they feel fit.