In my first article to this series: How to Build a Strong Service Provider Business, the challenges facing service providers (SP) today were explored along with the building blocks (figure 1) that can help address those challenges. This follow-up article will delve into the Service Offerings building block with five steps that will help drive your SP business.
Figure 1. Building Blocks of a Strong Service Provider
1. Know your subscribers
Understanding the exact mix of residential, SMB, education, and commercial subscribers along with the general mix and demographic of your service areas is important. You may have a large demographic of millennials or technology early adopters that may drive your decision on what offerings to explore.
As shown below, this diagram from Crossing the Chasm (Moore, 1991), shows the gap between Early Adopters and the Early Majority. It is essential to understand where your subscribers fall in this model. If you are launching something new or experimental you will want to first market to your Innovators and Early Adopters, who will provide feedback for any needed modifications. Next, look at the Early Majority who will want to see success stories and solid use-case examples prior to signing up.
Figure 2. Technology Adopters by Geoffery Moore
2. Know yourself
Ask questions of yourself such as:
- What talent do you have in-house?
- Can you attract local technical talent where you are located?
- What is your general culture?
Is the vision of where you want to evolve your business in alignment with the available talent and resources you have? If the answer is no, you want to explore partnerships with technology consultants, value-added resellers, and vendors. Being open to having remote talent on the payroll and building a culture of collaboration can attract talent that may otherwise be unavailable—while simultaneously reducing operating expenses. Outside of field technicians, most talent can reside elsewhere, using tools like Cisco WebEx and Telepresence to build a strong, talented, workforce.
Is the business culture in alignment with that of innovative thinking, marketing, and sales? It is important that you are able to quickly identify and bring to market service offerings while being agile enough to pivot to a different direction if something is not working as planned.
3. Be creative
Develop a set of valuable services that map to your subscribers’ challenges and are realistic in light of your own talent and culture. Create revenue models and expected take rates for each service. Focus on value propositions and benefit equations to feed into the next step.
It is essential that you understand your subscribers challenges and business models in order to create the appropriate value propositions and benefit equations. It’s here that you can mathematically illustrate that it is a no-brainer for subscribers to go with your service.
4. Market and sell
True marketing and having a small sales team is new a new concept for some providers—and not so new for others. In either case, it is imperative that this changing landscape is addressed and investment is made.
The older, traditional sales model of cold calls, doing a demo, and qualifying leads is giving way to a new style of collaboration, education, and true engagement with the subscriber (figure 3). Subscribers want to feel that you understand their business and are a partner that can help solve problems and grow their business.
Figure 3. Old vs. New Sales Models
By taking the models and material created in step 3, marketing can create relevant campaigns and pushes that feed the sales funnel and create demand for these new relevant services that truly overcome their challenges.
5. Execute efficiently
Lastly, you must execute according to plan and ensure the customer experience is positive. Make use of partnerships with consultants and develop in-house staff and talent to execute and deliver the service. It is imperative that the customer experience while using your service is impeccable.
The use of automation technology and deep network monitoring can enable a subscriber to sign-up for new services through portals and utilize a health dashboard that shows compliance to SLAs and delivers information that reflects the service’s true value to the business.
Use these five steps as a starting point for building a service offerings strategy that helps your business stay competitive in the constantly evolving service provider industry. By slowly shifting the industry culture from just providing voice, video, and data to managed service providers with true engagement with subscribers, a new source of high-margin revenue can be found.
My next series of articles will take a deep dive into building network automation skill-sets, delivering potential services, and examples of real world service offerings that are driving additional revenue for providers today.