Archive for channel enablement

Zoomstra’s Look Back at 2012

December is a great time to look back at the year and spend some time thinking about the great new friends we have made, the transformations along the way and the progress we have enjoyed as a business.  The team at Zoomstra wanted to share our year in review to give you a glimpse inside of our start-up….

March 2012 – Welcome Zoomstra! 

On March 1st we launched the first production version of Zoomstra along side with our first commercial customer Parallels.

April & May 2012 – Customer learning front and center

Our first commercial customer launched a program using Zoomstra to provided partner enablement worldwide. An embedded SurveyMonkey survey captured partner feedback with a resounding 100% recommendation rating. We were delighted to say the least.

After our initial release, we focused on learning as much as we could from our initial customers and hundreds of trial users. We heard the good, the bad and the ugly about our baby and we loved every minute of it (okay, maybe not every minute of it, but we heard what our customers were saying).  When people have strong opinions about what your software needs, you know they are using it and want to keep using it!  So we listened to the customers and put together a plan to significantly re-design of several pieces of the product.

July 2012 – Beta2 introduces the new Workbook builder

In July we introduced a much improved Zoomstra Workbook builder. This lets you aggregate a wider variety of content from the web, from your computers and from your head.

August 2012 – Giving back with the PR guide for Start-ups

During the second round of beta we learned a lot about our messaging and about getting exposure for Zoomstra.  We focused our efforts on getting listed across as many beta sites and start-up sites as we could find.  We captured the sites, the processes and curated some of the best content into a Zoomstra Workbook that we make available to anyone for FREE! Get access by clicking here.

September 2012 – The importance of good plumbing & the Zoomstra API

The more that our customers and partners used Zoomstra, the more we heard of the needs for a published API. Customers wanted to integrate with Zoomstra for automated provisioning, subscription management and more.  We felt that this was an important aspect of our future growth so we quietly focused on making sure that the inner workings of Zoomstra were rock solid and efficient.  We then began creating our API that we released to our partners in September.

October 2012 – Founder’s Workbook companion to The Startup Owners Manual goes live

The well known authors Steve Blank and Bob Dorf teamed up with Zoomstra to add an online companion to their hot selling book and new age guide for entrepreneurs - The Startup Owner’s Manual. This created a model for other content authors to follow while offering their how-to guides and training companions for a fee. And just like that, zWorkbooks.com was born!

November 2012 – Keeping it simple for participants

In November we focused on making it easier for participants to get into workbooks and ways to keep them coming back. Participants told us that they wanted the delivery of new workbook content directly to their inbox with a simple click to automatically grant access to the available information. We gave them what they asked for! As of November, Zoomstra workbooks have weekly reminder notifications and one-click access to make it incredibly simple to get access to workbook content.

December 2012 – Salesforce Integration V1 complete-ish

Customers kept asking us for the same thing: Salesforce.com integration. It was like listening to a broken record. We knew it had to happen, but kept putting it off because we lacked  experience on the Salesforce platform.  Luckily we found a great developer that was able to help us out and get the first version of  our Salesforce.com connector completed in short order. This connector will allow companies to add Zoomstra Workbooks and Zoomstra Collections directly to the detail record of a Lead or a Contact without ever leaving Salesforce.com. We’re wrapping up beta now so stay tuned for the launch.  We have a few more steps to complete in conjunction with Salesforce to offer this connector on the AppExchange.  If you would like to be notified when the Salesforce connector is available please drop us a note.

Thank you for a successful 2012 and giving us a great outlook on 2013! 

Starting a B2B software company isn’t the sexiest of all ventures.  It doesn’t land you on the front page of Tech Crunch, it doesn’t get you into the hottest Tech Incubators with all that free press.  But what it does get you is access to a market that is willing to try new solutions and pay for those solutions that prove they solve real problems.  As a bootstrapped company, finding the early acceptance has been key to our ongoing progress.  We thank the thousands of people who have been using Zoomstra, providing feedback and helping us shape the next generation of our solution.

Thanks beta2, we’ll never forget you…

We have officially exited our beta period for the latest version of Zoomstra and learned a lot of great lessons that we won’t soon forget.  Here are a few of our learnings and improvements you’ll find inside of Zoomstra…

Speed & scale improvements

Our top learning during the beta was all about speed and ability to scale the distribution of workbooks to large audiences.  During the beta the Zoomstra application launched thousands of workbooks, sometimes creating long queues behind the scenes resulting in slow response to users.  We returned to the drawing board and re-worked the fundamental architecture and processes used to create and distribute workbooks.  We are now confident that we can scale to tens of thousands of workbooks and keep response times within acceptable limits for a web application (i.e. – immediate!)

Improving interactivity in the Zoomstra Cloud Reader+ with user created notes

Zoomstra workbooks are finding their way into several different niches like ebook companions and how-to guides.  As we worked with several authors the need for additional interactivity within the workbook itself was needed.  We have added a new feature that allows participants to add notes to individual checklist items so that they can not only track their progress, but they can keep track of their thoughts and ideas at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customization of icons in the Workbook table of contents improves adoption

If you are a channel manager you’ll like this one.  We learned that creating visually appealing workbook invitations that are delivered via email is key to adoption when it comes to partner enablement.  You can now use your own icons to represent each lesson in a workbook.  Here is an example…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salesforce.com integration is coming

One last piece of information we want to share is that we heard you loud and clear that integration with Salesforce.com is a requirement for partner enablement programs.  We are actively building the integration and plan to have a preview of this connector application before the end of October.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our beta and providing feedback.  If you have a Zoomstra account from the beta we’ll be contacting you shortly with an offer that will let you continue to use the application as one of our early adopters.

Zoomstra Beta2 is almost here

Over the past 4 months we have been in re-design mode for the Zoomstra application.  We have taken what we have learned from real customers and applied it to our product and to our business.

We plan to share the Zoomstra Beta2 by the end of July.  With this new release marketing managers will be able to create sales kits, partner enablement programs and lead followup faster than ever before.

The theme behind the new version is rapid adoption.  Rapid adoption applies to both sides of the equation – the creator of workbooks as well as the consumer of those workbooks.  Here is a sneak peek at the new workbook builder.

We want the marketing manager at a company to be able to assemble and publish a Zoomstra workbook in a matter of a few minutes.  We want them to be able to leverage all of the content that they already have in multiple formats and systems across the business.  We want them to be able to rapidly adopt Zoomstra Workbooks to bring partners up to speed on a new product release, followup with attendees from a tradeshow, interact with prospects from a online marketing campaign.  The new workbook building in Beta2 will make it easy to simply drag and drop files, add web content, build pages, create smart checklists and even insert a quiz or two along the way when you want to check knowledge.   All of these new improvement are aimed at rapid adoption.

For the user of the workbook we want to increase their adoption rates too.  Beta2 focuses on reducing the friction for the ultimate user of the workbook.  We have improved the visual design of the Zoomstra Cloud Reader+ and changed the way that the lessons are represented.  We are also working on a seamless way that users can open and interact with a workbook without having to provide a password.  Stay tuned for more information coming on that.

We are in the final stages of testing this release so keep an eye on our blog or our home page.  We will be offering a limited number of invitations to beta2 and want to hear your feedback. Stay tuned…lots more to come!

…The Zoomstra Crew

Enable channel partners on their terms, not yours

We are in the midst of the Cloud services & SaaS offering land grab.  As an ISV selling cloud services or SaaS offerings your objective is to get more partners selling more of your products faster than ever.  It’s up to you to ramp up new partners and make them effective right out of the gate.  So you have to figure out the best way to do this, especially in these rather chaotic times for resellers.

But there is a challenge. You see, resellers and VARs have always had a wide variety of products in their “bags”.  Yet with the channel explosion of SaaS solutions and Cloud services, the speed of new product introductions and product evolution has dramatically increased.  This means that channel partners are inundated with a constant flow of changing information from ISVs. Sales decks, product data sheets, webinars and price sheets are examples of items constantly changing.  Unfortunately most of these materials end up in  giant scrap piles that never make their way to the account executives.

As an ISV you tend to be stuck in the ways of the past when it comes to channel enablement and training.  You throw together every bit of information you know about your product and then toss that one hour webinar and zip file of tools over to your channel partner.  You hope that the receiver at the channel partner will take that information your provided and get it out to the sales team.  You also hope that the sales team reads all that material you send to them and somehow magically come up with new sales.  Unfortunately this old school enablement “on your terms” isn’t going to get you anywhere fast.

Partner’s account executives want you to help them, but on their terms.  They don’t really care about the theory behind your product and the feature lists and dozens of documents you have for them.  What they need in today’s business climate is a very different type of enablement that is supported by these materials.  The account executive wants hands on experience brought up along side of them as a selling companion. They don’t want to tackle a mountain of materials and have to figure out how to piece the story together themselves.

Recently I wanted to learn more about the way that channel partner account execs look at enablement.  I talked with partner account executives across a wide variety of resellers.  From the discussions I  compiled the top 5 ways the account executive want ISVs to think about when creating their enablement programs.

5. Help me identify opportunities in my patch by giving me explicit instructions on who to target.

Simply put, tell the account execs exactly who to cherry pick in their territory to find some easy wins.  Create a checklist of the information that will help the account exec pull the right contact list.  Better yet, you can craft a simple campaign in a box that helps each account exec to target a set of customers, provide that first contact intro letter and then recommend a pointer to a recent article or 3rd party validation of the business problem.  It’s all about finding the right people and getting the conversation started.  By providing this kit as part of your enablement program you can help the account exec get started that same day! 

4. Provide me with background information on the business problem you are trying to solve.

This is your bread and butter, yet it usually doesn’t get put into consumable information for the partner channel.  It’s hidden inside your training presentation on slide 35 or somewhere in hour number two of your online “course”.  The suggestion from the account execs is that you need to pull together a simple description of the problem, information on how companies are solving that problem, and why your ISV should be the one considered for the solution.   This should be no more than a 10 minute exercise for the account exec to go through, understand and add to their everyday thought process.  

3. Don’t assume that every account executive is junior, doesn’t know your domain or wants you to train them on solution selling.

Stop forcing account execs to sit through hour long sessions that tell them what they already know.  Give them a way to quickly skim your guidance so that they can pick up at the point where there find it most useful.  Long webinars and structured course-ware should be things of the past.  Start thinking in terms of playbooks, quick start guides and workbooks that are available at any time the account executive wants them.  

2. Show me how to best present your solution and give me the tools to back up the claims.

Just like a personal trainer shows their client exactly what to do to get results, you should do the same for your channel partner account executives.  Break down the selling of your solution into easily consumable pieces and show them how to be effective.  Start with the basics and focus the selling on the problem you outlined.  Don’t worry about all those functions and features.  As long as the account exec can build a case around your solution for solving the problem you win. 

1.  Give me examples of how others have solved the problem.

We all know that references and case studies help a lot during a sales process.  This gets even more important with your channel partners. They need examples that help them explain the solution in terms that the customer will understand.  Even if you don’t have approved case studies or customer testimonials, outfit your channel partners with examples and stories based upon types of customers or challenges that customers face. 

It all comes down to getting much more personal with the account executives of your channel partners.  You have the sales tools, you have the product content.  Now you need to work to make all of that useful in context of your channel selling team.

David Abramowski is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zoomstra Workbooks, a simple way to bring powerful one on one enablement programs to channel partner account executives.

 

 

The 3 “what’s” of a great channel enablement program

“It’s time to get personal” exclaimed one of the sales reps.  ”We have to put ourselves in the reseller’s shoes and show them exactly why we stand out and why they should sell our solution.”  Those comments kicked off a tremendously productive meeting between the sales and marketing teams while I was onsite last week with a Zoomstra.com client.  The cross-functional team agreed that we needed to take a fresh approach to partner enablement and make it much more personalized than they had ever done before.

To start out, the team decided that the enablement program would be focused on the top 3 questions the channel partner’s account execs want to know…

  • WHAT’s in it for me?
  • WHAT do I need to know?
  • WHAT will help me win?

With this new direction in mind, the team was able to break free from the typical spray and pray training so often found in enablement programs.   And since the team had selected Zoomstra.com and our zWorkbook approach as the vehicle for partner enablement we had a great match.  The customer’s team set off to answer each of the three “What’s” so that we could then create  actionable zWorkbooks to be shared across the entire partner channel.

In the first workbook entitled “What’s in it for me” we used this opportunity to sell the partner account executive on why they should represent the software to their clients.  We defined the business proposition for the partner sales rep.  We explained how the solution allows the rep to capture a segment of business they weren’t addressing. We outlined how the new solution enables the partner rep to improve their existing relationships and how they will make more money from it all.  We crafted 4 lessons in a zWorkbook that provided the context and supporting materials including an existing video that outlined the business problem.

The second question we answered was “What do I need to know?”.  For the partner sales reps, knowing the landscape and knowing how to set the agenda are crucial for success.  The team looked at all of the existing sales tools and digital assets that the marketing team had at its disposal. We then outlined a workbook with the basic information needed by an account executive and then determined which items supported the partner in setting the agenda and talking with their prospects.

Finally we answered the question “What will help me win?”.   This is where the beauty of experience came through for the client.  The sales team in the room had a treasure trove of best practices, examples and processes that have made their own team successful over the past year selling the solution.  We captured all of that experience and pulled together details into a zWorkbook. We included lessons that could be executed on their own with step-by-step checklists and supporting documents and materials.  We created lessons like and “introductory email campaign” complete with list pull details and example email letters. Once we had the outline and the concept the rest of the details came together quickly.  We completed the first set of zWorkbooks in the past few days and we are already testing the program in the USA and Europe.   Feedback so far has been stellar and more and more people are requesting access as they learn about the program.

The real lesson that I think the team learned is that breaking free from “incremental improvement” and striking out into new territory can be game changing.  At first the team was centered on the classroom style “lecture and testing” that is so pervasive in training today.  But after seeing some examples of how to get personal the wheels came off that old LMS bus and a new thought process took over.  It became clear that building partner enablement as a one-on-one program sharing experiences, information and step-by-step guidance was the opportunity to make a big impact across the partner community.  In the end the partner enablement program has to sell to the partner account exec on the opportunity as much as it enabled he or she to sell the solution.