How to MVP Your Way to Cloud Marketplace Success

Redefining the Approach to Launching on the Cloud Marketplaces

I’m about to let you in on something of a trade secret, so I hope you’ll keep it between us. Despite what you’ve heard or assumed, you don’t need to spend tons of time or effort to start selling software across the Cloud Marketplaces.

This common misperception prevents many vendors from reaping the advantages of Marketplace as an emerging and highly lucrative channel. So I thought I’d set the record straight. 

Don’t get me wrong—this is not an indictment of the Cloud Providers. They aren’t trying to pull anything over on software vendors or provide bad advice. But we often see guidance around getting started in the Marketplace slanted towards a Cloud Providers’ “idealistic preferences” for how vendors should list and offer products on their Marketplaces. Many times these recommendations involve tall asks and fall a bit short of demonstrating empathy for the software providers—how they want/need to sell, how constrained their resources might be, or how much risk is involved with making significant product changes to accommodate a particular Marketplace. They’ve laid out a pathway designed through their Provider lens—one that doesn’t always align with sellers’ daily realities and resources.

At Tackle, we believe passionately in the value of Cloud Marketplaces. So much so that we’ve made it our mission to help more software vendors participate by using the MVP approach—Minimum Viable Product. Or, more accurately, the MVMP – Minimum Viable Marketplace approach.

In this post, I’ll shed some light on what the Cloud Providers want in their ideal world and how you can realistically MVMP your way to getting started in a particular Marketplace so you can start closing bigger deals faster. 

Lofty expectations 

It’s exciting when you discover your customers are buying on Marketplaces, especially when they have a hefty committed spend with the Providers, which they need to consume. You’re all set to go meet them where their wallet is and then “POP”—your bubble bursts, poked by the sharp edge of the Provider’s Marketplace requirements. 

In most cases, Cloud Providers want software sellers to launch with a fully functioning, self-service listing, built via many integrations and customizations to fit each Marketplace. They want push-button functionality and automatic deployment for buyers. Simply put, they want you to bring all the bells and whistles.

Checking off the boxes to get your first product onto the Marketplace shelf is financially taxing, especially when you (and your leadership) don’t yet have a clear sense of the potential returns. Engineering a custom Marketplace integration to fit self-service preferences can take nine months or more. And meanwhile, the process diverts significant resources away from your business’s other revenue- and value-generating initiatives. 

Then there’s the reality (for most) that a self-service model doesn’t match your current selling motion. You’d need to reconfigure your sales process internally across departments to make a square peg fit into a round hole. And, worse, your product just isn’t ready to deploy at the push of a button yet (or maybe ever).

Vendors end up asking themselves a question that doesn’t have a good answer: Should we try to urge our C-suite to blindly make major investments based on Provider requirements, or should we scrap our Marketplace plans altogether? If we DO make significant investments and product changes, is the payoff guaranteed?

But there is another option and question here: What is the minimum viable product we can offer, without the need for engineers, to reach more customers and close our first deals on Marketplace?

Defining MVP

Your MVP approach will largely depend on your product and the Marketplace. At Tackle, we advise approaching your initial Marketplace experience primarily as a fulfillment channel and to change as little as possible about how you sell and deliver your product. First focus on your customers’ needs and then work your way up to the needs of Cloud Providers, not the other way around. 

For example, you may list a single SKU to announce your presence without a self-service option. Instead, you’ll invite prospects to work with you on custom Private Offers – which allows you to sell in a way that more closely mirrors your direct sales. Leveraging this approach, you can customize contracts, leverage your normal discounting structures and, often times, include product that is not publicly exposed via your Marketplace listing.

Once you succeed with one listing, you may want to explore adding a few more products each with their own separate listings for greater search visibility and alignment with Cloud Provider native services or supporting programs (eg. AWS Competency Program) 

Winning support

If you’ve ever been to an amusement park, you’ve seen signs announcing, “You Must Be THIS Tall to Ride.” (You’ve probably also seen kids slinking away in tears after coming up a couple inches short.) 

Cloud Providers also like to impose size requirements. Their signs might read, “Your offering MUST look and deploy exactly like THIS to List on our Marketplace.” They may even require your software to run on their cloud. 

But before you slink away, remember this: Cloud Providers have a vested interest in your Marketplace participation and success. Sales of your product translates into revenue dollars for them via increased cloud consumption. 

Even if you don’t bring gigantic brands to the table right away, Tackle’s platform helps you clear the initial listing hurdles so you can land deals quickly. With each deal you close, you can increase support from your internal leadership team while showing Cloud Providers you are a valuable addition to their Marketplace, worthy of their marketing and co-selling support. And once the revenue starts flowing, it may well make a ton of sense to start reengineering pieces of your product and/or integrating more tightly with Cloud Provider native services, which can often help accelerate your co-selling motion.

As you’re starting out, don’t hesitate to go directly to your customers and ask if their organizations are strategically aligned with any of the large Cloud Providers. If so, you can let them know they can accelerate transactions and procurement—possibly with larger budgets—by landing your software on their existing Cloud Provider bill via a Marketplace purchase. 

Beyond MVP 

So much about selling on Cloud Marketplaces comes down to momentum. Tackle’s unique platform gets you into the game with MVMP listings in a matter of weeks with zero engineering resources. You can start closing bigger deals at a faster rate with the least possible risk, investment, or change to your sales process. 

Once you are up and running, our Marketplace experts help you take stock of your progress and implement proven strategies to evolve and scale your listings. You may even want to revisit some of the Provider requirements you bypassed at the beginning. If you don’t, your secret is safe with us.