Leveraging Channel Partners (and AWS’ CPPO) to Build a Customer-First Cloud GTM Strategy

In the early days of Cloud Marketplaces, both ISVs and channel partners wrestled with ambiguity over how the Marketplace would affect software sales. What role would the reseller play? How would the relationship between the ISV and reseller evolve? For many, Marketplaces looked competitive to the channel and both channel partners and ISVs were initially resistant to the idea of integrating. 

Fast forward to 2023, and many of those questions have been resolved — to the benefit of ISVs, resellers, and software buyers. According to Tackle’s State of Cloud Marketplaces Report, 55% of enterprises view channel resellers as complementary to Marketplace and Cloud go-to-market, not competitive. In fact, that cooperative relationship between ISVs and resellers is strengthening: more than eight out of 10 ISVs say that their Marketplace deals this year will have some level of channel involvement. For channel partner deals through AWS, that most likely involves a Channel Partner Private Offer (CPPO).    

A quick refresher on what a CPPO is: A CPPO enables third-party companies such as channel firms, digital agencies, Managed Services Providers (MSPs), or Value-Added Resellers (VARs) to sell an ISV’s product on AWS Marketplace via a private offer. The wholesale price is dictated by the ISV and the channel partner applies a mark-up when they create the private offer.

AWS instituted its CPPO program in 2018, and in the beginning, it was a manual-intensive process for tracking deals made through partners. As the CPPO program evolved and buyers and sellers demanded more functionality, AWS soon added self-service authorization features to streamline the process. This year, Tackle introduced CPPO to Tackle Offers to provide real-time updates on CPPO offers, a tangible record containing essential details for finance teams to book revenue, and the reduction of manual work involved in creating, tracking, and managing CPPOs from the Tackle Platform.   

Read More: How Tackle Worked with AWS Marketplace to Drive 300+ CPPO Offers in Four Months

At the heart of CPPO is a symbiotic relationship between an ISV and a partner — the “glue” that holds the process together. Here, CrowdStrike and Optiv share their perspectives on the value of CPPO and working together to bring greater value to customers.

 

The ISV’s perspective on CPPO: CrowdStrike 

CrowdStrike is a global SaaS cybersecurity company that has cultivated a long-term relationship with AWS, and has been listed on AWS Marketplace for a number of years. In addition, CrowdStrike works closely with resellers and other partners, like Optiv, to close deals through CPPO. “Ultimately, we are a 100% channel-focused company and we can’t do it without our channel partners,” said Lindsay Bregman, Manager, Cloud and Technology Ecosystem Alliance Operations at CrowdStrike. “What the Marketplace provides to the customers is great, but it doesn’t do support, and doesn’t handle deal expansion in the same way that a reseller, partner, or value-added reseller does.”

Lindsay noted that in the last year, CrowdStrike has emphasized its relationships with partners and resellers even more, and has actively engaged resellers as part of their Cloud go-to-market strategy. “We made the policy change to make sure that we involved value added resellers in every sale,” she said. “We realized that the Marketplace can do a lot, but it can’t do everything — and neither can we. So we’ve changed and shifted our strategy.” 

CrowdStrike’s channel-focused approach to Marketplace allows it to more easily provide a full-spectrum of services for its customers, and the benefits of CPPO helps CrowdStrike extend and enhance the potential of Cloud Marketplaces. 

“I think the value of the Marketplace in terms of transactions is pretty clear,” said Lindsay. “Customers can burn down their spend. We can transact quickly. The automated billing is certainly great. But ultimately, it does not solve all the problems for the customer. We’re in the business of finding the pain point for our customers, and working with great partners like Optiv to find a holistic solution for them. We’ve realized that the channel strategy has to be there, otherwise we won’t be able to succeed together or separately.”

Read More: Tackle’s Guide to AWS Marketplace’s CPPO 

“Resellers help us expand our reach, and expand within a customer’s environment. We can’t do it without them.”

What’s more, leaning in to the ISV/partner relationship has helped CrowdStrike drive revenue — and to do so more efficiently. “Resellers help us expand our reach, and expand within a customer’s environment,” said Lindsay. “We can’t do it without them. We have a relatively small sales team, and we can’t be everywhere at once. We need partners like Optiv to help us continue to expand within organizations and for net new logo generation as well.” 

That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges in building a partner-selling motion to scale, but Lindsay noted a few tips for easing the process along:

  • Make sure you have people who really understand cloud — and its value for both ISVs and resellers. “One of the real challenges that we face is that regardless of the size of an opportunity or the size of a Marketplace deal, the work is the same,” said Lindsay. “There’s still a lot of back and forth that needs to happen. Even with a direct purchase, it almost doesn’t matter if it’s a $10 deal or a million dollar deal, what we do is the same. So you’ve got to have people who understand the nuance of working with resellers and making sure that when you’re sending something to the reseller, it doesn’t look the same as what you’re sending to a customer.”
  • Invest in adequate sales enablement. “Because really Marketplace and CPPO is a revenue equation, it’s actually a finance question,” said Lindsay. “It’s important to make sure that you have a team who’s able to execute quickly and accurately, and make sure that the partners that you’re working with have the support to help set up their own teams, because it’s definitely more operationally heavy than just invoicing.”

The reseller’s perspective on CPPO: Optiv

Optiv delivers strategic and technical expertise to help companies better manage cybersecurity risks. The company has a close relationship with CrowdStrike, and has been involved with the AWS CPPO program since its inception. “We’ve been along the maturity and learning curve of what partners can really bring to the Marketplace ecosystem,” said Mike Peters, VP of Partners and Alliances at Optiv.

For Optiv and other resellers, the ability to provide solutions via Marketplace is a natural extension of their business that ultimately benefits the customer. “Our clients are ultimately focused on outcomes,” said Mike. “It’s hard to achieve those outcomes by just procuring a piece of technology or by migrating workloads to the cloud. Working with companies like CrowdStrike provides we can help to grow, expand and accelerate a client’s migration to the cloud, while also providing our clients the security to do what they do best.”

Because of the close relationship between resellers and ISVs, the two together can provide greater value for customers. Mike views resellers like Optiv as a conduit to extend the ISV’s reach and strengthen relationships with customers.One could characterize our role as ‘reach and relationships,’ which ultimately drives revenue,” he said. “What that means is we have the ability to become a trusted advisor for key clients. We have the right relationships and we have the right knowledge to point our clients in the right direction, and with great partnerships with folks like CrowdStrike we can execute together to deliver those positive outcomes.”

Resellers are also an integral part of the channel partner ecosystem — the distributors, consultancies, system integrators, next-generation managed service providers, and value added resellers who support and drive a customer’s digital transformation strategy through the clouds. “From an AWS perspective or a Cloud Marketplace perspective, we try to be a valuable part of that emerging ecosystem,” said Mike. 

Read More: An Ecosystem Primer

According to Crossbeam’s 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report, 79% of B2B SaaS companies have a channel partner program. As companies large and small continue to rapidly adopt and prioritize cloud, channel partnerships have evolved from a more transactionally-based model to a holistic, solutions-focused model. Often companies seek support and services across each step of their cloud journey, and channel partners are in a unique position to provide that holistic support.

“Relationships really matter.”

“Relationships really matter,” said Mike. “Whether that’s a platform strategy, which is stitching together different pieces of technology and services and solutions to solve problems from multiple angles, or being able to sell the technology, implement it, and then mature it into operation. Those kinds of things resonate because they drive simplicity, they drive outcomes, and they drive speed.” 

The impact of those tight relationships between ISVs and resellers is that customers can procure complementary or bundled technology that solves specific business problems — and can do so more easily and quickly than cobbling together a set of solutions on their own. “The thing that I’m most excited about is the ability to build full outcome-driven solutions in the Marketplace, and to be able to go to market in a way that resonates with the client,” Mike said. “I think one of the biggest things we offer is simplification. We’re able to make transacting in the Marketplace seamless and efficient for our clients; we add a lot of value there.”

 

Channel and CPPO: A customer-first approach

Ultimately, partnerships between ISVs and resellers benefit customers, and CPPO is the tool that makes it possible. “There is so much synergy in the solutions that we are able to provide to our customers holistically through CPPO,” said Lindsay. “I’m really pushing our cloud partners to ensure that we have the ability to scale in that way with our resellers. Even on our value-added reseller side, from a small or medium-sized business perspective, there’s so much opportunity to help support people, but we just don’t have the scale or the technology to even reach them without those partners.”

Want to hear more about CrowdStrike and Optiv’s approach to channel and CPPO? Check out the webinar replay, A Practical Guide to Taking Your Channel Program to Marketplace in 2023.

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