Cloud Channel Summit: 5 Lessons on Fostering a Successful Channel-Partner Relationship

Cloud Channel Summit

Last week, the RingCentral partner team and I attended the Cloud Channel Summit at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. The annual event is designed for cloud businesses looking to build successful reseller alliances and cloud ecosystems.

Cloud Summit Organizers

Cloud Summit Organizers Jeff Kapla and Marc Sternberg

RingCentral’s own channel reseller program is a valuable and successful part of our business. As with all things, however, we are always looking to take the program to the next level — and the Cloud Channel Summit was a great place to learn new insights on optimizing the vendor-channel reseller relationship. Below are our learnings, which we hope you will find helpful for your partner efforts.

We learned at the summit that generally, the three biggest obstacles in vendor-reseller partnerships are conflict, control, and compensation. Conflicts tend to arise when the partnership isn’t clearly defined between both parties. This can then lead to control issues, where either the vendor or the reseller wants to have more control of the sales, terms and conditions, and signed accounts — or the opposite problem can also occur where neither partner wants to take responsibility when problems arise. Finally, compensation disagreements surface when one or both parties focus only on short-term economics, i.e., just closing the deal rather than also fostering the customer relationship for long-term growth.

According to experts at the Cloud Channel Summit, the below five best-practices help you overcome conflict, control, and compensation so you can build a successful vendor-reseller partnership.

1. Provide Product and Customer Education. In  general, vendors need to invest time and money towards educating their resellers on the product, the customer demographics, sales materials for prospects, and anything else necessary for the selling process. The point is your resellers should be fully armed to focus their time on acquiring customers, and the vendor’s job is to make those resellers smarter.

2. Define Vendor/Reseller Responsibilities. Establish the “division of labor” between the vendor and reseller within the selling process to ensure nothing falls through the cracks and there are no misunderstandings. For example, determine whether the vendor or the reseller will provide customer support, project management, integration, etc.

3. Promote Cloud Service Revenue Model. The cloud service revenue model is based on micro-transactions and recurring revenues — as opposed to traditional models where resellers receive one lump sum after the deal is closed. Vendors should explain to resellers that the cloud service revenue model means the opportunity to make more money every time additional users are added to a particular customer account. See this slide for more details:

cloud value analysis

Click to enlarge

4. Establish Local and Regional Resellers. Local and regional VARs are important to the vendor’s mix of channel partner relationships for several reasons. For example, some customers prefer to buy locally because to them, it means nearby (and thus more timely) customer and technical support. Local resellers also have a better feel for an area’s culture and can effectively connect with customers at a more familiar level. Finally, by having resellers across a swath of geographical regions, vendors can establish a bigger footprint and wider reach.

5. Target Resellers With Cloud Clout and Skills. While it’s not necessary for all resellers to be influential in the cloud industry, it is advantageous to partner with a few highly-reputable resellers. The brand recognition of such resellers will help elevate the vendor brand and credibility. Additionally, vendors should aim to partner with resellers who already have a solid understanding of cloud computing. Different cloud services are increasingly integrating within a given ecosystem, and cloud-versed resellers will have the ability to explain the “story” to customers. Check out the following slide for more details:

Changes with the cloud-based ecosystem

Click to enlarge

Do you have additional lessons for building a successful reseller program? Please let me know in the comments.

Fashionista Friday, No. 2

This week’s edition of Fashionista Friday is FULL of great fashion advice, style tips, tricks, and amazing finds. If you’re a fabulous fashionista who would like to be featured here comment below with a direct link to your tweet or Twitter profile, and you just might be featured in next week’s top fashion tweets.

  1. earthtobaylee
    Dress like you’re going to meet your worst enemy today. #fashiontip

    Tue, Nov 06 2012 03:54:01
  2. Monika_Chiang
    Style is primarily a matter of instinct – Bill Blass #style

    Wed, Nov 07 2012 15:29:58
  3. imageconsultant
    Brown is for monks,psychotherapists, college professors and moms baking cookies; but not for the boardroom. #imagearchitect #style

    Sun, Nov 04 2012 06:22:11
  4. ShopAtZoe
    Use baby powder instead of seltzer to sop up oil on a silk blouse. It won’t mess with the dye of the fabric. #fashiontip #didyouknow

    Tue, Nov 06 2012 11:50:48
  5. FashionAndStyle
    There’s no reason to buy stylish clothes if they don’t flatter your figure or aren’t age-appropriate.

    Thu, Nov 08 2012 11:50:09
  6. papamamar
    The little touches and your attention to detail could mean the difference between a great look and the perfect look..#styletip

    Fri, Nov 09 2012 04:58:37
  7. ANGIESMITHSTYLE
    My top tip to make your legs look super long is to wear a heel in a colour that’s as close to your natural skin tone as possible ! #styleTip

    Tue, Nov 06 2012 10:29:50
  8. bebe_Stores
    #StyleTip A statement necklace looks FAB with a silk shirt—either peeking out of an unbuttoned collar or over a buttoned one.

    Mon, Nov 05 2012 16:20:19
  9. FashionMyDayJob
    #FashionTip: Invest in solid high quality garments such a trench coat, pencil skirt, white collar shirt, shoes, and slacks. #styletip

    Mon, Nov 05 2012 13:35:32
  10. verilymag
    Fleece lined tights?! Stylish and practical staples are right up our alley. #style @urbanoutfitters http://instagr.am/p/RnvWebFuKA/

    Sun, Nov 04 2012 12:27:01

Fashionista Friday, No. 1

Welcome to my first edition of Fashionista Friday! Here I will be sharing my top 10 favorite tweets about style, tips and advice, trends, favorite pieces, or anything else that catches my fancy in the Twitter-sphere to help you stay on trend and in-the-know for everything style related.  And if you have a great tid-bit of fashion advice that you would like to see featured here, then send me  the direct link to the tweet, and hope it makes the cut. Enjoy, and happy style-ings!

  1. FashionAndStyle
    When it comes to wardrobe options, every girl should have a handful of basics but they don’t have to be “basic” looking.
    Fri, Nov 02 2012 10:50:04
  2. RachelZoe
    Fall is the time to incorporate rich textures into your wardrobe—try out the trend with some luxe leather pieces! http://bit.ly/Szp3qb
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 15:30:47
  3. Amandab3ar
    I’m a firm believer that leggings, tights, and yoga pants are fine to wear in public if styled correctly.
    #fashionadvice
    Mon, Oct 29 2012 15:18:33
  4. Topshop
    Take fashion to new astral heights with our latest Galactica collection! Galaxy prints, glitter and sequins galore. http://bit.ly/RAr4PC
    Fri, Nov 02 2012 11:00:05
  5. imageconsultant
    Old Money is always discreet. New Money is loud and flashy. Learn to make a distinction between flashy and classy. #imagearchitect #style
    Fri, Nov 02 2012 06:26:32
  6. KourtKersh
    Ladies Do Not wear shoes that you cannot walk in tripping over your 7-inch wedges is not cute.. #FashionAdvice
    Mon, Oct 29 2012 20:05:29
  7. FabSugar
    Sometimes the simplest outfits are the chicest. http://fabsu.gr/25710212
    Fri, Nov 02 2012 03:10:06
  8. MichaelKors
    Pass on black and go for gunmetal gray instead. It makes a great neutral. http://mko.rs/1j #styletip #datenight
    Fri, Oct 26 2012 13:21:11
  9. MANNAKCosmetics
    Summer is over but don’t forget to drink water to moisturize your skin to help keep #makeup from flaking! #FashionAdvice
    Sat, Oct 27 2012 11:46:09
  10. styliznationinc
    #styletip the cold season is an excuse for layers so stock up on tights, leggings, high socks, sweaters, cardi’s, long sleeves..
    Wed, Oct 31 2012 15:58:26

How To Add Instagram Images to WordPress

We live in a visual era where people are driven by photos. Majority of marketers understand that photos can make or break a marketing campaign. Case in point, two of the fastest growing social networks today are Pinterest and Instagram, both of which thrive off of the concept of sharing images. Instagram’s growing popularity has made it one of the must-have apps for iOS and Android phones. However, until recently users were not able to embed their Instagram photos into blog posts. Well fret no more savvy social picture enthusiasts because WordPress recently announced that you can now embed your carefully filtered and curated images directly into your blog! Talk about great timing too because just yesterday Entrepreneur magazine announced the top five ways in which Instagram can boost your marketing plan.

Now for the how-to, first what you need to know is that this works best with images you have tweeted out because you need to access the image URL. For anyone familiar with Instagram, you know that it is a strictly phone based app, with very little web presence. So even if you go to intagram.com, and log in to your account, you can not access your photo stream. So, from your Twitter profile page you can see your most recent images, including the ones you shared via Instagram.

Most recent images in Twitter feed.

Next, select the image you wish to embed into your blog post. Your view will now look like the one below.

Image preview in Twitter browser.

Please note you do not want to use the Twitter URL that appears at the top of your web browser — this URL will direct you to Twitter, and not Instagram. Instead you want to click on the photo, and your picture will open in a new window or tab. See the below image;, this URL will now link back to Instagram.

This is the Instagram URL needed to embed the image into WordPress blog post.

Take this URL and copy it into your blog post where you want the Instagram image to appear. Remember to make sure that the URL is on its own line within the post.

Instagram URL inserted into blog post.

I would now highly advise that you click to “Save Draft”. Then hit “Preview”, the image will now appear in you blog post as shown below.

Instagram image embedded into published blog post (on “preview” mode).

If for any reason the image is NOT showing in your “Preview mode” view, and you only see the Instagram URL there (like in the below image), don’t fret because not all hope is lost!

Only URL showing in “Preview mode”, NOT the Instagram image.

You will simply then need to go back to your draft blog post. First, delete the URL from the “Visual” view. Then (while still in draft mode) change your WordPress screen view from “Visual” to “Text” (reference image below).

Switching draft view of your blog post.

Once you are in “Text” view mode, then add the Instagram URL where you wan the image to appear in your blog post. Remember the URL must still be on its own line (as shown above). Again, you will need to “Save Draft” and then press “Preview”. Your image will now appear directly embedded into your blog post “Preview mode” view (as you can clearly see below).

puppy love all day 💖

A post shared by Carolyn (@mini_mau5) on

Oh, and that’s me and Mona (most talented little show dog there ever was)!

Any questions? Or need more clarification? Comment below, and I will get back to you.

Checklist: 10 Essential Items For Conference Attendees

Baochi, the Director of Social Strategy at RingCentral, showing off her conference style!

Attending conferences and events is a great way to learn industry best practices and network with other like-minded professionals. But working outside the office can be challenging if you’re not well-prepared. As frequent conference-goer, on behalf of the RingCentral social media team, I have made my fair share of misses and mistakes. Luckily, I’m a quick learner! Below, is my list of essential items to bring when attending conferences.

Did I miss a must-have conference item? Let me know in the comments section below.

1. Smartphone – This shouldn’t be a difficult item to remember, since every business professional is often tethered to their smartphone anyway. Beyond the obvious functions of voice calls, texts and emails, use your smartphone to follow/participate in the conference’s Twitter stream. The smartphone camera is also a great asset for snapping photos of presentation slides or recording videos of speakers.

2. Broadband Wireless Card – Most conferences offer free Wi-Fi,  but the connections are almost always slow because attendees are accessing the same network and maxing out the bandwidth. If you don’t want to play the Wi-Fi lottery and risk the frustration of connectivity issues, bring your own hotspot. I like the Verizon MiFi hotspot, which gives me secure and fast internet access. Bonus: if you happen to meet a new business contact, you can show them what a kind soul you are by sharing your personal hotspot.

3. Chargers – Mark my words: you will run out of battery juice on whichever device(s) you bring. Bring chargers for all the devices you plan on using. Tip: purchase an extra set of chargers for your most well-used gadgets and reserve that set expressly for conferences and travel.

4. Power Strip – Even if you come prepared with all the necessary gadget chargers, there’s no guarantee you’ll find an outlet that is conveniently located or not already in use. That’s why a power strip can be handy — use only one power outlet to charge multiple devices. Even if you don’t need to charge multiple devices, you’ll be a hero to others in need when you offer up the extra outlets from your power strip. Power strips are relatively inexpensive, and these days you can find hybrids that also offer USB ports.

5. iPad/Tablet – While laptops are popular items to bring to events, they aren’t easy to lug around all day. Tablets are great conference companions because they’re smaller and lighter than a laptop, yet easier to type and navigate on than a smartphone. And if you have trouble typing on a tablet, you can always use a portable keyboard that connects to your tablet.

6. Business Cards – If you forget to bring business cards, it’s going to be tough to connect and follow up with other attendees  you meet. Don’t be that person desperately looking for a pen and scrap paper to scribble down your contact information — chances are, your “business card” will be mistaken as trash. So bring business cards or have a paperless alternative like the CamCard app.

7.  Get the App – Conferences are increasingly offering custom apps that include event agendas and the ability to build personal schedules that sync with your Outlook calendar. Some apps even allow you to view a list of attendees and connect directly with individuals to schedule meetings. Consulting an app is so much easier than carrying around a conference brochure!

Don’t fall victim to bad breath.

8. Gum/Mints – If you’re at a conference, then you’re talking to people. If you’re talking to people, don’t be a turn-off by having bad, stale breath. Have gum or mints on you (mints are better because you don’t want to be chomping away while you’re conversing). And be kind to anyone who asks for some.

9. Confidence – Events are great opportunities to make business connections so don’t squander the time by being shy. Get your confidence on! Scope out attendees ahead of time, and make a list of people you want to meet. Introduce yourself to a particular speaker after an especially insightful presentation. If you’re mining for prospects, have your company pitch ready and deliver it with oomph!

10. RingCentral app – The RingCentral app is an invaluable part of any mobile professional’s toolkit. With the app installed on your Android or iOS device, you can place VoIP calls over a Wi-Fi or cellular network, change your phone system settings on the fly (e.g., have your desk phone calls forwarded to your cellular phone), and view and forward fax messages. The RingCentral app puts your phone system in your pocket, keeping you plugged in and connected from just about anywhere — even while you’re at a conference. End shameless plug.

5 Indispensable Apps for Business Travel

Recently, I traveled to Europe for business. Like with most travel — whether for work or pleasure — I found myself dealing with irksome details like flight changes, language barriers, and packing. So I leveraged a few mobile apps to help me organize the travel minutiae. Below are the five apps I found to be indispensable for my trip. Have you used Tripit, LocalEats, Packing Pro, Concur, and/or TripLingo? Which other apps do you recommend for smoother travel?

1. TripIt for iPhone and Android (FREE), or TripIt Pro ($3.99)

This travel app is a one-stop shop for all your transit needs. Get real-time flight status updates, live weather reports, route maps, and manage hotel and car rental information all from the touch of your fingertips! Upgrading to TripIt Pro gives you the additional ability to track all of your frequent flyer reward programs.

2. LocalEats for iPhone and iPad ($0.99)

If food is a big part of your travel experience, this is the app to use. LocalEats finds spots that locals enjoy, whether it’s a dive bar or an upscale, one-of-a-kind restaurant. The best part is the absence of standard restaurant chains. Another bonus is the ability to make reservations and book a taxi directly from the app. LocalEats offers restaurant listing in over 50 U.S. cities, as well as an additional 50 international cities.

“Never trust a restaurant with a 10 page menu.” – LocalEats

3. Packing for iPhone and iPad ($0.99), or Packing Pro ($2.99)

Packing is a pain, especially when you realize you’ve forgotten to pack something critical. Well, fret no more! Packing and Packing Pro apps take all the guesswork out of what to bring. Packing Pro offers sample lists that help you get a basic idea of what you need to pack before a trip, depending on where and the duration. The app also also offers an “Expert List” that lets you select the number of male/female travelers, adults & children, destination, temperature, and other criteria before automatically generating a list of suggested items to pack.

4. Concur for iPhone and Android (FREE)

Concur allows you to manage your business expenses on-the-go — because keeping track of physical receipts is a pain. Conur lets you take a picture of your receipt for storage on the app! There is even a built-in currency converter for international currencies!

Screenshots of Concur app.

5. TripLingo for iOS and Android ($4.99 – $9.99 depending on language purchased)

Those of us who have traveled internationally well understand the frustration of not being able to speak the local language for the simplest interactions, like telling the cab driver your destination. Enter TripLingo, an app that provides over 1,000 key phrases, a built-in dictionary, flashcards and an intuitive design — all of which makes it easy to immerse into the local culture. The best part: NO internet connectivity required!

10 Tips For Managing a Successful Trade Show Booth

RingCentral Booth at Dreamforce 2012

Even in our digitally connected world, nothing trumps the value of in-person meetings. That’s why RingCentral exhibits at various trade shows throughout the year. It’s a great opportunity to talk about our cloud-based communications platform to prospective and existing customers.

But managing a trade show booth is no easy task. As an event coordinator for RingCentral, I can tell you that organizing an exhibition is a huge effort that requires careful planning, attention to detail, persistence, and endurance.

Recently, I managed our trade show booth at Salesforce.com’s annual Dreamforce event. I’m happy to report that the conference was hugely successful for RingCentral. So I thought I’d share several tips on what we did right.

1. Make a master to-do list 
As elementary as it sounds, making a master list of to-do items and deliverables is a necessary starting point for event planning. Once you have all the requirements, it’s easier to organize items  into categories such as booth, staff, or demo. Be sure to check the event website for checklists and deadlines.

2. Become best friends with the event organizer
As an exhibitor at Dreamforce, we had a point of contact whom we consulted for guidance and advice on everything from choosing the booth’s location on the floor to obtaining permission for having a giant inflatable phone included in our display. Our event contact was an excellent and responsive resource — all the more so since she served multiple exhibitors.  So even when things got stressful, I always made sure to be gracious and grateful to our Dreamforce contact. When I met her in person at the event, I gave her a thank-you gift.

3. Keep the signage simple
To state the obvious, you want your signage and booth displays to be interesting and inviting. Think of your booth from a passerby’s perspective, i.e., someone who knows nothing about your product or service. Ask yourself whether the messaging conveys a meaningful description, something that leaves an impression in as few words as possible. You’re not likely to attract or stop people in their tracks with wordy signage, so keep it simple. Less is more.

4. Have a lead retrieval process
It’s no secret that trade shows can be a fount for sales leads, so be sure to establish a lead retrieval process. We recommend renting the portable scanners that are often offered through the organization hosting the event (or via a contracted service). If you expect a steady stream of traffic, rent more than one scanner — or else your staff will be scrambling constantly for the one device. Then, when the show is over, be sure to upload all contacts into your CRM system and mark them as leads from the specific show.

5. Follow up on leads
Leads are worth nothing without follow-up. Define the process for reaching out to contacts: who is responsible for  following up, and how will leads be divided among team members? The best time to reach out to leads is the week following an event, when conversations are still fresh on everyone’s mind. Therefore, establish a deadline for follow-up, e.g., no later than one full week after an event.

6. Offer a promotion and giveaway
Like with any marketing effort, you need to offer an incentive for attendees to stop by the booth to learn about your offering. At Dreamforce, we offered a 30-day free trial of RingCentral and gave away RingCentral-branded orange retro handsets to folks who watched a demo. Inevitably, you’ll encounter people who want your tchotchkes but have no interest in your product. That’s why it’s helpful to have a “hurdle,” such as requiring a demo, in order to net out the  tchotchke hounds from the folks who are truly interested.

7. Choose the right booth staff
In general, staff your booth with employees who are outgoing, articulate, and knowledgeable about your product. Note: be sure to provide training and talking points, even for company veterans. Staffers should be motivated and attentive — they should engage with customers and prospectives straightaway. I’ve observed plenty of booth staffers at other companies who continue chatting amongst themselves, even when there is a visitor present. Another no-no? Eating in the booth — it doesn’t project a professional image. Finally, make sure the booth staff consists of a combination of product experts, as well as salespeople.

8. Consider eye-catching attire
Logo-inscribed polo shirts are unremarkable. If you really want to stand out, consider spicing up the staff attire, whether it’s a splash of color or an unusual accessory. For Dreamforce, we ordered t-shirts with a vivid branded design and dressed up the look with orange leis and fedora hats. Between our signage, our giant inflatable phone, and our colorful attire, we were impossible to miss.

9. Build a demo and script
Seeing is believing, which is why it’s important that you demonstrate how your product or service works. This can be achieved with a simple but engaging powerpoint. Even more ideal are live demos. At Dreamforce, we showed RingCentral integrated with Salesforce.com through the actual user experience of activating different features. The product team built the demo and wrote the talking points, which were communicated during staff training.

10. Create a booth staff schedule
Last but certainly not least:  create a booth schedule that explicitly indicates when and where your staff is supposed to show up. Circulate the schedule several times prior to the actual event to give people a chance to request modifications. Set a deadline for when no further changes can be made. And be sure to include everyone’s contact information (mobile phone number) on the schedule, which you should widely distribute.

Did I miss something that you find critical in the exhibition process? Tell me in the comments section below.