• Three Marketing Strategies to Accelerate Cloud Adoption

    Cloud is a contradiction.  No concept in today’s IT world is generating as many conversations or creating as much confusion.  And with a steady stream of new products and services covering infrastructure, applications, security, platform, network services and management being introduced, the cloud ecosystem has grown in complexity – creating a dizzying array of value propositions for prospects to consume.

    For prospects and customers, the cloud brings hopes of on-demand computing at a lower total cost of ownership; but for others, it breeds doubts around security, stability of service and governance.  There’s also the challenge to prove its value as a business enabler instead of simply the latest IT upgrade.  Bottom line: the name “cloud” might be simple, but its acceptance and varying degrees of adoption are anything but.

    As a cloud marketer, you’re in a unique position of having to perform the kind of double-duty marketing often seen in early adopter climates.   First, you have to educate your prospects on the greater cloud vision and how the journey makes sound business sense.   Second, you have to prove to potential buyers why your company is best equipped to help them make that journey.

    Compounding these challenges is the fact that we live in a search-engine-based society in which your prospects have been doing their own cloud homework.  In fact, they may have already studied you – and if they’re an early cloud adopter, they may have already studied your solutions and moved you into the consideration stage of a selling process – without you even knowing, and likely without even having spoken to a salesperson.   To marketers, this means two important things: it’s time to take a fresh look at your awareness activities, and whatever content you’re sending into the digital universe better be on message and targeted. 

    Once you can prove yourself to be a trusted advisor along a complex path, you’ll keep customers for life.   After all, cloud adopters know they’re making long-haul decisions, so they’re going to make them with companies/individuals they believe and trust.   That requires synchronization between all prospect and customer touch points, from the various digital outlets to the salespeople who meet them.

    Cloud marketers need to engage a strategy that supports both early adoption buying and sustained relationship building.  That means tracking buying cycle behavior and mapping strategies against each stage (see Figure 1).  Some of these actions might include:

    • Investing more heavily in non-traditional awareness activities, such as social and digital media, that push thought leadership content in smaller bites.  This type of ongoing education is critical for long-term visibility.

    • Ensuring thought leadership content is dripped across awareness, consideration and preference stages, so your prospects and customers are hearing your message loud and clear – even when salespeople are not directly involved.

    • Providing salespeople with conversation tools and collateral that build and sustain prospect interaction to continue moving an opportunity forward.

    • Building out marketing and sales support programs to drive continued investment beyond “early adopter/limited liability” purchases.

    In the following sections, we’ll dive more deeply into these ideas and offer three strategies you can use to focus your message, establish yourself as a thought leader and arm your salespeople with the right tools – all of which will help you differentiate yourself and rise above the noise of bandwagon jumpers and “me too” cloud providers.

    Strategy #1: Show customers step by step how you’ll guide them on their journeys to the cloud 

    Cloud technology is not as complicated as it seems.  We know that because the core compo­nents of cloud – consolidation, virtualization, automation, shared resources – are ones that we’ve all been talking about and actively marketing for some time.  But for many prospects and customers, these common components are often overshadowed by the pure concept of cloud – or even the word “cloud” itself – and they have trouble bridging the gap between their in-house infrastructure and one that seems to exist somewhere out in the ether.

    Bridging that gap, however, is not their job – it’s yours.  As marketers of a nascent technology, you need to create focused messaging that clearly educates prospects and illustrates how you will carry them from where they are now into and through the cloud.  The journey to cloud has many stops along the way, beginning with consolidation and virtualization and ending with shared resources in the cloud.  Each one of these stages is an opportunity for you to tell – and sell – your side of that story.

    And make no mistake, the opportunity is immense.  According to an analyst who presented at a May, 2010 Forrester IT Forum, only five percent of enterprises are positioned to immediately pursue the adoption of their own private or hybrid clouds(2).  That leaves a startling 95 percent in need of serious education and guidance on how to get from point A to point B.

    Their education can’t begin, though, until you get your story straight.  You need to crystallize and articulate a cloud message that details the unique value and benefits your company brings to the table.  And you must weave that message through thought leadership and sales enablement resources, such as messaging guides and white papers, creating a thread of information that gently guides customers and prospects through the sales cycle.  

    Strategy #2: Create a social network of thought leadership that combats FUD

    It’s common knowledge that human beings fear the unknown.  We also tend to be skeptical about things that we don’t quite understand – especially when they gain a sort of viral popularity that has them turning up everywhere you look.  It is both a blessing and a curse to marketers that cloud falls into both of these camps.

    On one hand, cloud’s popularity has created a healthy amount of curiosity about it in the IT world, so many organizations will be drawn to it simply to be proactive and informed.  On the other hand though, fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about the technology’s level of maturity can act as roadblocks for customers who are slow to adopt.  As marketers, the cloud climate (no pun intended) provides an opportunity for us to add value to our organizations by aligning our content assets to the needs, wants and fears of our many audiences. 

    When you speak to prospects about cloud, what are some of the fears or doubts that make them hesitant about the technology? Do they worry about the security of data stored in a cloud? Or maybe they’re concerned with bandwidth, performance or availability issues? According to IDC, organizations are also expressing concern about interoperability standards, integration and customization and the long-term costs of on-demand payment models(3). 

    Next, reassess your most valuable marketing content, from blogs through white papers and sales tools.  Do you directly combat and contain the FUD surrounding these topics in everything you publish?

    Since the majority of cloud engagements are going to be long-haul purchases, it’s critical to show knowledge and thought leadership continually to prospects – and to reinforce it with social media and other drip marketing tactics that work to stamp out FUD over time.  For example, posting your messages on high-traffic sites, such as YouTube, is bound to increase your reach.  And, you can gain traction through blog posts that start conversations and tweets that get re-tweeted by developing copy that elevates what is already out there and gives it a new twist.

    Strategy #3: Arm your salespeople with compelling conversation tools  

    In an environment where there is so much uncertainty, sales enablement becomes more important than ever.  That’s because your salespeople now are taking on the same double-duty efforts of presenting the possibilities of cloud capabilities, and then driving home your company’s message and value proposition toward closing a sale. 

    When it comes to cloud, we’ve all read or discovered first-hand that the sales cycles are long.  In fact, according to a recent Forrester survey of 1,200 IT decision makers in the US and Europe, 43 percent were interested in cloud technology but had no plans to adopt at this point in time(4).  Let’s do the math on that: 43 percent of 1,200 is 516.  That’s 516 IT decision makers who found cloud technology fascinating enough to research but not enough to buy.  Perhaps they’ve decided it wasn’t a fit for them.  Or, they haven’t been shown the path, or engaged with someone who can help them get there. 

    Great conversations between salespeople and prospects/customers are borne from business-focused topics around solving problems.  They come from vision and experience.  They must parallel your thought leadership works and customer-facing media strategies because your messages need to be synchronized across every touch point in your company.  And they must be presented by the people who will serve as their trusted advisers over time. 

    Interesting, though, that so many companies create great works of thought leadership to serve as fulfillment for demand gen campaigns or downloadable works from websites, yet fail to ever make them available to salespeople who need to carry the story forward. 

    Salespeople find whiteboarding tools and conversations particularly useful for presenting cloud vision.  If using a conversation strategy, be sure your conversation tools carry prospects to a committed next step.  Assessments, ROI analyses and peer reviews are great ways to keep opportunities moving forward. 

    As technology companies focus their salespeople to sell “higher in the organization,” whiteboard conversations, playbooks and other selling tools can serve a critical role in ensuring early executive-level discussions are targeted and meaningful.  But to be successful, these sales aids must be developed to consider the needs of both the presenter and the audience.  And, like all marketing and enablement tools, they must be launched with instructions for use, monitored for acceptance, measured for results and modified as market needs dictate.  Bottom line: people want to have conversations about cloud, and these are the tools to help you do just that. 

    At the core of each of these strategies is high-value content – something which everyone needs, but few have the time or resources to create.  Launch International can help you not only create this content, but also leverage it in ways that differentiate you from the pack and identify you as a thought leader and trusted partner to your customers and prospects for years to come.

    For a comprehensive review of Launch International’s case studies and client examples, download the marketing brief (below) or visit www.launchinternational.com:   How Marketing Can Accelerate Cloud Adoption: Three Strategies to Turn Buzz into Buyers  

    1 IDC, Directions 2010, “Adapt or Vanish: The Impact of Cloud Computing on the IT Channel Ecosystem,” March 4, 2010.

    2 Sam Diaz, Forrester: The cloud is here to stay; What’s your strategy?, http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/forrester-the-cloud-is-here-to-stay-whats-your-strategy/35152 (May 2010).

    3 ARN Staff, Cloud computing: Cloud facts and figures, http://www.arnnet.com.au/article/341263/cloud_computing_cloud_facts_figures/ (March 2010).

    4 ARN Staff, Cloud computing: Cloud facts and figures, http://www.arnnet.com.au/article/341263/cloud_computing_cloud_facts_figures/ (March 2010).

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