When Engineers Speak: 4 Key Cloud Marketing Implications

For marketers, almost nothing is as valuable as hearing the unvarnished, unfiltered point-of-view of buyers. At last week’s Massachusetts Tech Leadership Council’s “Cloud Seminar: Choosing the Right Cloud for Your Business,” marketers would have had a lot to listen to.

Speaking to a sophisticated, engineer-centric audience with over 20 years’ experience in development and operations, GitHub’s Mark Imbriaco didn’t pull any punches in presenting his perspective on the myths and realities of the benefits of the cloud.

  • Cost savings? Myth.
  • Means of avoiding IT bottlenecks? Myth.
  • Driver of increased agility and speed to market? Definite reality.

From a value proposition perspective, the implications are clear: be wary of emphasizing cost and operational advantages of your cloud solution because they’ll like meet with skepticism.

A panel discussion featuring engineering executives from Carbonite, Ipswitch, Acquia, and Scribe built on Mr. Imbriaco’s perspective. In responding to questions about their infrastructure evolution, they said that decisions about when and how to deploy IaaS, PaaS, and S(torage)aaS would always be based on the strategic business needs for a given initiative or project: when time-to-market is critical or in which utilization is highly unpredictable, cloud is attractive; in a scenario with consistent demands and a need to control variable costs, cloud is a poor choice.

This nuanced view of the application of cloud services should point marketers towards the development of materials and campaigns that enable the customer to drive the buying process based on specific requirements for specific projects. Specifically, the following would likely be effective:

  • Inbound marketing to allow prospective customers to pursue the information most useful to them
  • Web-based self-diagnostics to help prospective customers learn which cloud solution may be the right one for them
  • Sales enablement tools to facilitate sales’ role as a partner and helpful guide
  • Cross/up-sell marketing based on utilization data to take advantage of natural evolution of needs

Lead Gen Budget Allocation…Zig When Others Zag

MarketingSherpa recently published the results of a survey that queried marketers on their expected budget allocations for various lead generation activities. Most of the focus among those who have picked up on this data has been on the increased budget for digital activities—in particular, social. The data does indeed tell an interesting story about the overwhelming trend in marketing to move away from traditional outbound demand generation tools towards inbound tools like social, SEO, and content marketing. From a practitioner’s perspective, however, I take something else away from the data: if I thought my audience might be receptive, I’d be overweighting to direct mail and paid search.

Sometimes in marketing it’s worth following the trends—not because they are trends but because they have become trends on the basis of positive reinforcement. SEO falls squarely into this category. There are times, though, when a trend develops out of wishful thinking and the fear of being left behind. While social absolutely has its merits and is a valuable tool for certain strategic situations, as a lead generation tool, I’d say the jury is still out.

And that brings me back to direct mail and paid search. Given the choice between marketing where all your competitors are and marketing where they are not, I’ll go with the road less traveled, zigging when others zag. We marketers spend much time, effort, and money trying to craft creative that gets our messages noticed. What if you put yourself in a position to be noticed simply be being the only piece of substantive mail on your target’s desk or the top sponsored link in a search? I’m not advocating ignoring the social channel at all, but sometimes zigging can deliver a big return.

A Look Inside Sales and Marketing at SaaS Companies, Part 1

A survey of SaaS business executives recently published by Pacific Crest (results available free here) reveals some interesting information about the profiles of higher-growth companies.

In their graph below, we can see that while the greatest number of SaaS companies use a field-based sales strategy, those that use inside sales that are actually growing the fastest—on average, almost 75% faster than the field sales companies. (Growth is defined as year-over-year change in revenue.)

The complement to this graph is the one below, which shows that the Fast Growers (>45% growth) have lower customer acquisition costs. This differentiation is undoubtedly driven in part by the use of an inside sales force.

The final piece of the puzzle is revealed in the following graph. This slice of the survey data shows that Slower Growers are much more focused on Enterprise customers. Fast Growers, on the hand, balance their Enterprise sales with a healthy dose of SMB sales.

Of course, this data shouldn’t be read as an indictment of SaaS businesses that use field sales to sell mostly to the Enterprise; there are highly successful examples of such businesses. Instead, the data serves to highlight the achievement of those Fast Growers, and I hypothesize that effective marketing has played a key role in their success. It isn’t easy selling through an inside sales force to SMB; relationships are difficult to build over the phone and SMB management is often difficult to reach. Success, then, becomes a numbers game: Maximize leads (with a focus on inbound), and optimize conversions by creating tools to move prospects through the funnel. Without a highly capable marketing function, the numbers don’t add up and growth is elusive.