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

“Sincerely, Vice President”: Why Marketing for Sales Is Vital

Since EMI’s founding over 20 years ago, a core focus has been what we call “marketing for sales.”  One of the key propositions of this focus is to bring marketing principles, strategy, and messaging to the point of sale. And it’s obvious that many companies struggle with this, as we often encounter samples of sales campaigns that demonstrate a lack of marketing expertise.  One such example is below.

The goal of this email is to get the target audience to attend these sessions, and certainly there are elements in the email – the prominence given to the information table to attract the eye, the “Last Chance” message at the top of the email – that head in the right direction. However, the ability of email to achieve its objectives as effectively as possible is undermined by execution that fails to adhere to basic principles of email marketing:

  • Having a single, prominent call-to-action. In fact, the only call-to-action in the message is to respond to the email and write a message stating which session is preferable.
  • Facilitating response by offering multiple response channels and making it easy to take the desired action. There is no opportunity to click on a link to respond, no number to call to register, no button taking you to a form on which you could register. Any or all of these additions would have increased response by making it easier and more straightforward.
  • Offering a compelling and prominent headline that draws the recipient in. What is the headline of the email? Is it the small message at the top saying this is the last chance to register? If so, only the more patient readers would find that sentence because it is overwhelmed by the logo immediately below it.

Based on the content and the fact that typically this company is a very effective email marketer, it seems likely that the email was sent not as a marketing campaign, but rather by the sales team. This ineffective email is precisely why “marketing for sales” is so important and represents such a powerful opportunity for many companies.  Imagine how many more prospects would have registered and attended these events if the email had offered large buttons for each event which, when clicked, would have registered the clicker and taken them to a confirmation page that offered them a “save to Outlook” option. Consider how much more compelling it would have been to have a name in the closing, rather than just “Vice President”.  Injecting marketing expertise into sales channel activity means more registrations, which means more attendees, and that means more sales.

The Six Triggered Campaigns Every SaaS Marketer Should Try

Almost any business can benefit from the strategic implementation of triggered campaigns (see: http://www.emiboston.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Triggered-Campaign-Field-Guide.pdf) to increase mindshare, walletshare, and lifetime customer value. For SaaS businesses, though, the benefits can be even more powerful as success depends on the optimization of the ongoing revenue stream from existing customers and prospects in trial. In a SaaS business, there is a proliferation of customer “moments of truth” – points in the customer lifecycle when the customer experience can significantly affect the business decision-making process. Because services are often paid for as-you-go, a change in usage volume, a service experience, training attendance (or lack thereof), and the degree of understanding of the product features can all lead to decisions to increase or decrease contract levels. As a result, marketing based on usage behavior and lifecycle rises significantly in importance as there is a strategic imperative to influence and/or drive interactions.

With that in mind, the following is a list of triggered campaigns that any SaaS marketing team should think about putting into circulation:

  • Free trial conversion. Once a prospect is in trial, that is the opportunity to communicate the value of the product – to reiterate the benefits and make it an easy decision for them to move from trial to paid. The conversion campaign should be planned as a series of communications, ideally including sales scripting. Customer testimonials and cautious use of incentives (e.g., discount offers) can be effective.
  • Win Back. You win some; you lose some. Having invested in getting the prospect to trial or even to a paid subscription, you shouldn’t sit back and simply accept the loss of a customer. A campaign based on common reasons for cancellation and/or non-purchase, potentially featuring incentives to entice the customer back, is vital to ensuring that you are maximizing the return on your acquisition costs.
  • Onboarding. Immediately after a customer has agreed to a pay is not the time to sell, but it is definitely the time to reaffirm the customer’s decision and the value of the product, as well as preparing the customer for future communications. The Onboarding campaign can be a single email, a series of emails, or even a multi-channel/multi-touch effort.
  • Training attendance. Even if it’s the greatest software in the world, customers won’t use more, expand their user base, and spend more unless they really understand how to use it. A triggered campaign targeting training attendance is therefore vital to maximizing lifetime customer value. The campaign can target individual users or a point-person/advocate who has a stake in training attendance.
  • Cross-sell and up-sell. After the onboarding campaign has laid the relationship groundwork and the training attendance campaign has ensured initial satisfaction, it is time to begin trying to increase walletshare. Cross-sell and up-sell campaigns should not apply a “hard sell” approach; they should be informative rather than overtly promotional. Again, customer testimonials (e.g., “see how customers like you are getting the most out of the software”) can be a powerful messaging element.
  • Feedback. Nothing enhances satisfaction like being asked for feedback. Any important point of contact (e.g., service call, initial implementation, training session attendance) should be seen as an opportunity to solicit opinions. But beware: if you don’t take action on the feedback, asking can be worse than not asking at all.

The good news for marketers is that not only is lifecycle information available for triggers, but now, through companies like Totango (www.totango.com), one can easily create and execute triggered campaigns based on software usage.