By Alberto Martinez
Successful cloud providers invest in marketing their services: promoting them, showing the value to customers, implementing strong pricing campaigns—and they understand how to rapidly adapt to changing market demands. But what prevents your internal IT organization from defining an effective marketing strategy to be more competitive and foster your cloud investments? And more importantly, how should you approach this effort to ensure success?
When moving to a cloud environment, most of the IT organizations that I work with focus on defining processes such as provisioning, support, or capacity, but forget about how to market the services they will be delivering and communicate their value to their customers. The same IT organizations end up with a private cloud infrastructure without clear target customers or, even worse, their cloud services are not used by the lines of business, resulting in a poor return on investment (ROI).
To realize the full ROI that enterprises are looking for from their cloud investments, the IT organization needs to drive the uptake of those services and persuade the lines of business away from using external service providers (shadow IT) or alternative legacy internal service provision options.
In order to mitigate those situations and increase their integration with the business, I advise my clients to define a consistent approach—as outlined below—to market their (internal or external) cloud services.
Defining Your Cloud Services Marketing Strategy
The approach to defining a cloud service marketing strategy must be innovative and not follow the traditional approaches. You need to apply a special focus on your customers in order to build a stronger relationship between your IT organization and the lines of business. That innovative approach has to contain similar characteristics as those of your cloud environment —simple and agile while powerful and impactful.
Below are four steps your IT organization can follow when defining a cloud services marketing strategy:
- Define a service marketing strategy. As an essential initial activity, the key elements of the marketing strategy have to be defined with your CIO and leverage the expertise of your CMO and his/her marketing organization (experience, models, tools, and so forth). Those elements include market research, branding, pricing, differentiation, and competition.
- Create a communications plan. As my colleague Alex Salicrup wrote recently in this blog, communication is the key pillar to a successful IT provider. Define an effective communications plan for your cloud that will communicate its unique value to your customers and why they have to believe that differentiation is real (“reason to believe”). Your plan must define at a minimum what information will be communicated, how it will be communicated, as well as when it will be distributed and to which audience. Always keep in mind to exclude any technical information from the marketing materials.
- Develop marketing campaigns. One mechanism to create new favorable consumer perceptions of your cloud services is the marketing campaign. When developing tailored campaigns, you must identify what you are expecting from the campaign, what your customers can expect, what the impact will be on the audience, and how you will measure success. Measuring the success of your marketing campaigns is key to knowing the impact they had on your targeted audience.
- Measure. Benchmark your cloud environment against your competition, and set achievable actions to improve the value to business (always provide the best to your customers!).
Bridging the Gap Between the Cloud and Marketing Organizations
Establishing an IT services marketing capability is not just about defining the above steps—it’s also about your people in your organization and how they will execute upon those activities. To be successful, you need a strong integration between your IT organization and the marketing organization at two levels:
- Executive level: While defining the marketing strategy for your cloud environment, both your CIO and CMO have to work in tandem to ensure consistency with the business strategy. This will lead to the cloud services vision or value proposition, its unique value including differentiating factors, and the four steps previously described.
- Departmental lead/individual contributor level: Once you have defined your strategy, your IT organization—through cloud tenant operations—will have to work together with at a minimum two teams: 1) the marketing communications team to execute your cloud services communications plan, and 2) with the field marketing team to develop the marketing campaigns and success measurements.
Bridging the gap between the IT and marketing organizations will encourage an open environment of collaboration. I recommend to assign champions to integrate both areas, whose responsibility will be to support the promotion of the cloud services whilst leveraging the IT organization´s functions and expertise.
In summary, an effective cloud services marketing strategy promotes the value of your services and drives the adoption of those services within the lines of business. Start your effort early and with a consistent approach, so you can compete effectively against other cloud providers and achieve the ROI the business is looking for from its cloud investments.
Alberto Martinez is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in Spain.