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With many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) moving all or part of their infrastructure to the cloud, cloud service providers (CSPs) are in-demand. The challenge however for many cloud providers is being to able to consistently and cost-effectively acquire and retain the right kinds of clients. For growth-minded cloud service providers, inbound marketing is far more effective than traditional "old school" marketing channels for client acquisition and client retention -- which must be a top priority in any recurring revenue-centric business model.
While the standards still really aren't that widely defined in the cloud computing industry, there is fairly wide agreement on the categories of business needs that are addressed by cloud service providers, including the core cloud computing stack:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) -- most basic level of cloud services, the software, hardware, operating systems, and networks that power cloud computing
Platform as a Service (PaaS) -- tools and services that make it easier for developers and administrators to build and deploy cloud-based software
Other cloud services categories include:
Business Process as a Service (BPaaS)
Network as a Service (NaaS)
Recovery as a Service (RaaS)
Security as a Service (SECaaS)
Storage as a Service (STaaS)
Cloud service providers also differentiate by cloud “exclusivity”, sometimes referred to as deployment models, and/or location:
Public cloud -- what's best known for end user SaaS applications, where organizations run key IT functions on shared hardware and software resources
Private cloud -- cloud computing resources that are dedicated to one particular organization
There are a number of SMB pain points and business needs addressed by cloud computing in general, and cloud service providers in particular:
Ease of administration
Economies of scale
Less need for hardware upgrades
Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
Lower energy use and environmental impact
Lower maintenance costs
More agile with the ability to dynamically reallocate licenses based on actual, real-time user needs
More rapid deployment
Peak load capacity
Reduced capital expenditures because of the pay-as-you-go model (operational expenses)
Cloud service providers have hundreds, if not thousands, of options to consider when deciding which cloud computing vendors to partner with. Some of the largest cloud vendors, that are especially popular with SMB clients, include:
Amazon Web Services
With so many different cloud vendors and options to select from, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security and think that the most difficult part of the equation is to select the right cloud vendors to partner with. But it isn’t!
When so many different SMB technology providers are offering relatively similar solutions, built on largely the same 10, 20, or 30 different cloud vendors’ applications and platforms, the key is differentiation. Inbound marketing, where your company promotes its own thought leadership and educational resources, is key.
Or as IPED, the UBM Channel research, consulting, and education division so eloquently and succinctly puts it:
“Selling new accounts takes time, focus, sales incentive and a qualified pipeline. Solution providers indicate vendor assistance not only with demand generation around solutions they take to market, but also with marketing basics, would make a difference to their business. So much so, that some solution providers indicated a willingness to leave a mature, market-leading vendor’s ecosystem in search of greater marketing support.
In cases where a partner indicated a willingness to leave a well-branded, longtime partnership in search of greater marketing assistance, two factors emerged. One, the mature vendor’s products were considered “over distributed” by the partners who struggled to differentiate themselves from others who competed in the same market. The second factor stated was the inability to qualify at the highest level of the partner programs for field-marketing assistance.”
But regardless of whether your company gets marketing “love” from the cloud vendors that it “partners” with, or whether your company has been left holding the proverbial bag, the need for effective, results-based, data-driven inbound marketing is critical.
Because the way your SMB decision makers research and shop for options has drastically changed during the past few years. Think about:
When was the last time you answered a phone call without looking at caller ID?
When watching a TV show from your DVR, do you ever watch commercials anymore?
How many people do you know that still read a paper-based newspaper or magazine on a daily or weekly basis?
Do you attend more online or offline events lately?
Do you know anyone who uses an e-mail program without a spam filter?
When was the last time you made a major purchase decision solely based on receiving a piece of postal-based direct mail? (without checking out web-based or social resources)
When trying to solve a major problem in your business, do you begin by scheduling meetings with 5-10 salespeople? Or do you fire up your web browser or social media client?
How many people do you know that don’t even listen to regular radio stations anymore...opting instead for a satellite radio subscription, streaming music service subscription, or podcasts?
Do you even notice banner ads anymore on websites, let alone click on them?
What does all this add up to?
Consumers, including your target audience of SMB decision makers for cloud computing services, have become fed up with old school, traditional, interruption based marketing -- and even more important, have become really good at eliminating most of it from their lives.
Blame it on mobile devices. Blame it on social media. Blame it on better search results. It doesn’t matter where you pin the blame, but the game has changed!
So you can’t count on the way you ran your marketing 5 years ago, let alone 10 years ago, to continue working.
And it’s not just lead generation that’s drastically changed. It’s the whole sales process.
Did you know that 57% of the typical B2B sales cycle is over before a potential client contacts you? (Source: CEB on “Why Solution Selling No Longer Works”)
So, if your company isn’t in that consideration set, your cloud service provider company is either:
(a) not considered at all, or
(b) only contacted at the last minute for a time-wasting “bid” -- because your company is merely seen as an easily interchangeable cloud services commodity broker
So your company must reach potential clients at the right moment.
Look, entire industries, such as phone books, newspapers, and magazines, have been disputed, and in some cases decimated, by social media and mobile devices.
And with instant gratification squarely on the mind of decision makers, the salesperson is no longer the gatekeeper and educator he or she once was for cloud service providers.
With almost 60% of the typical B2B sales cycle over before a potential client even reaches out to any vendor’s sales department, your firm has to reach leads much earlier on in the sales process.
To do this most effectively, inbound marketing is the way to go, so your firm can:
Attract the right visitors to its website
Convert visitors to leads
Close sales with new clients
Delight clients for long-term retention
Learn more about how your cloud services company can use proven inbound marketing services to find clients, retain clients, and grow.