How to Right-message your Cloud Offering ?
Date: Tuesday , January 12, 2010
With "cloud," technology marketers are faced with the highest level of hype since the Internet pioneer days in the late 1990s. The rapid rise of cloud computing ideas has combined the technology industry virtualization trends with the buzz of the Internet so powerfully that many vendor CEOs are demanding a strategy and a path to thought leadership in this critical new industry trend. Marketers at vendors of software, hardware, professional services, hosting, telecom services and software-as-a-service are all asking Forrester about the implications of cloud, what to offer, and how to position themselves as part of the mega-trend.
Forrester defines the term “cloud” as a standardized IT capability, such as software, app platform, or infrastructure, delivered via Internet technologies in a pay-per-use and self-service way. The appeal of instant service provisioning, unlimited capacity and pay-per-use accounting is strong and has led to many starry-eyed predictions of revolution. The reality is that we’re in a hype bubble that will crash soon. Forrester believes that this new set of ideas will endure and grow dramatically; what won’t endure is the all-encompassing use of the word “cloud”.
The term “Cloud” is confusing because media, pundits, and marketers use it to refer to a range of often contradictory technology concepts, value propositions, and business models. And this confusion leads many technology executives to give trendy, but vague presentations, while customers try out the new language without knowing what they really want, leading to conversations in which neither side understands one another. Ultimately, for the technology marketers, this confusion arising out of cloudy language obscures their brands, clogs prospect pipelines and lengthens sales cycles.
So, what’s the right way to message your cloud offering? Just be clear about your offering and value without creating hype. As technology marketers, you have to move with the market, address CEO demands for market leadership and satisfy influencers monitoring the latest trends. But, these goals aren’t served by fogging up market efforts with cloudy language. In fact, leave “cloud” out of your top-line messaging entirely. To fend off new threats and make the most of new opportunities, Forrester recommends that marketers should:
Develop the Entire Marketing Message without using the “C” Word: It’s a good discipline to force you to explain the full offering, value propositions and differentiation without reference to cloud. This forces you to be as specific and clear as possible rather than hoping that a catchy phrase will give you affinity cachet. And it will make you be very specific about the applicability of the new product or service to specific use cases, such as Greenfield Web applications, rather than making generic statements that can be broadly interpreted.
Retrofit “Cloud“ to the Message for Buzzword Compliance with Market Influencers: Once you’re clear on the core message, identify your target buyers and research their affinity for the “C” word. If some customers or influencers look for “cloud” rather than being put off by it, add it back to key messaging points to show how your offering or value proposition can be compared with the specific attributes of “cloud” that are relevant, rather than opening the Pandora’s box of cloud possibilities. Doing so, enables marketers to show compatibility with the industry mega-trend without the blanket associations and misconceptions that cause confusion. And if a significant chunk of your target audience will be put off by cloud language, leave it out entirely — you don’t need it to succeed, as long as your core value is clear.
Tune Messages for Specific Buyers who have Very Different Perspectives on Cloud: Many early adopters of “something”-as-a-service are startups and consumer-focused Web developers. They’re often comfortable with the term “cloud”, though still confused by its diversity of meaning. Enterprise IT developers are interested in IaaS and PaaS offerings so that they can bypass their enterprise IT operations teams, who aren’t able to spool up projects quickly and have too many bureaucratic demands. IT infrastructure and operations executives are curious about using IaaS for temporary projects but are skeptical about broad usage of IaaS — and they’d like to have something to offer their developers. Each audience needs a specific message, not one blanket message.
For Service Offerings, Use “Something“-As-a-Service Instead of the "Cloud" Label: For service-based offerings, adding the “as-a-service” label to a familiar label, such as “CRM-as-a-service” or “archiving-as-a-service,” immediately orients buyers to the core value proposition and educates them on the shift to a service-based value proposition. This builds on the established software-as-a-service concept and avoids much broader distractions.
For Products, Tout Specific Capabilities Rather than Using Generic Cloud Language: For products that enable IT managers or service providers to build highly shared and automated service-based offerings, marketers should tout the specifics, not the “cloud.” For example, marketers of virtualization solutions should focus messaging on capabilities for virtualizing infrastructure, orchestrating virtual IT resources, self-service provisioning and resource metering, and monitoring rather than just lazily using the cloud crutch.
Don’t Put "Cloud" in Product or Initiative Names that should Endure for Years: Do you still have Internet or eCommerce in your product names? What about eBusiness? We didn’t think so. The same fate awaits “cloud”, so don’t put the term in any durable product names, initiatives, or messaging headlines.
The author of the article is Frank Gillett, the VP & Principal Analyst, Forrester Research.