Cloud Marketing: Art or Science?

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Ryan BrockBy Ryan Brock

Whether a partner is "born in the cloud" or is of the transformed variety, there is one reality that nearly all face: Cloud marketing is at best a poorly understood art and at worst a complete mystery. This should come as no surprise — most partners enter the business because of an affinity for technology rather than a love for marketing and sales. Cloud has made the situation, well, cloudier.

First, a partner must decide to focus on the cloud, create a plan, rationalize the investment, align with cloud vendors and reallocate and retrain staff. Then, with any remaining energy and resources, they must generate awareness and build a cloud sales funnel. Given these challenges, it's easy to understand why only one in five cloud partners (i.e., those that offer IaaS, SaaS, DaaS, remote managed services, etc.) has been able to build or sustain a high-growth business. 

When we look at why so few partners have crossed the cloud chasm there are several critical roadblocks that are often cited: customer demand, technical competency, business model transition, and vendor and distributor alignment. However, the fact is that most partners that truly commit to the cloud are able to overcome these challenges within 12-18 months.

So the real question is, what sets apart the 20 percent of partners that are driving the lion’s share of the cloud opportunity today?

We set out to answer this question by analyzing what the most successful cloud partners are doing that is different than their peers. Our goal essentially was to build a model that predicts the growth of a partner’s cloud business based on the actions that the partner takes. The approach was fairly straightforward:

  • first, segment the partners based on their cloud revenue growth
  • second, compare the characteristics, solutions, strategies and tactics of the partners across the segments
  • third, use statistical analysis to identify the factors that have the highest likelihood to predict whether a partner will fall into the high-growth segment.

So what did we find?  Well, the results were surprising to say the least. The model shows that 30 percent of a cloud partner’s success can be attributed to its marketing approach and tactics.   In other words, of all the things a partner can do to be successful in the cloud, marketing accounts for one-third of that result. We knew we were likely to find that marketing had some measurable impact on a partner’s success; however, we did not expect the magnitude of the impact to be so significant.  Think about it this way: If a partner has committed to the cloud and has made transformational changes and investments but has experienced only modest sales, the ideal mix of marketing strategies and tactics is likely to push that partner into a high-growth tier, which often means a double or triple increase in cloud revenue growth. That’s huge!

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