So your company has just launched a cloud service offering. Congratulations! All of that hard work to design, develop and launch your cloud solution into the marketplace is finally beginning to pay off.
Or is it? How is customer acquisition going? Are you bringing new customers on board without the use of personal networking or leveraging friends and family? Or are you still cherry-picking new deals?
As your company enters the growth phase that follows product launch, your new cloud business should be demonstrating market traction in your target segments, developing a repeatable sales model, building a strong recurring revenue pipeline and putting a cost-efficient and scalable marketing engine in place to scale your business. And how is partner recruitment going?
If you are planning to leverage the IT channel to increase your market coverage and broaden geographic reach, then you should already have a core network of qualified channel partners on board who are ramping their sales production. Do you have a well-defined partner profile and outreach program underway? How deep is your partner pipeline? How productive are your current partners?
You have just entered a new stage in the evolution of your cloud services business. It’s very different from the technical challenges of developing software and building an efficient operational facility for delivering services. Or is it? Actually, the similarities between developing a successful cloud service and building a successful cloud sales and marketing engine are pretty remarkable. The modern approach to customer acquisition in the era of the cloud and recurring revenue mirrors the structured, data-driven approach found in software development and service operations environments.
Sales and marketing is now a business process that must be designed, delivered, measured and optimized like any other functional area in your company that requires cost-efficiency, accountability and a positive and predictable return on investment. If you want to get customers for your newly launched cloud service AND you want to build an efficient engine for creating qualified sales leads and recruiting ideal partners, then you will need to design, build and operate a marketing engine in the same way you deliver IT services to your customers.
You can accomplish this with a scientific approach to customer acquisition based on inbound marketing – the science of attracting potential buyers and nurturing them through their decision-making process with targeted online content. Inbound marketing turns the misunderstood art of sales and marketing into a scientific method that puts you in total control of the cost, quality, effectiveness and efficiency of your marketing engine. It allows you to achieve multiple business goals that are so critical for this early phase in the growth of your company:
- Establishing your market presence
- Building your brand value and authority
- Generating customer demand for solutions
- Recruiting productive IT channel partners
- Growing revenue via scalable customer acquisition
Inbound Marketing is a proven methodology for achieving these business goals and is based on many time-proven best practices in digital marketing that work together to achieve measurable results.
1. Leveraging and Optimizing Your Website Successful inbound marketing begins by optimizing your website for traffic, conversion and authoritative content that guides your future buyers through the decision-making process. If you’re not leveraging your website for these purposes, then you are seriously underutilizing a powerful company asset. Want to grade the effectiveness of your website right now? Use the Hubspot Marketing Grader and carefully review the results. Then make the recommended improvements ASAP.
2. Generating Sales Leads via the Web Once you have enough targeted traffic visiting your website, you will want to optimize your site to convert those visitors into leads. In the science of inbound marketing, this is known as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). It involves creating conversion points (i.e., landing pages) on your website with compelling content offers served up in appropriate places.
3. Nurturing Marketing Leads into Future Buyers After site conversion comes the critical process of designing and delivering content that nurtures potential buyers through their decision-making process. This requires a deep understanding of your buyer persona and the skillful creation of authoritative content to address their pain points and help them to develop the right buying criteria.
4. Recruiting Partners that Meet Your Criteria Often the website for a cloud hosting provider or technology vendor must address two or more different audiences at the same time. An example of this is using your website as a vehicle for channel partner recruitment. With the right messaging and navigation, your content can be tuned to deliver different messages to different buyer personas in order to attract, convert and nurture new customers and channel partners at the same time.
5. Engaging with Customers to Maximize Retention Once you have acquired customers and partners, inbound marketing is used to engage them with an ongoing dialog that helps them to realize the greatest value from their purchase and highlights new services that can increase their value over time. This approach will also help you to minimize churn as you maintain your position as their trusted advisor.
6. Build a Segmented Database of Customer/Partner Prospects An important by-product for all of these uses for inbound marketing is the creation and cultivation of a segmented database for all customers, end-user prospects and potential channel partners. This database will become a key company asset that increases in value over time and provides a continuous source of new business for years to come.
Assess the completeness and efficiency of your own inbound marketing engine by taking this self-assessment. It will calculate an effectiveness score and point out the gaps you need to cover to maximize your marketing performance and its business impact.