Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marketing and the Cloud - I

Cloud Computing raises some interesting questions about marketing. How can/should cloud companies market their services? Does Cloud Computing change marketing? How? How do social media play into the marketing mix? How does a latter-day marketing organization use the cloud to drive business? Undoubtedly, there are many other questions, and perhaps this blog can surface and answer some of them as we go along.

We’ll pose the questions one at a time, create a stake in the ground around a potential answer, and look for some collective wisdom.

Let’s start with the broad question, “Does Cloud Computing change Marketing?” At its core, I think the answer is no. Marketing still has the same set of goals: building and sustaining a Brand; finding, attracting, and (perhaps) acquiring customers; understanding, selecting and conditioning target markets; listening to customers and prospects to inform both the brand and future offerings, and shortening the selling cycle for sales and partners.

However, what do change are the processes and tools that can be used to achieve those goals. These tend to fall into three broad categories:

1) Listening tools: In the past, it was difficult to understand how your brand was perceived, or how your product experience was rated, except through cumbersome, time-consuming, and not-very accurate surveys, or focus groups. Today, with a variety of social media tools, it’s possible to listen and respond to customer conversations about your company, and to leverage that knowledge directly into your company strategy.

2) Content Management: Using the Cloud as a repository for marketing tools (brochures, sales tools, presentations, etc.) facilitates communication with, and support for, sales teams, partners and even customers. Access can be managed, usage monitored, and actionable feedback collected from a broader audience than in the past.

3) Customer acquisition: Many potential customers are in the Cloud already – on social media, conducting searches, asking questions, and interacting with self-selected peer groups. The ability to find and listen to these conversations, to engage without disruption, and to attract potential users is fast becoming an art/skill that can set one competitor apart from the others.

In future posts, we’ll look to dissect each of these questions and categories a little more. Meanwhile, all flak, questions, comments, etc. are gratefully requested.

Jim Lee