Cloud computing continues to be one of the most hyped subject in IT today. In fact, many describe it as deafening. According to the latest Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing the industry is just beyond the Peak of Inflated Expectations, and “cloudwashing” on the part of vendors has accelerated the entire industry into the Trough of Disillusionment. (I’ll try to resist poking fun at the haughty descriptions…)
That aside, I came across some interesting perspective by Louis Columbus on his Software Strategies blog about the connection between hype cycles and Gartner client inquiries, the current state of confusion, and the amazing point that nearly every vendor who briefs Gartner has a cloud computing strategy yet few have shown how their strategies are cloud-centric.
There are plenty of examples of cloudwashing and this recent article titled Enterprise IT cloud wish list for 2012 by Tom Nolle of CIMI Corp at SearchCloudComputing.com reinforces just how real it is. Noelle says that recent surveys have shown that enterprises reject more cloud installments than they’ve accepted. He explains that it’s not that enterprises want the cloud to fail — quite the contrary. It’s simply that expectations in several areas haven’t been met and end-users don’t have the answers they need.
Noelle outlines the top five features cloud computing needs to succeed:
- Cost-effective strategy for mass storage
- Seamless, holistic methods for hierarchical storage
- Standard set of management APIs for SaaS, PaaS and Iaas
- Comprehensive and auditable way to manage cloud security
- Realistic coverage of the cloud market, with accurate data on costs and benefits
It is this last “wish” that intrigues me most, because it directly relates to marketing communications. According to Noelle:
“A major underlying problem with cloud projects may stem from enterprises’ misconceptions and false expectations of the technology’s benefits. Senior operations management, conditioned by claims that the cloud will save money as a large-scale replacement for internal IT, have pushed cloud adoption to applications for which there are no proven benefits. IT admins expressing doubt about market claims have been ignored. It would be extremely helpful, cloud professionals say, if senior management launched cloud projects with a true sense of the benefits and downsides.”
Vendors and service providers –and specifically, their marketing communications teams – have an important role to play here. We have to add value, be real and create trust. We need to shift our thinking away from the promise of what could be to delivering on the reality of what is.
Cloud providers, and those of us that support their marketing, play an important role in helping customers and prospects understand the TRUE sense of benefits, challenges, opportunities and downsides. Be honest, be clear, be brave. Let your customers and prospects know when doing something in the cloud doesn’t make sense, even if it means losing the sale. Avoid slapping a “cloud skin” on your offerings just so you can be part of the noise discussion.
Here are just a few things to think about:
How are you helping your customers and prospects help themselves? Thanks to the hype and “disillusionment,” many of your customers, prospects and the market at large are confused by the cloud. Help them make sense of what’s happening, give them resources and tools they can use to evaluate, for example, whether storing corporate data in the cloud make sense; if they should turn to private, public or hybrid clouds; learn how to evaluate PaaS vs. IaaS; or simply determine when economies of scale warrant sticking with legacy or switching to the cloud. It’s not about telling them they should choose your product or services, it’s about giving them the tools and information they need to identify risks, opportunities and make the right decision.
To that point, think about how you align your marketing communications and “fuel” (a.k.a. various types of content) to the awareness, consideration and decision phases of your sales cycle. Focus on what is, not what could be. Create substance through content in the form of case studies, whitepapers, benchmark studies and yes, candid competitive comparisons.
Work with your channel partners to create the same. Be a resource – provide some guidelines and tools to help them market and sell. Why not help them build a customer reference program, provide PR or communications guidelines and support? A little goes a long way.
How are you establishing yourself/your company as a trusted resource? What type of value-added, expert advice and information are you providing your customers and prospects? Have a distinct point of view on a couple of key issues facing your company and your industry. And remember — if your communications dial is tuned to an “all-about-me-all-the-time” station with hard-core sales pitches, you’ll lose your listeners and certainly head down that slippery slope of disillusionment.
Basically, creating a reality-based communication strategy isn’t anything new. It’s simply about eliminating the hype of promise-based marketing and delivering on what is.
Are you a provider with a great cloud offering? Let’s talk about how we can help with your marketing communications.