Content Cookbook #3: Selling DevOps

content marketing DevOps(One in an ongoing series of sample drip content marketing campaigns for IT vendors. Feel free to steal this sequence or, if you’d like help customizing one for your needs, email or call at 508 725-7258.)

DevOps is the process of combining historically separate development and operations functions to speed application deployment. This is especially useful for companies that need to rush consumer-facing mobile or social applications to market, or those that  need to roll out or test new features quickly.

But DevOps is a major change, especially for large organizations with complex and/or highly regulated software environments. That means opportunity for vendors that sell tools or services to help them make the shift.

Here’s a quick, and relatively easy, content marketing sequence to identify and rank prospects for your DevOps offerings.

Story One, for those at the “top of the funnel/awareness” stage: Explain DevOps and how it’s different and better than what came before. Describe how a DevOps org chart is different than a conventional environment where development and operations are separate. Explain, based on your actual experience with customers, to what extent DevOps is hype or real. Be realistic and honest about what types of organizations and business cases it is best suited for. Cite case studies and examples of how actual customers made the shift and the benefits they realized.

Offer this ungated (no registration required) to establish yourself as a trusted and knowledgeable advisor. Promote via your Web site, email newsletters, content syndication, social media, etc. The call to action is a link to a second, also ungated story, for prospects that are moving into the consideration phase.  

Story Two: Use the ever-popular checklist format for an “Is DevOps for me?” piece. Questions for readers to ask themselves might include:

  •  “Have I missed a market opportunity in the last year because I couldn’t field a new app quickly enough?”
  • “Is my A/B testing of new application features taking too long? How much would it be worth to speed that up?”
  •  “Do I have the stomach for the organizational and skill changes required to move to DevOps?”
  • “Do I have executive backing to make these changes and force my developers and operations folks to work more closely together?”

Promote this piece as you did story one, offering it ungated to attract the widest audience. The call to action can ask reader to register to read a third, gated piece that contains more detailed implementation guidelines.

Story three: A DevOps reality check for those in more serious consideration mode. Based on real-world experience, describe what it takes to implement DevOps in the real world. Make this a detailed implementation guide that doesn’t shy away from the tough changes in both process and technology needed to implement DevOps. Include sometimes-forgotten considerations such as security and how DevOps may affect databases. How much training, in what areas, and at what cost are required for your staff? Where do companies typically go wrong in their shift to DevOps and how can other companies avoid these mistakes?

Gate this with a short two to three field form (for example, name, email address, company name) that captures basic tracking information without scaring off too many readers.  (You can profile them more carefully later with additional questions.) Since every prospect’s needs are unique, the call to action can be to offer a detailed assessment of their specific DevOps readiness. For those who stopped at stories 2 or 3, continue to marinate them in other useful content until they’re ready for further engagement.

Note: In place of “story” in this sequence feel free to replace with “webinar,” “video”, “podcast,” “white paper,” or other format.) And if you have a product or service you’d like to see a sample sequence for, drop me a line or call at 508 725 7258.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

We’ve all read them: The “Five Questions to Ask When Buying XYZ” stories. For trade press editors, they’re a guaranteed draw for readers. They’re easy to digest, practical and, done right, geared to the problems or questions readers are facing right now.

This trade press staple is also a great standby for your content marketing efforts. But getting the maximum lead generation from them requires watching out for a few potholes I discovered as an editor.

  • Boring the reader with the same advice they can get everywhere else on the Web. To avoid this, scan existing stories in trade pubs and your competitor’s Web sites. Then go a step further than they did with a new angle, more detail or more precise advice. For example, in a piece for Computerworld on tough security questions to ask a cloud provider, I didn’t just advise readers to “Ensure proper authentication and access control.” I described the differences between the ideal but expensive “federated” identity management and the less secure, but less expensive, “synchronized” identity management. I mentioned several vendors and their approaches to authentication and access control, along with some best practices for implementing it.
  • Ignoring the real world: Don’t settle for offering high-minded but obvious advice like “Consult all stakeholders about their cloud security needs.” What should a prospect do faced with the messy reality of a hugely public data breach that has every business unit running scared and insisting on more security than anyone, in or out of the cloud, can provide? This is where your real-world experience can turn a good story great. If you’re a cloud provider you could, for example, tell the story of a real-world engagement where you proved to a customer (anonymous, of course) exactly where your cloud-based security is actually better than what the customer was doing in-house.
  • Confusing “evaluators” with those “ready to buy.” An “evaluation” story about, say, digital cameras would talk about megapixels, image stabilization, facial recognition, and image quality. A “ready to buy” story would instead focus on whether to take the “buyer protection” plan the cashier always pushes, what to look for in return policies and which Web sites to check for last-minute discounts. For the IT products and services you sell, your sales and marketing staff should know which questions to answer for both types of stories. This fine-tuning can give you two compelling pieces of content instead of one. Furthermore, tracking who reads the “evaluator” story vs. the “ready to buy” story helps you score their readiness to buy.

“Top questions before you buy” stories are almost always a good bet. But they work best if you go beyond the obvious advice, address the tough issues customers face in the real world, and tailor your advice to the reader’s specific place in the buying cycle.

For more tips, subscribe to “Editor’s Notes,” by regular newsletter of content marketing and PR tips for IT marketing pros.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

If You Can’t Profile Right, Don’t Bother

There’s an old saying that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” That’s sure true when it comes to profiling customers, or scoring leads, based on their digital profiles. Just ask travel site Orbitz, which is getting a lot of grief for reportedly steering Mac users to higher-priced fares than it does PC users.

Maybe Orbitz assumes Mac users have higher incomes than PC users, or are more likely to spend more for a perceived “quality” experience. Unless Orbitz has some nifty purchase pattern data about Mac users the rest of us haven’t seen, this not only is lousy PR for Orbitz but a lousy way to determine how much a given user has to spend, and how likely they are to spend it.

I Use a PC and I Have Money…Honest…

Any one digital clue (such as choice of operating system) is too small a sample to be meaningful when scoring leads. How about, for example, all those modestly-paid teachers whose school districts use Macs? Or all those starving artists and graphic designers who insist on using only Macs? Or poor college students who got an educational discount on one? And all those high-priced consultants and middle to upper management types who use PCs because of the enterprise applications available for them. They probably book more last-minute, high-priced fares than your average teacher or free-lance designer.

What’s worst, this single-metric profiling (if it did actually happen) is not how profiling should be done if you aim is to get the most maximum lifetime value out of a customer, rather than wringing every last dollar from every transaction. The real aim of profiling should be to give every prospect the information they need when they need it to make an informed choice. Give the customer more, and better information they can trust, and they’re more likely to trust and buy from you.

Profile Me. Please

This is especially true in more complex sales where you’re comparing more than departure, arrival and layover times. I, for example, am considering a solid state drive for my aging ThinkPad. I would love it if an online retailer could (with my permission, of course) analyze my system and honestly tell me which would provide the most bang for the buck based on my combination of processor, RAM, current disk, etc. Based on that, would I pay another 20 to 30 percent for the best performing drive? Absolutely.

The further up the cost and complexity scale you go (think IaaS providers, databases, service providers) the more carefully you should choose the digital “clues” you should follow. Unsure how to score prospects based on your current “one-size-fits-all” content? Carefully craft content designed to attract specific customer types so they score themselves based on what they read. (Watch a two-minute video example.)

When done well, customer profiling is not only acceptable but a benefit. Think of when Amazon gets it right and tells you about a cool book or musician you otherwise wouldn’t know about. Doing it right takes a lot more time and effort, but (if focused on your most attractive customers) pays off big-time.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Ask anyone selling marketing software or services what their “cost per lead” is and you’ll get a different, and self-serving, answer. I’ve seen estimates ranging from single dollars to tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars. The cost is always the highest for whatever mechanism (trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, marketing automation software) the competing vendor is hoping to trash.

 

Of course, everyone cooks the underlying cost numbers to make their approach look best. But you’re actually asking to be bamboozled because you haven’t defined a “lead.” It is just a name and a possibly outdated title and email address from a purchased list? Is it the current name and contact info of someone who actually visited your booth or downloaded a white paper? Or is it the name, contact information who has indicated (either through a registration form or their readership history) that they’re feeling the pain you can solve, own the hardware and software your product needs to work, and are willing to sit down and talk for ten minutes?

 

Naturally, the price goes up the better the “lead” is. A veteran marketing director working for a social media startup told me recently that white-paper syndication services charge about $25 per lead, (names of individuals with certain titles, at a given size organization, etc. But identifying which “leads” have the right other products to make them a good lead boosts the cost closer to $80. Winnowing the field down to those who have the specific problem his product solves, and is open to a call, winds up costing hundreds of dollars per lead.

 

Some vendors try to ease the confusion by differentiating between “leads” (less qualified) and “prospects” (more qualified.) Other cite a CPL (cost per lead) and CPA (cost per action) with the “action” being a lead downloading a white paper or taking a call. But whatever terminology you use, “cost per lead” is useless for calculating ROI unless you define “lead.”

 

The CPA metric is a good start, because it defines success as a specific action. And most marketers (like my friend) have a good intuitive feel for what they want from a lead. Just adding a few words – a lead who will take a ten minute call, or who downloads our white paper – are all it takes to set a clear and level playing field.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.