Can We Lead With Value in 2015?

2015 trends B2B content marketing Another day, yet another lament about how lame business-to-business (B2B) marketing content can be.

The latest eye-rolling comes from Forrester Research, courtesy of a report in AdAge. It quoted Laura Ramos, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, on her review of 30 B2B Web sites in in the technology, software, investing, medical products, manufacturing and services industries.

She scored the sites on ten criteria, “ranging from a customer-centric home page to innovative use of video” Out of the 30 sites, only four passed. The biggest problem, says Ramos, “is that the majority of content talks about the company, what its products and services do and how many awards they’ve won, but doesn’t speak to the issues their prospective buyers are trying to solve.”

Funny, I was just blogging about how often this happens in case studies (and how to prevent it.)

Two of Ramos’ suggestions jumped out at me, one of which I agree with, the other I don’t.

Good: Lead With Value

Ramos talked up how offering usable content such as research and self-evaluation tools can engage the prospect and keep them reading by offering value. Two recent survey-based projects in which I took part show how this works.

One survey, done for Oracle on global cloud adoption trends found, among other things, that:

  • Traditional datacenter requirements, such as performance, service-level guarantees, application lifecycle management and integration, become more, not less, important in the cloud.
  • Frequent cloud concerns include migrating applications with very high performance, availability and security requirements; inability to easily migrate existing application data; lack of ability to manage/monitor or modify existing applications in the cloud; and inability to integrate with non-cloud applications.
  • There are intriguing differences between the workloads customers plans for public vs. private cloud (see below.)

cloud adoption trends

Or consider another recent survey in which I played a role, this for Dell on mid-market use of Big Data.

Its findings include:

·        The biggest drivers of big data success are IT/business collaboration, proper skills and performance management.

·        The biggest causes of failure are lack of IT/business cooperation and lack of tools and skills.

·        And that the most influential departments in big data projects are IT and sales/marketing.

Surveys like this let your salespeople lead by offering valuable help, not putting on a hard sell. By describing the actual state of the market, they can better frame the argument for your products and services. Finally, knowing what customers really care about helps you fine-tune your marketing message and strategy.

Not So Good: Saving the Client’s Bacon

While most b-to-b companies feature case studies on their websites, they don’t do a good enough job telling customer stories, Ms. Ramos said.

“The case studies were OK, but they weren’t really compelling. There are a lot of companies bragging about themselves, disguised as customer success stories, but they don’t feature people and their struggles and successes.” she says. “Companies need to show the things they really struggled with, where they failed, and then show redemption — everyone loves a story of redemption.”

Everyone, that is, except the legal and PR departments of the customer featured in the case study. .  What CIO wants to fess up to that, even if the near-disaster was (of course) their predecessor’s fault? And what legal or PR department would let them make such a confession, when it’s hard enough to get clearance for today’s vague “We’re very pleased with the job XYX did for us…” quotes?

One global services client struggling to describe the “real story” in their own case studies raised another objection: That the IT department itself is reluctant to paint itself as the hero that saved the rest of the company from disaster.

Finding satisfied customers in the business to consumer (B2C) space is one thing. If anyone’s found a way to tell the full “redemption” story for a named B2B customer, I’d love to hear it.

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.

survey shows cloud concerns Senior IT buyers want the cloud to make them more agile, not just save them money. But they’re also skeptical about whether such Web-based services can meet traditional IT standards for performance, interoperability and security.

To succeed, cloud marketers need to address in detail both these hopes and fears. Those are my top takeaways from a survey of more than 300 IT executives in midsize to large organizations I helped craft for Oracle.

They are open to “up-scale” pitches for the cloud that include enabling new business models, not just cutting costs. But they need detailed, specific explanations of how these cloud services can meet traditional datacenter requirements like performance, reliability, application lifecycle management and integration.

Cloud Promise

The 87 percent ranking “lower capital expenditures” as important in considering cloud was not a shocker. I was surprised, though, to see equally high (or higher) rankings for modernizing operations and better competing in global markets. A large majority also mentioned greater business agility and more rapid implementation of new business models. That makes such business benefits important to include in marketing collateral, and not just the bits and bytes of cloud implementation.

Application development and testing remains one of the most popular uses of the private

Cloud (controlled by customers rather than a public provider such as Amazon) predicted to rise from 39 percent of respondents today to 52 percent in two years. That’s because the cloud is well-suited to the sudden, unpredictable nature of app dev and testing needs. It may also reflect the growing popularity of “DevOps” that combines development and operations to speed new applications to market.

Next up for private cloud adoption are core business applications (rising from 41 percent to 50 percent); high-performance computing, such as analytics (rising from 38 percent to 47 percent); and data storage and retrieval (rising from 46 percent to 54 percent).

With the explosive growth of mobile apps, it’s no surprise more companies are using the cloud to develop them. One reason is that development code, while sensitive, isn’t as life or death as customer credit numbers or the molecular structure of your breakthrough cancer medication.

But in a sign of caution, deployment of online transaction processing applications—long considered some of the most sensitive and business-critical—is expected to remain steady in the public cloud, at 36 percent of respondents, while rising in the private cloud from 38 percent of respondents to 44 percent.

Still Scared

In fact, doubts about whether the cloud is ready for prime time was a surprisingly constant theme.

survey concerns cloud customers

Click to enlarge

Moving existing applications with very high requirements for performance, availability and security to even private clouds concerns 78 percent of respondents. Their doubts included whether the cloud is ready to support mission-critical applications, can integrate well with applications, data and services still housed in  internal datacenters, and can be easily managed with existing tools.

Just over two-thirds mentioned legal or regulatory requirements as their top public cloud challenges. (Note: If you can track and prove whether a customer’s data is in Bergen, N.J. or in Berlin to meet European security regulations, flout it!)

Enterprises also favor private clouds dedicated to their own apps and data, rather than to multitenant public clouds shared with other customers. In two years respondents expect to have 47 percent of their workloads running in a private cloud, compared to only 15 percent expecting to run them in a pure public cloud.

 Public? Private? Huh?

Vendors make a big deal out of the differences between public and private clouds. I was surprised at how many respondents showed similar levels of concern for both in areas including:

  •  Migrating applications with very high performance, availability and security requirements.
  •  Inability to easily migrate existing application data.
  •  Lack of ability to manage/monitor or modify existing applications in the cloud, and
  •  Inability to integrate with non-cloud applications.

For marketers, these means customers might need more education about the real differences between public and private clouds and how these differences meet specific business needs. And in each of these are areas where, if you have a good story to tell, flesh it out specific explanations, proof points and explanations of how you’re better than your competitors.

 Déjà vu All Over Again

After about 25 years covering each “new” shift in the IT industry, from minicomputers to client-server to cloud/mobile/ social/Big Data, some things never change. The latest razzle-dazzle technology may be great, but the old stuff never goes away and there’s always a market for the dull, but essential, job of making sure it all works right.

As marketers, our challenge is to explain clearly and concisely how the new stuff works and how it helps the customers.

 (The survey was conducted by Computerworld Strategic Marketing Services and Triangle Publishing Services Co. Inc. on behalf of Oracle. Read the full results, check out a sample content marketing sequence for cloud services here and tips for using “how-to” stories to sell the cloud.) 

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.