SIVA in Cloud Services – The 4Ps Still Count in the Cloud

One of the first things you learn in marketing is SIVA (of the 4Ps). This stands for:

  • Solution (the Product you’re marketing)
  • Information (the Promotion of your product)
  • Value (the ROI your Product can provide)
  • Access (the Placement of your product)

With the emergence of social media marketing and “holistic” marketing, it seems that the core fundamentals no longer contain the scope needed to encompass modern emerging technologies like cloud services. That being said, the basics still count. It’s true that there’s no place for a ’60s vintage engine in modern hybrid vehicles, but cars  still have four wheels. Let’s apply SIVA to SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud services in general.

(For the purposes of this discussion, “cloud computing” as a whole will refer to Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Network as a Service. Additionally: I’ll be treating marketing as an extension of pre-sales. The truth is that marketing, as a whole, covers market research, new product specification, and a lot more! That being said, the purpose of marketing in general is to position yourself such that your sales team can sell.)

Solution:

This one is straight forward. SaaS and other cloud services are still products. In general, it’s a subscription service in which a client agrees to pay to access preexisting software services which reside on infrastructure and hardware that the client is not required to maintain. This alone can be a big selling point; for many potential clients a SaaS solution means that they need only maintain rudimentary computing infrastructure.

Instead of a large server room maintained by IT professionals, a client need only maintain laptop or desktop computers. This can be a big win for non-tech savvy businesses.

There is, however, a darker side here. Cloud computing (and SaaS specifically) is not an intuitive offering. The internet was only popularized in the second half of the ’90s (yes, really!) and “network” became a household word five to ten years ago. Really digest that information. When marketing a SaaS product, you’re relying your potential customer to either:

  1. really understand and master the intricacies of network encryption, packet traffic prioritization, server redundancy, up-time percentage, distributed platform computing, and much more before even considering your product; OR
  2. trust you.

And this is where “Solution” comes in. You need to speak your client’s language. It’s a familiar concept to anyone who’s ever worked in sales. Neil Rackham’s famous book SPIN Selling covers this idea in great depth.

You’re not marketing a product they don’t understand;

you’re marketing the solution to a problem they do understand.

Think of SaaS as standing for Software-as-a-Solution. A “bolt” isn’t a solution, but “the correct hardness bolt, with the correct pitch thread tightened to the proper torque specification in exactly the right place” is a solution. You don’t need to market the bolt itself, you need to market the fact that you understand the hardness, thread, torque, and location.

Information:

Here’s a rule that everyone in marketing and sales knows:

“a confused customer always says ‘no.'”

This builds on the problem highlighted in the section above: how can you possibly expect your potential clients to really understand something that you might not even understand yourself? Furthermore, how can you expect them to decide that what you’re marketing to them is what they need?

Start by empathizing with them. Your customers want to be fast paced! They want to use the best possible technology! They want to save every last penny! They just can’t tell the difference between a great service and a bad one without good information. Position your sales team for success by giving them the marketing materials they need to get in the door. Ask the questions your customers are asking themselves and then answer them!

You want your customer to hear their voice when they think of your product. Let’s imagine you’re providing a cloud services solution for BOM (bill of materials) management.

Is your production tracking software slowing you down? Are constant upgrades and patches keeping you from running at 100%? Are you worried about losing your important data in a server failure? Well, it’s time to look at <product XXXX>! As a cloud solution it works as fast as you can! NO more scaling up to handle larger user loads or bigger projects! You’ll never lose time to upgrades or patches again! And, finally, you can rest easily at night knowing that all of your information is stored on triply-redundant servers with state-of-the-art encryption!

Yeah, okay, it reads a little hokey. But it’s just an example. I don’t know much about BOM management software, so I can’t really hit a premium audience in a hypothetical example. But the formula is solid.

Value:

I won’t spend long on this. As with any product or service you own, you should know its value; cloud services are not an exception. In general, your value should be communicated in the language of your client. The most universal language is, of course, dollars. If you can boil down your product offering to a dollar amount or a percentage, do it. Don’t hide it behind formulas or catch phrases. Just say it, and cite an example (if appropriate).

<product XXXX> can reduce BOM retrieval times by 20% over local storage options and saves an average of $1,200 each month on infrastructure maintenance costs.

This is a clear message. Your product saves time and money. If you can find a business that doesn’t want to save time and money then… well, I don’t know how to end that sentence. Look, when it comes to value: boil it down. Get to the lowest common denominator. Talk hours. Talk throughput. Talk dollars. Speak the language of your customer.

Access:

No distribution model can beat cloud services. You build your infrastructure where you want. You plant your development team where you want. Do everything the way you want and you still maintain 100% coverage for your target audience. Drill this home in any marketing literature.

You have instant delivery. You have free delivery. Nothing to install. No hardware to buy. “Try it this month and, if you hate it, forget about it next month.” Can you do that with any other distribution model? Of course not. You’ll win here and you’ll win every time. Nothing that you can buy in a box can be distributed as easily as a cloud based service.

In this area you’ll need to know your competitor’s distribution models.

<Product FFFF> has an installation time of four hours, takes up 20 gigabytes on your hard drive, requires backroom server infrastructure, can only be run on the computer you install it on, and takes thirty seconds to start. With <product XXXX> you’re up and running on any device just as fast as you can open your browser.

If you can win on distribution and access, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

The classics of SIVA are still around. It’s true that you don’t have something to hold in your hand but that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel. Remember that what you’re marketing will look like black magic to some people; not because they’re stupid, but because you’re leading the race. Educate them. Pick them up and carry them with you and remind them that you can shoulder the weight.

As always, remember:

You’re not marketing a product they don’t understand;

you’re marketing the solution to a problem they do understand.

and

“a confused customer always says ‘no.'”

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