It won’t surprise you to hear that, in my role as a technology writer, I often find myself writing about the internet. In fact, writing about marketing cloud computing software and solutions is almost impossible without at least referring to it. Recently, however, I was surprised to realise that – past surface level knowledge – the internet still remained something of a mystery to me.
Surrounded by the internet
The situation became particularly acute because recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour around a data centre – which I can assure you was far more interesting than it sounds.
Data centres have been a fundamental part of the IT world since the early days of the internet – accommodating the hardware that’s required to connect companies to networks, customers and each other. More recently they’ve powered cloud transformation, which has been a predominant trend in recent years. Cloud transformation involves customers migrating information from their own servers into those stored in large data centres owned by the likes of Microsoft and Amazon.
So, there I was in one such data centre, surrounded by ‘the internet’, which in reality turned out to be a series of servers and cables connecting them. My colleague, with a typical marketer’s skill of summing up a complex concept with a pithy statement, described the situation thus: “Well, it’s a series of tubes, isn’t it?” The upshot is, yes, the internet is a series of tubes, largely old copper telephone wires that still remain from the 19th century. As it turns out, it was the Victorians that built the internet after all – they just didn’t know it.
It all comes back to the customer
So, what exactly does this have to do with the cloud? The thing that struck me in that moment was how different the reality of the internet is to the language we use to communicate about it. And that’s not specific to marketing; terms like ‘upload’, ‘download’, and ‘cloud’ all propagate the idea that the internet exists above us, as a sort of intangible data bubble. All of these terms paint a picture, not of the technology that powers the internet, but of what it allows the consumer to do. It’s almost as if the internet has its own marketing department.
The thing that interested me most is that this is the very thing us marketers try to do when talking about the products and services we’re selling. There’s no point talking about servers and wires when your customer is interested in what this allows them to achieve. I call this the ‘show don’t tell approach’; if you’re talking about how great you are without explaining what that means for the user – you’re missing a trick.
Features vs. benefits: What does this mean for the customer?
The above applies even more when you’re marketing cloud computing solutions than anywhere else. Good marketing moves the focus away from what technology is towards what it does, or more specifically what it allows you to do. That applies whether we’re talking about an ‘as-a-service’ mindset or discussing ‘solutions’ and ‘digital transformations’. Overused as these terms have now become, they all started with a focus on explaining what technology can help businesses achieve, and moving away from describing wires, servers and hardware.
‘Putting the customer first’ is all well and good in the abstract – but how do we turn that into good marketing? It all begins with imagining the customer as a real person, with complex wants and needs, rather than talking to a ‘generic business leader’.
This starts with creating personas, giving your target customer a name, job title, and talking about their everyday tasks, priorities and pain points. The objective here is to find tangible applications of the product in action. Or to put it in the words of one client of ours: “My customers aren’t interested in ‘taking your business to the next level’ – they want to know how to get people to do their time sheets.”
Marketing cloud computing services
As marketers, that’s what we strive to do each day – understand more about who our customers are and what they want, so we can better fulfil their needs. That remains the same whether we’re writing blogs, eBooks or creating paid media adverts. At Fifty Five and Five, this mindset is what powers the marketing that we create for our technology clients: a firm desire to create a bridge from business to business through good marketing.