If you have read Top 5 Myths about Marketing Strategies for Hosting Providers, you would know how many hosting and cloud providers are guilty of believing that they don’t need strategic marketing plans. As it stands, the cloud and hosting industry isn’t known for having a multitude of flashy marketing campaigns — which is surprising, considering that the industry is inundated with competition and will soon be a $210 billion dollar a year industry. As the industry continues its rapid growth and becomes even more cluttered with competition all vying for market share, it will become even harder for our customers to wade through the barrage of comparable generic services to find a provider. So how do you, as a provider, stay competitive?
To stay competitive in this industry, it’s imperative that cloud and hosting providers start to take marketing seriously. As our Top 5 Myths blog demonstrates, 53% of companies do not have a reason behind their decision to go with one Web hosting provider over another. If you have contemplated marketing, but aren’t sold, you should reconsider, as now more than ever is the time to develop a marketing strategy for your cloud and hosting company. No matter how innovative your product is or how reliable your customer service is, failure to market your products and services effectively can lead to disappointing sales results.
I’m a hosting company; what do I know about marketing?
Not much? That’s ok, that’s why there are agencies that focus on cloud server marketing. An agency will take care of the marketing for you, so you can focus on what you do best – selling the cloud! Choosing the right marketing agency is important. Finding an agency that has knowledge of your industry, has experience marketing similar products and services and has an organizational culture much like your company, is critical to the success of your marketing efforts, your brand, and your company.
What do I look for in an agency?
So it’s time to hire a marketing agency. What should you know before selecting your chosen agency? Here are 5 things that hosting and cloud companies should look for in a marketing agency:
1. An agency that knows the cloud and hosting industry and is familiar with your products and services
Start by narrowing down your list of potential agencies to a list of just the agencies with cloud server marketing experience. This will help you eliminate agencies that don’t have cloud and hosting experience and will help you produce your initial shortlist. Selecting an agency with experience in cloud server marketing will save you money, as you won’t have to pay the agency to learn your industry.
Does the agency have experience marketing a similar product, service or technology?
Does the agency have clients in the cloud and hosting industry and have they helped them market similar products and services? An agency that is well-versed in cloud server marketing will already be acquainted with the tried and tested marketing strategies for your products and services. Hiring an agency with customers in your industry will be to your advantage, because their industry knowledge coupled with their experience marketing similar products and services will better help them successfully represent your brand, products and services. Some tips for determining if the agency has a good grasp on the cloud and hosting industry are:
- Review their content — Do they demonstrate knowledge of the cloud and hosting industry? Do they blog about the industry, or have they provided blogs for their customers on relevant subject matter?
- Who are their customers? — Do they work with your competitors? Check out their past and current customers’ campaigns. Were they effective? If they have more than one cloud and hosting customer, look to see if the campaigns are similar. You want an industry expert, not a replication of your competitor’s program.
- Look at their social media – Do they post relevant information about your industry? Do they comment on related topics and are they perceived as subject matter experts?
- Ask for the results – Ask about their other clients in the same or similar industries, with similar challenges. Ask for examples of the strategies they created for clients and the results.
2. An agency with glowing references
Much like you would check a potential new hire’s references, it’s important to check your potential agency’s references too. Read their testimonials – this will give you a good idea of what other clients say about the agency’s work, and it will also give you an overview of what the agency excels at. More importantly, ask the agency for some past and current customers that you can contact. If they have happy customers, these customers will probably be more willing to go out of their way to help provide a referral. Ask for contact-specific information about the relationship with the agency, including communication, resources, results and deadlines met. Some questions to ask include:
- How often did they communicate with you?
- Who managed your account – senior executive, junior?
- How many resources were assigned to your account?
- Were deadlines met?
- Did they achieve the projected goals?
- Were they happy with the results?
- How was the working relationship?
- Would they hire the agency again?
- Do they recommend that you work with the agency? Be specific as to what your needs are and ask them directly if they think that the agency will work for you.
3. An agency with a solid marketing presence
What is the agency doing in its own backyard: meaning, how effective are they at marketing their own services? Beware of companies with the “Shoemaker’s Children Syndrome,” check out their website, find out how prevalent are they on social media and look at how effective their inbound marketing is. Do a thorough look at the following:
- Website landing pages – What do they look like and are they effective?
- CTAs – Do they resonate with the reader and make them want to act?
- Inbound Marketing — Sign up for their eguides or any downloadable content, review the content and evaluate the process. How easy do they make it for the viewer?
- Social Media – How effective are they on social media and how many followers do they have?
- Blogs –– Do they have a blog? What are they talking about and how relevant is it to your business?
- Website — What is their website like? How well do they market themselves?
4. An agency that delivers beyond the pitch
Ok, here’s the situation. You complete a RFQ for an agency and they send their best team of senior account managers to your office with a pitch. You are blown away by their professionalism, their creative thinking and their enthusiasm about your brand and products and services. You hire them. After the contract is signed and the working relationship has started, the team that came to your office to present the iron-clad sales presentation has long since disappeared. You realize that the experience you expect is not what you are receiving. You realize that you are paying for senior executives, but they are using their junior executives on your account.
Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon. Beware of agencies that use their star talent to get the sale and then move their A-team to the next prospect. Be sure to clarify with your potential new agency who exactly will be working on your account. Ask them if you can meet your project manager or creative director before you sign the contract so that you can determine if the two of you will work well together. Just because you click with the sales executive, doesn’t mean you will work well with the creative director. Remember that you will be spending a lot of time with this person, so ensuring that you click with him/her is a no-brainer.
When you hire an agency, you inherit an entire team of people, making it possible for you to utilize their different skillsets and benefit from the additional expertise. If your plan is to focus on a specific area – i.e., PR, content or social media — it also makes sense to find an agency that specializes in that particular area. If you are a B2B, make sure that the agency doesn’t just cater to B2C customers. To ensure that the potential agency delivers beyond the pitch, ask the following questions about their resources:
- Who will be working on your account? What are their titles? Can you meet him/her/them? Do they have experience in cloud server marketing?
- What are their experiences with similar companies in your industry?
- What is the range of services and what can you use to your benefit?
If you find the right fit with an agency, think of the time you will save! Utilizing the agency’s resources will free up your time, and your team’s time, so that you can run your business more efficiently. Especially if you are a small business owner who is wearing several hats, hiring an agency can be extremely valuable as you will be leaving the work to the experts so you can spend more time growing your business.
5. An agency with a suitable culture
You’ve narrowed your list down to one particular agency. The agency knows the industry, has experience with similar products and services, has a solid marketing presence, comes with glowing references, and appears to deliver beyond the pitch, but how well will their culture mold with yours? Your agency is an extension of your brand and company, so it’s important that they share the same values as your organization. It’s a good idea to understand the culture of your potential agency, so you can better understand how well the stakeholders will work with your company.
A good indication of fit is the size of the agency. If you are a large publically traded organization, a small boutique agency may not have the resources to deliver everything you need. If you are a small hosting company, a large global agency may not be a cultural fit and may come at a cost that exceeds your relatively small SMB marketing budget.
Apparently it’s getting harder to find the right agency fit, and unfortunately for most of us, we don’t figure this out until after the relationship has started. In 1984, the average client-agency relationship term was 7.2 years. By 1997 that number declined to 5.3 years. Today the average client-agency tenure is less than three years. So take the extra time to determine if the agency is a good match for your organization – both on paper and personally.
Cloud Server Marketing: A Must for Hosting Companies
In summary, when you find the right agency to service your cloud server marketing, you will begin to reap rewards, including:
- Cost – Outsourcing your marketing will be less expensive than hiring a full-time in-house resource. Also, it will allow you to focus your time on making your business more profitable.
- Skillset – Benefit from the diverse skillset of a team, rather than one individual.
- Knowledge – Gain from the years of industry and marketing knowledge of an agency with cloud server marketing experience.
- Scalability – Leverage the agency team as you need it, and scale back when you don’t. Sound familiar?
If you are considering using a cloud server marketing agency and would like more information, contact us! We’d love to answer any questions you may have about working with Total Product Marketing.