In the rapidly growing market for cloud-based services, one of the most pressing questions to emerge is this: If you build a marketplace, will customers actually come?
AppDirect makes it easy for service providers to create and launch a fully branded cloud service marketplace. It's what comes next—educating customers about the new application store and convincing them to buy—that's the challenging part. Despite broad consensus that cloud-based solutions are ideal for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), many are still reluctant to make the leap to the cloud. According to a recent Microsoft study, only about 30 percent of SMBs are using paid cloud services today.1
However, that number is on the rise—the Microsoft research also estimates that 43 percent of SMBs will be using paid cloud services by 2014.2 To capture the growing number of SMBs who are moving their operations to the cloud, simply launching an easy-to-use cloud service marketplace isn't enough; you also need a comprehensive go-to-market strategy to engage customers and prospects. Here are four key factors that will help ensure the successful launch of your cloud marketplace.
1. Educate Your Customers
Even if you've stocked your marketplace with the best cloud-based applications in the world, it won't matter if your customers don't understand how these solutions work to their advantage. There is a wealth of information about cloud benefits on the Web—Google alone offers literally millions pages—but it's your job to show why the cloud-based software and services you offer are ideal for your customers.
Online videos, webinars, case studies, blog posts; all of these can be great tools to help customers understand how to use your marketplace and specific applications, as well as highlight the successes experienced by other SMBs just like them. You'll have to invest some time and effort into creating these pieces, but this type of content can be among the most effective ways to reach customers.
Another strategy is to engage people outside of your organization, such as journalists, bloggers, and analysts, and get them talking about your marketplace. An objective opinion or review from a trusted expert can often convince skeptical customers to give your application store a try. Finally, speaking at or sponsoring a conference can also be an excellent way to spread the word about your marketplace. The more people that hear about your offering, the better.
2. Highlight Ease of Integration
After you've educated your customers about the benefits of cloud-based solutions, the next step is helping them understand why they should purchase those products from your marketplace. Why is this so critical? As more providers enter the cloud service marketplace space, competition for SMBs will increase dramatically. The time to demonstrate your value is now.
To achieve this, highlight how the applications you offer in your cloud marketplace complement, and even improve on, your existing products. For example, if you already provide cloud storage to your customers, explain how your apps can integrate with data already stored in the cloud, making it much easier for customers to use the applications in your marketplace.
Consider a more concrete example: One of AppDirect's partners, Appcelerator, shows the depth of its integration by offering products on its marketplace that are actually add-ons for its main product, the Titanium platform. In this case, third-party products sold via the marketplace fit seamlessly with Appcelerator's main product.
Finally, you can also bundle applications together to demonstrate how they work together to create value for customers. If your marketplace gives customers a one-stop solution for their HR, payroll, and accounting needs, they'll quickly understand why your marketplace is so valuable. You can learn more about bundling applications in our blog post, Software Bundling: Leveraging the Opportunity.
3. Create a Hands-On, Customized Experience
Even when SMBs have a good understanding of how your cloud-based solutions can help them, they may still need an extra push to move them from prospects to customers. This is where hands-on experience with your marketplace and applications can be crucial.
When SMBs call you to inquire about any of your products, urge your sales and support teams to mention your cloud service marketplace and the benefits it can deliver. If you have a webinar, video, or any of the other content mentioned above, this is a great time to share it with customers.
You may even consider hosting events where SMBs can come and test your marketplace and applications. This not only gives customers and prospects the opportunity to ask any questions they may have, but also enables your team to offer personalized demos and business consultations on the spot.
Sometimes it can be hard to draw an audience for events, so demoing your products at a conference that already attracts a lot of SMBs is another great way to generate interest in your marketplace. In fact, that's precisely what Deutsche Telekom did at the recent CeBIT conference in Hanover, Germany. At CeBIT, the European telecommunications giant not only announced the launch of its Business Marketplace, but also set up areas for SMBs to get hands-on experience with the new online store and ask questions.
4. Don't Forget the ISVs
Deutsche Telekom also provides an excellent blueprint for how to build strong relationships with ISVs. The company has made it a point to work with ISVs in Europe to develop applications localized for its German customers. By taking steps to attract the best developers, Deutsche Telekom is helping to ensure that its Business Marketplace offers high-quality apps that are highly relevant to its customer base.
Spending some time on developer outreach can have the same effect on your marketplace. Many ISVs are eager to work with cloud service providers, and by showcasing their products, you can create a win-win-win situation—for you, for ISVs, and for your customers.
To see all of these elements in action, watch the video below. In it, our President and co-CEO Daniel Saks walks the floor at CeBIT and explains how Deutsche Telekom put everything together for the successful launch of its Business Marketplace.
1Microsoft Corp., "SMB Cloud Adoption Study 2011," March, 2011