The service provider segment is probably one of the richest growth areas for technology and software manufacturers to penetrate. Synergy Research just reported that quarterly revenue for Cloud Infrastructure Services hitting $5B with Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and Salesforce ranking as the top five. Understanding this segment and learning the nuances is key to your strategic marketing plan.
I’ve taken a quick snapshot of the service provider segment dividing it into sub-segments (IaaS, SaaS, Transaction) to document the similarities and differences based on the segments hardware knowledge, purchase trigger points, and a host of other categories to define how best to reach. The point is not to create an absolute picture but to lead to tendencies for each of the segments and how best to approach. Clearly this needs further refinement however I believe this is one of the first steps in developing a strategic marketing plan focused on the Service Provider segment. From there, understanding where your hardware and software fit and developing sales play to capture revenue is only one or two marketing evolutions away.
Infrastructure as a Service – This segment highlights the most sophisticated purchaser and may resembles your typical enterprise user. For most, they are building either a VMware or OpenStack based cloud service and have already identified an incumbent provider. They are typically concerned with scalability and cost and have an expectation of rich data services. Trigger points for this segment includes cost of current hardware provider, ability to manage data growth in a scalable fashion, and new development activities / offerings that lead to new opportunities like supporting new cloud OS, STaaS, hosted exchange, SharePoint and new archival and document repositories. Reference Architectures are key to this segment with whitepapers and cases studies are instrumental in helping them understand how to build for expansion.
Software as a Service – SaaS provider run the gamut from sophisticated infrastructure knowledge to new entrants that are taking a software or service based product and beginning to offer it as a service. It is these new SaaS entrants that represent the greatest growth opportunities and are the most important to capture. Although initially cost consciences; as their service grows, their ability to provide the performance and scalability necessary to satisfy growth outweighs cost (growth means they are selling more high margin service). They need an entry level product that can grow and scale rapidly with a simplified architectural framework. Entrenched SaaS providers mirror the characteristics of IaaS providers and are focused on managing data growth while simplifying the architecture. Reference architectures and whitepapers are key however case studies are important to this segment.
Transaction Based Services – The consumer segment can be highly diverse in their hardware knowledge. It’s important to recognize that for this segment, the infrastructure and software is not their main business. Therefore, simplicity is key. In most cases, they are focused on a single vendor solution for providing the platform necessary to facilitate transactions. This can be in the vein of infrastructure to support an OLTP environment or open-source based compute environment. They are extremely interested in understanding how other companies solve this problem and look at cases studies and social media for learning.
Final Thought – The key for marketing to the service provider segment is leadership as a trusted advisor. The key will be uncovering emerging opportunities and positioning your company as the trusted advisor that can help companies navigate growth, while ensuring performance, scalability and cost effectiveness to entrenched users.