There is an $8 Billion market opportunity for hosting Windows applications, but if you don’t have the right marketing approach, you’ll be sitting on the sidelines.  Our partners, who are both Microsoft SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement) and CSPs (Citrix Service Providers) have been screaming for more marketing insight, so here it is!
I wrote a blog back in August about Marketing IT Services and this blog speaks specifically to Step 2 - “Know Thy Customer” and Step 3 – “Know Thy Marketing Approach“.  For Step 1 “Know Thy Product and Value” we are running a separate webinar that you can sign up for by hitting the links listed here…

CSP Business Overview – Citrix Cloud Center: Infrastructure and App Services

Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2009*

Time 9:00-10:00 AM EDT

Time 2:00-3:00 PM EDT

Time 9:00-10:00 PM EDT

*If you can’t make any of these times, you can register afterwards for the recorded session.

Under the “Know Thy Customer” heading, you’ve got to pick a way to get to them after you’ve figured out your product offering.  One of the most cost effective approaches today in this market is through your website.  Most service providers know this but don’t spend the right resource emphasis to make it a reality.  Look, 1990s marketing approaches won’t work in this space and your (potential) customers are searching for ways to do business the same way they are doing all of their other research, via the web.  So if you don’t have the right content, or tools to monitor your sales approach, you will be stuck going door-to-door, which is the recipe for long sales cycles in a volume subscription market… not what you want!

The first question you need to ask is, “Is my site effective?” To know this you’ll have to employ some kind of web analytics to get the information required to determine the effectiveness of your online campaigns and lead generation.  If you want to do this on the cheap, Google has a free tool you can pick up that will show you things like “bounce rate” (people who leave your site from the top page).

The second question you should ask is, “How do I get visitors to immediately sign up for my service?”  One way to do this is to provide them with an interactive tool where they can see for themselves the benefits you provide over their existing model.  The CSP Marketing Team has created a great TCO/ROI tool that you can repurpose and rebrand for your site.  Another way to do this is by allowing customers to trial the service without having to pay right up front.  One way to accomplish this is to sign up with a billing clearinghouse/broker who will allow you to encourage “impulse buying” by your prospective customers.  According to one company, “customers who use the service spend 75% more per transaction than a website’s typical buyer”.

Now that you’ve got a way to get knowledgeable about your customer and a way to allow he or she to access your services more easily let’s talk about the “Know Thy Marketing Approach” for a minute.

It may seem infantile in this age of high tech, highly graphical marketing, but online selling gimmicks such as Avatars are very effective.  There are companies who specialize in this marketing approach and can set you up with the tools to rapidly put these animated sales people to work for you.  Buy the way, according to some experts, among virtual sales reps, female avatars produce twice as many sales as males.

You should also offer “ recommendations”.  This may seem like expensive proposition again, but there are companies that specialize in setting up the tools for you and you’ll know in just a couple of months whether or not this is worthwhile for you.  One company who issues this software claims you’ll see an average increase in sales of 20%.

Lastly, use Email advertising.  Hear what I am saying…DON’T SPAM your customers.  Rather once you have your analytics from the tools you incorporate, ask for potential customers to “opt in” to messaging from your company.  You have to be careful with this approach and be very targeted with your email ads.  I subscribe to five different services for marketing research and I can tell you that I’m fed up with all but one of them because they send me information that has nothing to do with my work… and so they have now been either discontinued or sent to my SPAM mail box.  If you do this correctly, you could see up to 35% conversion rates on the ads you send…. if you do it incorrectly you’ll not get another chance with that same customer.

Follow these steps and I can assure you that you will do better than just throwing a web site together and hoping for the best.  By the way, if one of your senior people isn’t personally running your electronic marketing, then you might as well just stop doing it.  Research shows that there is a direct proportion of sales (or lack thereof) to the quality of the team supporting the content.

Note: I need to credit INC magazine for some of the content here.  They had a great article in their February 2008 edition if you’re interested.