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Monday, March 8, 2010

What Cloud Computing Means For Marketers

Cloud Computing has become one of the top trends in technology, with the business world buzzing about the potential and leading innovators like Microsoft to dedicate significant resources to be at the forefront of this trend.

The IT and operational benefits of the cloud are becoming well-known – increased efficiencies, lower barrier to entry for smaller companies, increased flexibility, etc. Even we at 3Point have embraced cloud computing operationally, leading to some nice efficiencies. However, what is the value the Cloud offers marketers? Often marketers turn a deaf ear to technology talk but this is a topic that has the potential to be hugely liberating for marketers, enabling great digital experiences for customers and enhanced revenues for companies.

What is cloud computing? Simply, all the computing infrastructure and intelligence (software, data and servers) is owned and managed remotely by a third party, and accessed via the internet using a web browser. Within cloud computing is software as a service (SaaS). Many of the innovative CRM, marketing automation and social software vendors operate via a SaaS model of delivery. But why is this important to a marketer focused on sales, brand value and customer experience, not how technology is delivered?

It matters because this approach can be hugely liberating for marketers, particularly in enterprises where the IT function is frustratingly slow for marketers trying to keep up with the breakneck speed of changing customer expectations online, and where putting together a business case in new areas of digital may be challenging. Among the primary benefits:

Cost. Cloud services are drastically less expensive than tradition hosting options, so marketers can do more and innovate more with their money. Cloud services enable some basic things such as faster time-to-market as solutions can be built in less time.

Faster scalability to better keep up with the variables of marketing campaigns and user traffic. In the past companies would have to prepare for an ad, email, keyword, or offline-online campaign and get resources ready on standby and have difficulties implementing mid-campaign course corrections. With cloud services campaigns can scale on demand with a lower cost and faster timeline.

Strategically, social services are enabled through cloud computing. New offerings like Facebook Connect, Twitter/delicious/reddit/digg/etc. apis, or even YouTube embed capabilities are all cloud services that enable you to drive traffic to your site without having to build your own social network. Facebook Connect is a cloud service that enables the portable social graph bringing users to your property. One user post back to a user’s Facebook wall results in three more users accessing the site. Customers tried to build social networks on sites like and other properties, now they can tie into the cloud service and get the same functionality in a fraction of time .

Most importantly, Cloud services allow us to think less in terms of technology architecture and more in terms of the marketing processes and workflow supporting the desired end-result. The Cloud smoothes a lot of technical complexity and assumes everything can be easily and integrated in real-time allowing marketers to focus on marketing and creativity. Blogger Adam Needles captures this idea well in this post and the situation has continued to evolve. We anticipate more and more company marketing departments will adopt the Cloud as a model and this will lead to new innovation in the design and implementation of campaigns.

If technology is becoming increasingly integrated into how you sell, manage relationships and build your brand's reputation, take a closer look at the Cloud. There are opportunities to increase simplicity, enhance control while at the same time lowering costs and increasing flexibility. And most important, providing marketers the opportunity to focus on marketing not IT.

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