Engaging Clouds

I was delighted to recently be asked to comment on a paper by Robert Rose over at Big Blue Moose as he dives into the waters of analysis and research with his first paper – Marketing From The Cloud – How Digital Marketers Are Using Software As A Service. It’s a subject I’ve been thinking about, as I continue to research the Engagement Tier and it’s constituent components.

I should point out that as Mr Rose has entered into the world of white-paper wordsmithery, it seems he has, technically speaking, set himself up as a competitor to my day job -therefore this post is by me, not the Gilbane me and these views are my own.. etc… etc..

So, if you read my tweets you’ll know I am already a fan of his writing, I have an embarrassing blog crush on  Robert’s Adaptive Marketer blog and this paper is true to form – it’s a crisp nine pages, sharply observed and based on research that shows that today’s digital marketer is relying on services outside the server room to engage with their audience – from the mainstream of content management or web analytics, to test and target and lead nurturing.

At the Gilbane Group we have (oh heck, should that be they have if I am blogging as me) observed the trend for our clients to reach for SaaS solutions for some time. Mary Laplante published a cracking paper at the beginning of 2009 that concluded that this was driven by two pressures; tight fiscal control over capital expenditure and a drive to quickly deploy innovative technical solutions.

Whilst clearly financial prudence is a continued pressure as we crawl out of recent recession, SaaS based solutions and other services available outside of the server room are an increasingly essential part of the marketer’s solution palette as they strive for agility to keep pace with the changes in the way we engage with consumers over the social web.

So, why is that? SaaS lowers the barrier to entry for digital marketers, often poorly served by long standing enterprise procurement and information technology implementation processes more suited to the provision of infrastructure, than providing for the subtle, fluid and dynamic needs of customer engagement today.

This low barrier to entry of adopting services provided outside the server room enables marketers to quickly add the pieces needed for web engagement, but critically the lower barriers to exit, removes risk and enables marketers to be innovative. They are able to take a ‘suck it and see’ attitude and experiment with new technologies and engagement channels, knowing that they’ll quickly get a measure of their success, with a near instant return on the value of the tools or alternatively to try something else.

That’s not to say that SaaS solutions should not be procured without due diligence, they are still a significant investment in internal commitment, if not capital costs. The advantage is that during that process of due diligence questions like hardware procurement, technology support, budget for upgrades etc. dissolve and the focus returns to functionality and business value. Procuring the right business solution – uncompromised by whether the techies like the colour of the database.

It’s not a silver bullet, lots of options and discussions I’d like to explore here – but as we build out our persuasive, relevant engagement tiers, hubs or web experiences – SaaS clearly has it’s place.

Image of a cloud courtesy of akakumo and reproduced under creative commons license.

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