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Direct Business Relevance Critical to SMB Cloud Adoption
It should come as no surprise that marketing to SMBs is hard – harder in many ways than marketing to enterprises. The diversity and vast size of the SMB market is the primary reason for why getting and supporting SMB customers is such a hard task. Most Cloud vendors design their products with larger enterprises in mind with SMBs being an afterthought. Even if there are any SMB specific requirements that become part of the solution they are typically overshadowed by other enterprise requirements. This is a particular problem with Cloud based services which are designed to scale and so selling those to SMBs becomes a matter of configuring a price that SMBs can digest.
Little if any thought is given to whether a Cloud service has direct business relevance to SMBs. But as the Techaisle SMB computing survey data shows, vendors must demonstrate direct business relevance if they are to succeed in gaining SMB customers. Despite all the marketing around productivity and line of business Cloud services, SMB Cloud adoption is led by industry specific services. This aspect provides valuable insight into SMB decision making where Cloud services are concerned. When evaluating packaged software SMBs are more concerned with issues surrounding application compatibility, maintenance, cost, integration, training and support. It would appear, however, that this criteria changes when applications are evaluated as Cloud services. The key question appears to be how quickly can a Cloud service impact their business. This makes justifying purchase of industry specific services rather an easy one.
It is clearly not the only criteria though. The same survey shows high levels of adoption of hosted email, Cloud storage and security services. While all these have indirect business relevance in that they are foundational IT services, they are essentially a cost line item in an SMB income statement. SMBs are migrating these services to the Cloud because it is also an easy decision. SMBs are familiar with using email in the Cloud for personal reasons (Gmail, Hotmail etc.) and are therefore comfortable migrating the business email and storage to the Cloud as well. Similarly, migrating to Cloud based storage and security also are easy decisions for the same reasons.
Other services however, have not enjoyed the same success (yet). One can argue that this is simply a matter of giving SMBs time to get comfy with Cloud services. The problem as we see it is that most of the other services are marketed using a “reduce cost” value proposition. We believe a different sales and marketing approach is warranted. If reducing cost continues to be the centerpiece then for vendors this becomes a race to the bottom – which is not good for the industry as a whole.