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Don’t let your cloud story get lost in the fog

17 July 2018 | Phil Brown

In the rush to grab a piece of the cloud action, too many providers are resorting to generic, high-level messaging that fails to cut through. Given the multi-dimensional nature of the cloud, IT companies need to get down to specifics in order to stand out from the crowd.

Cloud firmly in the mainstream

The focus on digital transformation within today’s enterprises – nearly 40% of CEOs in multi-national organisations state that digital transformation is at the top of their boardroom agenda[1] – has helped to accelerate the shift to the cloud in recent years.

There’s little doubt that after many years of hype, cloud is now firmly at the centre of most enterprises’ IT strategies. RightScale’s 2018 State of the Cloud report revealed that 92% of enterprises now use public cloud platforms, with 81% stating they have a multi-cloud strategy[2]. While McKinsey have predicted that the number of companies relying primarily on traditional IT infrastructure will fall to 43% in 2018.

Every IT business is a cloud company now

Given this dramatic shift it’s unsurprising that IT businesses of all shapes and hues have been eagerly positioning themselves as the right provider to help customers realise the benefits of the cloud and meet the challenges involved in transitioning away from traditional IT models. All IT companies today seem to fall into one of two categories – they’re either ‘born in the cloud’ providers or they’re established IT businesses eager to re-position themselves as relevant in a cloud-oriented world.

The focus on cloud across the industry is evidenced by CRN’s recent research looking at the future of the IT channel. When channel leaders were asked which business models they expected to dominate in the next few years, ‘cloud-based’ was the clear winner, selected by 65% of respondents. And when asked what types of innovation projects they were currently planning, ‘cloud-enabled services’ came out on top, selected by 53%.[3]

The me-too messaging trap

The challenge for IT vendors and service providers is that with everybody attaching the cloud label to what they do, it becomes more difficult to differentiate. One company’s proposition sounds much like any other’s. From an end-customer perspective, it becomes very difficult to distinguish one provider from another.

Many IT providers don’t help themselves by churning out generic, ‘me too’ messaging. The rush to grab a piece of the cloud action leads to lazy marketing – as if all you need to do is say you help customers capitalise on the benefits of the cloud and your job is done. Talking about being a ‘cloud provider’ or a ‘cloud enabler’ becomes a substitute for a properly-developed, clearly-articulated story and value proposition.

Beyond the generic

To create compelling messages, you need to go beyond just talking about digital transformation or the generic benefits of the cloud. Sure, that stuff is relevant and important to customers, but if you want to stand out from the crowd you need a more specific and differentiated proposition.

There are many different dimensions to ‘the cloud’, and there are many different challenges that customers face in making the transition to hybrid environments and multi-cloud infrastructures. Whether it’s assessing the portability of different applications, delivering the right infrastructure model to support varied workloads, building a transition plan, managing a data migration, ensuring appropriate security measures are in place, implementing the right governance model…The list goes on.

Getting specific to stand apart

Relying on vague, generic cloud messages doesn’t help your prospective customers understand what you do or why they should work with you. So you need to get down to details. What specific problems do you solve? How do you solve them and why is your approach superior to the alternatives? What types of customers are you best equipped to support? What attributes make you a better choice than your many competitors? What distinctive perspectives or insights can you offer to customers that deliver value? How does what you do complement or conflict with other providers they might work with?

Once you’ve answered those questions you then need to decide what messages you’ll lead with to stand out and grab people’s attention. Which is the most distinctive aspect of your story – is it your approach, your insights, your skills, your area of focus? And how can you back up your story with relevant proof points that give real substance to your message?

Back to basics

Of course, none of this is new. It’s all just basic best marketing practice. It’s the stuff everyone should be doing all of the time anyway, but in the rush to jump on the cloud bandwagon it’s stuff that’s often being overlooked. Whereas the fact is, that with so many companies trying to occupy the same space, taking the time to craft a distinctive, value-based message is more essential then ever.

Without it you’ll struggle to cut through. After all, one of the dangers of immersing yourself in a cloud is that it can make it very difficult to be seen.


[1] Leading from the front, Economist Intelligence Unit/ BT, 2017
[2] RightScale State of the Cloud Report, RightScale, 2018
[3] The European channel in 2020, CRN, 2017