SMB CLOUD ADOPTION - MANAGING SUCCESS IN A MATURING MARKET

From micro-businesses to the global enterprise, Cloud adoption is one of the most examined industry topics today. After sifting through hundreds of articles, whitepapers, studies, and reports, two things became abundantly clear. First, Cloud technology enables global reach and delivery of services for SMBs and large enterprise businesses. Secondly, SMBs are adopting Cloud services at an accelerated pace, many deeming it essential for business growth. While this creates a huge opportunity for Cloud vendors, there are activities that require substantial investment to ensure SMB customer success. Partner enablement and customer success are two areas that will require the attention of Cloud vendors and they will be discussed in this and future blog posts.


WHY HAS THE CLOUD BECOME SO IMPORTANT TO SMB?



Cloud technologies level the playing field between SMBs AND large enterprise businesses by enabling global reach and delivery of services. Here are five popular workloads that the Cloud serves for SMBs.

  1. Sales & Marketing – Email, website management, social media, payments
  2. Collaboration – Messaging, web conferencing, document sharing, scheduling
  3. Customer Relationship Management – Customer service, prospect management, communications
  4. Employee Management – Recruiting, payroll, benefits
  5. Financial Management – Business planning, forecasting, invoicing

According to Intuit’s The Appification of Small Business, 37% of United States small businesses are adapted to the Cloud, but an anticipated 78% will be fully cloud operational by 2020.

WHAT DOES "FULLY CLOUD OPERATIONAL" MEAN?


SMB Cloud adoption research suggests that on average SMBs are using up to three Cloud applications. By 2020, that number is projected to grow by more than 100% to seven applications.

So what’s behind this projected growth?

There are a variety of reasons why SMBs are driven to the cloud so quickly. Here are just a few benefits SMBs are reporting.

  1. Reduction of costs – Low Capital expenditures / operating expenses combined with predictable billing
  2. Scalability – Scale up or down as the business requires
  3. Business Continuity – Data in the cloud is stored off site in a secure manner
  4. Collaboration – Communicate and share work internally or with outside vendors
  5. Mobility – Flexible work scenarios allow work to get done from anywhere

This momentum is promising for Cloud vendors and the SMB. After all, now that cost, support, and management concerns associated with on-premise IT are sufficiently addressed by the Cloud, the SMB can focus on growing their business without worrying about their tech–the ultimate promise of the Cloud.

Or can they…

RAPID CLOUD ADOPTION = NEW SET OF CHALLENGES FOR SMB



As the SMB brings additional Cloud applications online, the need for specialized services will become greater to maximize their investment. For example, Cloud cost management is now cited as a top of mind concern among business owners. These types of issues will become more severe as SMB adoption across Cloud workloads is expected to continue.

On one hand, this trend is potentially problematic for the Cloud vendor since customers are not afraid to switch providers or even go back to an on-premise solution if the business value isn’t immediately apparent. According to the latest I-Signal report, some SMBs have already begun unwinding their Cloud stack in favor of re-adopting on-premise solutions. On the other hand, if Partners position themselves the right way, they can be a vital channel for increasing usage and customer satisfaction.

HOW THE CLOUD VENDOR CAN ENSURE CUSTOMER SUCCESS


There is evidence that suggests SMB Cloud maturity is directly proportional to the degree of value the Cloud creates. This means high adoption = business value= business growth. However, as SMBs add to their Cloud stack, the risk of convoluted ROI also goes up. To drive high levels of customer satisfaction and prevent customer churn, Cloud vendors must focus on two core areas of their business to drive usage of cloud solutions.

  1. Customer Success Management – To maximize usage (and customer satisfaction), customer success programs must combine personalized communications with analytics to measure satisfaction levels and usage of cloud applications.
  2. Partner Enablement – Partners must understand how to be relevant in today’s post-transactional and success focused environment. Since partners will evaluate revenue opportunities as they broaden their portfolios, Cloud vendors must lead the way in demonstrating how to maximize the Cloud opportunity to start transacting right away.

The sheer promise of Cloud was enough for it to get a foothold in SMB, spurred on by one to two successful cloud application deployments such as web hosting or online accounting software. In a maturing market experiencing accelerated cloud adoption levels, Cloud vendors will have to keep one very important thing in mind: SMBs will require customized on-boarding, education, and nurturing tailored for their verticals. SMBs will need real guidance on how to get started on the right foot or run the risk of low satisfaction levels. In part two of this blog post, we’ll take a look at cloud adoption marketing strategies that Cloud vendors can use to ensure retention and to maximize customer success.

About the Author: Page Sands

Page Sands Headshot
As VP of Marketing Strategy, Page works with R2i's content marketing team in the development and execution of R2i's digital marketing engagements. He loves framing out content strategies and mapping content types to audience behavior and their place in the customer funnel.

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