The world of software as a service is an increasingly complex one to navigate. With so many different types of cloud services, it is beneficial for us as marketers to understand the nuances of each of these entities to develop effective marketing strategies.
Cloud services are resources hosted by a third party that facilitate access and use of software, platforms, or infrastructure via the Internet to create cloud-native applications or the flexibility of working in the cloud. The flow and exchange of data are between the front-end user, who access the services using devices such as – desktops, laptops, mobile, or servers, to the back-end or provider system.
IaaS, FaaS, CaaS, PaaS & SaaS are the main subcategories of such cloud services, which we will further explore. You may find yourself a bit befuddled with these options, acronyms, and subtleties within the realm of as-a-service cloud services; what do they all mean, and most importantly, how do these differences impact us as marketers in the development of effective marketing strategies?
Let’s start by exploring the associated meanings of each service.
CaaS or Container as a Service. Containers are options used for deploying and managing software in the cloud. As the name suggests, this service provides container-based virtualization that allows users who are typically software developers and IT departments to upload, organize, run, scale, manage and stop containers through a web portal interface.
Popular providers of this service are Docker Cloud, AWS ECS, and Azure ACI.
FaaS relates to the term – Function as a Service. With this option, the service provider handles the hardware and operating systems associated with hosting a software application. This change in structural responsibility allows the user to maintain focus on scripting and executing the supporting code needed for their application.
FaaS is an on-demand, pay-per-use service. Functions are triggered by a specific action or event taken on an application. Once that action is complete, it stops, so no background activity is being run. Examples are IBM Cloud Functions, AWS Lambda, and Google Cloud Functions.
Another on-demand service of the bunch is – Infrastructure as a service, or IaaS, like FaaS. With this option, service providers host some of the main infrastructures a business would typically house in their on-site IT data centers, such as storage, server, and networking resources, and delivers them as virtual services.
You’ve maybe heard of some of them – Digital Ocean, Linode, and Rackspace.
PaaS, which is a platform as a service, is a serverless option for businesses that eliminates the need for building, housing, and maintaining complex infrastructure. It offers a platform for developing, running, and managing applications via the cloud.
Service providers for this solution include AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Cloud.
The most popular of the bunch, as either a B2B or B2C option, is SaaS or software as a service. It is a virtual method of delivering applications. No hardware or software installation or maintenance is required, as this service is entirely web-based, and the service provider manages the complete application.
Instead of installing and maintaining software, you access it via the internet, freeing yourself from complex software and hardware management. As marketers, we know you’re familiar with options such as HubSpot, Slack, Asana, or Click Up.
Now that we have a better understanding of what these services mean let’s review why users may opt-in to these services. A critical component in crafting an effective strategy includes highlighting the service’s solution to pain points.
What about benefits?
Some shared benefits of these services are that they are highly scalable, flexible options that aid in and quicken the process of development and deployment. They reduce capital expenditure as housing infrastructure is a responsibility of the vendor, so the user is no longer burdened with the purchasing, maintenance, or human capital to manage it.
Additionally, these cloud services have enhanced security for data and also facilitate business continuity and quick recovery post-disaster as there are no facilities that require restoration. Overall, they level the playing field for small and medium-sized businesses with the enhanced functionalities that they are now capable of offering.
What does this have to do with marketing?
A key component in developing an effective marketing strategy is KYC (know your customer), which requires a streamlined definition of your audience.
SaaS models do not require additional code, nor do they have heavy integration requirements. They have user-friendly dashboards which facilitate customization based on the users’ needs. As marketers, we can then cast a wide net showcasing the software as a solution.
With the wide variance of SaaS options, we must identify the audience and map out primary users and decision-makers so that we can craft audience-specific strategies to target them. On the heels of this, we can begin to create inbound marketing strategies to attract each of those audiences and encourage them to become customers through nurturing, tailoring your messaging through the funnel via mediums like social media (LinkedIn for B2B), directories, publications, or a robust SEM strategy.
Within the cloud services cluster lie FaaS, IaaS, PaaS, and CaaS. These are highly technical services and serve as ad hoc options for developers and programmers as opposed to SaaS models, which often give a ‘plug-and-play’ option directed toward the business/non-technical user. This audience is, however, very different from those for the SaaS model. The SaaS model is typically targeted to business users or end consumers. The other as-a-service models typically cater to a highly technical audience.
This audience is primarily composed of developers and programmers. They are a tough crowd that does not respond well to typical B2B marketing strategies and hates to ‘be sold.’ Typically constrained on time, this brilliant bunch seeks clear, concise messaging delivering core values- honesty, clarity, and usefulness.
Technical people are very detail-oriented and will peruse your website in-depth, taking note of the range of companies who may also utilize your product and seeking clear and detailed responses to questions such as:
- How does this work?
- Will this work for my business’s existing stack?
- How does this benefit me?
As naturally curious problem-solvers, this audience craves knowledge. Therefore, incorporating elements that provide the opportunity to learn will prove invaluable. They gravitate to repositories that provide detailed information about the infrastructure using options like builtwith.com or stackshare.io. Researching where this group goes to source their info will prove beneficial to the marketer when seeking the most effective places and ways to engage that audience best.
Techies are a collaborative bunch and thrive on being able to have highly technical conversations with like-minded individuals. Events that bring together such skilled professionals are an excellent investment for marketing directly to not only the users but the decision makers of this audience.
Let’s talk price
The final key element in creating your as-a-service marketing strategy we’ll discuss is price. The price point or pricing model often determines the decision-makers vs. the influencers/users.
IaaS and FaaS offer usage-based models that allow the business to incur a scaled cost, easing the decision-making process for investment. CaaS and PaaS are neither on-demand nor usage-based and frequently require significant consideration for technical infrastructural housing. Though the price may be high, the decision to use this service is not limited to the confines of the IT department and requires expanded consideration of the full scale of decision makers in adoption. On the other hand, SaaS models provide various options, often taking on a tiered pricing structure with free trails, ascending to a premium/enterprise plan.
To wrap this up
Before strategizing a marketing plan for cloud services, it is imperative that marketers understand the differences among the various types of cloud services – IaaS, FaaS, CaaS, PaaS & SaaS. Their nuances can be intricate and complex, and having this knowledge will significantly improve a marketer’s approach when planning.
Understanding the audience for the various cloud services, as well as where this audience gets its information, will contribute to the success of a marketing plan. The combination of knowing the services and the audience will allow marketers to craft strategic and impactful marketing campaigns that are attractive and engaging.