“My true passion in marketing is bringing things full circle. The whole purpose is to drive advocacy and create a circle of life within the marketing team. Building those kinds of uplifting circles is a very valuable part of maturating a brand and creating a sustainable organisation.”
Insightive.tv: What challenges do you face when attempting to reach your target audience?
Hannah: We are an emerging brand that sells APIs in the B2B market. This mixture creates an inherent challenge around brand awareness. One of the strengths of our product is its seamlessness. APIs are crucial to the functionality of visible platforms but are themselves invisible to the end user. For example, Readytalk, Influitive and Inspirato are some of the largest platforms using our software to manage integrations — but the end user has no idea that they are using our product. This makes it difficult to easily use market penetration as a means of advertising to other potential clients.
Another challenge is that although it is often a developer that is going to be actually using our product, the buyer is generally a project manager. These two personas have different sets of priorities and we have to make sure that our approach and marketing is tailored accordingly and reaches both audiences.
The means by which we mitigate these challenges is another challenge itself — timing and targeting. We look for companies that offer services but lack the ability to integrate with some marketing automation platforms or CRM systems. That tells us that their product development team is spending a lot of time building these integrations one by one and that they are likely open to purchasing our product. Our largest competition is often not another supplier but the internal option — a client building the APIs themselves. The decision to contract with us often occurs when a team wants to stop building integrations because it is too time-consuming or costly to maintain the integrations on their own. So, one more challenge is deciding at what point in the development cycle is it most productive for us to approach an organisation.
Insightive.tv: How well does marketing align with the sales effort — how do you help sales penetrate new accounts?
Hannah: We make integration a high priority and have built a rotating system that links sales, business development and marketing into a multifaceted outreach mechanism. To detail our current program — our sales team works in collaboration with marketing to identify targets and targeting criteria. We then advertise to those people before the sales teams make contact — building brand awareness. We track how many impressions or clicks we get and create a priority list. These businesses stay on a “hot lead” list for two weeks. If quantifiable momentum is created within that time, they stay on a fast track towards sales. If not, they are recycled back to marketing. We continue to reach out to them via automated methods and monitor web actions to decide if they should be actively re-engaged by the sales teams.
We also work collaboratively on messaging and methods of outreach. Much of what I am currently working on is about using automation in specific campaigns to create highly personalised messages. We work in iteration and change — finding messages that work on an individual level and automating them based on demographics and personas. By applying that process to our inbound and automation practices we have been able to develop automated tactics and personalised messaging — creating external channel and internal channel segments with tried and tested tactics about how to go after certain subsets of people and enrolling those tactics within an automated system.
When going after a new vertical or new type of company, we sit down as a cross-department team and develop a baseline strategy. From there it is a process of testing approaches. Initially, this is a very manual and personalised process that evolves as we develop a more detailed understanding of the market.
Insightive.tv: Beyond timing your sales approach — how do you cut through the noise and establish contact with key stakeholders?
Hannah: We approach this through a combination of authentic and valuable content paired with diligent search engine optimisation. We want to make sure that we come up first when developers search for methods of API integration, either on Google or leading technical blogs. In effect, our strategy is to focus on making our content the most relevant and easily found in order to generate inbound leads that can develop into personal conversations — making the noise irrelevant.
Continuing to create this material for our existing products is a top priority for the next quarter, and throughout the next year. It is important to create that content in as an efficient a means as possible. When I started at Cloud Elements, I was asked to put together an ebook. The approach I took to this was to split the final product into a series of ten blogs. Every other week I interviewed the CEO and would work with a different subject matter expert to curate the content. Over the course of the six months it took to write the series and compile the ebook, the blog was generating awareness and bringing visitors to the site. This created ongoing content and made the material popular within the search engines before the final release. This efficiently created momentum that drove the content and, ultimately, our product.
We have also won a lot of clients through guerrilla marketing at staff conferences. The stands at these events are often run by project managers, making it an easy environment for our teams to have meaningful, face to face conversations with relevant people. Events, on the whole, have proven to be a valuable means of increasing awareness and beginning sales conversations.
Insightive.tv: How do you see Cloud Elements developing and how are you incorporating new marketing tactics to facilitate this change?
Hannah: A big new market for us will potentially be financial services. A lot of the large banks are talking about their transformation into digital organisations. Making this a reality will require aspects of their business to be API-driven — we are in a position to capitalise on that need. Part of how we are expanding in this direction is boosting our network channel sales. At the moment, most of our sales are direct. A recent hire for Cloud Elements has been a VP of Channel Sales. This will help us break into the financial services, particularly through Systems Integrator ecosystems — and provide utility across the business.
My true passion in marketing is bringing things full circle. For example, Influitive is a customer of ours, but we are also a customer of theirs. We use their advocacy platform to manage all of our customer advocates and acquire live statements from our customers about the value we bring to their business. The whole purpose of that community is to drive advocacy and create a circle of life within the marketing team. Building those kinds of uplifting circles is a very valuable part of maturating a brand and creating a sustainable organisation. Even in regards to traditional outreach, case studies and testimonials are vital and used by our sales teams in almost every single communication they send out. I see a boost in network sales and collaborative marketing as the next step in Cloud Elements’ outreach approach and the facilitation of our continual expansion.
Hannah Shain is the Director of Marketing at Cloud Elements. She started in the company’s marketing department in 2014, bringing almost a decade of marketing experience from Rally Software Development. With extensive knowledge of the tech industry, Hannah has an integrated and metric-oriented approach to marketing. We spoke with Hannah to gain her insight on marketing in the age of digital saturation — how she uses automated personalisation to cut through the noise and grow Cloud Elements’ market share.
Cloud Elements is a cloud API integration provider capable of connecting applications to entire categories of service. This enables SaaS developers to rapidly deploy applications integrated with other leading cloud services through an innovative API Hub. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Denver, Colorado, the invaluable ease their service brings developers has poised Cloud Elements to expand in this dynamic sector.