As Vice President of Marketing for ProfitBricks, an upstart global cloud infrastructure provider, William Toll drives the marketing strategy and implementation for this German-based company bringing a new approach to virtualized data centers. We had a chance to experience their U.S. launch first hand, and wanted to share the learnings with other tech marketers.
ProfitBricks just launched in the US market. You are now out there. Tell us about your launch strategy?
It was both exciting and challenging. We took an integrated marketing approach and started planning several months in advance for optimal impact. Our launch platform was an industry event where a strong group of our prospects, customers and industry influencers would all be there. As a Cloud solutions provider, we chose UBM Tech’s Cloud Connect. At the event, we engaged with several of the Cloud influencers, including hosting a reception to introduce ourselves to the Cloud community.
Digital was, of course, a core part of the launch using a combination of search, social and online marketing to drive people back to our web site to learn what we were all about. Our AdWords campaign was based on rigorous testing and planning throughout the summer, prior to the launch so we would be respected by Google before launch. We wanted to make sure anybody who logged in to Google on our launch day and any searches conducted to show our press coverage on page 1 Google search. Then, we aligned this earned media effort with AdWords (paid media campaign) to optimize our presence and results.
We also secured a few speaking slots at the Cloud Connect event for our CEO, giving the community an opportunity to meet us. We were excited to be on a panel with a well known Cloud Computing thought leader, Bernard Golden. The topic of the panel enabled us to share our vision of Cloud Computing IaaS: “Is there more to IaaS than Per VM Price”.
Social Media was focused on discovering, listening and integrating our content/messages into Cloud conversations. This effort was first centered around events, including CloudConnect, so we could engage with people live at the event, and then follow up on posts and comments. We found this technique powerful as any questionable sentiment can be dealt with in person, since so many of the thought leaders were at the event. This was important because we made bold statements in our launch – some thought leaders could blow this off as marketing hype. When an influencer tweeted or questioned our claims, we sent a direct message to arrange a conversation, allowing us to build trust.
To round out our launch effort, we also executed a print magazine ad campaign for air cover and visibility, as well as to build credibility as a new player in the market.
One final note - internal communications and reporting was an important part of gaining credibility with executives. We compiled page views, favorite tweets, pictures, chat statistics, and web site analytics into a PDF for all 100 employees to read and experience. We feel our employees are the ambassadors of our brand, company and products.
It may be cliché, but it ALL starts with the product. Our product team built a very powerful differentiated platform for Cloud. We spent a great deal of time collecting customer feedback and use case studies to support and capture benefits of the unique features. This is especially important for many organizations that are hesitant to move to the Cloud. We also hired a 3rd party firm to perform benchmark testing of our platform, which showed significant performance improvements over competition. All of our engagements with prospects, customers, analysts and the media focused on business value and specific performance vs. competitors and competitive approaches.
What are the keys to success to launching a German company in the U.S?
Good question. As a German company, we leveraged the natural culture and reputation of "precision and excellence". In addition, Germany has a strong security and hacker community that influenced the integration of "data security and protection" and the inherent "granular customization". We also had talent on the ground in the US to make sure our product was right for the American market. For example, we selected a US data center location and best in class provider, our pricing and terms of service were adapted to exceed expectations and, of course, all materials and communications were delivered in English. The sales team brought on board had relationships with US firms and we had marketing and support locally. And, just as importantly, we deliberately and carefully shaped and executed a US focused media, analyst and thought leader outreach program. It was important we could get the best of German engineering and localize the talent and services for the US market.
Tell us about the ProfitBricks Academy. It is a very different and sustaining approach to building talent and skill sets while amplifying your brand.
The ProfitBricks Academy is run out of our Berlin Germany headquarters. It started because we were struggling with hiring qualified, skilled system administrators with technical talent. We felt the fastest path was to train professionals to learn theory and practice for six months, and we would end up with the best talent – key to differentiating our company and product offering. It's a great resource for our team and a wonderful example of Germany's vocational focus.
You talk about the “industry’s first true virtual data center”. Beyond marketing lingo, tell us what that means.
To our customers and partners, this means you can virtually design and deploy any infrastructure you could build in a physical or traditional data center. But unlike a traditional data center, you have the complete freedom to change or adapt your infrastructure at any time in any possible way. It is a very different approach and it is why we get so many people not believing it is possible at first glance. It’s possible, and why we focused so heavily on the influencers in our launch.
ProfitBricks is a very interesting name. How did you come up with it?
Our founders picked it after numerous conversations with potential customers. The common theme was the power that cloud computing and its flexible building block approach has to directly boost our customers profits. There are so many benefits when a business moves IT to the cloud - from greater agility to lower cost and shorter test and development cycles - plus the traditional argument of the move from CAPEX to OPEX. And, the domain name was available.
About William Toll
William Toll, VP, Marketing at ProfitBricks, has held Marketing and Product Management positions in the Web hosting and Internet infrastructure industry since the late 1990s. Currently William is driving the marketing strategy and implementation for ProfitBricks' US market. ProfitBricks is a global cloud infrastructure provider with a platform engineered from the ground up to provide class leading Cloud Computing - IaaS services.
Most recently William was leading the marketing efforts at Yottaa, a Boston-based website optimization company. Prior to that he managed the small business offerings of hosting and cloud services provider, NaviSite. At NaviSite, William was responsible for developing and marketing the company's hosted product lines, including managed cloud services, managed hosting, managed business applications and shared and dedicated hosting. In past positions at companies such as Affinity Internet, Inc., Intermedia.NET, and NTT/VERIO, William was the driving force in launching and enhancing successful SMB focused services including: Shared Hosting services, Microsoft Exchange and hosting add-on services like online marketing and Web design. William received a BA in Marketing from New England College. William Toll can be found on Twitter: @utollwi