Randy Drawas is the Chief Marketing Officer at Samanage, a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service company that helps firms manage their internal processes, with a special focus on IT. Drawas sat down with us to talk about the way cloud computing is changing our work lives, why technology has to directly solve customers’ problems, and the three questions that every business needs to ask its customers.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Q: What’s going on in the cloud industry right now? How do you see trends shaping up?
A: Back in 2006, we all got our iPhones and were downloading apps like crazy, and businesses said, we’re not doing that because there are lots of issues about the cloud. There were lots of reasons—privacy, security, reliability, all sorts of things that were big issues.
And so businesses were slow to the party. They have, in recent years, resolved a lot of those issues, and there’s much more comfort and confidence within companies to start moving their legacy software world to the cloud, to this new SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model.
So what we’re experiencing right now, I believe, is a technology mega-trend where businesses are now rethinking and overhauling their infrastructure from the old cumbersome legacy way it was done to this new much more modern way, and there are lots of really wonderful reasons to do that.
Q: With this trend that you’re seeing, how do you see this having a real effect on the traditional workplace? How does it change the organization?
A: If you look inside a corporation and you look at all the different internal domains —human resources, finance, facilities, procurement, marketing… all these different groups—there’s one group that has very clear discipline on how services should be provided into and across the organization, and that’s IT.
So we are going into IT, a place where service is a very serious part of their business, and we’re taking it from that clunky, cumbersome, old fashioned way of managing the delivery of services into the corporation and we’re helping them realize the true benefits of this modern approach by putting it into the cloud. What that means for companies is they no longer have to maintain different versions and everything that goes with that. All those concerns instantly go away.
If you had to download a new version of Google every quarter, it would be unthinkable. The beauty of the cloud is that everyone is getting the most up-to-date software every time they go to use that software because it is constantly morphing and improving up in the the cloud.
Q: You mentioned earlier that one challenge has been getting companies comfortable with making this shift to the cloud, with storing data and automating processes in the cloud. From a marketing perspective, how do you get companies comfortable with this idea?
A: I just did some research specifically about positioning and messaging, and what came to me really surprised me. What I heard was that people are over the hurdle, they’ve crossed the chasm on this. They already know that there is a better way.
I recently read a market study that said approximately 60 percent of organizations have switched to the cloud or know that they need to switch. So I think we’ve already crossed the threshold and people are seeing that this software has enormous value.
I see it now in our company. We’re a SaaS company, but everything we do is done inside a browser. We basically access software in the cloud for everything we do.
Q: If a lot of companies have made the mental switch towards the cloud, how do you differentiate Samanage from your competitors?
A: We’re a startup. I’m going up against multibillion-dollar companies that do essentially what we do. But there’s a difference: the way in which we have been built, as a pure cloud play and the functionality of what we offer, offers companies a dramatically different way to reach the same aspirational future state.
There are lots of ways that we compete but at the core, we are truly built to take full advantage of what the cloud has to offer, and that fundamental difference gives us, I believe, a very large competitive advantage.
Q: I’m glad you brought up this idea of the new generation. We were having an interesting discussion within our office last week about how companies can launch a product that pushes an established concept a degree further by taking a concept that we understand to the next level. How do you do that in your own marketing?
A: Let me use an example for you. Once upon a time, we all used paper maps and we said to ourselves, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a digital map that could show us where we are on that map? And that’s all we wanted.
Along comes a company like Waze that offers something we didn’t even bargain for, by showing us traffic, police, accidents, allowing you to interact with the road map.
In a way, you don’t need an explanation on how to use Waze. It’s so simple. And all of a sudden, you’re being given something that you didn’t even ask for but that a company thought of. They changed the paradigm.
So while you may have to introduce the concept to early adopters, eventually people will realize this is something that changes their lives even if they didn’t know they needed it.
Q: How do you start that process?
A: All companies have their own truths, things they believe to be true. But where you really need to start is looking at what your customers actually need, what they are looking for.
You have to start with that truth—that’s your departure point. You have to understand what their real need is, not what you believe it is, and extrapolate from there.
It’s that simple.
Q: Do you think companies and marketers in particular have gotten better about communicating what problems their products or services solve? Or do marketers sometimes complicate things or over-think things?
A: I think that there are really excellent marketers out there that really understand this, but I do believe a lot of people out there make rookie mistakes. They focus on features and functions and technology and they don’t really focus on what matters to me as your customer. That’s always the mistake.
You don’t need to come at the problem from your perspective. You absolutely need to come at it from the perspective of the people whose lives you are trying to improve. Over the years, if I’ve learned anything, that’s number one. It’s not what we believe is true, it’s what they believe is true. That’s the place to start marketing.
It also depends on what side of the business you are in—whether you are selling to businesses or selling to consumers. When you are in the business-to-business market, marketers make huge mistakes. It’s the difference between talking at the market and talking to the market. What you always want to be doing is talking to the market.
The world is full of two different types of people: givers and takers. I believe—and I’ve always believed—that the best way to market is to give. Give and you will get. A lot of marketers come at from the perspective of just wanting to sell stuff. That’s a fundamental mistake.
Q: Despite the differences between B2B and B2C markets, it sounds like fundamentally it comes down to communication.
A: Yes. You have to get into the customer’s head. You have to understand what motivates them.
When I came to Samanage, I asked three fundamental questions about our customers: what is your state of mind that’s making you look for something that we offer; when you go to look for it, what are you actually looking for (not just a feature and function); and when you get it, how do you feel?
Those three questions are at the core of finding out what people really need and are really looking for.