Sanbolic Inc. provides businesses with distributed data management software for critical enterprise workloads, virtual desktop infrastructure and cloud computing deployments through a network of value-added resellers. Like other companies that compete in the cloud and virtualization industry, it faces tough competition from industry behemoths. In Sanbolic's case, the company's marketing budget is very much David-like, up against marketing campaigns with Goliath-like bank accounts behind them, said Momchil Michailov, the company's CEO.
Hoping to find a way to maximize its marketing spending, last October the company analyzed three years of its marketing activity—including trade show participation, blogging, LinkedIn campaigns, Facebook campaigns, search engine optimization, Google AdWords campaigns and display advertising—and found there “wasn't anything to be proud of,” Michailov said.
“For example, an average trade show might cost $15,000 to $30,000. We found we had a closing rate of 3% of leads. Our average cost-per-lead was out of this world,” Michailov said. “The market we play in is very convoluted, and it's pretty clear if we go the typical marketing route, we're going to get swamped.”
The solution, Michailov said, was a new focus on thought leadership and providing potential customers with information about virtualization, cloud computing and VDI. The sales angle would be downplayed whenever possible, Michailov said. Social networking was the cornerstone of that strategy, he said.
“We found that social media is a little like TV in the early '80s; there are all these channels and a desperate need for content,” Michailov said. “Social media provides an outstanding delivery vehicle.”
However, even within the social networking realm there were channels that worked better than others—CIOs, for example, are not going to Facebook to find their next cloud implementation. So Sanbolic's marketing team—comprised of consultants from Walden Technology Partners and Diligence Technology Advisors and the company's own executive board—decided to drop its Facebook efforts completely. “Take [VMWare parent company] EMC. They are huge and they only have 20,000 people on their Facebook page,” he said.
The company's thought leadership comes in the form of blog posts, which are automatically tweeted via its half-dozen or so Twitter accounts. Since the Twitter accounts are linked to “a whole bunch” of LinkedIn accounts, those tweets also populate LinkedIn. This means that the company's partners, customers, resellers and prospects are constantly receiving educational materials about VDI, virtualization and the private cloud, Michailov said.
Leads are tracked via a fairly extensive integration between the social channels and Salesforce.com. “All of our activity is directly linked to Salesforce so we can flag and tag where the leads come from: webinar, blog, search, a partner page, leads that come from Twitter,” said Michailov, who said the company spent three months developing the custom backend to enable this. This information is used in conjunction with Google Analytics, so Sanbolic can see where leads originated from.
While the new social media focus has only been in place for a little over four months, Sanbolic has seen an “uptick” of leads coming in from social media, Michailov said. “It's working because, rather than brainwashing someone about how wonderful we are, we're saying "here's what you need to know about this industry. Now you can make your own decisions,' ” he said. “It's really about credibility and trust.”