I'm sure the recent service outage at Amazon Web Services (AWS) had lots of engineers scurrying around, looking for a fix. I've been at a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider when the solution's gone down. The operations and support people work through the night and weekends.
Marketing people aren't completely off the hook, though. They should be doing some scurrying around too.
It's not all bad news
First, though, some good news on the reaction to the AWS outage. There's concern, but not panic. The SaaS and cloud market seems to be mature enough by now to withstand this kind of episode. People understand the risks, but they know they can be managed. Occasional downtime - as long as it is only occasional - can be tolerated.
But there's a reminder here that prospective SaaS customers are legitimately concerned about performance and reliability. Good marketers should be prepared to address those concerns, especially in light of the AWS outage. If they don't ask, CIO's and IT people aren't doing their jobs.
For one, SaaS marketers should clearly explain their company's reliability and performance policies and procedures. A comprehensive document explaining security procedures, data back-up, redundancy, and other processes should be readily available. You might even prepare a short version that covers the highlights.
CIO's and IT professionals should be educated early in the sales process. The IT group might not be the entry point for your solution, but if it's to be deployed broadly through the organization, assume that IT will eventually be a part of the evaluation. Educating and gaining their confidence early on in the process can be very helpful.
By involving the IT people early, you may, in fact, find that the prospective customer can't or won't deploy a SaaS solution for this particular application. There are applications or organizations for which SaaS simply isn't a good fit. Better to find that out sooner rather than later.
Communication is essential
In the midst of the outage and after, AWS has been communicating with its customers about the problem. They reported regularly on system status and provided post-mortem reports to explain what went wrong. Salesforce.com and other large enterprise SaaS providers do the same.
Publicly exposing our companies' mistakes is not a natural act for marketers. But in the SaaS world, it's vital to building the trust required to win and keep customers.
This work by Peter Cohen, SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.