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Penguin Strategies

How NetApp’s B2B Digital Marketing Engine Grew (Clone)

03 Nov 2022

How did NetApp do it? Alon Maimoni, head of digital sales of Cloud Central, was kind enough to share with us in an interview.

It’s essential to harness today’s wealth of digital marketing opportunities and technology  to expand digital customer touch points. That’s what NetApp has done, and it’s resulted in $65 million in revenue growth in just three years. 

NetApp’s Cloud Central

NetApp provides cloud capabilities for 30% of the world’s enterprises, but getting the word out to new customers about their cloud services was a struggle. They were used to long sales cycles and in-person meetings for their hardware and software services, which is how traditional enterprise sales were run in the past 2 decades. Once they moved their main product offering to the cloud, they needed to make a leap towards minimising the need for human touch in the sale process.

They needed a way to reach customers that was 100% online, and for Netapp that required a revolution. 

Starting from scratch, Alon Maimoni and his team had to come up with a comprehensive B2B digital marketing strategy that included a single channel dedicated to the cloud and cloud customers. That was the beginning of Cloud Central.

Cloud Central is a product line that relies now entirely on an online customer acquisition process. It relies heavily on SEO and creating highly-focused digital content to capture leads, especially people who are already looking to "go cloud". 

Over the last three and a half years, NetApp’s Cloud Central has grown from $0 to $65M. And 60% of this revenue was generated without any traditional sales involvement whatsoever. 

Download Penguin’s SMarketing Playbook here to help you build your online acquisition funnel.

6 B2B Digital Marketing Strategies

To make this $65M in growth possible, Maimoni and his team implemented six critical steps to create a digital customer journey on Cloud Central. Here’s how they did it.


1. Build Your Own Startup

If you’re attempting to reimagine the B2B digital marketing journey within your enterprise, you need to carve a little world for yourselves with your own startup culture and mentality. This allows you to prove that you can innovate and bring new processes, defining the future of your company. 

Cloud Central essentially built its own marketing agency with lead generation, unique content marketing, product marketing, and more all within the greater NetApp enterprise. In this way, the team was able to be more agile in their marketing strategies and try unconventional B2B growth hacking without dealing with the slow and sometimes uncompromising enterprise system.


2. Enlist Your Tech Team

It’s not possible to implement all the advanced B2B digital marketing strategies that you want without enlisting help, particularly from your tech team. Maimoni and the Cloud Central group worked closely with their cloud architects—the people responsible for cloud support and customer satisfaction—to develop cohesive processes and relationships dedicated toward success. 

For example, they made sure that HubSpot, their marketing automation software, worked side-by-side with the company’s current CRM so that they could reach their targeted personas via digital. In addition, they changed their culture by tightening relationships and blurring team roles so that everyone was working toward the ultimate goal of satisfying the customer.


3. Transform Your Website from a Store Window into a Product

The Cloud Central team created a different type of website. 

Many traditional websites act as a kind of store front. Customers come to the page to learn more, download white papers, and generally focus on high-level information. Maimoni and his team wanted to go deeper and create a website that was a product itself.

They created Cloud Central as a marketplace where customers come in and are provided multiple paths towards the product itself—a free trial. The goal: to ensure that the product and the marketing side of the website are intricately connected.


4. Build the UI of the Product Around Marketing

The Cloud Central team made sure that the user experience was focused on the product and not just awareness. Almost every journey on Cloud Central is dedicated to bringing the user to a free trial—to try the product. This has drastically changed the onboarding stage in the customer journey.

Now, every customer journey is completely customized to the user’s persona. Based on the customer’s pain points, Cloud Central develops a regularly updated customer journey that matches the needs of the time. Basically, the B2B digital marketing processes are directly tied to personal engagement with the customer.


5. “Challenge” Your Checklists 

The key is to not make assumptions. The Cloud Central team constantly reviews their user persona with the sales and cloud architect teams to ensure that they have the most up to date information possible for their digital marketing efforts. To succeed at this, they’ve had to train themselves to leave their own expectations at the door.

For example, it’s easy as a B2B digital marketer to assume that you know how a user will behave. However, the truth is that it doesn’t always run as expected. It’s essential to be versatile and not just stick to one idea or strategy that you expect will work. You have to be ready to try new things, fail fast, and move on.


6. Get Over Attribution Woes

Finally, it’s important to recognize that there may be many disconnects in the system. For Maimoni and his team, they tried working with existing systems, but connecting the dots wasn’t easy even when they brought in outside help. There were still many manual processes they had to contend with.

For example, the Cloud Central team was able to generate loads of content, but they had no tracking on how it was impacting the system. Eventually, they invested in a data and analytics infrastructure to improve conversions on their content. It was a slow process, but one that was crucial to complete. Without analytics and attribution information, you cannot optimize your B2B growth hacking efforts.


Final Thoughts

Over three years, by implementing a range of B2B digital marketing strategies, NetApp was able to go from a hardware and software company to one that specializes and thrives in the cloud industry worth $65M. The key was shifting how the company communicated with and educated customers about the value of their cloud services.

Cloud Central allowed NetApp to update their processes to include growing a high-impact team, focusing on UI, and developing systems to listen, learn from, and nurture leads. You can get the full story by listening to Alon Maimoni’s podcast here.

Shoham Eckhaus

Written by Shoham Eckhaus

As Chief Strategy Officer at Penguin Shoham leads client strategy and manages an internal team of Inbound Consultants. To get her strategy tuned she starts each morning with Yoga and a big smile :)