Case Study: Online Apps
When Zoho Corp. engaged TECHMarket in 2007, its Zoho division had approximately 250,000 users and little PR presence as just one among hundreds of vendors competing with Google in the online application arena. The challenge for the recently-launched Zoho wasn’t just its competition or its age, but the age of its target market as well. In 2007, the market for online applications was just emerging. Working online was a foreign concept to the vast majority of users accustomed to using software installed on their laptops and desktop PCs.
In 2011, the ManageEngine division of Zoho Corp. also came to TECHMarket. Unlike Zoho, ManageEngine was a well-established vendor in the mature market for IT management software. ManageEngine had established a reputation as value leader and grown through its mastery of SEO-driven direct marketing and sales. The next stage of growth, however, would depend on public relations to take the ManageEngine message beyond the technical customers to the executive managers.
Overall, Zoho Corp. needed branding and social media services that could raise the visibility of its emerging and established divisions to effectively compete with name-brand competition in both nascent and mature markets.
“SEO really wasn’t an option for Zoho, at least not in the beginning,” said Raju Vegesna, Zoho evangelist. “People weren’t using search engines to find ‘online applications’ because hardly anybody knew they existed. So we needed to educate the market as well as position ourselves as a leader helping to shape and define that market.”
Raj Sabhlok, president of ManageEngine, said, “At ManageEngine, we did very well reaching our customers directly, but taking the division to the next level meant stepping out of that SEO comfort zone. We had to start engaging the industry influencers, which meant PR efforts that would have us going head-to-head with the industry’s Big 4 — BMC, CA, HP and IBM — as well as a slew of smaller vendors that were very active in public relations.”
For the Zoho division, TECHMarket has relied on both products and personalities to secure media coverage that included major product announcements and reviews as well as guest posts and commentaries by Zoho Corp. Co-founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu. High-level placements included articles in The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and Businessweek.
Proactive competitive PR has been fundamental to TECHMarket’s Zoho efforts, which leverage news from Zoho and its competitors alike. For example, anticipating the media attention that would accompany the announcement of Microsoft Web Apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, TECHMarket infiltrated Microsoft’s coverage in top-tier business and technology outlets. The result? TECHMarket secured 25 briefings for Zoho with top-tier business publications including CNN, Businessweek, Forbes, Reuters, TIME and The Wall Street Journal as well as many top-tier technology publications.
At ManageEngine, TECHMarket has focused on streamlining the presentation of the division’s 40+ products with an integrated communications program, including media outreach, content syndication, thought leadership, and social media. Given their customer-direct background, ManageEngine product teams were not used to presenting their individual solutions to the press, analysts and bloggers. TECHMarket has demonstrated the value of packaging individual product stories into bigger yet more manageable, media-friendly campaigns focused on the industry’s hot topics and trends such as mobile, security, cloud computing and the consumerization of IT.
By running an integrated communications program for news broadcasting, content syndication, thought leadership, and social media. TECHMarket creates a compounding effect that enables Zoho Corp. to compete effectively with technology companies that consistently spend orders of magnitude more on marketing activities.
Aided by TECHMarket, Zoho entered 2013 at the forefront of the online application world. The division now serves more than 7 million users, a 3,500% increase over its 2007 user base. Moreover, the PR-driven efforts to educate the market about the advantages to working online have moved online applications into the mainstream. As a result, both SMB and enterprise organizations have expanded their adoption of Zoho’s online productivity and collaboration apps as well as the more lucrative business apps such as Zoho CRM.
Meanwhile, TECHMarket has put ManageEngine on the same PR and social media page as its IT management competitors, big and small. Prior to working with TECHMarket, ManageEngine had just 25% of the news releases, 25% of the media coverage and 25% of the social media of its competition. In the first six months, TECHMarket put the company “in the game” at nearly 100% of its competitors in all categories. Now, TECHMarket is surgically positioning ManageEngine to “lead the game” by securing higher level coverage, including the weekly “IT Matters” column in Forbes written by Sabhlok.
The end game is a constant buzz of Zoho Corp. news and events, balanced with fluid engagement in industry discussions via blog posts, commentaries and other communiques.
Zoho Corp. CEO Vembu said, “At Zoho Corp., the customer sits at the center of the world. We’ve worked with larger, more traditional firms, but they simply didn’t share our vision and passion. We were looking for someone who understands our culture, someone like us — small, aggressive and wants to make a difference.”
Profile: Zoho Corp. is a privately-held and profitable company that provides a comprehensive suite of award-winning online productivity, collaboration and business applications for businesses of all sizes (Zoho with over 7 million users) as well as IT management software (ManageEngine with over 72,000 customers) and a network management suite (WebNMS with 25,000 Tier 1 carrier deployments). For more information, visit www.zoho.com and www.manageengine.com