The Pentagon has scrapped its $10 billion cloud-computing contract with Microsoft, ending an award process that had been contested in court by Amazon. The U.S. Defense Department said it would solicit bids for the new multi-cloud contract from Amazon and Microsoft as the two are the only companies at the moment that can meet the military’s requirements for JEDI (short for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure).
Federal contracts are often contested, and this was no exception. But it is rare that companies go to court after losing, according to experts. Fewer than 1 in 10 of those who do get support from the courts. How could AWS be so sure that they had a case?
You can think it was the politics.
Or you can listen to AWS’ sales boss: “customers are our obsession.”
AWS channels that obsession into data to fuel their sales and marketing engine. This is how they do it, step by step:
- Create a specific plan for each customer. Early in the bidding process, competitors complained that the Pentagon contract was “made for AWS.” They were wrong: it was probably made by AWS. The company creates a cloud migration plan for each deal they want to win before customers even start their procurement process, and align its “sales and operations teams with information, tools, and processes needed to execute” on that plan.
- Load the plan into the CRM. Why is the CRM important? Well, according to AWS competitor Microsoft: “picture your top two salespeople pursuing the same prospect, resulting in an annoyed potential customer and some unfriendly, in-house competition.” AWS uses Salesforce instead of Microsoft for their CRM, but we know they have the same need. The Pentagon contract, for example, had plenty of people involved: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, AWS’ government sales lead, and other unnamed executives and consultants all had meetings with Pentagon officials. AWS sales reps ask customers if they are on track, “both from the customer’s perspective and our own internal metrics” and input that information to the CRM, turning the plan into a dynamic data pool.
- Add more data. “Cleaned and enriched data from multiple sources” gives AWS salespeople more accurate insights into each customer. This is a recommended way to use marketing analytics to drive growth: integrate data and insights from different direct sources to reduce the bias inherent to each and gain flexibility to use the information that best suits the need. In the case of AWS, this information can be sourced from data.com, a service to organize customer data from different sources, plus actual usage data, sales calls reports, and anything that helps know the customer better.
- Track competitors. What other data sources are there to integrate? For one, competitive intelligence. AWS is the cloud leader, but they are not alone: Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM were also vying for the same Pentagon contract, and competition for cloud business is intense in all segments. According to experts, “marketing analytics assumes that competitive research is an ongoing, fluid effort” that helps companies react quickly to challenges, or in this case, unexpected contract losses.
- Scale up. Not all contracts are $10 billion. Once data from all relevant sources is integrated, AWS uses it to create a model that tracks any lead’s propensity to buy. This model is shared with every sales rep, to help them “anticipate customers’ upcoming needs,” and drive up sales productivity by allowing them to be proactive instead of waiting for customer calls. “It’s a game changer” says AWS sales boss.
- Connect related processes. AWS has created custom connections to keep their rich customer data pool at the center of any process that might benefit from it, such as deal approvals, contracts, and—crucially—marketing budgeting. This would potentially allow them to use sales conversion information to “track and share marketing performance on a near-real-time basis and course correct as needed.” Clever budgeting could be one of the reasons why AWS is Amazon’s most profitable unit.
- Repeat. Having all relevant information, models and processes organized around the same system makes it easier for Amazon to ramp up new salespeople quickly to continue their global expansion. According to AWS finance boss, “it makes it possible to keep our promise to stay customer-obsessed.”
We don’t know if AWS will end up winning the Pentagon contract. But we do know for sure that their marketing analytics play makes them a very tough fighter.