How do you build a high-performing demand generation strategy in a tech community that’s not a great fan of marketing? This is the first question Tom Leyden had to answer in 2021 when he started working as VP of Marketing at Kasten by Veeam, the number one Kubernetes backup provider
Tom and his marketing team launched a full-on Kubernetes learning platform a few months later. It offers unique hands-on labs designed by subject matter experts to help people of all abilities to upskill in Kubernetes. Registration skyrocketed to almost 7000 users in the first quarter at launch, with nearly 3000 users completing the labs. This initiative was featured in Forbes in an article titled “Software’s Big Skill Up”.
- Generated 7,000 leads in the first quarter at launch using virtual hands-on labs.
- Using hands-on labs drives excitement and demand at the KubeCon booth.
- Sell on values. Not features. The Kubernetes learning platform is 100% for the community. The team at Kasten recognized a growing need for upskilling on Kubernetes before considering a Kubernetes backup solution.
Here’s the full story of how the Kasten team has turned education into a powerful demand generation vehicle and what it takes to build a successful learning platform.
#1 Kubernetes backup provider: Kasten by Veeam
Kasten by Veeam is the number one Kubernetes backup provider. And what’s really interesting in our space is that this is a very new space, with a lot of people getting on board with this new technology. There’s a new way of designing applications and implementing applications. So our goal is to maintain that leadership position and make sure that as many people as possible getting into Kubernetes are using the right software to back up their data and applications.
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What’s the strategy behind the Kubernetes learning platform at Kasten by Veeam?
Kubernetes is an early market
The Kubernetes space is a very early market. Kubernetes is becoming more and more popular. And last year, the main trade show for this space, which is called KubeCon, was organized by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (cncf.io).
We saw that Kubecon in May 2021 that 69% of the visitors were first-time visitors. So all of these people are very new to this space. And in our conversations, we learned that obviously a lot of those first-timers are just exploring or learning this technology.
And what we learned when talking to the visitors was that a lot of people really are new to using Kubernetes and are looking for ways to get to know the technology and the methodology to use Kubernetes.
So after the show, we looked at the leads that we captured. We looked at the conversations that we had, and we created this pyramid to represent our understanding of the visitors we spoke with.
Instruqt hands-on labs enable easy adoption
And the other information that we had is as we try to drive adoption of our technology we had back then to free offerings.
One is actually we still have them, but we have a lot more today. So we had what we call free Kasten K10, which is a free offering of our software for just ten Kubernetes nodes. People can install those on a Kubernetes cluster in the cloud or on-premise. We also had what we called a hands-on lab. Based on the Instruqt technology, people can install our technology using a lab.
They don’t need their own infrastructure or getting step-by-step guidelines on how to install the Kubernetes cluster and everything. Really, anyone can do it. So Option A, I cannot do. Option B, I, a marketing person, can do it right.
Launch of the Kubernetes Learning Platform
So with that information, after the show, we had a brainstorm with the marketing team on how can we use this information that we have of so many people still learning Kubernetes and labs are really the way how to move forward. So we decided as a team to create more labs and to create more labs that would not just be about our software, but also about learning Kubernetes.
After a few sessions, that idea evolved into building a whole website that offers free Kubernetes training. What will make it unique besides it being for free is that it will be hands-on because there is a lot of learning platforms in the industry for Kubernetes, but most of them are either videos or documents, blogs, whatever.
They’re not really hands-on experience, and often you need to have your own cluster, your own infrastructure to be able to do that. And leveraging the Instruqt platform that would not be needed on our platform.
The other thing that would make us unique is that we would be building this using expert instructors, people who are now Kubernetes inside out. So not just people who know how to make YouTube videos. So we went to the drawing board. We laid out a plan and effectively three months later, we launched the platform.
The launch was an instant success. We launched it by the time of KubeCon North America, and in the first quarter of the launch, we were able to welcome over 7000 people who registered to the platform to come learn Kubernetes with us. That is just in one quarter. Of those 7000 people in that first quarter, more than 3000 took at least one lab. So that was amazing.
What was even more amazing was that we got covered in Forbes magazine after an interview with Thomas Keenan, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, who was one of the key people with Victoria Avseyeva, Sr Manager Digital Experience and Design, behind this effort. So really an early success, we couldn’t have been happier.
Of course, we’re planning to grow the platform and add more laps this year because we’re really seeing the need and this is much appreciated by the community. So this is really us giving back to the Kubernetes community while trying to still push our brand out there in a way.
What are the plans in 2022 for learning.kasten.io?
So what’s coming this year? Of course, we want to grow our community of learners. That is our main goal, but we also want to expand our knowledge resources. I believe that just this week we launched this Gorilla Guide, which is one of the additional resources that people get, and Victoria and Thomas. will talk more about what the website looks like and where you can find resources.
We’re recruiting more instructors and we’re really trying to get folks from all over the world. This is not just our people sharing their knowledge, but we’re really welcome instructors from any country, any organization, the more diversity we get the better, And that is also one of our key goals. Then, of course, we want to engage the community and make sure that all the people who sign up actually take the labs and grow their Kubernetes knowledge and experience.
Why do you need to stop selling and start educating?
So the times of people just selecting a piece of software, installing it, and running with it, that’s behind us. It is especially the case in the software world, which is becoming more complex. I mean, deploying an application in Kubernetes is different from the simple client-server applications that we had a few decades ago.
But the possibilities are way more. A client-server application that was in your company for a few people, scalability was not that important. Performance was different or the performance requirements were different back then. The kind of applications that people are deploying today is much bigger.
They’re designed to scale into millions of users. The performance, the latency, the storage capacity, are all very important. To do that, people are using a lot of technologies and they constantly want to be up to date on what’s new and what’s best.
Often they choose to use open software technologies as well. In that complex and also very competitive world, people need to really understand what technologies they’re engaging with and how they can use those technologies in combination with other technologies.
For that reason, it is really important to share as much as possible about the capabilities of your product and best practices of how to do it, how to use your technologies with other technologies.
For example, we have plenty of blog articles on our website that explain how to deploy and backup Kubernetes on certain cloud offerings. For example, how we combine with RedHat OpenShift, how to use us on the Microsoft platform.
So this is all content that you have to provide to your users, and only when they find resources offered by your company that really help them to get educated, that creates some sort of trust and that will really help to convince people that they’re talking to the right companies to solve their problems.
Viral content increases visibility
Building relationship by sharing knowledge helps to elevate the brand and it will also help you to go viral.
Let’s say, if people find that you have good content, they will share that with their network, and that is really a great way to get bigger visibility in the market. The bigger market share, which is by having people share stuff that they like, that they’re reading, that they’re learning about where we’ve been seeing.
We’ve been lucky with the learning platform to see a lot of influential folks in the Kubernetes space and actually say great things about us on their Twitter accounts or under LinkedIn accounts. This really helped us to get a lot more visibility.
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The Show Notes