In the last two years, cloud computing has strengthened its hold on the imaginations of even the most conservative C-suites. The financial and operational benefits of implementing cloud-based solutions have become too dramatic to postpone. In fact, according to a study released by Microsoft, over 40% of businesses (of up to 250 employees) will soon be investing in cloud computing. And, given that larger enterprises can quickly achieve exponential benefits because of their size and scale, they too are jumping onto the cloud.

As a result of this surge, over the last several months in my position as an Advisory Board member to The Product Accelerators, I have spoken with leaders in marketing cloud-based products/services and carefully sifted through analysts’ insights in order to distil a set of principles for any marketer who finds themselves marketing in this dynamic field.

Here is a quick summary of the essentials when marketing cloud-based software-as-a-service (and infrastructure-as-a-service) offerings:

Your Targeted Audience. The key decision-makers and influencers include the CIO, the CTO, Director of Technology, Senior Technology Infrastructure Manager, and technology infrastructure procurement professionals. While your offerings target a core business benefit (i.e. reducing cost), the bottom line is that the CEO is likely neither a decision-maker nor an influencer in this arena.

Your Most Effective Strategy. Strategies that have successfully attracted the attention of technology-purchasing influencers and decision-makers include those that shift from campaign-centric communication to two-way dialogues — around key industry issues. As a result, you should initiate and increase on-going engagement with clients and prospects. This will include creating and maintaining customer-centric destinations that help prospects and clients share their insights, best practices and identify new products/services. You should use highly personalized email, issues-focused webinars, search marketing, online customer-focused forums, conferences and virtual events to drive participation.

Your Most Effective Communication Channels. In general, senior I.T. professionals gravitate to virtual trade shows, rich Internet applications, tech support forums, discussion groups, ratings and review sites such as Digg, delicious and StumbleUpon, interactive/3D demonstrations, podcasts and wikis. However, there are some additional considerations if you’re targeting specific industries. For example, if your cloud solution is aimed at technology professionals in the media industry, tap into their preferred channels which include blogs, ratings and review sites. And, if you are trying to connect with technology buyers in the retail and wholesale industries, use private and online community sites.

Your Most Powerful Messages. Messages that have resonated with B2B technology decision-makers and purchasers have focused on the short-term, mid-term and long-term benefits of adopting cloud technologies (e.g. SaaS and IaaS solutions). High-level messages that you should emphasize include: (i) the fast time-to-value by leveraging the immediate availability of cloud computing services without making capital commitments; (ii) the improved balance sheet positioning by shifting fixed technology-related costs to variable costs; and (iii) the improved business flexibility by matching computing resources to current business needs as a method to fund revenue generating initiatives and stay ahead of competitors.

Your Most Difficult Challenges. While cloud computing is being widely adopted, there still remains “cloud confusion”. In other words, many of your would-be clients/customers, advocates and partners are just now getting their heads around what defines “cloud”. This suggests that you will need to adopt an authoritative educator stance — evangelizing and reinforcing messages that address the most common concerns about using pay-per-use hosting, including: security/privacy (i.e. data protection, network vulnerability), service availability, potential personnel issues with providers, belief that current total costs are cheaper, the complexity involved in integration and insecurity around regulatory restrictions.

Cloud-based solutions are here to stay. Using these guidelines will help your marketing and sales initiatives find the silver lining.