Evernote is a leading example of the bring-your-own-cloud (BYOC) trend -- a popular consumer cloud application that workers bring into the enterprise. Now, Evernote is looking to capitalize on its workplace popularity. Just in time for the holidays, Evernote released its enterprise edition this month.
Evernote lets its 45 million users collect text, images, links, and more into notebooks that are accessible from their desktop, web, or popular mobile devices. The basic plan is free; the premium consumer plan, at $5 a month, adds more storage, priority support, hides ads, and lets users share notebooks with others. Around 1.5 million people have signed up for the premium service.
The new business plan is $10 per user per month, adds even more storage, better collaboration, and centralized administration tools.
Evernote gained its users by word of mouth. People read reviews in the app stores, in blogs and magazines, or hear about it from their friends.
The company's entire marketing and sales plan amounts to one word: usability.
Evernote doesn't come pre-installed by channel partners. It's not bundled with other software. It's not the only thing in its category on the store shelves. Everybody who uses Evernote does so by choice -- not because anyone made them do it, or because it was the default option.
Evernote isn't alone. Many software companies that started out by targeting end users are moving up into the enterprise market.
It's easier than ever for consumers to find the tools they need, due to online review sites, customer reviews, free trial offers, or "fremium" business models like Evernote's where the basic software is free and add-ons are extra.
Selling to enterprises is typically harder than selling to consumers, with vendors having to hire dedicated sales staff and pitch their products to corporate purchasing departments.
Or, that's the way it used to be.
According to Evernote, two thirds of its customers are already using it at work. Even if just a fraction suggest Evernote for company-wide adoption, that's a giant pool of potential salespeople.
Evernote isn't the first to tread this path, of course. Dropbox, Google Docs, and Gmail all started out by pitching their products directly at end users, who brought the tools into the workplace.
There's a potential here that this new bottom-up software adoption process will lead to a mess of incompatible systems in the enterprise.
However, many of these new applications have public application programming interfaces that allow third-party software to connect in.
Evernote, for example, publishes its Cloud API. Other examples: Google's Gmail API and the Dropbox API.
Allowing other software companies to piggyback on what Evernote, Gmail, and Dropbox have built helps create a larger ecosystem for each of these applications -- and reduces integration challenges for large organizations.
In the past, software vendors have been reluctant to allow other firms to piggyback, for free, on top of what they have built.
Today, however, such connections are marketing opportunities for the vendor, and more hooks that help them hold onto their customers.
After all, switching from one free, Web-based tool to another is ridiculously easy. But the more add-on services you use, the harder it becomes to leave that tool and everything that you've linked up to it.
-- Maria Korolov is president of Trombly International, an editorial services company that provides coverage of emerging technologies and markets. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years.