For many ISVs, sales and marketing is an afterthought — you’ll spend thousands of hours developing a powerful solution only to struggle getting it into the hands of your potential customers. Indeed, when it comes to selling and marketing your software solutions, there are a variety of different ways to find success, but many more ways to fail.
I recently spoke with Dina Moskowitz, founder/CEO of SaaSMAX, who interacts with hundreds of ISVs in her role and has seen what works and what doesn’t concerning sales and marketing. She was able to offer some quick lessons every ISV should take to heart.
#1 Your message isn’t clear
Moskowitz says that in today’s Internet age, it’s not surprising to find that digital marketing is too heavily relied upon and is way too “noisy.” “It makes things difficult when trying to get visibility for your brand, especially when the focus is product differentiation and specialization,” she says. “We are seeing that differentiation and spcialization of the software is not clearly communicated in their digital marketing, and as a result, the ISV is unable to get their point and call to action across.”
#2 You’re disconnected from your target audience
Another obstacle is related to the culture of SaaS and cloud-based companies. “Since so many ISVs are start-ups that often operate under a culture that’s 100% mobile and social, there is a disconnect where they feel as though everyone does business just like them,” she says. “The focus needs to be on how to bridge this gap of “Gen X and Gen Y” companies who want to do business with more legacy-focused organizations that are based on a specific tradition. One way to do this is to have more face-to-face interaction.”
Moskowitz continues by pointing out how so many younger professionals operate on the mantra of virtual sales calls. This is perhaps due to budget or other issues, but there are other ways to address this where meetings could be set up at an event or trade show that both companies are attending, or some other type of mutual consideration. “The bottom line is that in-person interaction is becoming less frequent, and that could, if not addressed, become an obstacle in the long-term for an ISV,” she adds.
#3 You aren’t leveraging resellers
At some point in your growth, you’re going to have to decide whether your go-to-market strategy involves your company doing all the sales and marketing or you want to rely on reseller partners.
Why both have merits, Moskowitz feels strongly that resellers can have the biggest impact. Still, she cautions that building a channel partner network is easier said than done.
“ISVs need to first research and identify who their ideal partners are, and who they should be doing business with,” she says. “Once this is complete, they need to develop the right partner program that fits their needs and implement best practices.”
She continues by saying that this process can take time away from you servicing your customers and finding new ones. If they don’t have a dedicated sales/marketing person available to spending time on creating a partner program, then other options might be explored. For instance, you can leverage available online partner matchmaking tools, so that they can easily and cost-effectively find this information in a quick and accurate manner.
#4 Your software messaging is too broad
While in some cases it makes sense to have a software product that’s appealing to a wide audience, in many cases customers and potential reseller partners are looking for solutions to fit their specific needs. “People in restaurants, non-profits, healthcare, and so on, have unique needs that must be met,” she says. While your software might address many needs, it can hurt you if customers don’t see their pain points being addressed directly.
This also goes hand in hand with messaging, which is usually even broader. “Being everything to everyone isn’t always good. If your application provides HIPAA compliance for healthcare, don’t state that you provide compliance to any company requiring compliance. Verticalization and being specific about value proposition is important because it helps customers feel connected to the product and helps channel partners sell the product.”
#5 You are casting too wide a net
Another mistake Moskowitz sees is spending too much time and money buying generic lists and casting extremely wide nets. This goes back to her previous point about not focusing on a specific market. “The fear of missing a sale of any type seems to overtake the focus on getting the right type of customers,” she says.
Additionally, ISVs are also not giving their salespeople and channel partners the right scripts to sell to prospects. Questions that need to be asked are:
- Who are the stakeholders in the sale?
- What do the stakeholders care about?
- What objections will be faced and how can we overcome them?
If you identify these beforehand, it will help your salespeople become more successful.
#6 You aren’t leveraging available resources
If sales and marketing, and potentially building a reseller network feel like overwhelming tasks, there is plenty of help available — sometimes at little to no cost. “There are always resources that ISVs can tap into, especially within the IT channel, which has so many tools, vendors and marketplaces willing to help with this,” says Moskowitz. “There are organizations like CompTIA, which are built on helping their members connect and promote their businesses to like-minded individuals that are a good fit, and also connecting them to channel partners that would be willing to work with them.”
Also, Moskowitz points out that there are other tools and resources such as cloud/SaaS marketplaces (full disclosure, her business is one) that are based on helping to bring together ISVs and SaaS app providers with channel partners. “These types of marketplaces also act almost as an in-house marketing agency for their members as they can offer services like helping ISVs build out their channel programs, matching ISVs with the right channel partners, and also providing marketing tools like help with social media, blogs, case studies, educational webinars, and live events,” she concludes.
Admittedly, many of the above mistakes are complex and require some significant thinking. Building a reseller program or deciding to focus your software marketing on specific verticals takes time and effort. However, taking the time now will ensure your long-term success.