Many of the B2B software and start-up companies I meet with have plans to expand their activity and enter international markets, based solely on their product or on a handful of features which they have developed.
This is natural for a software company, as this is its primary focus – developing a software solution and expanding its capabilities by adding new features.
Some companies do indeed have unique features. Sometimes a particular feature may have considerable business implications for the client, which will cause it to recognize the advantage a particular software product has and maybe even pay a premium for it. However, in other cases, these functionalities have little value to the client. This second case is fairly clear and doesn’t need special discussion. However, what is wrong with defining a marketing strategy for international markets that is based on unique features only you have?
A Profitwel study examined 900,000 data points from clients of software providers, and showed that products and features lost nearly 70% of their value over the past 5 years. This research offers an example: if a provider could, at one point in the past, charge a client $100 per month for a particular third-party-system integration feature, such as Salesforce, then by the end of a five-year period, that same feature could be sold for just $30. In other words, the client’s willingness to pay diminished dramatically:
Although these numbers have unprecedented implications, software companies in general – and SaaS providers in particular – whose revenue model isn’t based on a one-off payment, but rather focuses on recurring payments, whose sum may depend on the feature package included in the product, shouldn’t be too surprised:
It is now easier than ever for competitors in the software industry to copy your functionalities. Development and version update cycles in software in general, and in cloud-based software in particular, have reduced in length significantly. This will take place faster than before. As a result, clients won’t be willing to pay a premium for a given feature; this may even harm your ability to differentiate yourself from your competition.
Many companies, surely global ones, are attentive to their clients’ needs in varying degrees (be it through managerial philosophy or as a result of pressure from many clients). Ultimately, in the case of an important feature, existing clients will require that it be added by the provider, your competitor, which will harm your previous relative advantage.
Markets in general, and software markets in particular, are now more competitive than ever. This is true for nearly every area. Where in 2013 there would be an average of two SaaS competitors in a given field, now there are nine. Competition is growing, and in nearly every product category you’ll find several large, well-known companies which have established themselves as category leaders, as the following diagram shows:
Therefore, it is important to know that competition causes feature commoditization and downward price pressure.
How can we address this challenge? Does this mean our product is insignificant? Should we stop developing new features?
Of course not.
What we need to do is realize that penetrating international markets successfully depends, first and foremost, on our ability to develop a competitive advantage.
Developing a competitive advantage requires a marketing strategy. Marketing strategy has several components, and the product is just one of them. Your unique feature is just a part of the product (in addition to other elements and characteristics making up the product). Therefore, a comprehensive, global marketing strategy based only on a single feature would be a short-term move which would collapse once the first competitor copies your feature.
By its nature, marketing strategy is a long-term concept, whereas a software feature has a short-term life span. You should work toward a long-term competitive advantage and try to see how your feature can be integrated into that strategy, rather than replace it.
Furthermore, when organizations and companies buy software, they evaluate the company itself as a provider, and not just the product. This however will be the topic of another article.
“Our system is flexible,” “We are very flexible,” “The system’s flexibility makes it suitable for any type of client” – do these messages sound familiar? Do you also find yourselves using them when you attempt to sell your B2B software solutions to clients, trying to emphasize your unique features?
Each vendor may mean different things when they say “flexibility”. Some refer to changing basic system properties and policies without needing additional software development, others mean adding features quickly and easily, customizing software products to all types of clients or needs, integration with third-party systems, client-focused service and more.
Well, what’s wrong with that?
Of course, from a technical point of view, there is nothing wrong with flexible software, nor is stating its flexibility. Flexibility allows maximum adjustment to clients’ needs, savings both to the vendor and to the client, customization for different types of clients, time saving in development and implementation, and more.
This also concerns the company’s own perception as a service provider, who is willing to adjust when needed, to adapt to the needs of its existing clients and to the requirements of prospective clients, to think out of the box and be creative and different – flexibility shouldn’t be looked down upon and it may reflect the good, personal service you are willing to offer your clients.
During our work with dozens of B2B software companies we have identified three problems with over-reliance on flexibility and with the accompanying marketing messages: A problem with the messages, with the sales process, and – most critically – a problem with the marketing strategy.
Insofar as messages are concerned, there are countless software providers, including probably your direct competition, which state that their system is “flexible”. Try it for yourselves: search for “Flexible LMS” on Google (LMS are Learning Management Systems). Does it strike you as odd, that top results show at least 50 different systems which boast about their flexibility?
If this flexibility characteristic (and statement) is one of the benefits and unique characteristics of your system – you may have a problem. Nearly any software provider now declares that their solution is flexible – whether or not it actually is. You’ll find it very difficult to stand out from the crowd using flexibility as your single differentiating feature. Messages such as these go in one ear and out the other. It will be hard to draw clients’ attention when they are bombarded with countless solutions offered by vendors who are all “flexible”.
This doesn’t mean we can’t claim that our software or service are flexible, only that if we want to rely on it as a central, substantial message in our value proposition, we should do so only if:
Most solutions available on the market, in your particular sector, suffer from very limited flexibility
Flexibility is particularly important to clients in your sector, given the nature of their activity
Your degree of flexibility is substantially outstanding in its capabilities, it is well integrated into the architecture and design of your product, or into your service model – and it serves as an integral part of your value proposition and marketing strategy
Another problem often occurs at the sales interaction level. It may be that the architecture of your software does indeed allow flexibility and customization to different types of clients. Suppose, for example, that you develop and sell a project management system which is suitable both for the construction industry and for project and task management in high-tech companies. From your viewpoint, you have been able to develop a single, flexible system which is suitable for two different work environments and two different markets. That is great. However, is your construction client interested at all in the fact that you are flexible and that your product supports clients in other industries? Probably not. During the sales phase it is important to establish what, if anything, your particular client gets out of your flexibility.
This brings us to the final, most critical level – your marketing strategy.
Oftentimes I come across local software companies planning to enter international markets. Some are start-ups, while many others are well-established local companies, which have done very well on the Israeli market, and are now looking to leverage their success on global markets.
One phenomenon that is particularly common among the latter, the ones which have operated for many years in the Israeli market, is that during their activities they have expanded into additional areas, in order to increase their client base. This sometimes grows out of the company’s intended search for additional market segments, especially given the size constraints of the Israeli market, and sometimes in an unplanned manner, addressing new requirements coming from other departments within the client’s organization. This sometimes evolves within the relationship between a client and its software provider, which, as part of its service, is willing to serve as the client’s primary provider which addresses most of its requirements – in cases where maximizing revenues from existing clients and using company resources for more development and services makes business sense. And so, these companies find themselves a few years down the road with expanding products, services, as well as different types of clients and areas which they serve.
The “backlash” often comes when the company starts turning to new markets overseas. Now flexibility fades as it loses the impact it may have had with domestic clients. It is very hard to stand out and to differentiate yourself overseas when you are trying to serve different types of clients. Your international competition has broader products with greater functionality, resources, and client base. Local competitors in your target markets will also have “flexible solutions”…
Is it possible that a company which takes pride in its flexibility would come across – and ultimately serve – particular clients better than a company whose strategy is focused solely on one type of clients or only on specific needs? Let’s review the project management system example. If you were a construction contractor, which system would spark your interest – one which is designed solely for the construction industry, or another, which addresses more than one industry? Hasn’t that flexibility become a replacement for a long-term strategy that is focused on a particular type of client, thus creating differentiation and a competitive advantage?
Doesn’t “flexibility” – the attempt to be good at many things for many clients – entail “mediocrity”, meaning that we are somewhat good in many areas and types of clients, but we don’t excel in any one particular area? Was our choice of flexibility nothing but a way to avoid strategic planning and decision-making?
According to Porter’s famous model, strategic decisions also clarify explicitly what we don’t do and whom we don’t serve. This assumption is based on countless evidence and cases where companies, even large ones, cannot excel in many areas and with different types of clients and needs at the same time. Trade-offs must be considered in order to build a well-synchronized chain of capabilities which support one of the alternatives, making it stand out from the crowd, even more so on a crowded international market.
We are happy to invite you to our next event – Smart Global Expansion ‒ Experts Share Their Marketing Secrets & Solutions – to be held on May 16, 2019 at 08:45 AM at Oracle, 18 Aharon Bart St., Entrance B, 6th floor, Petah Tikva.
Penetrating global markets is a tough challenge for all companies ‒ and in particular for small to medium B2B companies and startups. You will be confronted with giant tech competitors with wider offerings, superior resources, more reference customers, and an impressive presence in multiple marketing channels.
You need to find your place in a competitive and crowded market despite your modest marketing budget and limited resources that demand an exceptional level of efficiency.
Our meetup will arm you with new insights, concepts, tips and tools to upgrade your readiness for your global journey:
Creative marketing channels and experts’ content for promoting B2B products globally
Emerging digital approaches and tools for targeting customers, creating buyer personas, personalizing messages, improving customer experience and connecting offline and online worlds
Automating your marketing and sales processes, streamlining workflows, integrating systems, and gaining a holistic view of customer journeys
One of the issues that B2B software companies, which are seeking to market their products in international markets are struggling with, is whether it is advisable to openly and transparently publish the software prices on the company’s website.
There are three approaches:
The first approach holds that prices should not be publicized, fearing that customers would be deterred by the prices even before they make contact with the company as well as in order to prevent exposure of this sensitive information to competitors. In other cases, the companies are interested in adjusting the offer and the price to each customer, and they are required to conduct a process of personalizing the proposal and the correct pricing for each customer.
A second approach, led mainly by software companies selling according to SaaS model, holds that the full pricelist should be publicized on their site since it is an integral part of the SaaS model – this is sometimes without giving it a thought whether this step will be beneficial to them.
Companies that are debating this issue.
The second approach gains much popularity, particularly with companies with a product on the cloud or a sales model of SaaS – and in most cases justifiably.
However, as we have seen, there are also substantial reasons why prices should not be publicized, the most prominent of which is not to provide such sensitive information to competitors.
How does one decide?
To help you make an informed decision on this matter, we propose, as part of your marketing strategy, to consider a set of parameters:
Product complexity and the nature of the sales process
The more the product is associated with the SaaS model, meaning a no touch type sales, the more likely we would desire to publish the price on the site.
Such sales are often related to online marketing in general and inbound marketing in particular. Potential customers reaching the site evaluate the product, including its price and might choose to try the it. If the experience is positive, they will choose, at the end of the trial period, to insert their credit card details and start using the full capabilities of the product. In such cases, the purchase is made online, via the site, so it is natural that the price will be published there – otherwise the sale will not be realized at all.
It is important to know our target customers and their typical purchasing processes. If, indeed, the information about the price is important to the customer in order to make a decision while browsing the site and making an order then perhaps we should provide him with this information. If this question intrigues the customer but is not material to the stage in question, then we may want to avoid discussing the price before we are confident (after talking to the customer) that our value proposition is clear to him and he understands what he will pay for and what he will receive.
On the other hand, if it is a complex or an Enterprise product, which requires on-going manual human involvement of salespersons (whether in the field, in meetings and demonstrations or by an inside sales team) and maybe even involvement of technical roles at the sales stage – it may not be right to do with a simple web price list.
One should be keep in mind that your product may be on the cloud and even priced in a monthly SaaS model, and yet the sale might be more similar to traditional Enterprise sales, which requires deeper understanding of the customer’s needs, a number of meetings or other interactions with various functionaries, special adjustment of the price and even a demand from the vendor to send a formal quotation. This depends of course on your target customers: if it is a bank procurement manager or an IT manager in a hospital who is interested in purchasing a product that has a high total cost, do you see them easily providing the business credit card and making a classic no touch purchase independently? On the other hand, with small and medium-sized companies or hi-tech, start-ups and software companies – this acquisition process is perceived as more natural.
Your pricing complexity may also affect your decision. Pricing should be simple, so that it is easy for the customer to purchase. However, sometimes circumstances do not allow this and require a pricing model based on several dimensions such as the number of users, number of records (such as number of contacts in the CRM system) as well as additions of advanced modules or integrations to third party systems, and more. In these cases, it seems that it will be difficult to present the prices in a simple and light Internet format and more discussion is needed on the aspect of the value before reaching the price issue and “tailoring” the proposal to the customer’s measurements.
The attractiveness of the offer
Another factor to consider is the level of attractiveness of your product and offer. The cheaper you are compared to your competitors, the more logical it is to display it on the site – because you have some advantage. Nevertheless, something substantial has to stand behind this price, because otherwise your competitors will be able to quickly compare and adjust their prices.
In cases where the low price is an integral part of your product, your marketing strategy (as opposed to an arbitrary decision to sell cheaper), the value proposition to your customer, and your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), the feasibility of advertising the price will increase. For illustration purposes, take for example an innovative product that constitutes an alternative to hardware based products such as the traditional firewall and VPN, and which offers a better solution for securing network access. The product is based solely on software, is offered as a Network as a Service and at low prices. In this case, the price is an integral part of the product’s uniqueness (USP) and therefore it would be most likely to be expressed by posting it on the site.
Too expensive? Never mind
What if your prices are nonetheless too expensive and you are afraid to scare away potential customers? In such cases, you should remember:
At times, a high price constitutes a quality indicator for customers, so it is not certain that in terms of positioning this will not be a positive move.
Attaching testimonials of recommending customers on the price page as well as case studies on the site will inform potential customers that there is a return on the price and reduce the perceived risk of purchasing from you.
We are happy to invite you to our next event – Advanced Global Strategy and Smart B2B Marketing Tactics –Joining Forces – which will be held on November 14, 2018 at 9:30 AM at Oracle (Entrance B, 6th floor), 18 Aharon Bart St., Petah Tikva.
In our gathering we will introduce various, sometimes surprising methods for creating competitive advantages that enable successful penetration of international markets.
Our meeting will also include a session about one of the most challenging barriers that B2B companies face in international markets – the lack of customer references, either in the target market or globally.
The purpose of this paper is to encourage entrepreneurs, who are interested in entering a new venture and develop a product in the software field as well as founders and directors in existing software companies, who are coping with rather difficult sales challenges in general and international sales in particular – and show them the bright side.
Some of the following complaints by many software companies may sound familiar to you:
The potential customers show no initial interest in the product
The customer does not understand or makes no effort to understand what the product does, its function in the organization and its benefits.
The customer is trapped in outdated concepts and finds it hard to accept a solution with another or innovative approach.
It is difficult to demonstrate the advantages of a product, which is not physical, until it actually works at the customer’s organization
The customers are wrong to think that the solution capabilities are already integrated into their ERP or into any other existing system in the organization.
The competitors are much larger and so are their marketing budgets
The competitors reduce prices
Absence of references at the target country
The need and the costs of developments and adjustments to a variety of operation systems and to updating versions.
Customers seeking integration into existing systems but are not willing to pay for it.
Repeated requests for carrying out POC or a pilot instead of closing the big and final contract.
The customer conditions the purchase on the company’s opening an office at the country of destination.
All these complaints are valid and should not be underestimated. Handling them is carried out both on the marketing strategy level and on the tactical level combined with various B2B international marketing tactics. However, these will not be discussed in this article.
The purpose of this paper is to show the positive side of companies, entrepreneurs and directors engaging in software products, as opposed to companies with physical and tangible products. While companies with tangible products still suffer from some of the aforementioned difficulties, there are still additional difficulties and restrictions affecting directly or indirectly the sales process, which the software companies are not familiar with.
Inventory. Companies manufacturing physical products always have a major concern: the inventory issue. Manufacturing their products for inventory, to promote anticipated demand costs a lot of money. Alternatively, if one manufactures only on an order basis, then the manufacturing and delivery to the end-customer may take too long – and the customers may not agree to wait and consequently will not order. Furthermore, companies of physical products are required to maintain warehouses and run them, including storage facilities, special equipment and even complex designated software for warehouse management. In addition, there is constant concern of thefts – both in the company itself and at the transportation stage. Software companies know nothing about inventory, storage and theft of products and are free of this concern.
Logistics – Physical products must be transported: from the company to the port, from there to the port of the target market and from there to the distribution centers or to the end-customer. This requires a lot of handling, designated personnel and many expenses related to logistics. Among others, negotiation with the customer or the distributor on the terms of sale is required, where the product will be supplied (for instance, ex works), who is responsible for the transportation and the product and from which stage, insurances, engagement with the shipping companies, customs etc. This is a “headache” that software companies are not familiar with. All this compared to a simple login in a SaaS based product or remote installation on a local server – this is the major “logistics” in software companies.
Product returns – Managers of physical products companies have an additional “nightmare” – the return of products by customers or distributors. If the product is defective or the customer is not satisfied, he may return it and not pay for it or demand its replacement. This means heavy financial damage to the company, since a physical product has variable production costs, which in case of product return, will never be covered.
Payment – The method of payment is very sensitive and risky in companies of physical products. On the one hand, the manufacturer desires to receive payment in advance, since it has manufactured a product with a certain cost and cannot risk the product reaching the customer without paying for it. Furthermore, when the customer is overseas, collection difficulties are even bigger. On the other hand, the customer fears, certainly if it concerns international trade, that if it pays in advance, the product will not be shipped to it, particularly when the supplier is unknown or new. For this purpose, complex mechanisms for international payments have been developed, such as documentary credit and more. In fact, payment to software companies is also a sensitive and not straightforward issue, however if the customer did not pay there is generally no direct damage of loss of production cost and raw materials that have been purchased. In addition, a software company may, in cases where the customer has not paid in advance, not extend the license validity or even block access to the account on the cloud. The collection issue is by far easier in software products.
To sell what yet does not exist. In a physical product, what is generally sold is a product in its existing version. Product improvements take time and a customer will not be easily temped to believe promises that the product he will receive in fact will exceed the one presented to him at the time of sale. On the other hand, in software, within reasonable limits of course, one may suggest, already at the sales stage, higher functionalities and capabilities than the existing one assuming that a new version is already under development or that within a short time it will be possible to bridge the gap and complete the required developments. In sales of software, it is easier to harness the product’s road map to the present sale.
Flexibility in prices. Companies with physical products can hardly reduce the product price under its manufacturing cost since this will lead to immediate loss. Too big price reduction or even delivering products for free is not necessarily a desirable practice in the long run, though sometime there is need for it at the penetration stages to a new market or a first agreement with a big customer. In such cases, the software companies have a greater flexibility to offer a product at cheap prices or even for free, whether for a trial period or at a limited number of licenses or an edition with limited functionalities. Freemium models are acceptable in the software field and there are diverse methods for transferring to a payment model after the customer has experienced the product. The damage at the bottom line is minimal compared to a physical product that is supplied for free and in fact, the entire business model of a software company, and certainly those in the SaaS model, may rely on this sales method. This does not exist in physical products where there is a marginal cost for the manufacturing of each unit.
Product trials. What could be better than convincing a customer to purchase an excellent product than to experience it? In sales of physical products, the only way to see the product or to experience it is to go to the shop (particularly in sales of consumer products), wait for the sales representative to arrive and show the product or send a sample via a courier or some transport service. In software, the product may be presented and accessed on a computer, whether by remote installation performed by the company, by the user himself or by logging in to a web system. This, without shipments, logistics and waiting time. In addition, there is no distance between the advertising media, where the customer was exposed to the product and the product consumption media – both will generally be on the computer monitor, a tablet or a mobile phone. In software, the distance between the product advertising, experiencing it and even buying it – is sometime measured by single clicks.
Support – With physical products, ensuring local support factors at the target market and shipment of spare parts are an operation in itself, which requires setting up a local support infrastructure. In software, even if there are many cases in which the customer prefers local support at the target market provided by a local staff speaking the customer’s language, at least technically, there is a possibility, in most cases, of providing support remotely by company staff, which knows better than any local support partner the product and how to respond to malfunctions without the need to travel to the customer.
Outsourcing – Software companies can contract and outsource relatively easily the development services of software development companies, in order to reinforce their development capabilities or meet schedules. This is a method, which enables greater flexibility (there is no need to recruit or dismiss employees) as well as to maintain the lean workforce structure. All this compared to manufacturing plants, where increasing the manufacturing capacity means money investment and waiting for new employee recruitment and their training or new machines and manufacturing lines, which by the time these enter the manufacturing, the nature of the demand may change.
Open Code. Software companies may receive almost for free open code software components, instead of developing them by themselves. In physical products, such an “arrangement” does not exist and it is not possible to obtain free “raw materials”.
Conducting business in English. Quite often, in software companies, the contact during the sale stage is with IT, technology and innovation departments. With these bodies, even if this is not the ideal scenario, it is possible in many cases to communicate in English, and there is no absolute necessity to have a command of the local language. This opens many options to begin sale and demonstration processes compared to many other physical products, which are of a lower innovation level and the decision-makers are less likely to be fluent in the English language.
Quality human capital – which is not obvious and is benefited by software companies.
It is clear that also your competitors, other software companies, benefit from all these advantages however it is nonetheless encouraging to acknowledge from time to time the fact that you have chosen the right field.
As someone who has worked with and in companies of physical products, I can only conclude that the software companies are relatively living in a business paradise, worth appreciating.
Would you like to add your suggestions to more advantages of software companies? We will be glad to hear your opinion.
Exhibitions and conferences have been, and surprisingly are still one of the common B2B marketing channels
CEBIT 2018 changes format and turns into a stage for innovation in the field of information security as well. This year, the exhibition moved to the month of June and is held in a new format, turning into a huge festival of digital innovation. Accordingly, the security zone will be particularly large.
What some the Israeli companies do not know is that the exhibition has a representation in Israel called Hannover Fairs Center representative in Israel (Deutche Messe, Hanover, Germany). It is possible to address them here in Israel, to speak in Hebrew and receive information and any required assistance regarding possible participation and preparation for the exhibition.
I am enclosing a link to a report published on the issue with additional details on CEBIT.
A common phenomenon I encounter in my work meetings with B2B software companies and startups is the frustration of founders, CEOs and sales managers that although they have an excellent product it is very difficult to sell it overseas.
The frustration from this situation is particularly big when it concerns a product that has succeeded in the local market in Israel, so there is no doubt about the usefulness of the solution, its rich functionality and the company’s delivery capabilities. Somehow, when turning to international sales everything becomes more difficult.
First, one should not be surprised that the sales overseas are difficult. This fact is well known and I do not know one company that had no difficulties during the penetration process to international markets.
Known difficulties in international marketing of startups and B2B software companies include:
Absence of existing customer basis as references in international markets
Distance from the market and the customers, and the absence of established sales infrastructure in the target country – neither an office nor local sales staff. This situation is completely different from the activity that existed in the Israeli market.
Great international competitors – you may not have met them yet in Israel, but in the international markets you may meet them and you will have to deal with them and with their broad and rich solutions, their impressive references and with their marketing budgets, which are bigger than yours.
Local competitors – of which you have not yet heard, since their activity is local at your target country, but they have excellent solutions, adjusted to the customers and the local business environment and standards and they are backed up by a local implementation and support team.
Need for industry specialization – in technological or complex products and particularly in the B2B field, professional expertise is required exceeding the boundaries of the product and the technology but relating more to professional acquaintance with the industry and best practices.
Handling and fostering business partners – in cases in which we choose to operate by means of distributors, this distribution channel must be fostered and invested in: training, conference calls, meeting, preparation of marketing materials and sales tools, price lists, quotation templates, agreements and more.
Globalization versus localization – dealing with the dilemma whether to go out to overseas markets with unified products, price policy and branding and the need to invest and carry out local adjustments to the various markets.
Companies, startups and entrepreneurs less experienced in international marketing, which are trying their luck overseas, operate under the wrong assumption that a good product is enough. They believe that if the product is excellent, and even exceeds that of the competitors, the road to successes is paved.
Among the reasons for the decisive advantage of an excellent product, which I encounter, the following points arise:
The product is unique – there are no such products on the market
The product is richer in functionality
The product is technologically more advanced
The product has similar functionality but is much cheaper
Accordingly, they believe that it is enough to spread the word about the product to the customers and they will immediately stand in line to purchase it. However, reality shows a completely different customer behavior.
To the best of my understanding, this assumption stems from two interrelated reasons:
The one is the technical/product background of the entrepreneurs – which is very dominant in B2B software companies. The entrepreneurs’ view is very technical and logical: if the product is better than other products, then the customers will run to buy it, and all that is remains is to be, perhaps, a little more flexible with the price.
Ignoring the customer’s world, environment and point of view. According to this approach, the customer is focused on examining the company’s solution and the only decisions he may make are:
He is interested in purchasing the product and desires to make progress in the buying process;
He is interested in purchasing the product, but he does not have the budget;
He is not interested in purchasing the product.
This approach ignores all the marketing challenges in general and the international marketing in particular:
Mostly, your product is not unique and there are others similar to it. The reasons why entrepreneurs do not know this are:
The focus, which has been so far on the local Israeli market, where not many of the international competitors are active (due to other territories priorities, the market size and language difficulties)
Failure to conduct a market research. If an orderly process of market research had been conducted, as part of forming the company’s marketing strategy, they would have surely detected the major competitors.
Even if the product is rather unique in its functionality, there are competitors who solve a similar problem by means of another solution and software.
In most cases, customers do not purchase the product in order to be advanced. They are looking for a much clearer and more tangible value. For the most part, this value will move around reducing costs, achieving a competitive advantage and reducing risk to the customer.
Even if the competitors do not solve at all the problem, which your solution solves, or do not create a competitive advantage for the customer, which your solution provides, there are other pains, not less important, that they do solve.
In order to clarify the last point, let us take for example a company, which sells software in the Martech field, and let us assume for the purpose of the example, a tool for building and designing excellent landing pages. When approaching with the solution the CMO or the relevant decision makers at the marketing department in order to suggest the solution, in fact the picture these customers see and experience is similar to this:
Endless marketing solutions
This is in fact the market ecosystem of all the solutions, tools, systems and platforms in the marketing area. Countless suppliers, solutions and tools. Each one is good in its field and each contributes a different benefit or solves a different problem the customer may have. Most of them are not direct competitors of our company but almost all of them try to reach those same decision makers, to create an interest and “steal” their time. All of them try to present their products, their benefits, their ROI or the competitive advantage they grant their customers.
In this context, they are definitely competing with our landing page building company. They compete for the time of the decision makers and their attention as well as for the budget – since we do not expect the CMO to purchase hundreds of products.
If so, why should the customer bother to take interest particularly in your products and at the end, also take a risk and purchase them (particularly if the company has no references)?
Does it sound discouraging? Not necessarily. One must simply be familiar with the customer’s world and then he will be more prepared. So how does one get out of this situation? Exactly for this, a marketing strategy is essential.
We will not be able to expand this complex area in this article; however, we can point out in short that a marketing strategy assists in several ways:
By the mere fact that it is required to rely on a market research and rises the level of our knowledge about the various players and competitors operating in the market.
It forces us to focus on a certain type of customers, for instance according to vertical, size, standardization related to the industry or other parameters. When selecting the type of customers most suitable for your solution (i.e., those who will derive maximum benefit from it), then it is possible to be more specific in the messages conveyed to the customers. It is possible to better prepare for their world, and demonstrate professionalism in understanding their pains and therefore be more relevant than the other dozens or hundreds of vendors assembling at their door.
Once we have defined very accurately who our target customers are, then it is possible to define the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – a definition, which responds exactly to the question why the customer should bother and take the risk to purchase a product from an unknown company – a definition, which connects directly between your product and the needs of your specific target audience.
Today we host an article by Mersad Berberovic from Leadpath:
What are the best marketing automation tools for today’s small to medium businesses?
If you are going to operate competitively, and stand a chance to survive and thrive in this economic environment, you’ve got to have automation. This is especially true when it comes to marketing. So, what are the top tools for entrepreneurs, startups, and SMBs?
What Marketing Automation Can Do
What is marketing automation really, what can it do for your venture?
Winning in business today is all about efficiency. Even small businesses and entrepreneurs now have a great opportunity to compete, if they can operate efficiently enough. That means being able to run a lean business, maximize the potential of the marketing budget, and scale faster.
Specifically, marketing automation can help in these areas, according to the world’s largest outsourcing portal, Upwork.com.
Customer relationship management
According to Small Biz Trends and the Email Marketing & Marketing Automation Excellence 2017 Report, these are six of the main categories in which technology driven techniques are being applied.
Email and customer onboarding
Profile based targeting
Personalization through content marketing
Targeted marketing broadcasts
Here are seven of the top marketing automation tools available to SMBs now.
Google Attribution is one of the marketing giant’s latest tools. It helps B2B and B2C marketers make sense of which of their marketing channels and efforts are really producing results. Without tools like these, business owners often really have no idea what is working, nor have an effective way of tracking marketing ROI.
Direct to voicemail or ringless voicemail drops have emerged as one of the best tools for reaching prospects and clients in mass. This can be as part of customer service and loyalty programs, as well as for prospecting at scale, and generating hot inbound lead calls. The incredible savings on time and labor this can produce means that business can spend far more time generating real revenue than wasting time on the phone. It also happens to be one of the most effective direct response marketing methods that are still available to organizations of all sizes, from startup to Inc. 500 companies.
WordPress continues to be one of the most widely used website platforms and CRM tools in the world. In fact, it has almost 60% of the global market share in the CMS space. Almost 30% of the entire internet runs on WordPress. So, it works. There are more complicated options out there, but most don’t need the features. WordPress also makes it easy for marketing teams to create, collaborate on, and schedule marketing content, and even social. A huge variety of plug-ins can enable automated payments for subscriptions and sales through WP, and even affiliate marketing programs.
Mailchimp is an affordable and easy to use email marketing automation tool. There are many similar tools such as AWeber, Get Response, and InfusionSoft. Most have very similar features and capabilities for automating follow up, list building, autoresponder series, and even popup ads and forms. However, where Mailchimp stands out for many is its low cost, free trials, simplicity in designing and sending email, and the wide variety of integrations with other services, like WordPress and Instapage.
Canva may not be as much of an automation tool as the others on this list, yet it does offer a lot to help streamline marketing efforts. Canva is primarily an image creation tool. It can be used to create image content for ads, blogs, and social media. You can even use it to create presentations, mini-websites, and slideshows. Perhaps more importantly for automation, it makes it easy for creative teams to collaborate on design, and for creating templates, and ensuring branding stays consistent across all marketing collateral.
One of the biggest time drags that small businesses face is publishing social media content. It is vital for most enterprises. Yet, there are so many platforms, and so much content to publish, that it can be a huge time drain, with a very poor ROI per hour. Assistants can help, but also often end up creating fragmented and unreliable processes, with underperforming results. Hoootsuite is a social media marketing management dashboard. With a little copy and pasting and a few clicks a month worth of content be scheduled out and automated.
Bulk SMS & Text Message Marketing
Like ringless voicemail marketing, bulk text and SMS is a powerful tool for automating marketing efforts. It can be used to reach thousands of prospects and customers in minutes, and to generate inbound leads, website visitors, and calls, at a fraction of the cost of most other mediums. It can be scheduled in advance, with custom, and consistent messaging. On the backend it means only needing to spend labor hours on conversing with live and interested sales prospects; enhancing productivity and revenue potential, while keeping down costs.
Marketing automation is crucial for small businesses to stay alive and grow, and for medium and larger businesses to keep growing and stay competitive. There more that is automated, the more that can be achieved. The above seven resources offer a variety of tools which can improve productivity and profitability in marketing, and other areas of business.
We are happy to invite you to our next event – The B2B Marketing Olympics – Unlocking the Secrets of Local Markets – which will be held on May 9, 2018 at 9:30 AM at Google Campus Tel Aviv, Electra Tower (Ampa Tower), 34th floor.
One of the most challenging aspects of global marketing is selecting the territories in which to market the products. It is a particularly interesting question in B2B software and other technological products, which are either digital entities, sometimes cloud-based services, requiring no physical distribution and logistics, or IT products that could be used by any business worldwide. In our gathering, we will outline a process and methodology for selecting the territories on which to focus your international marketing efforts.
Among the most popular markets that Israeli companies increasingly target are the USA, Germany, China, Japan and lately Colombia – representing multiple continents. Which is the one your company should focus on? One of the parameters that should be considered is the local business culture of any given market – often difficult to understand, and confusing for both beginners and more experienced marketers.
Therefore, we have organized the “B2B Marketing Olympics” with powerful “delegates” – experienced experts in these 5 territories, each with a unique background – who will “represent” his territory and share his insights, secrets and tips regarding the local business culture and how to play by the local rules, with the aim of helping you determine if you are prepared to conduct business in this market and if so, how to make it successful.
For more details, the agenda and registration click here