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“Captain! We’ve got a whirlpool on our side!” comes a cry from behind you.

“Captain! There’s a giant monster on our side!” comes a shout from another.

If this situation sounds familiar to you, you’re either the captain of a ship in ancient Greece or the owner of a small to midsize business listening to customer feedback. Either way, you’ve thought to yourself, “They can’t both be right.”

But can they be?

And if they are—if these conflicting reports carry equal weight—what do you do? Are you just moving out of the frying pan and into the fire?

I know I’m mixing my metaphors, so let’s leave Scylla and Charybdis and take a step back to focus on what we’re actually talking about here: conflicting reviews data.

Who do you listen to when you get conflicting reviews?

Everyone.

Just because two reviews are contrary to each other doesn’t mean one’s right and the other’s wrong.

If we look at the Grecian example from earlier, both sailors were describing an accurate situation: Their descriptions just differed based on their own experience/vantage point.

Much like our ship captain, rather than picking a right or wrong side you have to accept that your customers experience multiple truths.

When you’re listening to customer feedback and one customer conflicts with another, however, it’s difficult to act on the information they’re providing and even harder to use that info as leverage for client nurturing.

To avoid alienating your customers, you have to better understand the root causes behind their varying customer experiences.

By digging deeper to understand the “note behind the note” while listening to customer feedback, not only will you be better equipped to differentiate between the symptom and the actual problem, but you’ll also deepen your relationship with that client.

4 steps to charting the reasons behind different customer experiences

Before we get too deep into the process of understanding your customers, you have to look at what they’re saying when they give feedback (the start of your conversation with them).

Step 1: Find the key differences in the reviews

Take a look at the two situations below:

  Scenario 1 Scenario 2
Customer A The product was very intuitive. The product was too complicated to use well.
Customer B It was hard to use the product. The product was too simple and didn’t have enough functions.

In both scenarios, there’s a key disagreement.

You might be inclined to believe that one scenario is preferable (after all, Scenario 1 includes a positive review of your product), but in both situations you have an adjustment to make (and, as we’ve stated, all customer feedback can be right).

Step 2: Look at who is doing the reviewing

If you missed it when it first came out, stop for a second and read this article on the importance of collecting reviews data.

Are you back? Good.

Now you know the importance of collecting demographic data while you’re listening to customer feedback, which will help in this stage of understanding the differences between your two customers.

So, how do you go about breaking down this data? One option is to use artificial intelligence (AI) software to organize and analyze the customer data at your disposal.

In fact, 42% of respondents from a 2018 Gartner Digital Markets survey (full survey results available to Gartner clients) stated that they currently use AI for customer segmentation, while 45% use it for customer review analytics.

68% of respondents are planning on using AI for customer reviews analytics by 2020

AI isn’t the only option—you can use CRM software or go through the data manually—but it is the easiest solution.

Once you’ve collected the data, it’s time to do a bit of soul searching. Ask yourself who is your ideal buyer? Then ask which of the customers you’re hearing from is a closer fit to that target persona.

Hold on to that information; it’ll be important later.

Step 3: Determine if it’s a trend or a single instance

Go through each piece of information you’ve received while listening to customer feedback, regardless of scenario.

Now, count how many customers have provided similar feedback.

If only one customer says something, it’s still valid. If 100 people say the opposite, that doesn’t mean that the single customer with the original feedback didn’t have a legitimate experience.

Instead, think of it as a way of figuring out how to approach the problem at hand.

Let’s say 99 people enjoy a certain facet of your product, but one person says they don’t. Addressing that issue requires a drastically different problem solving approach than if 50 people enjoy that same facet but 50 people don’t.

One is a trend rooted in your product, and one is a single instance rooted in that customer’s experience. While both are valid, your strategies to address the issues must differ.

Step 4: Keep the conversation going with your customers

You should be following up with your customers when they leave reviews, whether they’re positive or negative.

Doing so will help you better understand the reasoning they have for both the issues they’re talking about and how they expect them to be resolved.

So when is the best time to talk to them? According to a recent Gartner study, about two to three months after they leave the review.

This far out, the customer doesn’t remember granular details that can inhibit a deeper understanding of their experience. Instead, the customer remembers salient points and can more accurately speak to their emotional and logistical journey.

That higher-level conversation—and it should be a conversation rather than, say, a survey—will help you understand the note behind the note and provide a broader understanding of why they left a particular piece of feedback.

That knowledge can give you the key to knowing why Customer A gave you one review and Customer B gave you a different one.

Plotting your course after listening to customer feedback

Now that you’ve got all this knowledge, what are you going to do with it?

All of the information you’ve gathered will be crucial in helping you figure out how to move forward with any necessary adjustments.

Your first step is to determine whether the feedback was part of a trend or simply an infrequent occurrence.

  • If it was a trend, be prepared to make some broader changes.
  • If it was the result of a single situation or an infrequent occurrence, you’ll need to focus on individual experiences.

Regardless of what direction you go, you should alter something.

For the latter, you should focus on addressing those individual concerns, whether they are about the onboarding process or usability. This would be a great time to employ your customer advocacy program to address these touch points.

However, if it’s a trend, the process becomes a bit trickier.

Let’s go back to our scenarios from earlier. Looking at each of these will help you develop an understanding of the broader methodology necessary to navigate these conflicting reports:

Scenario 1
If Customer A is closer to your ideal, congratulations! You seem to understand your target demographic. However, you still need to take a look at the challenges Customer B expressed.

If Customer B is closer to your ideal, try to figure out what Customer A understood or was able to intuit that your ideal customer couldn’t.

What was Customer A using your product for—was it in any way different than Customer B? What qualities does Customer A display that Customer B doesn’t?

The conversations that you’ve had while listening to customer feedback will help answer these questions and give you a much deeper understanding of their experiences with your product and company. Perhaps the issue is that Customer B had a poor onboarding experience and requires a slower, more granular demonstration.

Scenario 2
If Customer A—who believes your product is too complicated—is your ideal customer, then perhaps you need to sit back and think about what your ideal customer is actually using your software for.

You might have built an overly robust product. The specialized tools could be too specific for a universal use and a scaled model that eliminates non-essential features could help.

Alternatively, it could be an issue with the user interface (UI) preventing them from navigating the product, so making the user experience more streamlined could be the correct course of action.

In this case, engaging with your customers as a whole will give you a better sense of next steps.

If Customer B is your ideal customer, then you need to ask yourself similar questions. What purpose do you think your product serves? Does it match with your customer’s expectations?

Perhaps you’re not hitting enough of your customer’s pain points. Alternatively you might offer the features they don’t think exist on your product, but your UI makes it harder to find. Again, keeping that conversation going will prove crucial in formulating a strategy for customer retention and success.

What to sail away with

All feedback is a sign. Whether it’s a veritable Grecian chorus telling you they’ve noticed a trend or a single Tiresias warning you about an oncoming storm, the voice of the customer should be your guide.

By directly engaging with them, you’ll learn exactly how important it is to listen and understand who they are and where they’re coming from and what course corrections you need to make as a result.

Methodology

Results presented are based on a Gartner study conducted to understand adoption and investment plans of AI in digital commerce. This study also sought to understand the value and success of AI in digital commerce and its challenges. The primary research was conducted online from June 4 to July 17, 2018, among 307 respondents in North America, Latin America, Western Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

Qualifying organizations span various industries excluding Healthcare. Companies were required to have primary technology approach for digital commerce as ‘Custom built commerce platform’ or ‘Packaged commerce software solution’ with some (>$0 USD) revenue generated from digital channels in fiscal year 2017. Companies were also required to be currently using or piloting AI in its digital commerce. The sample represents organizations in US/Canada (n=86), Brazil (n=35), France (n=30), Germany (n=31), UK (n=30), Australia/New Zealand (n=30), India (n=33) and China (n=32).

All respondents were screened for involvement in strategic decisions for digital commerce within their organization.

Quotas were applied for countries, industries and enterprise-wide revenue from digital channels for fiscal year 2017.

Artificial Intelligence: AI is a combination of advanced technologies that change behaviors without being explicitly programmed, based on data collected, usage analysis and other observations. Machine learning is a key technology category driving AI and includes techniques such as linear regression, decision tree, Bayesian networks, and deep neural networks.

The study was developed collaboratively by Gartner Analysts and the Primary Research Team who follow Commerce Technologies & Experiences.

Disclaimer: Results do not represent “global” findings or the market as a whole but reflect the sentiment of the respondents and companies surveyed.

The post Listening to Customer Feedback: Navigating Conflicting Reports appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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There’s a line in the movie “World War Z” where the Israeli guide for Brad Pitt’s character says:

“If nine of us with the same information arrived at the exact same conclusion, it’s the duty of the tenth man to disagree.”

I could talk for days about Argumentation Theory, but the point I’d like to make is this: As a small to midsize business (SMB) owner, it’s your job—and the job of your employees—to help your company.

You need a tenth man to help your customer.

Customer advocacy programs are there for the customer

It’s an unspoken truth that while caring for your customers can benefit your company, you’re doing so because it benefits your company.

This means that all of your good intentions can seem less altruistic and more opportunistic, since they’re now tied to pushing your own business forward.

What you need—to make up for that loss of altruism—is either a customer advocate or a customer advocacy program, both of which serve a sole purpose: voicing customer needs, desires, and concerns—no matter the cost to your company.

Customer advocacy programs are crucial to retain and deepen relationships between vendors and buyers.

If you’ve never implemented one at your SMB, it can be difficult to know where to start building your program. If you’ve already got one, however, the difficulty lies in identifying where your program is lacking.

Using reviews and survey data is a simple, established way to initiate customer advocacy, which can help with your customer nurturing as well as provide crucial feedback to understand how your business can retain clients, improve operations, and show customers you’re putting them first.

What exactly is a customer advocate?

First and foremost, let’s get something straight: Google’s confused.

As all-knowing as Google is, it’s been mixing up the terms customer advocate and brand advocate.

What’s the difference between brand and customer advocates? Brand advocates are customers who love your product so much that they tell all their friends about it.

Customer advocates are employees whose sole responsibility it is to make sure that customers are being looked after.

Customer advocates are a specific role within a company and a key member of a customer experience team that not every SMB has the resources for.

So what do you do if your business can’t afford one?

Simple. Create a customer advocacy program.

How to create a customer advocacy program of your very own The 9 stakeholders you need to build it

When I talk about stakeholders, I’m talking about those folks who either contribute to or benefit from a customer advocacy program. They’re the ones you should listen to while building your program.

Here’s a list of nine stakeholders to get you started. Though this list is by no means comprehensive, it is a bit lengthy:

  1. Customer experience (CX) team
  2. User interface (UI) design team
  3. Sales
  4. Marketing
  5. Outreach
  6. Branding
  7. Tech
  8. Product
  9. Client success

Now, I hear you saying: “Wait a second. That seems like … almost every single team in my company?”

There’s a reason for that.

Customer advocacy requires input from every department that has a stake in the customer journey.

That brings us to one key takeaway out of the gate:

Your customer advocacy program should include at least one representative of each outward-facing department within your company.

Why does this matter?

Let’s look at an example.

If the customer advocacy member of your marketing department gets a wealth of complaints that their email campaigns are too hard to follow, they’ll be tempted to change the way those emails are designed.

But if there’s not a member of the branding team getting feedback as well, there’ll be no one to help guide the marketing campaign adjustments, and you run the risk of upsetting customers even more.

These team members will need to collaborate and combine all feedback from your customers and leads. From there, they can meet to discuss major trends and themes and then develop strategies for shifts in policy and goals.

3 qualities of a strong customer advocate

If you can’t afford to hire a specific customer advocate, then you should assign their duties to current employees.

To do that, you need to identify who within your existing teams makes for the best customer advocates.

How do you do that? Start by looking for these three qualities:

  1. A history of caring about your customers
  2. Innovative idea generation
  3. Influential among their peers
Why does this matter?

If a member of your sales team who cares deeply about your customers and comes up with great ideas is often unheard or not taken seriously by their peers, it will be challenging for them to help enact any lasting change that could be instrumental to your company’s success.

It’s important to make sure that the people you find with these qualities have enough bandwidth to join your customer advocacy program. Otherwise, you risk pushing your employees toward burnout.

For more information on avoiding employee burnout, check out this series of articles by Brian Westfall:

Why employees stay
Why employees quit

Build a customer advocacy program centered around listening to the customer

Once you’ve gathered your team, it’s time to flesh out what your customer advocacy program will actually look like.

To start, you have to orient your customer advocacy team (CAT) toward the voice of your customer.

Team members must be trained to observe and analyze customer needs, expectations, successes, and frustrations or desires with your product. This will make your CAT more purr-suasive later down the line.

Use surveys to collect customer data

Surveys aren’t the only way to collect customer reviews, nor should you think as much.

However, surveys are a simple and effective way to ensure that the data you collect is consistent and thorough and gives customers a chance to voice their positive and negative feedback.

According to a recent Gartner survey, 84.5% of respondents had a positive view of companies that surveyed them.

Out of 1,520 customers, almost 1,300 say they have a positive view of companies that solicit feedback

While that’s great news, don’t get too far ahead of things. Just because your customers like being surveyed doesn’t mean any old survey will do.

You need top-of-the-line surveys. You need surveys that make customers feel heard and that touch on very specific points.

Your CAT also needs to know what data they’re looking to collect—something they, as a team, should decide.

Here’s a quick list of just some of the data they need to design questions around:

  • Net promoter score
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Ease-of-use of your product
  • Customer attrition rate
  • Invoice accuracy rate
  • Demographic data
  • Gross retention rate
  • Customer engagement
  • Percentage of unresolved problems

By using surveys to collect data and feedback, you’re establishing a concrete methodology. It eliminates the risk of having an incomplete picture of how your customers actually feel.

Having a concrete methodology also ensures that your CAT collects every piece of information from every source, every time.

Why does this matter?

If you allow your CAT to gather feedback in an ad hoc manner, it’ll be much harder to notice trends. It’ll prevent your company from truly understanding the people buying your product, and without that, you won’t be able to nurture leads.

Ad hoc feedback muddles the voice of the customer and leaves your CAT with no sense of direction.

All of the information that you gather through surveys will help you build out personas and find trends within groups of customers.

However, you have to make sure that survey questions are packaged correctly to avoid alienating your customers. They shouldn’t just collect data in the form of preset responses. Be sure that your surveys include the option for free-form thought that your CATs can unravel and analyze.

As part of your CAT program, have your customer advocates write a survey that treats customer data as if it were part of a conversation. This makes it significantly more engaging and feels more personal.

Surveys are part of the customer journey (lodged right between post-funnel and pre-funnel) and should be treated as such.

Use customer advocacy programs to build your strategies moving forward

And where does all of this information go?

You have to make changes and adjustments to your company, of course. After all, according to Qualtrics, $83 million in revenue is lost each year to poor customer experience.

How can your SMB avoid losing all that money?

Easy: listen to your customers.

By going through the reviews and surveys, your customer advocates and your CAT will be able to ideate strategies for both their individual teams and your company as a whole.

Why does this matter?

Your CAT member from your design team is getting feedback that the site map is too complicated and difficult to navigate, while the CAT member on your client success team is hearing that people are considering another vendor because they don’t think you offer services or features that you definitely do offer.

Your CAT can coordinate this information, and come up with the best possible strategies to help customers find the information they need by redesigning your website and the way features are laid out.

Putting your key takeaways together

In the end, you’ll have a customer advocacy program that looks something like this:

If you can’t afford to hire a separate customer advocate, you must bring together a customer advocacy team from every pertinent department. They won’t just listen to the voice of the customer but will actively solicit it and help develop strategies based on it.

Your success—and your clients’—depends on it, and while it requires an investment on your part, you’re ultimately improving your customer retention and your efforts will yield a strong ROI.

The post Building Customer Advocacy Programs Through Surveys appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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Good afternoon, sports fans!

It’s time, once again, for the ultimate of ultimates, the holy grail of business competition: the fifth annual Gartner Digital Markets Reviews Madness Tournament!

The NCAA tournament ain’t got nothin’ on what we have in store for you.

We’re talking six brutal rounds of reviews collections. Sixty-four competitors enter, but only one can be crowned Reviews Madness Champion.

How to get in on the action

You’ve got until Sunday, March 17 to enter the 2019 Reviews Madness Tournament. From there, we’ll select 64 contenders (out of everyone that registers) for a shot at eternal glory.

Contender selection and seeding is based on your Gartner Digital Markets Reviews (GDMR) score, which we calculate using the below formula:

Total number of reviews x Average reviews rating = GDMR score

Those reviews are pulled from across all Digital Markets sites (Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice).

Here’s a look ahead at this year’s tournament schedule

  • Round 1—64 competitors: March 19 – 24
  • Round 2—32 competitors: March 25 – 28
  • Round 3—Sweet 16: March 29 – April 3
  • Round 4—Elite 8: April 4 – 9
  • Round 5—Final 4: April 10 – 14
  • Round 6—Championship: April 15 – 17
  • Winner announced: April 18

Each round, one competitor will face off against another. The participant who collects the most new, confirmed reviews during that round (time period) moves on to the next.

At the start of each round, we set the reviews tally back to zero for all participants.

For this tournament, only reviews submitted through the vendor’s own efforts will qualify, so there’s no cheating and using our Reviews as a Service (RaaS) to become champion (although it’s an invaluable resource outside of the tournament).

How can you set your business up for success?

Look back at the GDMR formula; how do you think you currently fare?

Check out this benchmarking guide to give you a leg up, and then go collect more reviews so you can make it into the bracket.

Not only will this help ensure you get to participate, but it’s a good warmup to loosen your review-collecting muscles.

As the rounds go on, you’ll want to focus on new channels to reach your clients. This will drive new reviews to your portal and drive you straight to the championship.

To make it easier on yourself, share a direct link to your Gartner Digital Markets review form (which you can find in the reviews tab of your vendor portal account).

Tell your clients a bit more about the competition (including your company’s current standing), and make your clients feel like they’re part of your team.

But what are the best ways to reach your audience and collect feedback? Let’s take a look at four effective reviews collection methods.

4 effective reviews collection methods to land you at the head of the pack 1. Email campaigns targeting specific customers

Reviews are essential to gaining new leads and moving those leads through the sales funnel more quickly.

A recent Gartner survey found that leads who looked at reviews during the awareness stage moved through the funnel two weeks faster than those who didn’t. Customer reviews are also the first source of information during the research stage for 19% of all U.S.-based small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

Email is a proven easy and effective means of recruiting new reviews. Launch an email campaign for customers who have purchased your software within the past few years. Their opinion is the most relevant, and the most similar to your current leads.

Be sure to include the following components in your email:

  • Personalization
  • A “thank you for being a customer” message
  • An explanation of Reviews Madness
  • A CTA that asks for their help
  • A link to your Gartner Digital Markets review form
 PRO TIP:  Consider building a targeted list of customers for each round. This will ensure that you don’t burn through all of your contacts too early, and that none fall through the cracks.
2. Social media promotion

The internet is a vast place, filled to the brim with any number of social media platforms.

So use them!

As the competition progresses, change your messages and timing across every possible social channel to make sure you’re reaching all of your clients.

Eighty percent of the time, you’re reaching your customers on their phones. Using different social media platforms will help you reach folks who are conducting business on the go—an entire subset of clients who wouldn’t normally respond to a reviews request they get in their email.

Use social media to promote your placement in the tournament, provide frequent updates to generate excitement, and let your clients know when you make it to the next round and need their help!

3. Host a contest or special promotion

Treat this contest like an onion by adding layers with a contest of your own.

A special promotion or contest can help generate excitement and urgency among your customers. Consider giving away things like company swag or a gift card to incentivize reviews.

You can also host a competition within your organization where you award some sort of prize to whichever members of your customer-facing teams collect the most new reviews.

4. Reach out to your brand advocates

Brand advocates can be hugely helpful to your company.

This is especially true when you’re in a contest that’s all about generating buzz and reviews. Brand ambassadors reach approximately 150 people for every social media post they make.

Between their reach and your own online community of advocates, this is a great way to recruit both reviews and new leads.

If you’ve got a brand advocacy program in place, you should have a list of people who are brand loyal but not vocal advocates. You can ask them—while following up on a client success call—to leave a review and/or post about your contest.

Don’t forget to do your homework

Before the tipoff at the start of competition, dive into the many resources available on our blog, covering everything from what you can do with reviews to the benefits of reviews, and best practices on collecting them.

We’ll also be posting two new articles about reviews to help you out in the coming month, so stay tuned!

Let the games begin!

Watch the clock, because the countdown is on.

The first round of Gartner Digital Markets’ 5th Annual Review Madness Tournament starts March 19.

The post Reviews Madness 2019 Playbook: Claim the Title of Software Reviews Champion appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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While working a Tony Robbins speaking event in my youth, I noticed that a lot of the people selling tickets to more workshops and classes all wore shirts that read “Volunteer” in glittering gold on the back.

I asked one of them why she was volunteering when she could be making off like the minimum-wage bandit standing before her. Her response? She was such a fan of the speaking series that she volunteered to help out and sell tickets whenever it was in the area.

Robbins had created a culture of devoted fans who helped market his product for free. He had built a brand advocacy program, a cost-effective marketing strategy that only cost him a catering spread of ham sandwiches and a bulk order of glittery t-shirts.

Why your next marketing move should be building a brand advocacy program

Brand advocacy programs aren’t just for the motivational orator. They can be vital to the success of businesses, especially those with limited finances.

Most small to midsize businesses (SMBs) lack the resources to either pay for chatbots or to employ a large client success team. An absence of either can result in lost leads and lost sales.

The cost-effective alternative to chatbots and client success teams? Brand advocacy programs, which are easy to build and can provide a baseline of customer support without adding to an SMB’s bottom line.

So, if you’re looking to keep your overhead minimal while still generating a stronger following among clients and leads, read on to learn what brand advocacy programs are, how they work, and how they can help you.

The 4 types of brand advocate


Put simply: A brand advocate is someone who loves your product so much that they act as a public voice in favor of your company.

In this article, we’ll focus on four types of customer-based advocates:

  1. Loyal consumers are individuals who will buy anything you sell because they like your company so much. The catch: They might not advocate for you publicly.
  2. Brand advocates like your company and your products, so they’ll talk you up to anyone who will listen. The catch: They might not actually use your products.
  3. Brand ambassadors are the holy grail of brand advocacy. They use your products and like them so much that they’ll recommend your company to friends, loved ones, and their pets.
  4. Negative advocates don’t just dislike your product, but they actively push people to avoid using it. Sometimes, your brand ambassadors and advocates can act as negative advocates for your competitors.

All four advocate types are powerful allies in helping your company reach its goals.

How brand advocacy can benefit your company, regardless of goals

Your company’s goals are specific and prone to change based on any number of factors. Brand advocacy programs, however, are a universal solution to helping you reach those goals.

Let’s take a look at five common business goals and see how brand advocacy programs can help:

Goal 1: Increase visibility

Brand ambassadors usually operate on social media, where they’re twice as likely to share information about your company than non-advocates.

In fact, according to digital marketing service Marketing Charts, a brand ambassador will reach an average of 150 people every time they discuss your company. If you have five advocates, that’s 650 new people reading about your products.

You can’t buy that type of publicity, which brings us to:

Goal 2: Maintain a positive ROI

Brand advocacy programs are low cost. They garner a lot of attention for your company and its products through channels that you don’t have to spend money on.

Outside of incentivizing your ambassadors (more on this in a bit) and paying for advocacy software to help monitor your program’s success, there’s almost no overhead.

Goal 3: Generate leads

According to a 2018 Gartner survey, 27% of SMBs rely on social media as their first source of information on software purchases.*

This means that if your brand advocates are active, the increased visibility and positive buzz they generate will give you a head start on bringing more than a quarter of all software buyers into your sales funnel.

Goal 4: Increase productivity

With brand advocates doing a large chunk of public outreach, generating organic search results, and creating demand, your marketing team can dedicate more time to innovative projects and reaching more channels.

Since 80% of marketers feel overworked, this relief to their schedules can be a major asset.

Goal 5: Nurture clients

By transforming clients into brand advocates, they will feel more like your partners. They’ll feel as though they’re a part of your process and a valued member of your community.

This is a great way to collect feedback, get to know your client base even better, and make them feel valued.

The key ingredients to creating your own brand advocacy program

To make sure your brand advocacy program is effective, you need to follow a few broad guidelines.

Establish your program KPIs

Before anything else, develop some tangible key performance indicators (KPIs). These can be something as simple as “increase social media following,” which is both easily measured and clearly linked to your advocacy program.

Be sure that your KPIs are directly tied to brand advocacy. You don’t want to set yourself, your team, or your program up for failure.

Here’s an example. A bad KPI in this situation would be “increase sales.” There are a number of factors that go into increasing sales besides social media presence, and attributing it all to your brand advocacy program as opposed to the many contributing factors is both reductive and a harmful way of thinking for your team, and your company.

Identify your target audience

Next, you need to figure out who exactly your target audience is with this endeavor. What social media channels do they frequent? Who are they listening to?

Answering both of these questions is incredibly important when it comes to finding advocates, as you want to throw your weight behind vocal advocates in the most effective channels and demographics for your product.

Select the top candidates for brand advocacy

But how do you find these advocates?

You have to monitor social media activity and mentions to find people who are either brand advocates or brand loyal. You can do this with customer relationship management software or social listening tools.

Make sure these potential ambassadors are professional, clear communicators, and already have a large social media following.

Once you’ve vetted them, start your new relationship by following them on social media and engaging with their content.

Transform advocates and brand loyal consumers into ambassadors

Brand loyal consumers are great resources on their own, but can do even more work for your marketing as brand ambassadors.

If your company begins supporting a cause or charitable organization, it gives them social incentives to align themselves with your values and publicly support your company.

People naturally want to share things online; it gives them a sense of fulfillment and self-definition, and improves their perception of their relationships.

In order to convert brand advocates into brand ambassadors, you need to understand their pain points. Figure out why they like your product enough to discuss it but not enough to use it themselves.

By bringing them into the conversation, you can nurture that lead and increase your chance at converting them.

When you work through this process, you can build a successful brand advocacy program that serves your needs and the needs of your clients.

Incentivize your ambassadors

Start rewarding people for contributing to conversations. This can take many forms, ranging from sending them company swag or offering discounts on new products to simply giving them a public shoutout on your own social media profiles.

Done well, these incentives eventually lead to this:

The mutually beneficial nature of brand advocacy programs (Source)

2 other types of brand advocates

Beyond the world of social media, there are two other ways that you, as an SMB, can create brand ambassadors.

 THE FIRST IS THROUGH EMPLOYEE ADVOCATES:  Employee advocacy is when your own workers are so enamored with your company and its products that they become outspoken voices in your favor.

These employees can be an invaluable resource; according to global communications marketing firm Edelman, 52% of consumers see employees as credible sources of information about a business.

 THE SECOND IS UNIQUE TO B2B BRAND AMBASSADORS:  If you sell your product to a particular company, and one of their employees moves to another company, they can become brand advocates for you at that particular organization.

These are harder to attract and recruit, so the best hope you have of accessing them is through aggressive client nurturing. That way, if they do leave their current place of employment, they move on with a strong impression of your product.

Regardless of where you procure your brand ambassadors, though, it’s important to keep them involved, keep them incentivized, and keep them engaged.

With those caveats in mind, you have a low-maintenance and low-cost way to generate excitement and information about your company and your product.

*Results presented are based on a Gartner study to understand the software buying behaviors of small and midsize business owners over the past 12 months. The primary research was conducted online from July to August 2018 among 420 respondents in the United States, Germany, and France.

Companies were screened for number of employees and revenue in 2017 fiscal year to arrive at Small and Midsize Businesses. They were also required to have purchased at least one software for USD 5,000 or more, in the immediate past 12 months. Respondents were required to be at least office managers, influencing software purchase decisions in their organizations.

The study was developed collaboratively by Gartner Analysts and the Primary Research Team that follow Digital Markets.

Disclaimer: Results do not represent “global” findings or the market as a whole but reflect the sentiment of the respondents and companies surveyed.

The post Brand Advocacy Programs: The Secret Weapon of the Burgeoning Small Business appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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This post is originally from 2015 but has been updated to reflect the most accurate and up-to-date methodology for the Top 20 series.

In 2012, Capterra launched our “Top 20 Most Popular Software” series, our best attempt at recognizing the leaders in every major software sector.

And by leaders, we don’t mean the software companies with the “best” or most cutting-edge products—those adjectives are pretty subjective. By market leaders, we mean the most widely adopted solutions.

Since 2012, we’ve expanded our “Top 20 Most Popular” infographics to almost 50 software sectors, and we’ve extended our Top 20 report series to “Top 20 Most User-Friendly” and “Top 20 Most Affordable” reports.

We’ve also gotten many questions on our research—most of them from the software vendors we reach out to for inclusion—related to how and why we rank these software solutions in the first place.

This post attempts to answer some of our most frequently asked questions about Capterra’s “Top 20 Most Popular” infographics specifically. For more condensed information about all three of our report types, please see Capterra’s Top 20 Reports FAQs.

The goal of the ‘Top 20 Most Popular’ series

Our goal was to come up with a metric that is completely objective and will help anyone who wants to know which software players in a given sector are the most popular.

Why? Because software buyers want to know, and one of our core values is to be “ridiculously helpful,”—to provide the data that software buyers need to make an informed decision.

It doesn’t mean they intend to buy the most popular product; identifying the major players is merely a natural first step for many people when making a major purchase decision.

How Capterra ranks software solutions

We’ve developed a custom popularity index that we use to rank the solutions in each market. The algorithm factors in the following components to develop a popularity score for each solution:

Capterra’s software popularity index
  • Number of customers: Unique organizations that license the software.
  • Number of active users: Individuals at those organizations who actively use the software.
  • Social presence: Twitter followers, Facebook likes, LinkedIn followers, and number of customer reviews on Gartner Digital Markets sites (Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice).

Number of customers and users each account for 40% of the score, while social indicators account for 20%.

Frequently asked questions Why not just run a market share report?

Why not simply identify all the players in a space and rank them by revenue?

Most software companies are privately held, and privately held companies aren’t required to publicly report their revenue. Even if a company does share its revenue, they often don’t break it down by product line.

However, the most important reason we don’t include revenue in our calculation is that not all software products are priced equally.

Even though two competing software products may have identical revenue, one may have a much larger presence in the market than the other if its price point is lower. Therefore, including revenue in our calculation would unfairly give more weight to more expensive products.

Software buyers are asking for information on popularity and adoption, not the software company that makes the most money. That’s the report we want to give them.

So why not just use number of customers? In the business software space, not all customers are created equally. A customer with thousands of users has greater adoption than one with just dozens.

Focusing just on users would have a similar problem. A higher customer count is synonymous with higher adoption, but only if the total number of users is the same. Taking both customer and user numbers into account seems to easily solve this problem.

What constitutes an active user? Do free users count?

We do allow software companies to include free accounts in their user numbers, except for temporary or free trial customers. Free software, including both ad-supported and open-source software—though currently a tiny part of the market—is a real phenomenon. It deserves to be included in the sectors where it exists.

And it gets more complicated than “free.” For example, while we stress that we want active users as opposed to every user that has ever used your software, what counts as active? When is the last time they would have had to have logged in? Monthly? Quarterly?

We’ve found it reasonable to consider any activity within the past year as an active account.

What if a company doesn’t share their customer or user numbers publicly?

Like revenue, many companies consider customer and user counts to be private data. But we’ve found that a growing number of software companies do share these numbers, highlighting them on their website, in press releases or blog posts, or with industry analysts or journalists.

For those companies that don’t release their customer and user numbers publicly for whatever reason, we are happy to either accept estimates or generate estimates for these numbers ourselves. If a company opts for the latter, we then contact the company to let them know our estimates and give them a chance to alter or accept them. All estimates are marked as Capterra-generated estimates on each category’s associated “Top 20 Most Popular” blog post.

How do you know software companies aren’t exaggerating their numbers?

We ask clarifying questions when we receive reported numbers to ensure that each company is measuring them in a consistent way. We also push back on any numbers that seem to be outliers or unrealistic.

That said, when a software company provides an estimate, we take them at their word. We believe that the open nature of the report—the fact that the entire world, including all the analysts and competitors who are positioned to make educated guesses, will see the numbers they’ve provided—will act as a check on people’s consciences and encourage them to provide estimates that are based in reality.

Why do you include social media numbers as part of your ranking?

We almost completed the popularity algorithm after the customer and user number inputs, but in our research, we noticed another trend. The faster-growing software vendors typically invest heavily in engagement with online communities.

This dialogue takes place in a variety of places: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

In addition to followers on those networks, we added in software user reviews from all three Gartner Digital Markets sites (Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice).

We believe the vendors that engage with influencers in their industry (customers, prospects, analysts, bloggers, journalists, even other vendors) position themselves to achieve a greater voice and authority within their sector.

It is also worth noting that the indicators that comprise the social component are not fixed. As different platforms for software-related dialogue start up and die off, Capterra continuously analyzes which ones are the most active and are worthy of inclusion.

And, if you’re still not convinced social voice has an impact on market share, keep in mind that this component is given half the weight of the other two factors. Regardless of how socially engaged a vendor is, active customers and users are the primary drivers in the “Top 20 Most Popular” report series.

Have we answered all your questions?

We hope this post has been able to clarify the reasoning behind our “Top 20 Most Popular” infographic series and answer your questions. As we continue to expand this series going forward, we welcome and encourage you to reach out with any questions, concerns, thoughts, or comments.

We’re always happy to chat and would love ideas on how to make these rankings more useful and reflective of each specific industry.

The post Why Does Capterra Rank the Top 20 Most Popular Software? appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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Counting chickens before they hatch—like putting on Superman’s cape, spitting in the wind, or whatever the opposite of Nike is—you just don’t do it.

This is never more true than in business. Rather than base your business decisions on what might happen, base them on what’s happening now.

As you grow your company, it’s not enough to know what software various industries are interested in.

It’s more important to know what software they’re actually budgeting for.

Trust but verify your leads’ interest

Gartner Digital Markets surveyed French and German small to midsize businesses (SMBs) about their planned tech budgets for 2019. What we found can help you and your business understand both where the money is right now and where the money will be in a few years.

Let’s take a look at what types of software these surveyed French and German SMBs are currently using, which ones they plan on using, and what they’ve actually budgeted for. This data shows what you can expect in terms of market saturation and how much stock you can put in your leads’ proclaimed interests.

Selling established software to new and old clients in France Interesting software types don’t open wallets in France

This graph compares what software French SMBs claim they are planning to use with what they have an established budget for.

(Figure 1)

One important thing to note is that this doesn’t include every software type surveyed—simply the top ten based on intended use in the next two years.

That’s why there’s a large number of emergent technologies on this list, including virtual and augmented reality and the internet of things.

There’s a lot of interest among French SMBs in the potential these emergent technologies have. The big unknown of how they can help different types of businesses and industries generates a lot of excitement. But when you look at the budget numbers in this graph, you find that the most frequently budgeted for technology is cloud computing.

This is a much more established software type and, in fact, is the only type on this graph that shows a higher rate of budgeting than planned use in the next two years.

But wait, you say. How can that be?

Factor in current users who might want to expand

The group of respondents who claimed to be interested in using various software types in the next one to two years excludes those who are currently using the software.

Some of the 37% of French SMBs budgeting for cloud computing software already use it and are simply budgeting for new purchases or switching vendors in the next one to two years.

What this means for you is that your current users might be interested in expanding their operations. It also means there might be competitors’ clients out there who are looking to become your leads.

The flip side of this? If your product can’t scale with your clients, you’re more likely to lose them to someone else.

So what can you do to expand your leads while preventing the loss of any clients of your own?
  1. Nurture your current clients with aplomb
  2. Ensure your software can meet demands for expansion
  3. Revisit leads that fell through the funnel
The deceptiveness of this graph

I have to come clean about something though: That graph is lying to you. Okay, maybe not lying but at least not telling the whole story.

Figure 1 shows the top ten software types that have the most expressed interest for the next two years.

But what happens when we shift the graph to focus on the top ten software types that are actually budgeted for?

(Figure 2)

Now we see a wide array of new software types that are more established, such as HR software and digital marketing.

Though there are a few more emergent technologies here, the software types with the highest rate of future budgeting are the ones with a strong track record of success.

In Figure 1, there is only one case in which the budgeting outstrips the planned use. Figure 2, on the other hand, shows that in France, SMBs are more likely to budget for more pervasive software types than they are for hip new tech.

3 things to do with your French connection

Before we move on to talk about Germany, let’s take a second to review three main takeaways for your French marketing campaigns:

  1. Don’t trust the buzz around emergent tech: Plan for a longer marketing campaign before you start seeing profits.
  2. Make sure your older software—e.g., finance/accounting, project management—has high degrees of scalability or you might lose customers.
  3. Target your marketing toward current clients and lost leads who are looking to expand.
Understanding the lack of correlation in interest and action in Germany

(Figure 3)

German SMBs show equal interest in new tech (such as blockchain and VR / AR) and older software types (think app integration and customer relationship management).

There is a noted difference in German budgets for older versus new software, but it isn’t necessarily consistent, which makes it difficult to determine a pattern.

What that does tell us, though, is that interest in emergent technology is more likely to have a solid financial foundation, given the lack of correlation.

German SMBs are more willing to actually invest in the technology that interests them, so if you’re exploring expanding your cutting edge software internationally, Germany is a stronger bet than France.

Let’s look at the inverse graph, though, to see if there’s any new information to be learned.

(Figure 4)

One thing that becomes instantly apparent is the gap between those planning on implementing certain technologies (most notably data and information security) and those actually budgeting for it.

This is partially because so many German SMBs already use data and information security (74%); there aren’t many companies left that haven’t invested in it yet.

However, that highlights questions around the difference between the rate of budgeting and the rate of use. Why are only 35% of companies budgeting for data and information security software if 88% expect to be using it by 2020?

The answer lies in the fact that many German SMBs hadn’t set their budgets for 2019 or 2020 at the time of our survey. So, while they could be intending to use the software, they might not have it all planned out yet.

In fact, 60% of surveyed German SMBs responded that they settle on their budget during the selection process, which can take about one year to reach from the top of the sales funnel.

German companies are slower to settle on their budgets, which means that you should put more stock in those that are currently using certain software and those that express an interest, as opposed to those who have set aside specific budgets.

Comparing the lessons from France and Germany

When you’re preparing to pursue leads in France and Germany, you might be tempted to assume that simply because SMBs have said they’re interested in your product, they’ll be easily converted.

Don’t fall into that trap. Our survey data shows that interest doesn’t always correlate with action.

 IN FRANCE:  Target your marketing toward businesses with more explicit budgets, whether they’re planning on or currently using your software type.

 IN GERMANY:  Focus more on those that have expressed interest rather than budgets, as many haven’t yet established their budgets. Germany is also a stronger marketplace for emerging technologies.

Additional resources on international expansion

As you prepare your business to expand into more territories, it’s important to learn as much as possible.

We’ve rounded up some additional resources to get you started:

The post Understanding Consumer Behavior: Interest vs. Action in France and Germany appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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Way back in 2017, I taught English in Israel to a gaggle of elementary and middle school students.

These kids struggled for weeks with the word “night” but were more than familiar with “night vision goggles.” The common roots were lost on them, and the latter was somehow more commonplace in their minds.

I walked away from this experience with the understanding that language is strange and confusing and that the things that matter to a specific country go beyond the linguistic and into the cultural.

This is important to keep in mind if you’re planning to launch an international pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to generate more leads abroad.

Without clear knowledge of the nuance of local languages, cultures, and business practices, it can be a struggle for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) to know whether or not they’re optimizing their international PPC bids.

When I talk about optimizing bids, on a surface level I’m talking about getting the most bang for your buck.

But let’s take a deep dive into what that really entails, because the specifics go far beyond the fiscal.

Nuance is the key to quality clicks when it comes to translation

Sit back and think of a carbonated drink.

Depending on where you’re from, you might have thought “pop” or “soda” or even “Coke” (looking at you, Atlanta). This is an example of localization: how linguistic specifics vary by region.

Localization matters because if you’re advertising in a specific region but using the wrong term, it’ll alienate you from your leads.

4 ways to address localization concerns

  1. Translation software. These systems can range from cheap to costly, and the efficacy of what they can do varies accordingly. If you have little capital, you can opt for a cheaper system, but the text will most likely not be localized.
  2. Translation services. Though more costly than translation software, this option lets you actively communicate with translators to adjust your content until it’s where you want it to be.
  3. Partner with local marketing companies. This carries all the benefits of translation services but can be more cost effective and brings insight into marketing in specific regions. It’s worth nothing, however, that you might not be able to communicate with potential partners effectively because of language barriers and timezone differences. Also, certain marketing companies might want to be your sole partner for an entire country, rendering your localization ineffective.
  4. Hire PPC managers. This is the costliest but ultimately most effective of these four options. Not only is it these managers’ job to know the local language, it’s also their job to know how to effectively market in the regions you’re targeting. They streamline this entire process, but they do eat into your profits.
Ensure high-quality clicks with longtail keywords

Longtail keywords are the holy grail of SEO and PPC campaigns. They’re three to four words long and specific enough that, though they generate less traffic, it’s higher-quality traffic.

Higher-quality traffic brings leads who are more likely to click through to your ads and become eventual customers, as their queries are more closely aligned with your product.

That means that you have to nail your client’s search intent, which in a foreign language can be really challenging. The four translation options listed above can help, but if none of those work for you or your business, you’re not out of luck!

5 tricks to helP you identify your most relevant longtail keywords

  1. Take a look at your local competition. How is their product used? How are they seen? What exactly do their clients use their software as a solution for?
  2. Study your competition’s marketing campaigns. How do they sell themselves? How do their customers find them?
  3. Analyze click frequency for various longtail keywords to see which are the most selected in specific fields.
  4. Use query reports once you’ve started experimenting with your text to see both your negative keywords and what possible searches led people to click on your ad.
  5. Be aware of character limits in foreign languages, especially ones that use other alphabets.
Think beyond the link

Getting leads to click on your link is only half the battle in a PPC campaign. You also have to make the appropriate adjustments to your landing page and your calls to action (CTAs).

As much attention as you paid to the copy of your ad itself, you must also apply to the content on your landing page.

Images maintain a universal appeal across language barriers but can seriously hinder your loading time. According to MachMetrics, 53% of users will click away if a landing page takes longer than three seconds to load.

CTAs are particularly tricky, as it’s hard to determine what information particular regions are comfortable providing. This, however, is less of a translation issue and more of a cultural one.

Embrace the cultural zeitgeist when developing your PPC campaign

Here is where things get a little less literal (and literary). To effectively market, you have to know who you’re marketing to, what matters to them, and how other products are marketed.

“[L]anguage goes beyond the words—it’s about culture,” according to Lazhar Ichir, CEO of tropicseed.com, a digital marketing and brand management platform.

Ichir expanded his company into both Spain and Germany and initially attempted to translate the same copy into both using low-cost translation software. When that didn’t work, he changed tactics:

“German ads performed better with a more imperative copy while Spanish ads did well with exclamations and expletives.”

This is where international buyer personas can come in handy.

These personas can include information such as “who typically makes the business decisions” and “when are typical working hours,” as well as “do they make business decisions on websites or on mobile sites?”

Personas can inform how you direct your marketing, what blocks of time you focus on placing your heavier bids for different keywords, and how you design your landing page.

How does advertising and branding work in your target country?

There are two important components to this question: how marketing typically functions in your target country, and how your brand is perceived there.

For the former, bear in mind the numerous PPC channels that are used in this country. Not every nation ranks Google Adwords at the number one spot.

This is something that a PPC manager and local marketing teams can help you with.

It’s also incredibly important to adapt your marketing strategy toward both what works in that country and what matters to the people in that country.

Here’s a real world example: Sony took the superhero movie Venom, billed as an action film in the United States, and marketed it as a romantic comedy in China.

A far cry from American advertisements (Source)

The result? An opening weekend in China of $111 million, and an overall box office of over $850 million, making it one of the most profitable movies of 2018.

The lesson here is to study the marketing and cultural trends of the country you want to launch your campaign in to have the most effective copy possible.

PPC is used as a means of generating growth rather than establishing a presence, so presumably you already have some sort of presence established in the country you are targeting.

This means that the query reports mentioned earlier can provide a strong understanding of who your potential customers see you as and what they associate with your product and brand. From there, you can either lean into this perception or act against it with your PPC campaign.

Pay attention to how much you’re spending, but don’t let budget stop you

I’ve already written about using a flexible budget with your PPC campaigns. This can be even more important when focusing on bid optimization for an international PPC campaign.

Lazhar Ichir came to his realization about different buyer personalities in Spain and Germany after testing out different types of keywords. He used a flexible budget to ensure the freedom to play around, and it paid off.

Ichir and TropicSeed began by:

“Testing several creatives and copies and remov[ing] underperforming ones. On Facebook and other obvious social networks […] we increased the CTR by ~25% using the domestic language. And then, after changing the copy multiple times to fit the local culture and energy, it was an additional 15%.”

The lesson here? Be prepared to spend a little more as you hone in on your best keywords and copy.

As a final note, be sure to pay attention to the fluctuations in the exchange rate between your native currency and that of your product’s new home. Otherwise, your bids will be either too big or too small, neither of which is a good place to be if you want to succeed.

The post Bid Optimization for International PPC: Tips for the Enterprising Software Vendor appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that nobody actually wants to spend money. The key to having a successful business is convincing them otherwise.

To do that, you have to make a concerted effort to know the major obstacles keeping small and midsize businesses (SMBs) from making purchases and how best to address them.

The kicker? Those solutions vary depending on the country you’re marketing toward.

What we talk about when we talk about hurdles

In 2018, Gartner Digital Markets surveyed 420 U.S., German, and French SMBs to better understand their buying behavior.

Though the barriers to software purchases were consistent among companies within all three countries (see Figure 1), their purchasing behavior varied drastically.

In this article, I’ll go through how you can more effectively address SMBs’ concerns in each country we surveyed.

Figure 1: The list of most referenced barriers to investing in any software across the U.S., Germany, and France.

We can separate these obstacles into three primary categories:

  1. Displeasure with their financial situation
  2. Displeasure with the available options for software solutions
  3. Displeasure within their company

Not only do these primary categories fit thematically, they also fit together in terms of top-level steps you can take to address each one.

Within those larger steps, I’ll break down each type of hurdle and focus on location-specific means of countering each obstacle.

By engaging with both the top-level and more granular responses to your leads’ hurdles, you’ll develop a more thorough marketing campaign that can simplify your sales process.

Let’s get started.

Address fiscal concerns with free demonstrations and freemium models

Everyone, regardless of nationality, responds to free things. If you offer SMBs a free demonstration, they can gain a stronger understanding of what your product can do and even become reliant on it.

You can also utilize a freemium model (although for smaller companies that can’t afford to lose that much potential revenue, this might not be the best option).

However, SMBs that decide on their budget during the selection process (roughly 60% of them) are more likely to pay for additional features.

Free demos aren’t a catch-all solution, so let’s take a look at each of the four financial displeasure barriers individually.

1. Project and solution costs exceeding budget

 U.S.:  Focus your marketing toward experts within each company, as well as their IT teams. Forty-four percent of SMBs use these individuals and staff members to determine their budget, so making your pricing clear to them will help the companies establish their expectations.

Forty-three percent of SMBs in the United States develop their budgets through comparison shopping on reviews sites, so cultivate reviews that talk about your affordability and bang-for-your-buck.

 France:  Make sure your pricing is highlighted in the content you generate, as it’s more important than reviews to French SMBs that are setting their budget.

In fact, 38% of companies in France use content as a barometer when developing their budget as opposed to 34% who use reviews.

 Germany:  Target your marketing toward external IT consultants and service providers; almost half of all German SMBs use such individuals to develop their expected budget.

And, as I’ve discussed before, 85% of SMBs won’t go over their budget.

2. Concerns over return on investment (ROI)

 U.S.:  A negative cost-benefit analysis is tied for the third most important factor in a U.S. SMB’s vendor selection. Collect data on your past successes and proven positive ROI for similarly sized SMBs to prove your value.

This can be doubly helpful, as having a proven track record is the other third most important factor in vendor selection.

 France:  For French SMBs, ROI concerns are the most important factor in software selection. They are also the most likely to purchase additional features so long as they stay under budget. Offering a freemium model is a great way to address this concern.

 Germany:  For German SMBs, ROI is a comparatively less important factor (ranking fifth) when choosing a vendor.

What is important to these businesses? Your technical support capabilities, which are top on their list of concerns. Offering a free demonstration of your product’s capabilities gives you a chance to effectively showcase your support offerings.

3. Business and/or technical risks deemed too high

 U.S.:  Train your sales team on their product knowledge, so they can speak to both business and technical concerns with equal confidence. Having a knowledgeable sales team is seen as crucial to vendor selection by 50% of American SMBs.

 France:  Market your trustworthiness through your vendor content and the reviews on your site. Make sure that your sales team is fully knowledgeable about the industry they’re selling to and can address industry-specific risks and rewards. Forty-five percent of French SMBs value that industry knowledge during selection.

 Germany:  As noted above, technical support is a huge concern for German SMBs. To address this, focus on your responsiveness (important to 56% of SMBs), and make sure your implementation and onboarding methodology is clearly established (important to 46% of SMBs).

4. Lack of budget (e.g., assigned to other projects, budget cuts)

 U.S.:  Sixty-one percent of U.S. businesses disqualify software that isn’t in line with expected prices.

If you have the resources to provide a freemium model, do it. Otherwise, with a free demonstration and flexible rates and payment plans, you can take advantage of American SMBs’ comparative budgetary malleability.

 France:  French SMBs usually set their budgets before evaluating software or providers (50% of the time)—far more frequently than their American and German counterparts. Your marketing content, then, should focus on the high ROI and money-saving mechanisms you have in place.

 Germany:  Only 29% of German SMBs disqualify or drop service providers for aggressive sales tactics, as opposed to 38% in France and 44% in the United States. This means you can take your time and deepen your relationship with your leads, nurturing them until their IT budget is freed up.

Cultivate positive reviews and utilize negative ones to stand out from competition-based hurdles

Reviews can be your best friend in terms of marketing, business strategy, and visibility. They can help you stand out, and highlight different components of your business, whether they’re hosted on your own site, in a directory, or on a reviews-oriented site.

If you utilize account-based marketing (ABM), you can even use targeted reviews to demonstrate your utility to other accounts that fit the same persona.

As we did above, let’s break each of these two obstacles down to how you can address them in each country.

1. Lack of satisfaction with potential software solutions or providers

 U.S.:  Product features and functionalities are the most important component of a software offering once U.S. companies enter the selection stage. Listen to what their concerns and needs are, and develop products based around those as both a business strategy and lead nurturing.

This is a good way for you to work on lead nurturing and an opportunity to offer a demo to show how many pain points your product currently addresses.

 France:  In France, this lack of satisfaction is price-related, regardless of what your product is capable of.

Make sure your different price points are low enough that French businesses see no reason not to invest in your product when it’s so reasonably priced, even if it doesn’t address all of their particular concerns for the time being.

 Germany:  Fifty percent of Germans view trustworthiness as an important factor in software selection, so ensuring that your online presence speaks to your track record of success will set you apart and ameliorate yourself to your leads.

Germans also strongly prefer offline marketing, with 36% of businesses valuing conferences/seminars/webinars.

Taking advantage of those in-person marketing opportunities will give you a level of visibility and trust that allows you to personalize your lead relationships and to prove to them that you can partner together to address all of their concerns (both now and in the future).

2. User reviews of the software

 U.S.:  Reviews websites are the first source of information for 19% of U.S. SMBs. Make sure you have a spread of reviews on an array of sites.

Use those reviews as nurturing opportunities by responding to all negative reviews, and keep both the reviews and your responses visible to showcase your trustworthiness.

 France:  Only about 7% of SMBs in France use online reviews sites as part of their software research. Keep that 7% in the fold by incorporating your reviews into your marketing content.

It’s especially helpful if those reviews highlight both your affordability and the high ROI you offer.

 Germany:  Fifteen percent of German SMBs use online research on sites with user reviews, making it their most important consideration when researching software.

Pay attention to reviews in online directories (important for 29% of SMBs surveyed), and curate the reviews included on your site to highlight your most successful clients as well as a few smaller ones.

Use lead nurturing to help companies navigate their internal obstacles

Internal barriers can be tough codes for you to crack, but there are certain things you can do to help your leads along their customer journey.

The nice thing is that a lot of these solutions apply to all three of the below internal barriers.

Disagreements between business unit and IT, inability to get management approval to move forward, and internal disagreements on how to proceed at the project team level

 U.S.:  Among U.S. small businesses, software purchases are mostly handled by a formal team or business staff. This means that, as appealing as your software might be to the more tech-savvy members of a business, it doesn’t matter if their word isn’t final. Make sure that your advertising targets the more fiscally responsible elements of your product.

 France:  Internal disagreements are less of a concern in France, as 63% of French SMBs have a formal team for business software purchases. Target those teams in your advertising to avoid wasting time by focusing on the wrong teams, and more effectively make the case for your product.

 Germany:  Software purchase decisions are made by a spread of individual business units (such as IT departments) and business leaders. By emphasizing your technical support capabilities and customer service record, you can appeal to both IT teams and business leaders and show how you keep your software—and their business—running smoothly.

A broader look at what you’ve learned

No matter your industry, and no matter the buyer, you will always have hurdles to leap when it comes to converting leads into sales.

The important thing to do is research what those specific hurdles are and what your leads—or current customers with personas like your leads—respond to best.

Once you’ve established what they care about and what you can do to address those concerns, with the right strategy, you can clear those hurdles like limbo bars.

The post SMB SaaS Watch 2019: Overcoming Your Leads’ Hurdles appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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Ahoy, landlubbers!

You hold in your hands the most valuable map known to man: on one side, a drawing of a person; on the other, a giant X.

That’s the treasure, right there. But it’s not buried jewels or gold or even the friends we make along the way—it’s your product!

The thing is, this map isn’t for you (though you’ll definitely find it helpful). It’s for your customers, and it’s your job to fill the rest of it in.

Understanding your customers’ journey is vital if you want to help them actually reach your product.

Since customer journey planning isn’t one-size-fits-all, you need to be thorough and adaptable in your map-making.

By creating buyer-focused customer journey maps that center the customer experience and leave enough room for personalization, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) can increase their conversion rate, nurture their current clients and leads, and develop future business strategies that make that X at the end all the more enticing.
Customer journey maps and the sales funnel: Where do they differ?

Customer journey maps are typically associated with B2C marketing, rather than B2B. Don’t forget, though, that more and more B2B customers are looking for a B2C marketing experience.

Journey mapping is a tool that’s easily converted for the B2B world by focusing your efforts on those making IT decisions for various companies.

One important factor to note here is that while this chart clearly shows the differences between the customer journey and the sales funnel, it also aligns them.

Use the customer journey map to understand your leads and customers better, which—in turn—helps inform your approach to the sales funnel.

Know what matters before you start your customer journey map

Before you begin, there’s one thing you need to know: How you approach your customer journey map creation will greatly impact the end result.

If you come into the process looking to aid specific parts of your business (e.g., your content writers, designers, or your front-end developers), you’ll only be able to see bits of the customer journey, missing out on lots of helpful information along the way.

If you come into the process looking to help your leads and clients rather than yourself, not only will your entire team be aligned, but you can maximize your impact on your company and your clients’ journeys.

Combine quantitative and qualitative information to get a complete picture of your clients

There are two major schools of thought when it comes to gaining insight into your clients.

The first is the data-driven kind, which focuses on quantifiable information such as demographics, conversions, when more purchases are made, and how big your clients actually are.

The second is more personal and focuses on individual client experiences. While this information can be harder to parse, it can provide a strong sense of what your leads and clients went through to wind up at your door. It gives you context.

The key? Use both approaches.

If you just focus on the analytical, you’ll risk misinterpreting the data.

If you focus only on the anecdotal, you won’t be able to accurately predict the reasoning behind any missteps.

By merging these two types of information, you’ll paint a complete picture of your customers’ journeys.

4 ways to collect your client information

There are a few ways you can collect both analytical and anecdotal data to help you with your customer journey planning:

  1. Reviews collection: When you gather feedback from your clients, make sure you collect information on both who they are and their experiences, from finding out they had a problem all the way through selecting your software. Dig deep!
  2. Lead nurturing: As your leads work their way through their customer journey, keep detailed notes on any concerns they raise or obstacles they discuss.
  3. Involve customers in mapping: As you begin to shape your customer journey map, it can be helpful to hear customer voices in the meetings themselves. Get the information directly from the source whenever possible.
  4. Customer experience experts: Though costly, these experts can provide an unbiased third-party view of what your consumers go through, and how you can improve your touch points.
Understand the main steps that your leads go through before they convert

The easiest way to break down the steps your customers take is to borrow the same steps from your sales funnel.

Let’s rename each step from the perspective of your leads to ensure a focus on their actions, rather than yours:

Keep in mind that this map has some exceptionally broad strokes and doesn’t necessarily apply to every one of your leads.

3 ways to personalize your maps

Customer journey maps are only as effective as they are specific. You can’t make a single map and feel like you truly understand every customer’s journey, as everyone won’t follow the same path to get to your product.

Instead of aiming for one-size-fits-all, use these three tips to personalize your maps.

1. Focus on one specific type of customer before proceeding

Make sure that the data you’re using comes from the same general customer type. This lets you make a map that is generally applicable to everyone from that group without mischaracterizing other client groups.

2. Populate the steps with specifics from your research

Broad strokes are a good start, but now it’s time to focus on the specifics.

For every stage, include your client’s goals, the different ways they can and do interact with your company, and what questions they might have.

A personalized customer journey plan, though, should go beyond that. Incorporate the anecdotal data you gathered: What emotions were going through their head at each stage? Where were their frustrations and moments of relief? What helped shape their process and their ultimate decision?

3. Make sure every buyer-facing facet of your company is addressed by the map

While it’s vital to the success of the mapping process that you focus entirely on the customer’s experience, this map is still intended to serve your company.

When you’ve mapped out the gist of the customer’s journey, you should be able to identify every touch point where they interact with your company.

You can then bring each relevant department in on the process to review the customer journey map itself and help fine-tune it.

The final product

What you have now is a map that connects the person at the beginning with the X at the end.

This can look like any number of things, from a simple spreadsheet through something like this:

An infographic containing your customer journey map (Source)

No matter how it’s presented, make sure that your maps clearly lay out all of the information you need, or else you’ll hinder their efficacy.

What to do next: Use your customer journey maps

You’ve just spent a huge chunk of time, energy, and resources to build these maps. Now it’s time to use them.

If you have no idea where to start, see if any of these ideas fit your needs:
  • Use them to impact any of your extant touch points or build new ones.
  • Learn where your customers might be frustrated by your web design or UX.
  • Determine at what point customers want more information during their research or elimination phases, and use that to influence your content.
  • Use your maps to guide new software and services development to address common concerns across differing customer journeys.

The post Customer Journey Planning: Making It Personal in 2019 appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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The year is 2019. The future is now. We’ve heard wind on Mars, dethroned Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the most disliked video on YouTube, and created burgers stuffed with macaroni and cheese.

Your future is now, too. It’s time for you to take your small or midsize business (SMB) across the globe to the European Union. We’ve touched on what’s waiting on the other side of the pond before, but there’s still a lot more to learn.

Many SMBs lack the resources to research the size, scope, and operations of buyers in other countries. For those looking to expand internationally, this can severely hinder the efficacy of their marketing.

By researching the demographic data of French and German SMBs, companies in the United States can better know who they’re marketing to, and how much money is available for them.

That’s why Gartner Digital Markets asked 270 SMBs in France and 270 in Germany, as well as 700 in the United States, about their 2019-20 business software budgets and purchasing intentions (to read more about our methodology, click here).

France and Germany are both fiscally strong countries (ranking third and first, respectively, in the European Union) that have exhibited consistent adoption of myriad technologies. Looking at these countries’ tech budgeting plans can provide a clear picture of the forefront of EU technological interests.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what you can learn from comparing the SMBs in these two countries, which locations might be more receptive to international expansion, and what lessons you can take from your knowledge of American markets with you.

First, are you ready to expand?

Before you decide it’s time to expand, you have to make sure you’re ready. Answer these four questions to see if you are:

  1. Do you have the infrastructure in place to expand?
    If not, focus on adapting your sales, production, and customer service team to meet much higher demand.
  2. Do you have the financial resources in place to expand?
    If not, build your client base stateside. In fact, some of the tips in this article will still apply to you, so keep reading!
  3. Do you have the language skills necessary to expand?
    If not, read about how to start understanding the language and culture of the region you want to expand to.
  4. Do you know how much money is available for you out there in the European Union?
    If not, keep reading!

Where is the money in France, Germany, and the U.S.?

Let’s take a look at the following three graphs. For each of these countries—France, Germany, and the United States—we took the top three most-budgeted-for software types and broke them down by the size of the businesses investing in them in order to look at their rate of investment.


Figure 1: This graph shows the percentage of each U.S. business size surveyed that expressed interest in the various technologies.

Figure 2: France’s largest businesses seem much less likely to invest in popular software types. Read on to see why!

Figure 3: These graphs effectively demonstrate some of the differences between France, Germany, and the United States, as well as international corporate climates.

Why do these software types come out on top?

Data and information security software and cloud computing software both crack the top three in every country that we’re looking at.

Cloud computing—including software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)—has become a de facto means of operation, especially at companies that require large amounts of storage and coordination across several offices in multiple locations.

Pivoting to data and information security software, both France and Germany are members of the European Union, which has incredibly stringent GDPR compliance requirements. Any company that conducts business with a citizen of the European Union must meet these requirements or face hefty fines.

This also means that any U.S. companies that interact with European citizens and businesses must also meet GDPR security requirements. Between trade with the European Union, increasing worries about cybersecurity, and various other security regulations, companies in all three countries would naturally invest heavily in data and information security software.

The United States and Germany both have finance/accounting software rounding out their respective top threes, while France has invested more heavily in customer relations management software.

This is because the United States and Germany both operate under very similar roles in their respective places in the global market: at the forefront of trade, manufacturing, and transportation—all industries in which SMBs need a finance/accounting software suite in order to survive.

Interpreting the difference in rates of investment: 3 lessons 1. Large U.S. companies invest more frequently than French and German ones

Look at the rates of investment in Figures 1-3.

Save for those making less than $5 million per year, U.S.-based SMBs invest more frequently—in some cases almost twice as often—than their European counterparts.

While that does mean that there’s generally more money to be had in the United States for software vendors in the top three categories, don’t take that to mean you shouldn’t look to expand abroad!

Those larger companies have some deep pockets, but that comes with some stiff competition as a plethora of other businesses try to swoop in and make those sales.

2. Smaller businesses are key to selling in France

If you’re interested in selling your software in France, you should target smaller French businesses.

At every turn, France’s businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue outpace U.S. and German companies of similar sizes in terms of their investment rate.

Here’s an example: 44% of French small businesses plan on investing in data and information security software, compared to 36% of SMBs in the United States and 29% in Germany.

France’s accelerating rate of adoption

Let’s look for a second at cloud computing. In France, up to 41% of companies with annual revenue between $50 million and $100 million have budgeted for cloud computing software. In Germany, that number drops to 30%.

One explanation for this difference is that France has begun adopting cloud computing at an accelerated rate (according to Statista, there’s a projected 50% increase in usage from 2015). Even the larger companies, which have been the most reticent to adopting new technologies, are unable to avoid the need for cloud computing.

3. Sell your emergent tech to larger German SMBs

If you’re in emergent technologies such as blockchain, virtual/augmented reality, the internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence, you should be targeting larger German SMBs.

German companies are either currently using or are planning on using emergent software and tech at an incredibly high rate. Companies valued between $10 million and $50 million and those valued at more than $100 million expect to be using IoT tech at rates of 54% and 66%, respectively, in the next two years.

That means that in order to access that massive market (which has very deep pockets), you have to begin your marketing campaigns early in the expansion process to increase your brand awareness.

Because it’s emergent technology, appearing trustworthy and marketing your company as a knowledgeable source of information is crucial for success.

What can you do with all this information?

Depending on how ubiquitous or emerging your tech is, you’ve got to figure out how to scale both your price and production to match your target business size.

Knowing the financial landscape and interest in your targeted country will not only give you a stronger sense of how to market but also of how much you can expect to make and how long creating a stable international business could take.

Technological priorities shift based on both business size and geographic location, so here’s what you’re going to do next:
  • Figure out if you’re ready to expand into Europe.
  • Study how the different countries and their tech needs compare to the United States and its needs
  • See what size businesses in your selected country are more likely to invest.
  • Target your marketing toward those companies with a stronger sense of how much money is out there.

Information on Capterra’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs surveys

Capterra conducted this survey in June and July 2018 among 540 France and German-based SMBs with more than one employee and annual revenue of less than $100 million. The survey excluded nonprofit organizations. The qualified respondents are decision-makers or have significant influence on the decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization.

Capterra conducted this survey in June and July 2018, among 715 U.S.-based SMBs with more than one employee and annual revenue of less than $100 million. The survey excluded nonprofit organizations. The qualified respondents are decision-makers or have significant influence on the decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization.

The post European Expansion: Putting the ‘You’ in EU in 2019 appeared first on Capterra Blog.

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