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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
Study your competition’s marketing campaigns. How do they sell themselves? How do their customers find them?
Analyze click frequency for various longtail keywords to see which are the most selected in specific fields.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
For more information on both international marketing and best practices for PPC campaigns, check out these articles:
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:
Displeasure with their financial situation
Displeasure with the available options for software solutions
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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!
Lead nurturing: As your leads work their way through their customer journey, keep detailed notes on any concerns they raise or obstacles they discuss.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Santa Claus has come and gone, and the New Year is upon us, but here at Capterra, we’re still in a giving mood!
We’ve got some pearls of wisdom about your buyers’ behavior all wrapped up for you.
Children the world over know that Santa’s got himself a list—not just of who’s been bad or good, but also what those children want.
He knows exactly how the kids are behaving, what to expect from them, and what they expect from him. His job (apart from having to work on Dec. 25) is much easier than yours.
Without a clear understanding of buyer behavior—what they want, where they are in the funnel, and what they base their purchase decisions on—your company can fail to seal the deal, leaving you with an empty plate of cookies and a lot of questions.
By better understanding buyer behavior overall, and understanding different behaviors and expectations at each point in the sales funnel, your company can determine how best to generate leads from small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and turn them into customers.
Let’s take a quick moment to review each stage of the sales funnel by walking one of your customers—or, since he’s on his first week off now, the jolly guy with the great beard—through it:
Stages of the sales funnel
Pre-funnel: This is the company as it normally operates. Santa is checking his list, and prepping his sleigh, blissfully unaware of an impending fog.
Awareness: The company notices a problem that needs addressing. One of the elves informs Santa that a fog front is moving in and that it might be hard to navigate.
Interest: The SMB now must figure out how to address the problem. Santa uses a number of resources, including elves, his own experiences, Mrs. Claus, and even a talkative penguin to compile a list of solutions.
Selection: Through research, the SMB begins eliminating options that don’t meet his criteria for consideration. After researching the ideas, Santa decides that fans aren’t cost-effective, dehumidifiers will take too long, and canceling Christmas doesn’t solve his problem.
Purchase: This is the moment your lead becomes a consumer. They’ve bought what you were selling. Santa decides that the most viable solution is recruiting a young reindeer suffering from rhinophyma to guide his sleigh.
Post-funnel: The SMB implements your software, and you form a relationship to maintain them as a customer. Rudolph helps Santa and becomes his go-to solution for all things visibility-related
This entire process can take approximately two years on average. So what happens along the way?
Let’s go through the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel, and discuss what Capterra learned from its 2018 survey of over 700 U.S. SMBs and 420 French and German ones to understand their software buying behavior. We’ll also discuss what you can do with this information.
Taking advantage of the malleability at the top of the funnel
At the top of the funnel, understanding customer budgets and bolstering your reviews are key to hooking potential leads. (For the purposes of this article, top of the funnel covers awareness and interest.)
How money comes into play at the top of the funnel
Flexible budgets can prove incredibly valuable, but only 20% of SMBs use one when approaching purchasing software.
Nearly half of the remaining 80% of SMBs approach their tech and software needs with a set budget. The other half determine their budget sometime during the interest and selection stages.
While pricing factored more heavily in the U.S. (81%) than in France (76%) and Germany (71%), across the board at least 85% of SMBs rated their software purchases at or significantly below budget.
The companies that set their budgets before beginning their software research often end up not spending money on extra features in order to stay within their means.
This means that as customers move down the funnel, it’s important for you to determine whether or not your leads have already decided how much they’re willing to spend—and when they settled on that figure—to avoid wasting time trying to upsell them on extra features.
How reviews come into play at the top of the funnel
Whether they’re on aggregate sites or provided within directories (such as Capterra’s human resources software directory), companies find reviews to be an invaluable resource when selecting software.
In fact, reviews are so important that they reduce the amount of time SMBs spend in the awareness stage by two weeks, on average, compared to those who just used generic searches. That time matters, since the longer businesses spend in any one stage of the funnel, the more likely they are to fall out of it.
This means that you have to go beyond collecting reviews for your products. You need to collect reviews that appear on specific sites and directories that your leads frequent.
It’s important to remember that many SMBs don’t begin their searches in directories or reviews sets, instead kicking things off with general web and/or social media research. Make sure that all your content across channels has strong SEO, and that your social media presence is pervasive so you can stand out when your leads begin searching.
Using a more personal approach mid-funnel
As the competition starts to drop around you, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. At the middle of the funnel, this means being personal in your approach and building a working relationship. (The middle of the funnel focuses on selection, specifically.)
How money comes into play in the middle of the funnel
According to survey respondents, about 40% of companies set their software budgets toward the middle of the funnel as they come to understand what the average cost of various software solutions are.
One important distinction to make here, though, is that the companies that do so are more willing to spend on extra features.
This data proves how vital it is to have a conversation with your leads about whether they have a budget in mind and about how they set it. Their response can determine your strategy for working with them—do you sell them on the extra features, or focus simply on converting them to a sale?
How reviews come into play in the middle of the funnel
Here again, we see the impact reviews sites have on time spent in specific funnel stages. Organizations that utilize user reviews as secondary research sources typically take the least amount of time to move through the evaluation stage.
These customers spend between 5.85 and 6.01 months evaluating their options, as opposed to the average time of 6.11 months.
These same SMBs often consider fewer vendors when making their selection, making your visibility on/in reviews aggregators all the more important.
What to look at alongside reviews
During the selection stage, there are three primary sources that SMBs turn to: internal IT experts, external IT experts, and websites with user reviews.
Increasing your brand awareness with IT professionals could prove incredibly useful given SMBs’ dependence on their input; reviews at this stage could be seen as more of a supplement that provides a competitive edge.
However, not all industries rank IT experts and reviews as the most important source of information during the selection stage. For example, field services, restaurants and hotels, and retail SMBs all claimed that vendor-provided content was one of the most important influences at this stage.
This means that putting your resources into generating your own marketing material, , video content, etc., could bring those specific industries farther down the funnel with you.
Surviving the tightening competition at the bottom of the funnel
Once you’re at the bottom of the funnel, we’re talking about purchasing and post-funnel nurturing.
How money comes into play at the bottom of the funnel
When it comes down to it, money matters. But just how much it matters can be surprising.
According to survey respondents, 76% of SMBs factor vendor-quoted prices strongly in their eventual selection, and 21% describe them as either the primary or sole consideration for selection.
In fact, price is the second most important factor in the final software selection stage, ranked right after a product’s functionality/features and just ahead of technical support capabilities.
Your product could be superior to your competitors’ in a thousand small ways, but if they offer the same essential services at a lower cost than you, you’ll probably miss out on that 21%.
How reviews come into play at the bottom of the funnel
While we have been looking at U.S., French, and German respondents as a single entity, each group has different trends and traits.
Though we don’t have the time to dive deep into each today (but we will later this month, so come back!), there is one key difference between the three I want to address here.
At the bottom of the funnel, French SMBs are less influenced by reviews than those in the U.S. and Germany. In fact, 34% of French SMBs—compared to 43% (U.S.) and 38% (Germany)—rate online research in software directories among their top three influences in their evaluation.
So if you’re targeting Germany or the U.S., be sure to direct your leads to your reviews on as many sites and directories as possible to supercharge your lead nurturing.
Other important end-stage considerations to help seal the deal
The bottom of the funnel can be a lonely and hostile place. There are few players left at this stage, which makes the sale all the more tense and competitive.
Nearly 40% of organizations start to pay more attention to softer aspects as a means of finalizing their selection, such as trustworthiness, responsiveness, and sales team knowledge of the product.
One way to increase your level of trustworthiness is to include some negative reviews in with the good. A recent Bizibl survey showed that without a balance of good and bad reviews on your site, 95% of potential leads lose trust.
Another softer element that leads from the bottom of the funnel straight into client nurturing is your onboarding process, as well as relevant strategizing. Without a streamlined process and maintenance of your new client relationships, you could wind up with too many negative reviews, which hits you at every stage of the funnel in future sales.
What to take away from all of this into the new year
Your clients are changing at every given point in the funnel. Their goal of fixing whatever problem they’re facing is static. But how they approach this process, and what matters to them along the way, is not.
There are trends—from reviews sites and directories to budgetary trends—but at the end of the day, making sure that any concern that your leads have is addressed—visibly and carefully—is the most important thing you can do.
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.
If you’ve ever been roped into going to the gym, you’ve probably heard the advice: “Don’t look at what anyone else is doing—just focus on what you’re doing.”
This is great advice for when you’re training, though hard to put into practice. Humans are naturally competitive and impossibly curious.
Of course we’re going to look. Looking at other people in the gym can help you fix your form … or fill you with unmitigated dread as you watch an octogenarian bench press your body weight with one arm.
The same is true in business: You have to know what your competition is doing and how well they’re performing. In the end, it can help you.
One of the primary metrics companies use to determine their place in a market is conversion rate.
Without a strong sense of market context, it’s nearly impossible to determine what a good conversion rate for your own lead generation campaign is, which makes it hard to predict your company’s next steps.
By benchmarking your business against your competitors—their conversion rate, marketing strategy, and where in the funnel they lose their customers—you can supercharge your strategizing and improve your marketing performance.
But, this isn’t the gym. You can’t just lean over and see how much the person next to you is lifting. So, how do you get that information? And what do you do with it once you’ve got it?
Let’s take a look at different means of researching your competitors and how to benchmark yourself against them. After that, we’ll cover possible next steps, and I’ll leave you with a handy infographic to download for future reference.
The more specific you can get with identifying your niche, the more accurate your benchmark will be.
Who else is at the gym?
Now that you know your gym, it’s much easier to determine who is there with you, i.e., your competition.
And it’s important to note not just who they are, but what machines they’re using to get their results. In this case, that includes any and all channels that they’re using. Remember that average B2B conversion rates differ by channel.
Different consumers prefer different channels at different times. So pay attention to who is buying—and when.
How much does your business lift?
For information on your competitors and their conversion rates to be effective, you have to record your company’s data as well. Without it, you won’t be able to make comparisons and strategic adjustments to your lead nurturing.
Your first step is to figure out which metrics you want to observe. In this case, we’re going to look at conversion rates from leads to sales.
Look at your own workout routine and see where there might be gaps or weaknesses. What machines in the gym aren’t you using? How many reps do you get in? Is your ad copy effective? How do you market yourself?
Collecting all of this data is vital before you move on to the main set of your benchmarking workout: understanding your competitors’ conversion rate.
Scoping out the competition: How to approach your research
Before we go into what you should be observing in your competition, let’s review the different ways you can collect this data.
Much like someone at the gym would be unreceptive to you studying their every move, so too would most businesses be unreceptive to you conducting unsolicited deep dive research on them.
While you can’t expect your competition to answer these questions directly, you can find out what you need on your own.
Here are a few solutions:
Do a walkthrough. There’s a finite amount of information on your competitors online, including employee salary and accomplishment information. While this isn’t a lot to go on, online research/information can give you a cursory understanding of how your competitors are performing in terms of conversions and what their overall profit margins are.
Get a gym buddy. Find your local trade association, and use that as a way to identify an appropriate benchmarking partner. Having only one partner limits the data you can collect but gives you a specific scope in terms of measuring your own comparative success. You can also select your partner based on what metrics are important to your business.
Use online workout tutorials. There are a number of free tools that can provide insight into your competitors. Retail amplification tools provide reports comparing your business with other small and midsize businesses (SMBs). You can pay for premium services, or invest in industry analyst reports for a more cohesive service. It’s worth noting that these services can be expensive.
If a combination of one or more of the above doesn’t sound appealing, you can:
Hire a personal trainer. This is the costliest option, but can ultimately yield the best results, as it combines all of the above options. External benchmarking consultants can compare your performance with both industry leaders and your closest competitors, and generate a report with potential action items. Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t a feasible suggestion for smaller companies with finite resources.
Doing the heavy lifting: Figuring out an average B2B conversion rate
At this point, you’ve gotten warmed up, and you have a plan of attack for researching your competition.
You have to look at each channel they’re using, whether it’s PPC, email marketing campaigns, or something else. Take a look at the conversion rate for each channel.
For the successful conversions, look at how many sales per team member there are, and the average amount of each of those sales. Look at the demographic each channel is hitting.
For the unsuccessful conversions, look at where in the funnel your competition lost them. Again, pay attention to the demographics.
If you’re looking at multiple companies, you have enough information now to create an average B2B conversion rate for your competitors.
Additional data that could prove useful
You should also try to collect some core information about the companies around you, such as the average salary for their sales team, their customer service standards, their overhead, and profit margins.
You can even check out their sales literature, content, and how they present themselves.
All of this can enhance your understanding of who your competition is and why they can lift as much, or as little, as they do compared to you.
Whether it’s qualitative or quantitative information, it all feeds the analytics beast.
The cool down: Using this data to improve your performance
If you’ve paid for an external benchmarking consultant, they’ve probably already provided you with this information. If not, start your analysis with the following topics and questions:
Look through all of the information and see what machines you’re not working out on as hard as your competition.
Are they using channels to reach a demographic you’re not?
Are they succeeding with sales to bigger companies where your clients are often smaller?
The more companies you look at, the more data you have at your disposal. This gives you more information with which to conduct your analysis.
Planning your next workout
The quantitative data that you’ve gathered will show you the simple facts: where you fall in terms of average conversion rate, how your clients stack up against your competition’s, the fractures in your funnel compared to theirs, and on.
The qualitative data that you’ve gathered explores a few reasons, and can inform future course corrections. This includes the quality of your landing pages, the calls to action (CTAs) on your website, the type of content you produce, your marketing strategies, and your lead nurturing techniques.
Take this information, and focus on your closest competitors and where they’re beating you. Adapt their strategy, and incorporate it into your own routine.
Benchmarking your own performance is only half the battle. The next step is strategizing how to raise your own conversion rate based on what you’ve learned.
Only when you make adjustments based on what you’ve learned from this analysis will you start maxing out your conversion potential.
We’ve taken all the information above and put it in this easy-to-follow workout routine. Download a copy and frame it … or just use it as a reference for all your future benchmarking needs.
With a strong understanding of which industries have the largest budgets, you can better target your marketing campaigns and minimize your risk of missing the mark.
Let’s take a look at the data on industry-specific interests and investments to help you find your SMB customers. We’ll also review our near-identical 2017 survey of 499 SMBs to help you better understand market trends and purchase intent within each industry.
Determine follow-through to aid your predictions
In 2017, we asked tech decision-makers at SMBs what types of software they were either using or planning on using in the next one to two years.
Based on their responses, we predicted how many companies would be using the cited software types this year when we ran a similar survey.
Following this year’s survey, we graphed the results. Take a look at the difference between our expectations and reality:
While we won’t be able to see the full picture until 2019 (and determine whether those companies who planned use within the next two years are working on implementation or not), there’s still a large difference.
Many of the software types cited by respondents increased only by one or two percent.
Why certain tech usage decreased and what to do about it
Several of these technologies—predominantly emergent ones such as artificial intelligence and virtual/augmented reality—actually dropped in both current and planned use over the past year.
There are any number of reasons for this, including smaller companies investing in software that is exciting but not necessary for their company at its current stage, or the challenge of maintaining a strong marketing campaign after the initial excitement for a particular type of software.
What this ultimately means, though, is that software vendors who offer newer tech have a tough road ahead and must be more selective in their sales and marketing targeting. These vendors should look at higher-quality leads from more established companies with resources to spare.
Top 5 budgeted-for software types by industry
Our most recent survey identified the following as the top ten budgeted-for technologies and software for 2019 among SMBs:
Finance/accounting software (54%)
Cloud computing (48%)
Data and information security (47%)
Digital marketing (45%)
HR software (43%)
Project management (40%)
Business intelligence and analytics (35%)
Mobile business applications (33%)
Internet of things (26%)
As you can see, when we asked respondents what software types had an actual line in their 2019-2020 budgets, the top nine categories were established software and tech types.
The only comparatively emergent technology on the list is the internet of things, which—despite its recent popularity—has existed as a concept since 1999.
With this in mind, let’s examine the top five software categories and, more specifically, which industries are interested in them. We’ll break the industries and budgets down graphically, and dive into the why behind the numbers.
If you don’t understand this data, your marketing efforts will come up short.
If you don’t work with (or sell) these particular software types, stay with me. We’ll end with some actionable tips that apply to your business either way.
The standouts here are transportation and wholesale trade companies.
Transportation includes shipping and freight and often goes hand-in-hand with wholesale trade. These companies deal with a wide array of financial components, such as sales, trade regulations, international campaigns, and associated tariffs.
Knowing that, it’s easy to see why 87% of transportation companies describe finance/accounting software as critical to their business—a number that significantly surpasses the national average of 70%.
It’s important to note that while 100% of communications companies claim that this software category is either beneficial or critical to their success, they often have smaller budgets (averaging $9,330 per company for 2019).
This means that there could be as much money and a more receptive audience within the communications industry than, say, the media industry. However, in order to record the same profit, you’d have to work a lot harder and make a lot more sales.
2. Cloud computing software
Cloud computing has experienced an interesting trend since our 2017 survey. The number of companies that found such software helpful or necessary for their business dropped from 93% to 88% between 2017 and 2018, while the number of companies actually using it remained steady.
Transportation companies require uniformity across multiple countries, and need massive amounts of storage data. The U.S. government is similar in its scope, complexity, and need for consistency and ease of translation between local, state, and federal governing bodies.
The “Services” category includes IT and consulting companies, which typically have high needs in terms of storage requirements that make cloud computing software essential for daily operations.
3. Data and information security software
With the recent implementation of the GDPR in Europe, many companies that deal with EU clients must meet incredibly high security standards. This makes data and information security software invaluable, as the hefty fines associated with the regulations could leave smaller companies bankrupt.
The majority of the industries in the above chart frequently deal with international trade and clients; It follows that they would have larger budgets for data and information security software.
Educational companies with international students, campuses, and clients must answer to the security requirements of relevant countries.
For the majority of the industries in the above chart, their degree of digital marketing investment makes sense. According to a recent IDC study, 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media to make business decisions.
The media industry reaches a lot of its customers (audience) through digital content, and produces marketing materials that supplement whatever print, televised, or filmed content they sell.
The majority of the industries at play here rely heavily on hourly workers and a transitory workforce. With all of those facets of business operations to keep track of, it makes sense that industries like transportation, manufacturing and natural resources, and retail invest heavily in HR software.
What you can learn from these 5 examples
Wow, that was a lot of graphs—and a lot of information. Do you need a break? Drink a some tea, crack your neck, pet a puppy or something.
Feel better? Good!
Let’s get back to work, then, because it’s time to do something with all of this information.
How this benefits vendors who sell 1 of these 5 software types
If you sell one of these software types, it’s clear who you should target your 2019 marketing campaigns toward: the industries listed on whichever graph is relevant to your product offering.
Knowing which industries to target, however, doesn’t automatically mean smooth sailing. Since the industries listed above have the highest average budget for each software type, there’s a good chance the competition for their business will be stiffer than in markets with lower budgets.
It’s a good idea to target these industries, but set aside some of your marketing budget to focus on industries with less capital but a higher degree of interest. There will be less competition, and you could corner the market.
How this benefits vendors who don’t offer 1 of these software types
If you don’t offer products in any of these categories, don’t despair! There’s still a lot for your business to learn here.
It’s important to know exactly how various companies use your software, and to use that insight as a means of determining how to market it to similar companies.
You’ll start to notice trends in how each of those companies operate within various industries—their needs and how you meet them. From there, you can determine which industries have similar needs and target your marketing towards them.
Follow the model of looking at each industry’s place within the global economy. What type of workforce do they employ? Are there international requirements your product can help address? How do they reach their own clients?
And don’t forget to look at previous years’ investments by industry to see if it’s on an upward or downward trend, as that could be a big motivator for shifting your marketing focus.
A final caveat for all software vendors
Don’t discredit smaller companies or smaller industries with a higher rate of interest. The most useful metric while planning your marketing campaigns is to see which industries view your product as beneficial or necessary.
For example, let’s look at two industries: A and B. Industry A has an average budget of 30K per company for investing in your product, while Industry B has an average budget of 15K per company.
But Industry A only has a rate of budgeting for your software type of 30%, whereas Industry B has a rate of 60%. In this case, both industries have the same amount of potential money allocated to your product.
Industry B has a much higher rate of interest and investment, which means that companies within that market typically find your product more necessary.
By targeting your marketing toward Industry B, you have a higher chance of converting those companies that haven’t budgeted for your software into potential leads.
Creating interest where it didn’t previously exist is hard, but a more receptive industry could yield better results. It’s an untapped market, and tapping into it could make all the difference in setting your company apart in 2019.
Information on Capterra’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs survey
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.