Marketing, Business and Sales Writing, and Web Design for Software Tech and B2B Businesses.

A lot of activity doesn’t always translate into progress or financial gain.

Suppose, for example, that you have thousands of website page views a week, and tons of inbound leads.

Supposing also that you are closing very few deals from all of those leads and all of that traffic.

Your massive page views may only be good for monetization through pay-per-click ad banners.

Which is probably not why you invested all of the sweat and money to go into business.

Let’s see what can go wrong.

Case Study: Lots of Leads, Few Sales

A software vendor I spoke with recently had exactly this problem.

He is justifiably proud that Microsoft recently posted a description page of his product to MSDN. As a result, he reports that several hundred evaluation copies of his business’s product have been downloaded.

Unfortunately, many of the downloads originate in certain countries that have a less-than-stellar local culture of paying appropriately for intellectual property.

And overall, he reports little activity from those leads that result in productive sales discussions.

Sometimes, You’re Selling Something that the Market Just Doesn’t Need

…So leads are skimpy and the prospects you find don’t buy. That’s not the issue here.

The simple facts are that Microsoft chose to feature their product, and the product receives a lot of developer attention. An irrelevant or unnecessary product wouldn’t be receiving such attention.

And the value proposition of the product is absolutely solid. This product replaces the work of one or more software developers for every month that it is used on a project. For the price that this business charges for using the tool (more about that in  a second) it’s an absolute bargain for the right kind of software development project.

But they are not selling licenses. The business is suffering as a result.

The Real Problem: Poor Targeting and Marketing

If you know that the value proposition is solid – that you “make” money for the right customers by selling them your offering – something else is causing those abundant but unrealizable leads to fail.

There are three facts about the product and the marketing situation that should be noted.

  • The leads are all coming from developers (after all, just who else downloads evaluation copies of software… department managers? Nope.) 
  • The product – the tool suite – is rented to customers for over $5000 per month.
  • The type of project for which the product is suited is usually authorized at the CIO/CTO level.

When I worked in the software development world, developers didn’t approve purchases at this level of spending … make final vendor selection … write checks… nor initiate or manage major software engineering projects.

The problem I saw is that this business apparently has no marketing materials, effort, or strategy directed toward C-level executives, whose active participation in a purchasing cycle for this type of product is mandatory.

If I were a CTO or CIO, I would jump on his product. It assures vast reductions in manpower for a specific type of coding project and it also assures an agile, repeatable, error-free process.

But lacking any effort or tactics to make his product suite known to executives and managements, his leads currently come from the Mountain Dew-guzzling side of the computer workstation monitor.

How You Should Plan Your Marketing Strategy

You really need to have an overall strategy in place that targets the most probable buyers effectively. This means:

  • Make certain that you have developed a realistic, accurate and useful buyer persona for your product or service that captures how the product or service is actually purchased and the decisions and steps that lead to that purchase.
  • Create and deploy marketing materials that cater to the viewpoint, world view, needs and desires of that buyer persona.
  • If a particular group of stakeholders are generally involved in purchasing decisions of your product type, but they are not the ultimate decider and authorizing level for the purchase, then create marketing materials that address each group’s concerns.

Perhaps “Inbound Only” Isn’t the Best Answer

Before inbound and internet based marketing took off, most enterprise level software products were sold through traditional methods: cold calling, direct mail, prospecting, and trade shows, to give some examples.

However, the fact is that salespeople and conference exhibitors both require some of the same kind of marketing materials that inbound lead generation demands. A printed brochure can be analogous to a web page that contains an executive summary of a product.

I am not certain that this business has executive level summary materials. If they do, they were well hidden.

A developer’s library should have programmer-centric “evangelist” materials. The company I am describing has a lot of this type of material.

But all that material does is get one type of stakeholder – the programmer – on your side. What about the programmer’s management?

I would recommend the following.

A programmer who downloads an evaluation copy of your flagship product can be empowered to help you sell to his company by providing him with links to executive and management summary information that he can forward to his management team.

Conclusion

The need can be present and the pricing can be fair – but the marketing may be broken. The playing field becomes considerably more complex when multiple parties in an organization, with conflicting or competing agendas, get involved in purchasing decisions.

You may just have a bifurcated situation, like the business that I have described: the only marketing appeal is being made to enthusiasts, not decision makers.

“Targeting” and “buyer persona” are key notions to have in mind when marketing anything.  So – do your homework.

Develop a marketing strategy that encompasses the reality of how your product is tested, evaluated, and purchased by real world customers.



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