Updated: Feb 1
For whom is this blog:
For software houses with teams from 3 to 30 people
For service companies that start their marketing
You will find here:
How to define your target market?
What are the differences between Ideal Client, Buyer Persona and Stakeholder. Why is it important?
What is Customer Journey?
Having a secure pipeline of incoming business leads is critical for your business continuity. Custom software development market is at the maturity stage, so building a sound communication and marketing strategy to get sales enquiries is not a piece of cake any more. However, sooner or later, you will need to face it.
One thing is clear, the way you communicate with clients and position your company will define the profile of your future customers.
Think about types of projects you would like to be involved and associated with. This is the goal of your company, and marketing is a way to achieve it.
In this article, I’ll explain what foundations you need to start an effective marketing strategy.
However, it all starts with your aspirations and experience.
Build specialisation on your know-how and passion
That’s right. Each company has experience with a particular profile of clients and has field know-how. Those might be a starting point for you to create a recognisable and skyrocketing brand.
As marketing is a way of engaging a particular segment of potential clients with your service. You need to know who you talk to and who will find value in your service. It might seem obvious and easy at first glance, but in practice, it is not.
Think about your aspirations and company. The question is what your company should be in five-ten years perspective.
As a starting point, I suggest writing down a list that will have:
all your delivered projects
the industry projects served and industry of your client
main functionalities you have developed
location of your client
the technical complexity of a project
takeaways for you and your team from the project
what your team learned about the industry
the profitability of the project
how much fun and enthusiasm these projects gave you and to your team
Having that done, look for common points, synergies and opportunities. Find areas where your knowledge is the most extensive and where you can create the best value for future clients. Which projects were most profitable and fun. More about building a niche marketing and strategy HERE.
Research your niche and perfect market.
Next step is to do target market research based on the external environment and factors. The analysis helps you to evaluate if the market is promising or is not attractive from your perspective.
The number of software tools and techniques to perform market analysis might be overwhelming; that’s why I have shortlisted the best ones for you.
Firstly, you calculate the market size, then check it’s competitiveness and finally check your competitiveness on the market.
Calculate market size with TAM, SAM, SOM.
Those mysterious abbreviations will uncover numbers behind particular markets. These are metrics that are crucial in SaaS, but with Service based business would be helpful to make a decision where shall you focus:
TAM - Total Available Market - total market demand for a service. It is used to understand the growth potential.
SAM - Serviceable Addressable Market - it is a realistic calculation of how big the market is for exactly your services.
SOM - Serviceable Obtainable Market or Target Market - the market you can capture.
Check Market Competitiveness with Five Porter’s Forces
it is a basic technique to assess the market from the perspective of 5 main aspects:
Bargaining power of suppliers - from your perspective, those might be service providers you use or developers' talent pool.
Bargaining power of customers - what is your client market situation. Are they willing to negotiate or this is your market?
The threat of substitutes - would your client easily hire an in-house team, buy ready software or have other competing solutions.
Threat of new entrants - what are risks connected with new companies on the horizontal and vertical markets? How would EU enlargement, North American trade deals influence your direct competition?
Competitive rivalry - the most important factor is direct competition. Is it more demanding on the vertical or horizontal market?
Your competitiveness vs market with SWOT Analysis
It is a useful technique to evaluate business opportunities or particular decisions. In this situation, you analyse the position of your company on particular markets.
You want to find and work through your Strengths, Weaknesses, Market Opportunities and Threats.
Do you remember the Silicon Valley series? This is a technique introduced by Jared, later on used by Dinesh and Gilfoyle to SWOT the decision of letting Blaine die :)
Use those techniques to build an actionable picture of the market that helps to make decisions and focus on profitable segments and to cut out those that are unattractive for you.
REMEMBER: treat specialisations as diversification or complementary services to your main business. When you do custom software development, add platform or vertical specialisation as a pillar page to your website. Selecting a specialisation shall be a way to secure your business, not to put it on additional risk.
Ideal Client vs Buyer Persona vs Stakeholders
If you are not a monopoly, you should draw a picture of companies you serve. Who are stakeholders and who make decisions? Who should you address with your communication, who does not care about you and who might feel like competing with you?
Unless you sell to one-person businesses, you should differentiate the following actors:
Definition: The most desired business type that purchases your service.
A sound marketing strategy aims to attract and convert as many ideal clients in your portfolio as possible. Which leads to a situation when you do what you love, and your clients get truly involved service providers with the best service on the market. Win-win situation, isn't it?
Ideal client and buyer persona are not the same. Make sure; you know what is the difference, especially when you target medium and big enterprises companies or corporates.
Ideal clients are companies that match your selection criteria and for whom you have service that brings the highest value. Those are customers that match your aspirations, capacity, skills and for whom you would love to help.
To build an actionable ideal client profile, try to be precise as much as you can. Here are characteristics you may apply:
geography or location
There are plenty of reasons why companies spend great effort on structuring ideal client profiles.
For some a particular local business culture that is more appealing, others have the know-how and willingness to take part in tenders and corporate complex sales processes. On the other hand, some companies look only for industry-specific small clients within 50 km proximity.
The better you describe your ideal client, the more chances are to reach them.
Definition: is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal client based on data and research. For your ideal clients, you might have one or more buyer personas. Buyer personas help you structure your communication and marketing to reach decision-makers and other stakeholders at your ideal client.
A buyer persona is usually a decision-maker or critical for your service stakeholder.
The smaller the company is, the more decision making is concentrated in the hands of C-levels or founders. In contrast, the bigger the company is, the more C-levels and Founders are becoming actors that only accept the budget and are not interested in decision making. Decision making is dispersed between many people throughout the organisation. Thus, it is a common overgeneralisation that the CEO or CTO makes all decisions at your client’s.
You need to be aware who guarantees budget for your product or service, who are stakeholders that are positively affected by your service, and those who are not.
To make sure you develop your content marketing and communication that perfectly finds your target audience, develop your buyer personas and use them every time you plan your strategies, campaigns or even a single blog post or a social media post.
You can create a buyer persona profile in the form of a text or spreadsheet document and make sure everyone in your company is familiar with the profile and understands who it represents.
Characteristics of buyer persona are:
Describes an organisation.
Describes the demographics of a person: sex, age, education, etc.
Professional type: describes the role, scope of responsibilities, challenges, goals objectives.
Professional characteristics: how they communicate, where they look for information etc.
You will know that your buyer’s persona profile is complete once you will be able to evaluate a blog post, media type or whole campaign through the perspective of the buyer persona profile. Once you say, ok that would be helpful for my persona, and this creates no value for them, then you are at home.
The list of characteristics you should think of is quite long. Check a template of google spreadsheet I am using to build a buyer persona for GrowMy.Tech. You can open it and make a copy for yourself. I hope it will make your business easier.
A financial director might read your blog posts about outsourcing as a way of cost optimisation and in consequence, advise the CEO or Product Owner to consider IT outsourcing. There might be a chance that the purchasing department needs to spend time and advise your buyer persona if your solution is worth its money when you speak with a corporate client.
Depending on your ideal client profile, there are plenty of scenarios which are stakeholders you need to think about and at which stage of a customer journey they appear. This is your role in knowing it and addressing all objections they might have.
Build your customer journey map
Definition: Customer journey is an entire experience your customers have with your brand during the process of solving their problem or fulfilling their need.
Your marketing strategy needs a customer journey map. This is a tool that helps you to solve your potential customers' problems and become a client of yours.
Usually, it is composed of three basic stages: getting awareness of the problem or need, consideration available solutions, and decision making. Each step characterises different levels of awareness, willingness to be contacted and other content types.
In a custom software development business those might be:
Awareness stage: Client requires a new product launch or difficulty in recruiting good professionals.
The clients use search engines to find answers to their problem. Your ad addresses the problem and moves the client to your landing pages or your website with content that helps them understand their situation and options they have.
Consideration stage: Client reads about outsourcing vs in-house software development, best recruitment practises,
It is where you want the client to learn more about solutions you have, how you can help them and finally press the 'contact us' button.
Decision making: the whole sales process is facilitated with testimonials, case studies, pro-tips, great service and buying enablement materials. You are making sure your client is comfortable and gets all the information they need on time.
Customer journey maps might be different for one industry and another. Make sure that information and content you provide are helpful, precise, understandable and timely. Use your buyer’s persona medium of preference.
Building a customer journey maps you will try to understand how your potential customers feel at every stage, what they write in their search engines, which websites they use to verify information, which social media platforms are their preferred ones.
At GrowMy.Tech for mapping Your Journey I am using templates prepared by HubSpot. Link HERE.
The above-mentioned tools and methods will allow you to build foundations for your business and marketing strategy and plan for 2021. It is a small piece of work compared to what is ahead of you, but it is fundamental to work with purpose and to keep the focus on what is most important.
As a next step, you will need to set SMART goals, estimate budget and build marketing strategy with an actionable plan.
You have a wide array of marketing tactics and channels at your disposal:
search engines marketing
your website communication
social media and social selling
visibility on marketplaces etc.
Which one to choose depends on your target market, your resources, skills of partners you have.
Within GrowMy.Tech blog I will try to help you out on all your steps on a journey to build a skyrocketing brand for your software company.
The earlier you will start the groundwork for marketing and sales strategies, the better is for your company. These fundamentals will become a north star on your journey, thanks to which you might get the speed and focus on the most important aspects for your clients and your business.
On a stage of crafting a strategy, you will face questions which opportunities to pick and which tactics to use. It is easy to lose track and go into a dead-end unless you focus on your client and their needs.
Thank you for reading my blog. If you find this post useful or you feel there is some information that is lacking here, please drop a comment below. I will do my best to address all comments either in the thread or in the next article.
Which aspect of preparing fundamentals for a marketing and sales strategy was the most demanding for you?