Establishing a marketing plan can be tricky – and even more so for new ISVs, who are dependent on partnerships, consistent leads, and a unique strategy. Keeping up with the shifting technological trends and available marketing models within the Channel can be a tough task, but it’s important to weather the difficulties and push forward to create a solid go-to-market strategy. Eventually, an ISV must know when it’s time to stop inventing and start selling – which is where marketing comes in. Marketing can help companies, particularly ISVs, to transition from a normal business model to a sales model which helps turn creative coding into revenue.
One of the first things for an ISV to realize is the existence of the Channel and the potential an effective marketing strategy can have on your business. The Channel consists of distributors, vendors and a network of resellers. These are folks who are likely already working in your end-users’ markets, and a strategic plan for developing this ecosphere can pay big dividends. While marketing to this group can be relatively straight-forward, before doing so you need to have the proper supports structure in place. Imagine turning on a sales team of hundreds of individuals. They will all have questions and needs to be addressed, so establishing a support structure before blasting your name is key.
When putting together a marketing strategy for both within the Channel and out, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. You must differentiate your product from all others, competitors or otherwise – since software can be incorporated into many different hardware solutions, it’s important to foster relationships with vendors, VARs and distributors to keep your product at the forefront. If your product is not first in a category, create a new category in which your product is best of class, and diligently market your attributes. Keep in mind that a new category does not have to be vastly different from your competitors. For example, if there is a dominate player in quick service software, maybe you can be the first iOS software solution designed specifically for ice cream stores.
Keep in mind that marketing isn’t just about product features or quality – it’s about perception. Create a realistic marketing budget, and work to craft a plan that helps shape the perceptions of those you’re looking to reach, to transition your marketing plan into sales revenue. Often, it is better to be first in the mind of your prospects, rather than first in the market.
When setting the budget at the start of a campaign, consider your business model and overall company goals. Any company planning to conduct marketing activities should set aside 10 to 12 percent of revenue for these plans. However, when operating within the channel, take a moment to analyze your relationships with partners such as hardware manufacturers, payment processors and distributors – they can often help provide marketing funding and MDF dollars, which can jump-start your campaign. By providing your sponsors with clear analytics of incremental new revenue, they will be more willing to reinvest in future campaigns.
One of the most effective, low-cost marketing methods that can help an ISV garner visibility and brand-recognition is content creation, which can be used to drive inbound marketing. Determine the niches and positioning your product is attempting to target, and generate content consistently that is tailored to that niche. Develop meaningful content pieces, like blogs, e-books and white papers, and ensure that they’re compelling enough to draw readers and leads. Individuals reading this content will be more likely to reach out for more information, fill out an opt-in form, or download content – which can provide you with actionable leads that lead to direct revenue.
It’s also important to ensure flexibility in marketing plans. It should flow well, with all team members involved working in sync to accomplish the same goal for your business. One of the biggest mistakes ISVs can make is not investing appropriately in marketing – it will be exceptionally difficult for your company to thrive without it.
A final thought in creating a business and marketing plan is to determine the ROI of a campaign. This will inform you on whether your marketing tactics paid off, or whether you’ll need to adjust the plan as you move forward. In marketing failure will happen and should be expected upfront. When executing a marketing strategy learn to test fast, tweak fast, and fail fast. Success can lead to arrogance, and arrogance to failure so it’s important to check your ego at the door, and remain objective.