“We’re down 25% this year. We have no marketing plan and nobody’s focused on marketing.”

Until this “bump” in the road, they didn’t need a Customer Development effort.  Their users sold their software for them.  Until that wasn’t enough.

They sell research paper formatting software to college students. They grew into the market leader of a small but healthy niche and word-of-mouth took care the rest, until it didn’t.

Or the software developer selling flat-rate pricing software to contractors in a very crowded market that wanted more leads.  Or the software developer selling wire EDM CAD/CAM software to machine tool manufacturers that needed to grow sales. Or the software developer that sells small scale ERP software to golf course maintenance departments. . .

There comes a time for every software business when you need more than word-of-mouth; when you want to grow faster than your referrals can take you.

The paper formatting software firm invited me in to be their Virtual Director of Customer Development. This is pretty normal.  Other times I’m invited in simply to generate leads.

I asked a lot of questions, talked to handful of customers and went through the process of searching for the type of software they build – – including a lot of time using their website as well as their competitors’.

The news was mostly good. Their customers loved them and their website made it relatively easy to buy. But…

Their website didn’t do much more than provide a way for people who had the product recommended to them buy. If you weren’t there because someone said you HAVE a buy their software chances are you wouldn’t buy their software. They weren’t telling their story. And they had a good one!  The Google Adwords campaign had been running essentially unattended since it was first installed. While it was generating sales, the cost per sale was $26.19 (on a $29.95 product). Ouch!

Plus, they weren’t in conversation with their customers. No real engagement. They dearly loved their customers, they bend over backwards for them, but there was no ongoing communication – – no engagement. No relationship building.

The happy ending is that every semester since we started working together has been the biggest semester in the company’s history (the business spikes twice a year at the beginning of each college semester).

So, how did we do it? We made a couple of big changes: we fixed their website; we fixed their Adwords campaign; we started communicating with their loyal customer base on a regular basis. But mostly, we started chipping away on a weekly basis at all things marketing – – the dozens of little things that make or break the customer experience.

I doubt we’ll ever be finished (are you ever finished?), but what they’re spending on marketing has actually gone down, sales are up and continue to grow, their story is being told much more clearly and more students each semester are telling their friends and classmates what a fantastic piece of software the company makes.

I’d say clearly, the quality of their marketing has caught up with the quality of what they sell. And when that happens, look out!

. . .and what about the client with the flat-rate pricing software?  A refined message, cleaner website, improved prospecting system and better sales follow-up and their marketing has caught up to the quality of their software.  Which has meant more, better quality leads.  My CAD/CAM client?  Cleaned up site and message and more people through it has translated into more business.

The problem with so much software is everybody’s saying the same thing about ease of use and user experience, so it becomes a feature arms race.  I’ve had success really digging into why people are buying (the buyers’ perceptions, not yours!) and telling THAT story.  This cuts through the clutter and speaks to people on a more direct, powerful level.  

I’d be happy to explore how we can help you do that. Send me an email or call my cell at 602–369–1009. If you’d like talk to any of these owners, I’d be happy to share contact information.

. . .and, oh, how about my golf course maintenance software client??  They generated more prospects in six months than they had in the previous three years.  And sales doubled.