21
Sep

Selling Enterprise IT Software Without a Marketing Plan is Like Looking for an Outfit in a Very Cluttered Dark Closet

Depending on the size of one’s closet, and the amount of clothing to be found in it and, finally, the manner in which the clothes are organized, it can be very difficult, if not impossible to find an outfit when the lights are out and it is not possible to illuminate the closet. Of course, once the lights are back on, it may be only a matter of a couple of minutes between deciding on an outfit for a day and actually finding the jacket, slacks, shoes and tie that match. Therefore, it is safe to say that light goes a long way to hasten the process of locating items in a cramped, very, very busy closet full of clothing.

Selling products/services/integrated solutions into the complex market that operates on enterprise IT software is very much akin to finding an outfit in the busy closet that we just described. Top ranked sales people, with exceptional backgrounds closing large ticket sales, can still prove to be completely ineffective in these markets. Sales forecasts can prove to be useless predictions that are rarely, if ever achieved. The missing piece, for better or worse, is a lack of a clear marketing plan for

  1. the business
  2. products
  3. and how to promote 1) and 2) to the enterprise IT market

In fact, a plausible marketing plan functions much like a brilliantly bright halogen lamp with a diffuse, wide beam that successfully illuminates every cranny of the closet mentioned in our analogy. We cannot overstate the importance of the fact that the plan must be plausible. The best way that we know of ascertaining the plausibility of the plan is to circulate a formal document to a group of carefully picked individuals who can provide the opinions required to ascertain that the plan is, in fact, realistic and workable. Therefore, we counsel entrepeneurs contemplating starting a business to make sure that a circle of confidants is in place who can keep a business effort on track with their opinions prior to launching a venture. In fact, the best way to put together this circle of reviewers is to form a board of directors, which is, traditionally, the manner in which businesses have been organized in the past.

The sum total of a marketing plan that has been vetted by a board of directors, and a capable sales team can, in fact, be promising for a business venture. If you understand the importance of both of these components, think that you have an excellent business concept, but neither have the personal connections required to assemble a useful board of directors, nor the resources to produce a formal marketing plan, then you should contract with a third party to get the job done.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. calls on over 25 years of continuous experience with early stage tech businesses. As well, we maintain a network of contacts that may produce the board members that a business like yours requires. Our retained services (3 mos minimum) start at $3200.00 per month. Please contact us to learn further. You can call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about our services plan. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

20
Sep

A Business Plan Provides an Enterprise IT ISV with an Important Reality Check

Most entrepeneurs understand the value of a business plan. For example, anyone who has ever availed of the free-of-charge advisory services offered by SCORE has had to deal with the question: “Let’s have a look at your business plan”. In turn, the United States Small Business Administration and other financing entities strictly require that any funding application include a copy of a business plan.

But for many businesses, including a proportionate number of very early stage enterprise IT ISVs, producing a comprehensive business plan that accurately reflects each feature of a business concept is a monumental task that somehow “just doesn’t get done”. This reality is, in fact, a shame, as an oversight like neglecting to complete a formal business plan can prove to be a life threatening matter for a business.

In fact, a business plan constitutes a highly useful reality check for the business, especially for one that is built on technology innovation. For example, where a tech start up is otherwise weak with regards to marketing and sales, a well put together business plan that talks to these two essential topics in a plausible manner can be convincing and useful. Of course, if the sections of a business plan devoted to

  • a presentation of a market,
  • to the depiction of planned products/services/integrated solutions and, finally,
  • to the method by which a business will generate revenue through sales of the products into the market

are to be believed, then the historical performance of the business must bear out the points of the plan. In fact, it is easier to follow a plan that is objectively found to make sense, and promising, without key marketing and sales staff than it is to proceed aimlessly with marketing and sales personnel who seem to have the “right” skills and experience set, but still fail to deliver required results. The difference, of course, amounts to the fact that the company without staff that, nevertheless, still hits its numbers is operating under a plan, whereas the company with staff, but performing poorly neither has a plan, nor understands the importance of operating from points that must be formalized in a plan prior to activation.

Bear in mind that by plan we are referring to the document that we have described, which formalizes the features of a business. Further, this plan has been reviewed by a number of different parties who, in a consensus, have agreed that its features are plausible and ought to be activated.

If you understand the importance of a formal business plan, but lack the internal resources to either contribute the features required, or to produce a well written formal document that conforms to the style conventions required byt the individuals to whom you intent to present it, then you should contract with a third party to get the job done.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. brings considerable experience to this type of requirement. Our retained services (3 mos minimum) start at $3200.00 per month. Please contact us to learn further. You can call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about our services plan. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

17
Sep

Successful Enterprise IT ISVs Include Sales and Marketing Management in the Executive Team

The technology industry does not promise entrepeneurs immunity from the infection that threatens 49%, or more, of legitimate small businesses started here in the United States of America — likely demise within the first 5 years of business activity. This figure is an approximation of specific data presented in a paper, “Examining the Credit Access on Small Firm Survivability”, which was published online on February 24, 2012 by the Federal Reserve Board of the United States. For our purposes, a legitimate small business is one with assets valued in excess of $0, or annual sales in excess of $1000.00.

Nevertheless, technology entrepeneurs often maintain an opinion that ostensibly superior engineering, alone, can provide the impetus required to propel a business notion into a viable organization that can quickly achieve self support and, later, deliver handsome returns on efforts made to its owners. This opinion also supports an equally dangerous assumption that it is perfectly fine to pin the success or failure of a business venture on a “solution without a problem,” meaning a technical product/service/integrated solution that may exhibit quite elegant features, but fails to address any palpable market requirement.

Both of these features of failure:

  1. excessive confidence built on nothing more than an assumption that engineering, alone, will make a business notion into a winner and
  2. dedicating resources to developing products that are not requested by markets

can do enough damage to lead business owners to cease activity if left unchecked.

In fact, these ideas stem for a pervasive under estimate of the importance of marketing and sales management to the success of any type of business in the United States. It is of no material importance whether or not marketing and sales expertise is delivered by a business entrepeneur, or by his/her management team. Regardless, understanding the principles of marketing, including:

  • business positioning
  • product marketing
  • and marketing communications

and sales, which, for enterprise IT ISVs must include a thorough mastery of selling

  • products/services/integrated solutions to a complex set of buyers
  • in an entirely ethical manner

must be present, or else the likelihood of business failure will be quite high. Despite lots of consternation, tech entrepeneurs will need to fully assimilate the mandatory nature of provisioning this type of expertise if a business notion is to prove successful.

If you understand that your business notion requires a level of marketing and sales expertise that you either do not possess, you need to address this deficiency as quickly as possible by either adding strategic partners, or hiring management staff. If time is an important consideration, then you ought to look to temporary resources to fill these gaps in your business plan.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. is certainly capable of providing you with resources that can fill these roles for your business. Our retained services (3 mos minimum) start at $3200.00 per month. Please contact us to learn further. You can call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about our services plan. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

4
Sep

Integrating Google Adwords, Analytics and Salesforce’s Group Edition Provides Enterprise IT ISVs with a Useful Tool Box for Online Product Promotion

Enterprise IT ISVs with a business plan that calls for a meaningful online marketing effort ought to consider empowering marketing teams with an integrated toolkit comprised of:

  • Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools
  • Google Adwords & Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Google Analytics and
  • a Salesforce Group Subscription

We think the combination of these online marketing tools, when implemented skilfully, can provide enterprise IT ISVs with a rapid method of asserting control over online lead generation efforts. In fact, we are in the process, presently, of elevating our own internal capabilities with regards to Google Adwords and plan on presenting additional information on our view of useful applications for Adwords as appropriate.

Our recent interest in developing more capabilities with Google Adwords, for which we expressed considerable past skepticism, is driven by our realization that online activities have become so prevalent for our clients and their prospects as a means of driving engagement, that simply ignoring fee-based opportunities to promote products/services/integrated solutions no longer makes sense. We have recently developed greater confidence that carefully managed online advertising campaigns, within the context of a comprehensive lead generation program, can produce useful results.

The key, for us, is designing and applying a lead scoring system to online engagement opportunities in order to measure the relative usefulness of leads as well as the financial cost of producing them. Simply buying ads on Google, or on sites on the Google Display network without a method like the Salesforce Group subscription (which can be integrated with Adwords to seamlessly input leads into a business’ CRM) does not make sense. As well, it makes little sense to us to implement online advertising and CRM integration without the kind of web site visitor performance data that can be extracted from Google Analytics.

Therefore, an integrated solution that can provide life cycle information about leads, from the time that a visit to a web site is converted to an enagagement opportunity and, subsequently, the history of conversations that follow is precisely the type of method that we think enterprise IT ISVs ought to implement. The data produced by this method can be used to substantially reduce the cost of online marketing by pointing out efficient and inefficient lead generation campaigns. As well, this method will expose the keywords leading visitors to web sites and, thereby, open an opportunity for marketing communications efforts to enhance the relevance of online promotional collateral as a means of narrowing the gap between targeted keywords and those keywords that actually produce visits (and conversions of visits to engagement).

If you cannot afford to waste any more time mishandling online promotional opportunities for your software business, please contact IMB Enterprises, Inc. We look forward to collaborate with enterprise IT ISVs that face an imperative to change online sales and marketing methods to successfully align with their markets. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about our retained search services. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

27
Aug

Matrix Sales Organizations Foster Healthy Contention which can Only Help the Growth of Enterprise IT ISVs

Enterprise IT ISVs, in early stages of growth, should consider implementing matrix sales organizations. As per the web site of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council a matrix organizational structure is “[a]n organizational structure in which two (or more) channels of command, budget responsibility and performance measurement exist simultaneously. For example, both product and functional forms of organization could be implemented simultaneously, that is, the product and functional managers have equal authority and employees report to both managers.” (quoted from the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council web site, for which a link has been provided, above).

In our experience, a matrix sales organization can be used, successfully, to add healthy contention to the activities pursued by, for example, inside and outside sales representatives managing the same geographical territory. When both sales representatives responsible for a revenue stream report into different management, they are more likely to pursue differing strategies which, nevertheless, may be more advantageous for the overall business than a unified plan that neglects to cover all necessary facets of territorial account management.

In sum, an early stage enterprise IT ISV should not neglect to explore a wide range of sales strategies that may make sense. After all, it is much harder to renovate deeply ingrained plans and activities than it is to explore opportunities that may seem tangential while plans are still in a formative stage, especially where senior management would like to explore the benefits of a “ready, fire, aim” operational strategy. The facts are that seemingly tangential activities sometimes pay off with unexpected benefits. When sales teams are restricted within a monolithic management structure, the opportunity to test new plans can be inadvertently stifled. Where possible, it is advised to implement a horizontal reporting structure where all staff members report into senior management. However, when business growth reaches a point where horizontal reporting lines are no longer feasible, a matrix organizational structure can, and should, be at least considered as a method of redesigning reporting lines.

If your organization includes a number of sales personnel, but actual performance is short of expectations, you may want to consider implementing a matrix organizational structure. IMB Enterprises, Inc. can assist you as you decide whether, or not, implementing a matrix structure is truly an option for your business. Further, where a matrix structure may work, we can certainly do the analysis required to pinpoint performance gaps and possible remedies. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

7
May

Innovative Technology Compensates for Clumsy Sales and Marketing

Technology innovators targeting enterprise business and other large organizations in the public and not-for-profit sectors should look to product development for substantial, defensible barriers to competitor entry. Entering today’s ultra competitive markets for traditional solutions (for example, ERP) requires highly sophisticated sales and marketing. Human resources with the right skills for these sales and marketing requirements may not be available to start ups. Nevertheless, a very keen eye for products is required to determine precisely the right markets for product development.

It’s worth spending a brief moment simply highlighting the very high level of sophistication required of successful enterprise sales personnel selling into highly competitive markets. Merely a careless harsh phrase, or a momentary lapse in judgement can push promising sales opportunities off a cliff. Please understand that in these highly competitive markets, the true driving force is not the product or service, rather, it is precisely the sales person who is the driving force for customer interest. Betting a business on sales personalities is at best a highly risky endeavor and, at worst, a strategy with a highly limited upside. This mediocre scenario plays out clearly in the contract technology consulting business where a limitless number of businesses compete to deliver human resources with the same skills to enterprise customers. In fact, it is not uncommon in this marketplace for the same IT consultant to be present to the customer by multiple consulting firms.

Better to take the time to study markets very closely to determine aspects of IT operations and processes that are broken and in sore need of repair through open ended conversations with enterprise prospects who are directly involved in these very same procedures. Building specific fixes for one or more of these aspects can pay off with the required revenue to launch a promising business. These niches do not have to be dramatic. Rather, through engaging in carefully structured conversations with industry participants information can be gathered that will illuminate probable marketplace value for a method of fixing an aspect or two of an important IT system. Better to take this approach than to be on the lookout for exceptional sales personnel who can flawlessly handle any high pressure engagement with prospects. In our experience these sales personnel are in very short supply. Engaging with a talented individual can end up to be a very costly exercise for an early stage business.

If you are embarking on a new business effort and understand the value of sampling marketplace opinion about IT operations and processes, then we would like to hear from you. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

4
May

Maintaining a familiarity with marketplace perceptions of software technologies targeted to enterprise business must be Standard Operating Procedure

If your business has an offering in a complex market for enterprise business software like business intelligence (BI), it behooves you to maintain an ear to the ground to collect marketplace perceptions of your product category. In turn, your marketing communications should be tuned to conform to these marketplace perceptions. Of course, where the pervasive take is wrong (and you can substantiate why) then, of course, it makes total sense to take the voice of a marketplace leader and suggest a different path or conclusion. Nevertheless, you must have an accurate understanding of current marketplace perception of your industry, which ought to be reflected somewhere in your communications.

This call for attention to marketplace buzz or chatter may seem to be a no brainer, but if it is so obvious, then how would one explain the frequent hyperbole that characterizes some of the product benefit claims produced by entrants into this market? Here’s just a snip from an Oracle® Corporation website: “[a]n effective Business Intelligence strategy drives profitable growth and operational efficiency.” Of course the key operand here is “effective”, but the communications piece neither highlights the term, nor includes a caveat. We think this type of communications is rather ineffective. We think that the credibility of Oracle would have been enhanced had they opted to include the following caveat that, in fact, was included by Microsoft® Corporation in a white paper on the BI topic: “Businesses, in an effort to stay one step ahead, collect large amounts of data ranging from demographics, buyer behavior, and customer loyalty to financial and operational data. Unfortunately the data is useless for decision making, its intended purpose, without a way of organizing and displaying it as meaningful information”. In the Microsoft quote the writer at least states the pervasive marketplace perception that “the data is useless for decision making” and, thereby pays his due marketplace perception. (We do need to note that the Microsoft piece is not entirely free of hyperbole as the writer goes on to suggest that, with “a way of organizing and displaying [the data] as meaningful information” once may get to something useful “for decision making”, which is still a point of contention in the marketplace).

We think that marketing communications for enterprise business software products must support an effort to characterize an innovative tech business as something of a trusted business partner. Acknowledging prevalent marketplace perception is one method of magnetizing some of that trusted marketplace brand. We are keen on discussing opportunities to help innovative technology businesses better craft marketing communications to meet marketplace realities. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

1
May

Implement Sales Methods that are Appropriate for Targeted Markets to Ensure Success

Software Sales teams targeting enterprise businesses and other large groups of users in the public or not-for-profit sectors can spend months, even years (if funding is available) wandering in a desert of low productivity that results in few, if any sales. Sales does not exist within a vacuum. Every other program with which a business is engaged impacts upon the success of sales efforts, especially marketing. Nevertheless, where marketing is working fine, then the actual sales method plays a dominant role in the success or failure of selling efforts. If this method is wrong there will be few if any sales. End of story.

We could use the remainder of this blog post to beat up on methodology that we think does not work for enterprise software sales. There are lots of these methods on the market today. Nevertheless, focusing on negatives delivers little value to anyone, least of all our precious readers. Rather, we need to focus on what works for us, from which, hopefully, the reader may extrapolate some value. We think that the Complex Sale methodology formulated by Jeff Thull of the Prime Resource Group provides the best method that we know of to deliver successful selling efforts for the type of markets that we are after.

The specific feature of this method that we would like to focus on for the remainder of this post is the “discover” stage of engagement with potential sales prospects. What catches us about this stage is the opportunity it presents to sales — as well as to a prospect — to fairly determine whether or not it makes sense to pursue a particular prospect or not. In the world of enterprise software sales the days of “any prospect represents a sales opportunity” are long gone. Time is in precious short supply; therefore, it makes complete sense to objectively study an opportunity presented by a prospect to determine appropriateness before committing more resources. Further, compiling a portrait of a prospect business in detail (which is, after all, the result of successful completion of this “discover” stage) will provide specific areas of opportunity, as Jeff Thull is careful to point out in his book, “Mastering the Complex Sale” where one’s solution can significantly lower costs for a prospect and, thereby, be worth a prospect’s consideration.

We have excellent recent experience dealing with enterprise markets for software products and services. We welcome opportunities to expand on discussions such as this one. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

17
Apr

On the Need for Enterprise Sales Staff to Play the Role of Diagnosticians

In 2012 it is essential that sales planning for IT products and services targeted to enterprise businesses and other large organizations in the public and not-for-profit sectors allocate as much time as required for the compilation of a comprehensive diagnostic report on any/all prospects. As we have written elsewhere in this blog, purchase decisions are now generally much more complicated than heretofore; therefore lots of information needs to be accumulated on each aspect of how a purchase decision might be framed by a typical customer for a specific product or service, or integrated solution. This diagnostic process (we credit Jeff Thull, author of “Mastering the Complex Sale” for coining this phrase) provides sales with an opportunity to facilitate prospect movement along a path towards identifying needs (now commonly referred to as “pain points”).

We characterize many of the prospects with whom we have engaged over the last 2-3 years as “dysfunctional” decision-makers. Dislodging dysfunction is far from an easy task; nevertheless, we have obtained very good results through a thorough analysis of prospects, requirements, etc. By walking prospects through this information fact finding mission we’ve managed to help them clarify what they really need to do about all of the factors that influence a purchase, from budgets, to targeted areas for cost savings, to business units, etc. In the best of cases this process has produced sales. In the worst of cases this process has helped us to manage our time and move along to better opportunities. Regardless of outcome, we can say that this diagnostic process is the optimum way to engage with the type of enterprise prospects for the products and solutions that we have represented.

The complement to this type of purchase decision-making is an entirely online process where prospects identify what they are after, research possible solutions and simply approach vendors for pricing and availability. Typically this type of engagement — simply shopping price and timing a purchase — is characteristic of a commodity purchase; but we have seen this type of purchase occur, this year, with regard to complex intangible solution. The best method of fostering this type of sale is to optimize web sites with Search Engines for the most helpful set of keywords possible. Social media certainly may play a role in prospect decisions for these products, but the subject of how to leverage social media, effectively, to nurture sales, is still in flux.

We are most interested in hearing from innovative tech companies looking to improve sales team performance.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. is most interested in opportunities to work with IT innovators who wish to approach market opportunities with an effective sales strategy. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

16
Apr

Connect IT Systems to Business KPIs to Begin to Understand how Purchase Decisions Arise at Enterprise Business Prospects

Enterprise businesses, large organizations in the public and/or not-for-profit sectors make use of key performance indicators (KPIs), scorecards and data dashboards to, as Dr. Michael Hammer noted in his 2007 article, “The 7 Deadly Sins of Performance Measurement and How to Avoid Them”, to “[design] and [use] metrics to track and improve operating performance.” Oh, if it were only so easy! Dr. Hammer noted in his article that ” . . . there is a widespread consensus that [KPIs, balanced scorecards, data dashboards, etc] measure too much, or too little, or the wrong things, and that, in any event, they don’t use their metrics effectively.” Nevertheless, analyzing operational performance with these tools is a rich area of interest for nearly all businesses and organizations in this class. After all, the search for a means of deriving accurate and useful metrics on business performance that will support predictive modeling is as close as one can likely get to identifying a “search for the holy grail” like endeavor for these prospects. Therefore, top product marketers will keep ears and eyes open when prospects share information about these endeavors.

In fact, IT innovators targeting this class of prospect will do well to study a related comment made by Ms. Carole J. Haney, Process Owner – Process Management and Process Performance, The Boeing Company, Integrated Defense Systems, Rotorcraft Division, Mesa, Arizona, that is included in the MIT Sloan Review Article on Dr. Hammer’s research on this topic. Ms. Haney notes that her group “took an evolutionary step toward a process point of view by implementing ‘shared metrics’ across [their] value stream. Customers are now involved as part of the process team when creating process definition; a process team that comprises cross functions, including the customer, is more readily postured for success.” As we have written elsewhere in this blog, the slow pace of complex sales may be attributable to a dysfunctional decision-making process that is, nevertheless, a real factor for customers. By participating alongside customers within a process of determining needs and solutions (to cure this dysfunction) IT innovators, who can afford the time the process may take, will substantially differentiated their value for the market from their competitors. In fact, and as noted by Jeff Thull in his book “Mastering the Complex Sale,” the final product may be entirely unique and solely available from the IT innovator who spent this time with the prospect.

Analyzing KPIs, balanced scorecards, etc is equally valuable for the indicators that will, in all likelihood, be forthcoming on operations afflicted by “pain points,” as well as business operations that are “bleeding” cash. Of course, these indicators promise very rich returns for relevant products and/or services.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. is interested in opportunities to work with IT innovators who wish to approach market opportunities to collect the type of high level/very high value information characteristic of KPIs, etc. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved