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Do large companies like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle produce the best software sales people?



Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

By Vas Srinivasan, Vice President of Marketing, Sonasoft Corporation

Many companies spend millions of dollars in marketing their products and services, but with limited results. Money is important, but it has to be spent wisely. Excellent results can be achieved by being focused, understanding your customer pain points, and articulating your value proposition clearly. Especially, for small companies the task becomes even more difficult with limited marketing budget. This article talks about some useful marketing techniques that can be successfully employed to get good results.

Today, small companies, especially in the technology industry, are faced with the tough task of getting acceptance in the market place. That too, in a segment of a well-developed marketplace with many entrenched well-known players, the task becomes even more difficult. Even if you assume, that money is not a constraint, the job of getting the word out is not easy. Of course, if you have to achieve this on a shoestring budget, then you have a thankless job.

Not to worry! There are many obscure companies who have achieved success by doing the right things very effectively. By understanding your target market and your customers clearly, and offering solutions that address your customers’ pain points, you can be very successful. Marketing is a function that can become a black hole if proper attention is not paid to the end results, and marketing without metrics is an exercise in futility. Everything should be measured, whether it is an email campaign, trade show, or webinar. Ultimately all campaigns in a small company should focus on generating revenue for the company.

Target Market/Audience
Defining precisely your target market and audience is very crucial for any marketing campaign. Especially for a small company with a limited budget, lack of focus can be disastrous. Before defining the target market, clearly identify your product’s key differentiators in comparison with competition. Many small companies from the beginning start focusing on Fortune 500 or Global 2000 companies. The reason given is that if you can successfully sell to a few large customers, you can meet the revenue goals very easily. Typically, the enterprise market is owned by entrenched big players and it is very difficult to penetrate. In addition, the cost of entry is very high, the sales cycle is very long, and the growth potential is limited. In comparison, the growth potential in Small and Medium Business (SMB) market (companies with 100 to 1000 employees) is very attractive. Big players have realized the potential of SMB market; and Microsoft, for example, will be spending $10B targeting this segment.

Selling to the SMB market is not easy and the companies in this segment look for product functionality and sophistication similar to enterprise companies, but at a significantly reduced cost. That’s why many big companies trying to miniaturize their existing enterprise solution for the SMB market fail miserably. One has to consciously develop products from ground-up for the SMB market and then position and price the product effectively.

If you decide to focus on the SMB market, then you need to identify the sweet spot. This will come from experience and also by clearly analyzing your existing customer base. Based on your analysis, for example, you may find out that your sweet spot is companies with 300 to 500 employees. Also, one has to decide whether going after a particular vertical makes sense or not. From a focus perspective, it definitely helps to target a particular vertical(s), but a lot depends on the specific problem addressed by your solution.

Marketing using a broad-brush approach is not only ineffective, but also will waste resources and time. One should clearly identify the target audience and understand their pain points. If your target audience is IT managers, directors, or CIOs, then develop and address your value proposition effectively to this group.

Branding vs. Generating Leads
There is always an argument about creating and establishing a brand name or focusing on generating qualified leads for your sales team that will result in revenue for your company. Some will argue that if you develop a brand, it will automatically generate leads. In a small company, initially it is imperative to get early adopters and make them successful. Hence, the focus should be to convince initial prospects about your valuable proposition and convert them into satisfied customers. Once you get a critical mass of satisfied customers who will serve as your reference in case studies, then more focus should be on establishing the brand name.

Being a small company with a limited budget, it is always difficult to advertise on a mass scale. Not to worry! There are ways to achieve success by being very effective and efficient in what you do. As Peter Drucker said, “Efficiency is doing things right, and effectiveness is doing the right thing.” In marketing, you have to do both. One has to be very effective in choosing the right medium to deliver your message and at the same time when you deliver it, you have to be very efficient.

For a small company, it is more effective to advertise through online marketing campaigns, including targeted email campaigns, banner ads, webinars, etc. Print advertisement tends to be more costly and is more effective in branding a company once it reaches a critical mass. In addition, more and more people are relying on electronically delivered messages for getting their information. In choosing the correct online medium, one has to diligently choose the appropriate websites or mailers that reach their target audience. Another inexpensive way to get your message out is by writing articles, giving speeches, and participating in forums.

In conclusion, it is quite challenging to get your message out and generate leads if your company is small and the marketing budget is very limited. At Sonasoft, we have implemented many of the techniques discussed in this article with excellent results. Having said that, one has to go through a few iterations before honing in on the right message, target market, and target audience. You don’t have to spend millions of dollars to achieve good results.

Vas Srinivasan, Ph. D., is Vice-President of Marketing at Sonasoft Corporation, a provider of integrated backup/recovery and replication solution for the Microsoft Platform. He has 20 years of marketing, engineering, and research experience in high-tech and manufacturing fields. Vas also has extensive product marketing/management experience at Commerce One & US Steel and product development experience at Ford Motor Company. For article feedback, contact Vas at vass@sonasoft.com

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