In this series, we’ve watched our house of business go through the vision, the planning stage, and construction. Now we’re finally to the point that it’s nearly ready to inhabit!
When a house is finished and is on the market, staging furniture is often brought in so that potential buyers can visualize how the house will appear when people live there. This is done so that potential buyers can get a complete vision of what their home could look like.
How can we equate this to a business, to sales? Higher-ticket products or services might be sold through a specialized product presentation tailored to a specific company. For the SaaS business, though, where my company resides, the usual option is to offer a trial. And for a trial, “staging” need not necessarily be provided. There are many tools that can be used which allow you to customize a SaaS product for a specific company and which will allow a company a very hands-on feel—much like the house with the staging furnishings. In the case of the house, though, you cannot add your own furnishings to see how it will appear, wherewith most SaaS products, a company can add its own data and customization, and really test it out.
Ready for Market
You must make sure your product is truly ready for the market, though, just as you would a home. From a sales and marketing perspective, sometimes products are put on the market before they’re ready, and they flop. I have a friend whose company marketed a cloud product before its time. They were totally overconfident, and the product was nowhere near ready. The results were devastating. Fortunately, they were, in the end, able to finally get the product up to speed, and it’s now doing well, but it was a tough ride.
Companies do sometimes, in a very aggressive market, sell houses before they’re ever even built—they only exist on paper. But the normal procedure (and the more advised one) is to finish the house or the product, and then go out and sell it.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
When the product is ready for market, it is critical that the sales and marketing teams are in alignment. They must pass over leads and have prospects handled quickly, and be right in step with each other. If not, there could be real issues. It could be that marketing has provided leads that weren’t followed up by sales in a timely fashion or sat on leads and didn’t rapidly pass them to sales. Prospects get tired of waiting and move onto a competitor. In today’s lightning-fast world of commerce, sales and marketing being out-of-sync can lose you considerable time and money.
In our industry—the CRM space—there is a big shift when it comes to marketing, one which I predict will spread to other industries. In years past CRM marketing was accomplished through heavy investment in things like Google Adwords and redirect marketing. But today there is an enormous amount of competition—literally hundreds of product offerings that show up on Google. From a customer perspective, it’s nearly impossible to evaluate the right one for your company. Therefore comparison websites, such as G2Crowd, Software Advice, and Capterra are becoming vital. These sites evaluate the many different systems and provide comprehensive comparisons to buyers, which Google does not do.
I predict that such sites will become increasingly valuable, as more products and services enter an already overcrowded marketplace. Paying for Adwords and ranking higher in paid search results is becoming meaningless.
Yes, many things are changing—and as has been said many times, change is the only real constant. If you don’t change with the times, you will lose out. As Charles Darwin pointed out, it’s not necessarily the strongest and smartest who survive, but the ones who adapt to change.
The Right People
As our house is completed and our business is ready to start up, I’ll again circle back to the importance of people and teams. As Jim Collins says in his excellent book Good to Great, you must have the right people on the bus, and placed in the right seats, in order for that bus (the business) to move forward.
It takes the right people to deal with each of the critical phases of constructing a house of business. You must position them according to their talents, training, dedication to the company, understanding of the company vision, product and market. When this isn’t done right, you end up stalling and having to seek extra rounds of funding, while at the same time adding considerable time by having to dismiss the wrong people and hire new ones, which isn’t always easy.
The need for expert specialists is, in my opinion, making it tough for a smaller company in the world today. As an example, SEO is practically rocket science today. Website development, while not necessarily rocket science, still requires considerable expertise because of security. Your product must always be scalable, and must constantly be improved to be kept competitive. Sales and marketing must be kept sharp and in tight coordination.
Other challenges can include becoming a virtual business, which many of us have now done. We’re no longer sitting together in the same office as we were 20 years ago, but creating a communicating corporate culture virtually without physically meeting on a regular basis. The problem with this period in the history of business is that we have no real historical comparison to look back on. None of these things have ever happened before. For thousands of years, any team making an accomplishment was together physically. Now they’re not, but spread all over the world in different countries, speaking different languages, in different time zones, and often with different mindsets. Keeping a single vision, dedication and direction while efficiently working together is the challenge we all face.
There is no big secret to success in this environment—except perhaps the “secret” of never being satisfied with the status quo, and always being alert to changes. Never be surprised at the various changes that can occur, and always be alert to what the customers are saying and what must be built for the future.