Software companies are constantly reviewing and improve their product strategies to stay ahead of competitors. In recent years, the competitive bar for these companies has increased quite disproportionately. As a software vendor, you have most likely worked intensively on growing your company from scratch by putting your heart and soul, investing hard cash, crazy hours and sweat equity- just to get the machine up and running.
If you have already crossed the startup mode and have successfully built profitable projects, your next goal is obviously to become bigger and better and make it to your target firm’s preferred vendor list. The only problem is that there are plenty of other fish in the sea – a growing number of ISVs are vying for that same firm.
To sustain in the long run, it becomes essential for software companies to look beyond just developing a product and making a sale. Delivering quality products has to be complemented with relationship building. For an ISV to carve a solid niche for itself in the industry, the focus always should be on what it can do for the customer.
This is what it all rests on. Here are the five key things you must always do for your audience- whether they are just a lead, a prospect or a customer:
1.) Keep your buyers informed
Always be in a helping frame of mind as opposed to hard selling. Your buyers can tell the difference- they want to be talked to, not talked at. When you share relevant content, information and tools with your buyers -- things that will help them succeed in their respective areas, with or without your product, you build trust. Think about product tips, industry updates, best practices and so on.
There is a distinctive advantage to building this trust: when your prospective buyers start to trust the information you share, they will also trust your product. They will look forward to hearing company and product updates. When you initiate email campaigns, you can keep them posted on how you’re planning to better your product, request feedback from them and show them that they are indeed more than just a sales number.
By keeping the focus on helping the customer as opposed to selling to the customer, a software vendor will have happy customers that stay longer and be more valuable in terms of revenue.
2.) Solve their problems and solve it fast
Solving problems means doing background research, engaging with the buyer or customer consistently and learning about the issues they are facing. Then, get your team on the task of creating optimal, quickly delivered solutions. For every minute you spend losing out on not being aware of their challenges, you are losing out to competitors in the market who are on their game. Give speed and agility the importance it deserves.
3.) Provide continued support
This should ideally be a no-brainer, but so many companies are just happy to have made a sale, that they don’t focus so much on after sale support. Post purchase support is a very big factor in a continued relationship. Not only is it extremely valuable for repeat business as well as referral business, but it also brands you as a business that genuinely wants to create a symbiotic relationship, which goes well beyond temporary profits. Software vendors should always keep a long-term view of the relationship - as opposed to maximizing the current sale.
4.) Be a thought leader
Although thought leadership, as a term, has become quite cliché, the concept it espouses is still very much relevant to startup and mid-size ISVs. You should actively be collecting, analyzing and synthesizing data. Every fresh concept you are learning from the industry and the market should ideally be channelized into providing information, expertise and leadership in the areas that the customer is trying to improve on.
5.) Don’t be a vendor
At the end of the day, one of the best things you can do for your customer is to NOT treat them like a customer! Focus on building relationships and focus on becoming a strategic partner in their success. Think about how best you can deliver value to the buyer starting from when he/she is just a prospect. This relentless passion to generate value for the buyer/customer should happen across every discipline- whether it is sales, marketing, support or product management.
As a successful software vendor, how do you treat your customers? What are absolute "must dos" in your book? Please share your thoughts and views in comments below!