David beat Goliath. The reason that story is so famous is because, usually, it’s the giant who wins. But in this case, what allowed David to come out on top was the right tool, and knowledge of the game. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath, he points out that the slingshot used by David was not a child’s toy, but rather a devastating weapon with the stopping power of a .45 caliber handgun. David was smaller than Goliath, yes, but he had the right tool, the expertise to use it, and knew where his target was.
This week on CEO Exclusive I’m happy to welcome Carol O’Kelley and Malinda Wilkinson from Salesfusion. They’ve created marketing automation software specifically for smaller businesses, and offered great insight on how to ramp up your business to compete with the giants. We talk about sales and marketing, but the wisdom can be transferred to any area of your business – strategy, analysis, product development, you name it.
Make Sure the Technology Solves the Problem
Don’t chase shiny objects (and check out this CEO Exclusive article on when to take your tech to the next level). When you decide to go with an upgrade, make sure you know what the problem is that needs solving.
Wilkinson points out the success of Cataract Steel. They used a lot of independent sales reps, and didn’t have any in house marketing. They ran into the issue of how to easily communicate with current customers when there were product updates or other opportunities. They wanted to expand their business without spending money on an increased sales force. They realized that marketing was the answer, and went seeking a partner to help them reach out to existing customers and develop new leads. Working with Salesfusion, they were able to bring in five new opportunities from their first email campaign.
Get the Tools
Marketing automation has been around for 10-15 years and has been put to great use by large companies. It has given them expansive reach, and made it easier for them to engage prospective customers. The tools they have used aren’t targeted, financially or otherwise, for smaller businesses.
There has also been a slew of digital marketing technology for smaller companies, but for many businesses, using this software has been like flying blind –which isn’t effective. With this problem in mind, software companies are starting to stick around for the ride, helping with the management and implementation of their software in a more “hands-on” way.
Get the Support
In his Ted Talk, Gladwell explains that slingers, like David, were exceptionally accurate. They could hit birds in flight, and damage targets from as far away as 200 yards. No matter how great a sling is, if it’s not in the hands of someone trained in using it, it isn’t going to beat any giants all by itself. David was a shepherd with years of practice protecting his flocks from wild animals with that sling. He was skilled and experienced. He was an expert.
Much of the reason marketing automation tools have not been accessible to small and mid-sized businesses is the sophistication required to operate them. Operating them was a full-time job (or several full-time jobs), and training for these programs can be more than many small businesses have in their marketing budget.
The Software as a Service (SaaS) revolution is a good 15 years in, and as technology advances, it is a fit for fewer and fewer small and mid-sized businesses. On her Huffington post blog Sharon Rowlands says, “There are many very valid reasons that a SaaS model isn’t the best fit for most local business owners. Local business owners and employees wear multiple hats – and it’s not likely any of those hats say CIO or IT on them. Implementing new technology, working out the kinks, and troubleshooting problems when they arise is very time-consuming and often frustrating.”
Software with a service brings David to slingshot. O’Kelley calls “Software with a Service” the next evolution. She says, “We learned that as an industry, if you went back to customers who were using software as a service platforms a year out, and you said, ‘Did you achieve what you expected with the platform in the first year?’ invariably the question was no.” Companies cited reasons like competing priorities, and failed estimations of the time it would take to master the new system and manage change.
In the new model, the software team goes on the journey with you. If a company isn’t getting the results they want, they can go back to a provider like Salesfusion and get help pinpointing the issue.
O’Kelley says, “At the outset of a project, we identify what your goals are, and then we hold you accountable.” They not only know how to manage and analyze the data from your campaigns, they help you plan them. “We have more expertise so we can say, ‘Okay, if you want to do a full multichannel marketing campaign leading up to this event, or tradeshow in September, that means you need to be doing the following things in May and June and July.’” Clearly defined lines in these kinds of relationships are important, so make sure you know who is responsible for doing which parts of the planning and work.
Get Your Team on the Same Page
Communication is always a running theme on our shows, and incorporating technology like Salesfusion can make a big difference. We did an article a few weeks back on how High Road Craft Ice Cream uses Slack to increase communication and productivity. Making sure you have marketing software that works with your CRM can do wonders for the communication between your sales and marketing teams. O’Kelley, a marketer, says, “If you can agree to service level agreements- what is a lead…what qualifies a lead, you can get people on the same page, and you can stop some of that historic debate. I think that that’s one of the greatest things that maturation of sales and marketing technologies has brought to the corporate environment.”
With the numbers of small businesses in the U.S. growing steadily, partnerships like the one Salesfusion offers will become increasingly important to allow those businesses to compete. If there is something the big companies are doing that you don’t feel you can take on, chances are there is a software with a service out there with your name on it.