Over the last few months, I had the pleasure of speaking with a wide range of ISV partners from all around the world who found themselves in varying stages of marketing sophistication. Some were very small companies with no more than one or two employees dedicated to their marketing efforts, and others were more established with a team of professionals focused on building their brand.
A common theme across all these conversations was the need to focus on the customer and how marketing is an intrinsic part of that effort. Despite their differences, there was a common theme based on five key marketing practices that helped these partners drive success:
- A customer-centric business model
- Selling and marketing of their unique value to organizations
- Specialization, whether within a vertical or finding a niche market
- A commitment to innovation
- Treating partner channels as part of their marketing strategy
Here’s a breakdown of what else these partners recommend in terms of practical, low cost tips to drive marketing success.
1. Total Synergy
Scott Osborne, CEO of Total Synergy, shared that it was learning about the buyers’ journey that highlighted their need to engage with customers very early on in the sales cycle. As buyers become more self-educating, the sales cycle is shortened. So it’s critical to engage with your customers before they even start researching solutions.
They also found that writing high quality content was so important that Total Synergy brought their content marketing in-house. Shifting to digital content production gave them more flexibility in terms of what they were creating and how. They structure their content around key pillars that match their audience needs. While their blog is the centerpiece of their content marketing efforts, they also use their writing across many channels.
“We create all of our content with a very specific set of production values which we call ORIO. ORIO stands for Original, Relevant, Insightful, and Objective. We figure if we can make the content fit those values, we’re going to build trust and people will come back for more.”
– Jamie Millar, Total Synergy
Walter Van Uytven, CEO of Awingu, stated that it was important for marketing messages to always be “on”. Those messages need to focus on who the company is and how they can help the customer. He also emphasized the importance of online digital marketing tools, such as social media, email, and paid search. He believes that it is critical for partners to develop a business plan and ensure that marketing departments are well funded and trained in helping increase customer engagement.
“If I could give one piece of advice to partners starting out, it would be to build your house level by level, keep seeding to harvest in the future, and keep training yourself and your partners. Keep the faith in yourself and your solution, and continue pitching, pitching, pitching.”
– Walter Van Uytven, Awingu
U.S.-based partner Automational is focused on helping small business customers find a solution to their marketing pain points. Marketing VP Nate Kristy says that good marketing starts with the basics. You need to know who your target audience is and have a message that is relevant for them.
Nate recomends living a culture of customer feedback. Seek out your customers, find out where they spend their time online and how they search for solutions. Actively solicit feedback by email or phone. Survey them every chance you get. People are willing to provide you with a lot of information if you just ask.
“Be very specific in your targeting. It is much better to own a smaller section of the market than it is to be an “also-ran” in a bigger section of the market.”
– Nate Kristy, Automational
CEO Ray Meiring of Qorus believes that inbound marketing is one of the most valuable marketing tactics you can find. Presenting yourself as a thought leader through your content is key to reaching and keeping customers. He recommends businesses write content, read a lot, listen to what people have to say. Then make sure to track your results.
He also says that social media is key way to distribute content, build your brand, and connect with influencers. It also helps with recruitment and helps to establish your company within the industry as the thought leader you want to be.
“Using tools like Instagram or Facebook help us to be able to represent our corporate culture to new people who might be interested in finding out more about us.”
– Ray Meiring, Qorus
5. Game Insight
Latvian partner, Game Insight, knows that to make an impact in their marketing efforts, everything ties back to their customers. CEO Anatoly Ropotov said that before they even start building a product, they float the concepts to their audience via social media to get a reaction. The ones that resonate most with their existing customers are the ones that get the green light.
To them, taking a player or user-centric approach is key to their marketing success. Thinking about what the players want, what draws them to Game Insight as a company, these are the things that build loyalty. Anatoly says that you should make business decisions so as to not lose the trust of the audience. They also allow players to play offline, provide sneak peaks and are very open about the roadmap of development.
“When you develop a product, don’t focus on a single theme or setting. Be ready to explore and change or adapt based on player feedback.”
– Anatoly Ropotov, Game Insight
6. LS Retail
Eloise Freygang, CMO of LS Retail in Iceland, emphasized the importance of a vertical focus and taking it one step further by pursuing micro-verticals (such as ecommerce) within the greater industry verticals. Once you have identified your niche, focus on the emotions of the customers. Map the pain points and desired content of each demographic. Show your passion for your products and your solutions to inspire the same in your customers.
LS Retail has found great success due to their use of the partner channel and marketing efforts within their channel. With this strategy in mind, they are better able to generate leads on behalf of partners and help support the end customers as well.
“The world has been changing rapidly, and our customers are earlier to find us than we are to find them. So our focus went toward really creating marketing messages and optimized websites so our customers can find us.”
– Eloise Freygang, LS Retail
For more great insights from these MS partners, check out their helpful videos on the Smart Partner Marketing page.