I seem to be having a number of conversations with software vendors in the past six months. Sometimes, we’ll get to the part of the conversation where the software vendor wonders why their product isn’t selling as well as someone else’s.

The conversation tends to start innocently-enough, where we’re just chatting about what we’re both doing. Then, having gotten comfortable in the conversation with me, the software vendor will sometimes say to me something like, “So, our technology is as-good-as/better-than/much-superior to our competition and they’re selling a lot more than us. Why is that?”

This is a tricky question but, in the cases where some software vendor has asked me, directly, the success of the two software brands in question has come down to the fact that, while some products probably are actually better than others, having great sales and marketing makes a big difference.

But let’s backtrack just a bit: each of us gets attached to our product, whether it’s a software product or a services product. Most or all of us really do think we’re doing it, best. Sometimes, it’s not actually true. So, that’s the first thing to consider.

But even when it is actually true, sales figures aren’t necessarily a function of how good a product is. We’ve seen horrible products do well in our industry. Sometimes, there’s just no competition in a certain sector. But where the sector is bombarded with products, those with the best marketing and sales tend to do the best. We sometimes talk about “word of mouth” and “organic” ways to get products accepted by customers but I don’t believe I’ve seen any product in our industry succeed without plenty of strong sales and marketing.

With that said, what do the small companies do? Should they hang their head and go jump off a bridge, product in-hand? No. Some of them will figure out ways to get their foot in the door with customers and will succeed, despite the competition against them. It’s a hard road but companies do find ways to succeed at this.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

11 Thoughts to “Software Vendors Compare With Others”

  1. Neil Chapman Lab Informatics Ltd.

    As an observation I have seen companies with a Sales department, ones with a Sales and Marketing department but very few with a Marketing and Sales department. It is great to have a good sales engine but you should remember that it is the Marketing team that supply the fuel. Often they find the raw fuel and need to refine it for the sales engine i.e. they get leads and turn them into prospects.

    The downside was also pointed out in the article – horrible products do occasionally do well in our industry. That is because they have a good marketing department that feeds a good stream of prospects to the Sales team. Much of what we do is a numbers game and if you have a 1% lead conversion on 100 leads you want to be working out how to get a 1% conversion on 10000 leads. You also need to be thinking about how to make it a 2% conversion then 3%, then 4% etc. You need to be a marketing driven organisation firstly then you can worry about how to handle the sales.

    Plenty of small companies do succeed, its not rocket science it is the application of good marketing followed by sales activity.

  2. One comment I’ll make to what Neil just said is that I think that there’s some frustration at getting marketing arms of businesses working. Every business conference I attend expresses some frustration in being able to drive marketing content. At the same time, no-one says they don’t know how to build a sales team. Everyone seems to know how to find the local Sandler Sales group to help them figure out how to setup their sales program.

    As such, I have to wonder if people find the aspect of processing sales leads somewhat more straightforward to figure out than out to do the marketing to get them in the first place.

    That’s just me “thinking out loud” a bit on this, though.

  3. Neil Chapman Lab Informatics Ltd.

    Just another comment here following the reply from Gloria. I think that Marketing should create leads but that is only their first role. Secondly they should turn leads in prospects that the Sales team can then turn into orders.

    A lead is just a contact address, probably an email address. The Marketing team need to nurture that lead to turn it into a prospect not just hand over the lead to sales. The nurturing process may last a few months, or in the case of LIMS it could be a few years, it is the process of educating people so that they are aware of the benefits of a LIMS and understand why they should acquire a LIMS. Only at that point are they a suitable starting point for the sales process. Poor quality prospects just cause frustration to the Sales team and mean their conversion rate will be lower.

    Digital marketing techniques make it easier to spot the prospects as they emerge from the pool of leads. All this is well established but so often companies do not adopt it.

    If yo want to succeed then strengthen your Marketing team not the Sales team – you can do that when you are overwhelmed with good quality prospects.

  4. Gerard Ipskamp

    One problem I see is that marketing has a ‘difficult business case’. The wrong question asked many times internally is for example: If we will be on xyz conference what will that generate. People asking that question forget that the average anayst being there will see something he likes and tell internally about it. And so you get on a shortlist.

    And the sales can do their job.

    So networking and visibility.

    On the other hand. I have offered many vendors as an consultant to review their product with them. But then they get very quit. So I wonder if they really want to know where their product stands…….

  5. I agree with all the posts, here. Gerard talks about how quiet software vendors get and I think they sometimes either don’t want to know or they can’t figure out what they’ll do about the problem.

    As a somewhat different angle to this, in my own business here at GeoMetrick Enterprises, I had thought I would devote some part of my business to creating content for software vendors. In this day and age when there seems to be a scramble to find ways to drive content, I thought it would be relatively easy to find software vendors who would have enough interest that I could find a way to make that a sector of my business.

    However, while I did have a couple vendors interested, at one point, it never came to pass. The most likely reasons would be these, I would think: they’ve decided they don’t like the way I write; they don’t value content; they found another place to get content.

    While there is some evidence that they might have found some ways to internally drive more content than they previously had, I’m not sure that the issue isn’t more that they don’t value getting extra content. Of course, we could argue that they don’t like the way I write except I would argue that they already know how I write and wouldn’t have pursued the issue, at all, if they had doubts that I would write something useful for them.

    It could just be my impression, but I think there’s a lack of value placed on marketing and on putting together content.

    And, by the way, I’m not arguing that marketing is just about creating content, but just saying that that’s the focus I took on this as a service to provide, figuring that most companies probably already have an actual Marketing department.

  6. Marketing is important of course but the way the product is sold is also very, very important. If the sales engineer focuses on the wrong thing (like technology) and does not focus on the pain points of the client, then an inferior product with a better sales engineer will win the day. Marketing only gets you an opportunity to sell but it is the sales engineer that makes the difference and ultimately ends in closing win or closing lost. Clients never talk about the marketing stuff. They talk about the demo and the proposal.

    BTW, I have met sales people (not to be confused with sales engineers) where the sales person is really nothing more than a marketing person. They go to tradeshows, travel around and meet and greet but can’t even demo the product they are supposedly selling. This will NOT get you sales and there are soooo many better ways of marketing that will bring you tons more leads at a fraction of the cost. I would advocate to all LIMS companies… lose the marketing people and focus on sales engineers that can actually serve the client with meaningful information and knowledge to help them fully understand your product from a functional point of view. To do that the sales engineer must perform use case based demos, address technology questions and then construct a proposal that simply hits the spot for the client. Marketing…. well that is another story all together but in this LIMS world the venues for marketing are very, very, very limited so make use of them and don’t make a career of it. The customers will easily find you if they want to.

  7. I would argue that you have to make your own marketing venues. Otherwise, how would you stand out if you’re just going the same places as everyone else?

  8. You know I agree with that about the venue… I don’t run any ads for LabLynx anywhere. I have found google ads to be a very poor venue. My own venues work best for us and for a number of my competitors too but again, I don’t run ads, not even in my own venues. I find articles and discussions and general information sharing to be simply the best form of marketing (driving leads). The LiMSwiki I have is over the top great for generating leads. The question is: How many limswiki’s, lims directories and other lims venues do we actually need? As long as the venues are free and open to everyone (which mine are) then there is simply no need for anyone to duplicate all that stuff, what would be the point. That being said, everything I publish is licensed under the free and open sharing creative commons license so everyone is free to copy and distribute it freely as long as it is cited back to the source. So if every vendor wants to duplicate what I am doing they are more than welcome to do it but truly there is no point to it.

  9. I agree that if everyone did the same thing then no-one would stand out. But that’s what the marketing person has to figure out. If they could just easily go out with a huge wad of cash and advertise to all the right magazines, pick just the right conferences, and otherwise drop your company name in all the places people will see, then you wouldn’t really need a marketing person to begin with because it would just be so obvious and easy to do.

    That’s one of the many reasons why the marketing person is useful. Whether or not that person is any good is exactly the same problem as with any other position in the company. Some companies find great people, others don’t. In many smaller companies, there are a handful of people that share these types of jobs and have to make it work out, as opposed to having dedicated people for each role..

    As for whether to send a brand new marketing person to your booth, it’s a hard choice, I’d think. Booth tickets can be expensive but if you have a new person and want them to learn the business, conferences are a way to find lots of people for someone new to get information from. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of having people in the booth who know the product, either.

  10. Gerard Ipskamp

    I see a marketing/sales representative analogue to a project manager. He needs to organise, do external stakeholder management, manage his own team members, etc.
    How much he needs to do on content indeed depends on the qualities/competences in his team. Sometimes it is needed he can give demo’s himselve. But I also have seen that he was able to use slides enough to get the oppertunity to bring in the great sales engineer.
    The differences make it interesting.

    In the end it’s al about the ‘Gun’ factor (in Dutch). The customer wants to give you the order and will find the arguments for that. Of course if the possibe vendors are close enough in the primairy assesment.

    Another thing I try to find out for a customer is how good is the project organisation. You can implement the best product so bad, it isn’t working.
    So, marketing-sales-sales engineer is al nice, but the work and quality is dependent on the delivery organisation. And the sales engineer cannot do al the projects …….

  11. Neil Chapman Lab Informatics Ltd.

    Hi. There is a lot being said here that could be confusing.

    John I agree with your viewpoint of not advertising but much of what you are doing I would definitely term as marketing e.g. LIMSwiki, articles and case studies. Are all good to have and should be written by someone with marketing expertise. John has found his marketing strength and a few others have done the same, sadly others have not. As John has proven if you get your marketing right you will get a good stream of leads which can be turned in to qualified prospects and, hopefully, sales.

    Turning to the sales person then I believe what you need is a person with knowledge of how labs work, how a LIMS can be applied to a lab and of the product itself. They should, in my opinion, be able to do a good demo of a basic LIMS system and to be able to articulate the benefits of a LIMS to the potential customer. They should be there as a liaison person between vendor and client to ensure that both sides understand what is required by the other. They often work with the person (Lab Manager or similar) who wants the LIMS but their real role is to bring both sides to an agreement i.e. a sale.

    When it comes to a demonstration of a solution that has been partially configured to the clients needs then that is the job of the sales engineer – along with answering questions about the technical infrastructure etc. They are often talking with the organizations IT people or other technical (non-lab) staff and will likely be involved in the proposals and pricing.

    So the marketing person, sales person and sales engineer all have a defined role. Gloria is correct that these roles may need to exist in one or two people in a small organization or the person that has the role of sales engineer may also be the marketing person or maybe the CEO/MD, The sales engineer may be one of the development engineers etc.

    A final thought on this subject is that very few products are sold without marketing and sales input. The real answer is to have the most effective marketing coupled with an effective sales team – that way you win.

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