Growing a software company is challenging. The marketplace is rapidly evolving, and solutions fast become antiquated. Competition grows more intense each year, and standing out from what's often tens, hundreds or even thousands of other competing products is difficult.
In today's post I explain how inbound marketing can help software companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors and adapt to the new customer buying process.
Software Sales Teams Are Losing Power
The first thing to be aware of is that sales team involvement in software sales is decreasing year-on-year. The internet, search engines like Google and social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have made it possible for people to learn about products, seek reviews, take out trials and experience software for themselves without talking to anyone at your company.
This is a direct contrast to 20 years ago, where to buy software you would speak to a salesman, no matter what. Whether you were buying ERP software for a large organisation, or an operating system to use at home, you had to speak to a sales person, even if it was just someone on the shop floor in PC World.
What Does This Mean?
It's quite simple. The balance of power is shifting towards marketing.
Now, I'm not saying that sales teams don't have a place in the software sales process. A human touch is often still required to convert a qualified lead into a sale, and it's something which becomes progressively more important as the value of a sale increases. But there's no doubting that more of the sales process is now marketing's responsibility.
In a previous post on B2B marketing statistics I published, I uncovered three key facts:
- By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship without talking to a human (Gartner Research)
- 81% of B2B buyers start with a web search (Earnest)
- Most buyers are now at least 50-60% of the way into the buy cycle before they'll talk to sales (Earnest)
This means that your prospects expect to learn almost everything they can about your company before they talk a salesperson. And they're using search to get the answers: from guidance on pricing, to help with all the challenges they face. They'll either get that information from your, or your competitors' content.
It's not enough to independently use the old traditional marketing tactics anymore. Your bulk emails to purchased lists get lost in a sea of spam, and even in the event you do engage with a prospect and get them to your website, they're often not ready to speak to your sales team straight away. Buyers have changed, and they expect to get the information they need without talking to you, in their own time.
When was the last time you engaged a sales person having received an untargeted bulk email? Or bought a product/service on the back of a cold call? Or opened a piece of direct mail that you didn't instantly bin?
The huge influx in advertising over the last few decades and the power of the internet in allowing us to choose what we consume, and when. This means that people are progressively becoming more ad blind, and that organisations need to market themselves more intelligently.
The Solution: Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is all about creating quality content that appears in the right places (like search results), and pulling people toward your company and software at the right time. By aligning the content you publish with your customer's interests, challenges and needs you naturally attract targeted inbound traffic that you can convert into leads.
You nurture those leads with personalised marketing automation, and provide them with all the content they need to educate themselves in their own time. This allows your leads to reach a decision on whether they have an interest in engaging with your sales team, or making a purchase via your website.
The inbound marketing methodology allows people to self qualify, and provides your sales team with a stream of qualified leads that are warm to the idea of using your software to solve their challenges. The process is entirely in line with the new way that people and organisations buy software, and if you want to excel, your organisation needs to embrace it.
After all, when you face challenges, you turn to Google and your network (social or in-person) to solve them. And you're not so different from your prospects in that regard. Isn't it about time your software company adopted a marketing strategy that was more aligned with that?