While Independent Software Vendors should stick to the marketing tactics that they know already work, they should also be open to exploring these often untapped options and move beyond traditional trade shows and direct mail.
Guest post by Bernadette Wilson, DevPro Journal
Does your ISV experience business ebbs and flows? Are there times, for example, when there are so many projects that your team can barely keep up, but when that work is done, there’s nothing on the schedule and you have to start scraping together names of prospects? If this is the case with your business, a well-planned marketing strategy can help.
First, let me make it clear that I understand ISVs aren’t usually marketers by nature. If they were, in fact, they’d probably be marketers, not ISVs. But marketing in some form is a necessary part of every business — you offer products or services, and people need to know that so they can do business with you.
How ISVs typically market their businesses
DevPro Journal recently conducted a study in partnership with value-added distributor Blue Star to determine which marketing activities ISVs use the most and which provide the greatest return. The survey revealed that the most commonly used marketing activities (as well as the ones that were the most successful) were exhibiting at trade shows (71%) and direct mail campaigns (63%). ISVs expressed some frustration with direct mail, however, possibly due to lack of response when sending to purchased lists, rather than using lists they developed on their own.
ISVs also often rely on word-of-mouth marketing to spread the word about the great products and services they offer. Although this can be an effective strategy, the timing and reach of your brand ambassadors can be unpredictable and out of your control.
What more can an ISV do?
ISVs have at their disposal several, and often untapped, resources they can use to market their businesses. Consider these three:
1. Your website
Virtually every ISV has a website, but not every ISV's website is a strategic marketing tool. Take a critical look at your website from the perspective of a prospect. Does it explain your offerings in a way that’s clear for potential clients to understand, and is it easy to navigate? Your website may be a prospect’s first impression of your company. Does it create the impression you want to project?
In addition to using your website to convey your brand image, does it have value as a marketing tool? The content on your website should be well-written and optimized for search engines with well-chosen keywords. This will help people searching the internet for the information you provide — and the service you offer — find you more easily.
Once a visitor finds your website, do you offer information they will find useful? Each page on your website should include a “call to action” (CTA) that invites the visitor to learn more by reading on or downloading information. If the information is valuable enough, perhaps pertaining to a new regulation, hot trend, or money-saving tip, the visitor to your website may be willing to complete a form to access the information. At that moment, your website just helped you collect a marketing lead.
2. Partner resources
You may have a question in the back of your mind, wondering where the valuable information on the new regulation, hot trends, or money-saving tips will come from, especially during the busy times (before the ebbs) in your business. One idea is to explore marketing resources available from your partners. As an ISV partner, you may be able to co-brand white papers, infographics, e-books or other assets and offer them for download on your website.
You may also be able to apply for market development funds (MDF) that help you cover the costs of developing co-branded assets or engage in other marketing activities approved by the vendor partner.
3. Social media
Another way to raise brand awareness and connect with prospects is through social media. Depending on the platform, you may find your best use of time and resources may be reaching out to individuals you want to connect with, running paid campaigns aimed at clicks or web traffic, being active on social media during tradeshows to connect with people there and gain followers, or any combination of tactics. With limited time, focus on the platforms and the activities that provide your ISV with the greatest return and look into leveraging automation platforms that can make it easier to be consistent with social marketing.
The Marketing Big Picture
Before you take your next marketing step, pause to consider your overall business goals and the role marketing must play to reach them. Marketing activities should align with these goals and be a part of your overall business strategy, not simply one-off, one-time tasks.
If you are among ISVs that most often exhibit at trade shows or sends mailers and that’s working for you, by all means don’t change anything that’s been successful. But if you are looking for ways to keep a steadier stream of names filling your sales funnel, it may be time to move beyond your current marketing activities and find new ways to let people know what makes your ISV unique and the value it can offer.
About the Author
Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.