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We had a sales lead the other ask why our product was better than ‘Product X’ (competitor solution)… I responded with the following points:

1. It’s not better – it’s different!

2. I can’t say as I don’t know your needs yet, let’s talk further.

It got me thinking though. On one hand, we can try to continually redevelop the ProWorkflow project so we “beat” all the competition on the functionality front (development focus). On the other hand we can take time to talk with customers more to better understand their needs (sales focus). Or… We could just press on and spend more time and effort on marketing and drive more leads in the pipe (marketing focus).

So… assuming that you’ll never have a software product 100% right as customers have different needs, that you’ll always need to ‘sell’ to some degree, and that marketing is an ongoing ever changing mission, of these 3 key areas, should you have a primary focus as a company (ie: Sales) or should there be an even 1/3 1/3 1/3 split of time resource and energy?

Often tech companies (Especially Web 2.0 startups) have a strong focus (due to skill bias) in one area but neglect the others. For example, they have a great product and development team, but can’t market or get traffic to the website. Or they can get traffic, and sell, but experience high churn (customer drop-off) because they lack skills in the product design and usability area.

All companies need a balance, and the primary focus may change from company to company, but here’s some thoughts to consider while thinking about your development, sales & marketing.

Development Focus

  • Listen to the tone of the customer feedback. Don’t just add features and think ‘Problem solved!’, rather understand the customers real problems and resolve them compassionately with not only a feature focus, but also a usability focus. Realise that real people have to sit down for hours each day to use your software, so consider human interaction when adding feature.
  • Always look for ways to improve usability and speed and here’s a good tip for ideas. Don’t make assumptions, talk to the customers who use your software every day.
  • Look for ways to reduce technical support (install wizards, setup guides etc) as this will free up developers time to focus on new developments, products or releases.
  • Look for ways to reduce user support. Create a searchable, built in knowledgebase for example. Every time a developer (or support staff) answers a support issue, add it to the knowledgebase.

Sales Focus

  • Focus and plan your sales funnel! Don’t give equal attention to all sales leads. Have a method or system sort out the hot leads and focus on those.
  • When selling, consider the size of the lead you’re selling to. Ie: Don’t spend 3hrs (emails) and 2 hour long teleconferences selling to a $15p/m lead. These leads should sell them self, automated, online. You should choose from the hot leads, the larger companies and spend the most time converting those leads.
  • A lot of time is wasted and conversion rates drop when salespeople don’t realize the person who signed up for the demo isn’t the decision maker. So the ‘customer’ seems to be loving the product and one day the deal fizzles! What happened was you were demo’ing to a project manager when you should have been getting buy-in from the CEO. So on the bigger deals, understand who writes the cheques and make sure you work towards getting them in the loop. Sell to the decision maker!

Marketing Focus

  • Develop a plan to over time reduce marketing spend, not increase it. This way your revenue can go in to other areas or profit margins. For example, spend time money now on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which will deliver natural free traffic over time rather than Search Engine Marketing (SEM) which can scale up traffic, but at an increasing cost.
  • Develop a strategy to use social networking to your advantage. This could be a community site, viral video, RSS blog feeds etc. As long as you offer something to the audience of value, this will build to more free traffic over time.
  • Think of your marketing approach as ‘What can I offer people’ rather than ‘Convincing people to visit me’. Ie: link and point to other people’s sites. Blog about other businesses, write articles to share, talk positively in forums – help people out with solutions. Have an ‘outward’ focus rather than an ‘inward’ focus. It’ll come back to you tenfold.

Those are just some thoughts to get people going. Feel welcome to comment below if you can think of any more considerations ;-)


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About the author:
Julian Stone, CEO – Project Management Software visionary for:, &

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About The Author:
Julian Stone begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting is the CEO of ProActive Software, developers and creators of the leading web based project management software