Author: Australia Pacific Team, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Selling direct to your end users lets you stay in touch with their issues, pain points and potential prospects. It can also give you better quality control over your product/service and mean you can respond faster to areas of your business that need immediate attention.
You’re unlikely to have established networks in a market that’s new for you. Working with a distributor that’s linked in to the market segment you’re targeting can help you reach more customers faster.
A reseller established in your target market can also protect you from market-entry risks, such as the financial risks in hiring people and reputational risk. While the relationship can mitigate these risks, it will affect your point margin.
If you choose this model, you’ll need clear and separate value propositions for:
- Your end users – what problem your product/service solves for them, what makes you unique. Be aware that when using a reseller, you risk losing contact with your end users, their feedback on your products, and where your product fits into the market.
- Your sales channel – what’s in it for them? Does it complement their existing product suite? Is it revenue?
This will help you sustain the relationship over a long time and retain your channel network.
Considerations when working with resellers
- Your in-market partner/s must be motivated to focus on your product/service sufficiently. Make sure they understand their objectives and build the relationship around mutually beneficial business goals.
- Clearly define the financial/operational details of how you’ll work together.
- Ensure that your in-market growth is on target and that you have a framework for any necessary adjustments.
- Maintain constant communication, making sure your resellers are up to speed with any product changes/developments, training or certification (enablement).
Actively assist your channel partners to sell your products/services. There are numerous ways you can do this.
- Events (virtual or in person).
- Providing collateral to make sure they’re up to speed with your product suite, or changes to your product that will occur over time.
- Advanced technical support and tailored training.
It’s very important that your in-market partner/s are motivated to focus on your product/service sufficiently. Make sure they understand what their business objectives are and build the relationship around mutually beneficial business objectives.
For large, strategic deals, end users often prefer the vendor – as opposed to their local reseller – to be there when the deal is signed. This shows that you take their business seriously.
Collaborating with other in-market SaaS businesses
If there are other in-market SaaS businesses targeting a similar customer base but offering different services to you, there are real benefits in collaborating with them. These include shared learnings about pitfalls and what’s around the corner, and a strength-in-numbers approach if you’re presenting multiple product/service offerings to a customer.
How to find collaboration partners
Networking events are a great way to meet other SaaS businesses, but consistency is key – you don’t want to show up at an event and then disappear for two years. Attending, speaking at and sponsoring events will help you build brand awareness and brand value.
Writing thought-leadership content for industry association bodies is also a good way to raise your business profile. These bodies provide value for their (fee-paying) members through content and are often delighted for you to supply articles, as it takes a job off their desk.
Know your target market segment. Be clear on your value proposition
Many early-stage exporters don’t do enough research to find out the right markets for their product/service, who their true customers are in that market, and how to reach them. You need to know who your target audience is so you can communicate directly with them, using the right language and channels.
You can use desktop market research to identify your serviceable addressable market (SAM) or, if you have the resources, get a market research agency conduct in-depth interviews for you.
Think marketing and sales, not sales and marketing
Good marketing makes sales easier. A common mistake New Zealand SaaS businesses make when expanding offshore is not prioritising marketing or using a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing material.
It’s tempting to use the same marketing material you created for your New Zealand customers. But if you’re trying to reach customers in global markets, it’s important to speak to them in their language – and note that there are nuances between New Zealand, British and American English – and to use terminology that’s familiar to them.
The insights from your market research will help you answer their questions, name the problems they’re experiencing and offer your brand/product as a solution.
Survey your existing customers
Survey your existing customer base and use these insights to fine-tune your value proposition.
Questions you could ask them:
- Why did/do you buy our product?
- What do you like about it?
- What don’t you like about it?
- What pain point does our product solve for you?
Have a use case on hand
When you enter a new market, work fast to get your first few clients and ask them to act as references for future sales. Many successful SaaS businesses have short video case studies or customer references on their website. These client testimonials will help amplify your value proposition. A written (1-2 pages) case study outlining how you implemented your service for a customer, along with pain points and tangible outcomes, will make it real for potential customers.
Hire local: Get the right people representing you in market
Even for SaaS businesses, a local in-market presence is very important. Having someone on the ground (not just registering your business in market) demonstrates your commitment to the market and allows you to deal directly with customers on some of the bigger in-market opportunities.
Who to hire for customer retention
Where you can afford it, consider hiring an in-market customer success manager. This person will look after new customers, ensuring your product/service is implemented well and that they get any necessary training, and providing intensive customer support for a short period of time before stepping back.
It may not be feasible to hire this type of person, so make someone in your business responsible for understanding questions and key metrics like:
- How many customers are we losing every month? (Churn rate)
- How long do our customers generally remain customers?
- What’s our monthly recurring revenue (MRR)?
If you’re constantly acquiring new customers but churning them out, you’ll never grow, and you will burn through your cash.
Use metrics to shape your sales strategy
Product sales mastery pro guide. Graphic recreated from The Cooler Moment.
“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. — Lord Kelvin, 19th century scientist”
When you’re expanding into a new market, it’s vital to set up the right systems (CRM or telephony, for example) and reporting functionality so you can capture and report on the right data metrics. You need to know things like: when do our customers become customers? When do they drop off? Where are the weaknesses? If you’re not capturing the right data, you can’t identify what needs to be fixed. Capturing poor data leads to poor measurement and analysis.
A common mistake is focusing on too many metrics, or metrics for the wrong stage and age of your company. If this is the case, you’ll spend a lot of time and resources measuring the metrics instead of analysing any useful changes that might result in sustainable growth.
If you’ve captured good data, have good reporting systems, and know what you want to measure, you’ll identify the strengths and weaknesses in your customer acquisition and retention chain, so you can address them.
Content strategy: customer awareness, conversion and retention
The customer journey as a bow tie model, graphic recreated from Winning by Design.
Having a strong content strategy and good digital marketing is crucial in moving people along from not knowing about your business to becoming a prospect, to being a marketing qualified lead (MQL) then a sales qualified lead (SQL), to becoming a customer and retaining their business.
For SaaS businesses, knowledge is a marketing asset. Using it the right way (what knowledge you share) at the right time (when you share it) will help you win and keep customers.
The Marketing & Sales Funnel, evolved from AIDA, graphic recreated from Winning by Design.
Too much information up front or presented in a complicated way (e.g. a website homepage that’s crowded with information or hard to navigate) can put potential customers off. You can also lose customers by not communicating enough information or not offering fresh, engaging content during the nurturing stage.
Likewise, regular fresh content that keeps customers informed of product/service updates, changes, innovations, and relevant benefits, will help you retain and upsell customers.
When you’re planning a content strategy, consider four areas: resourcing, channel, frequency and type.
How healthy is your website?
Up to 94% of all internet traffic is generated by the first page of Google search results. If your SaaS business does not appear on page one of Google when people search for your product/service, there’s a good chance they’ll never find you.
A website health check will help identify weaknesses in your website. Metrics, such as how much traffic your URL gets compared to your competitors, will help you identify weaknesses and potential improvements to your site in order to reach more customers.
For search engine optimisation (SEO), keywords are your tools to attract web traffic. To figure out what your keywords should be, think about the questions you (or those representing your brands) are commonly asked during demonstrations and webinars. Consider:
- What words do you use to answer these questions?
- What keywords are your competitors using?
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