Saturday, November 7, 2015

As markets mature, marketing gets tougher

You’d think that as markets became more mature and people already understood what your solution does, it would be easier to promote and sell.  Not exactly.

It's true that you don’t need to do as much missionary work, educating prospective customers on the basics.  Most of them have read enough or seen enough from others in their industry to know what your kind of solution can do.  Solutions like ERP or CRM, for example, are broadly understood by now.

But while you don't need to do the basic educational work, marketers face a different challenge.  As markets mature, the buyers change.

Less time to reach them

For one thing, these mainstream buyers often have less time and less inclination to investigate your solution.  Mostly they’re interest in how you can solve an urgent problem.  They don’t much care about how the product works. 

These folks have even less time to wrestle their way through your website, email, or other marketing material to figure out what you can do for them. 

If your early-adopter customers gave you 90 seconds to capture their attention, you should figure that the mainstream customers will give you about half that time.  That means you’ve got about 45 seconds to hit them right between the eyes.

Not trail blazers

Marketers should also know that these mainstream buyers have little interest in being trail-blazers, the first one on their block to have the shiniest new thing.  They’re happy to let the earlier adopters suffer through the learning experience of refining new, unproven products.  By waiting, these mainstreamers expect that by the time they adopt it, your solution is ready for prime time.

These less adventurous buyers care a lot more about reliability and proven results, not leading edge technology.  They want to see that other companies similar to theirs have already had success with your solution.  Solid references and case studies carry more weight than technical spec sheets.

Look carefully for the change

To know when your market is shifting and different buyers are entering the market, you need to pay attention.  You’ll hear different kinds of questions from mainstream vs. leading edge prospects.  You’ll detect an even shorter attention span or at least less tolerance or interest in technical details.

You’ll also likely see more people finding you through referrals and a greater reliance on customer references. There a simply more people out there to ask.  

You’ll detect this in discussions your sales people have with prospects.  You can also ask new customers directly about their evaluation process.  (FYI, contact me if you want help in conducting these interviews.)

If you’re not paying attention to changes in the market and you wont' that there's been a shift in the kind of prospects you’re addressing.  The messages and tactics you'd had success with in the past may not work any longer.

You’re liable to find that your growth stalls.  Despite an expanding overall market, you’ll see your cost of customer acquisition going up, and the return on you sales and marketing investment going down.  Neither of those are a good thing for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company.