How to grow a software startup without marketing

I feel a little “Benedict Arnold” writing this as I make a living as a Marketer. However, it has become glaringly obvious to me in the past few years that early stage startups have some interesting opportunities to stimulate growth without needing to invest scarce funding in Marketing headcount. When the company takes off, by all means get some Marketers in to help scale. In the meantime, here are the key things you need to do.

1. Build a website
I think everyone gets this one. You need a website, but don’t outsource this! The one hire I recommend you make is a Digital Marketer who gets how to build a lead converting website, understands SEO and SEM.  Your website needs to be a dynamic part of your marketing strategy where you are constantly working to improve traffic to your site from organic search and conversion once they get there.

The next step in maturity once you have the funds will be to make sure you show up in search for the key buying terms for your product. Again, do not outsource! Make sure your Digital Marketer is Google certified and knows their stuff, then turn them loose. They will get farther than any agency because they understand your product(s) and are a part of your business.

2. Keep software to a minimum
Vendors would have you believe that you need marketing automation as soon as you start generating leads. But really, you don’t need it until you are much larger and even then you might not need all the bells and whistles that marketing automation is based on. If you want to email product releases to customers, just use your email system. Lead nurturing with email is starting to become an outdated practice as prospects are filtering and ignoring vendor emails as a standard.

That means that email marketing software (the simple version of what marketing automation is based on) is no longer a must have either.CRM is a tougher call. You are going to want to keep track of your customers and you’ll want CRM functionality as you grow. There are some inexpensive entry level products for startups. But don’t be bullied into it. The important thing is to keep a clear record of your customers, their contact information, the product(s) they have and a way to keep basic notes on your interactions with them. You will have turnover and you’ll want to make sure that customer IP doesn’t leave with your employees.

3. Start a referral program
So if you don’t have marketing, how are you going to grow your business? The answer is with a referral program. Uber, Dropbox, AirBnB and countless others achieved growth via referrals. It works because your happy customers are doing the marketing work for you. They are finding the right prospects that are interested in your products. This is critical to helping you scale because you don’t have the money to have the few precious people who are selling chase down a bunch of bad leads. You need them focused on the highest quality leads and referrals from people who already use your product are the answer.

This is the one place I recommend you invest in a solid referral software solution that can grow with your business. The reason for this is because tracking referrals is not an easy thing. You need to connect a prospect to an advocate across multiple digital avenues and through the sales cycle. If anything breaks or is missed, you can easily give your once happy customers a very disappointing experience.

4. Spoil your customers more than your kids I can’t stress enough how important this last step is. Gone are the days where customers use your product and are satisfied that’s enough. They expect you to delight them. They expect you to treat them like they are precious and valued. This is particularly true in software where you have a long term subscription relationship. You constantly have to be earning their business.

So what can you do? Be proactive and give them value beyond what your product does. Don’t wait for problems to come in, solicit feedback from customers often. Invite them to focus groups with their peers to discuss how to use the product or how it can be improved. Monitor your customer’s use of your product and consult with them on how they can get more value.

And of course, random acts of kindness don’t hurt either. Call them to congratulate them on a successful referral and make them feel special. Send something fun to them in social media or via direct mail just because. If you aren’t giving them all the love and support that a parent would, they just might start thinking they aren’t wanted and take their business elsewhere.

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Care to further the discussion? Tweet me @Trishawinter

I had 5 awesome C-level sales meetings in one week. Here’s the secret to how I got them.

It was a great week. I had 5 quality C-level meetings with potential new customers and partners for Amplifinity in the short week before a holiday. The opportunity to meet with current and prospective customers is my favorite part about being a CEO.  As I reflected back on the week and what made it a success, a common thread emerged, REFERRAL – Everyone I met with was introduced to me by someone who knew me and my company and wanted to help. Interestingly, while they were all referrals, each one emanated from a different type of relationship.  My objective with this blog post is to help you think about the foundation of relationships you have in your network and how they can be leveraged to help you generate new business opportunities.

1. A current customer referred me to a new prospect: 

I was having a conversation with an executive at one of my largest accounts. She mentioned how pleased she was with our solution. After thanking her for the feedback,  I used the opening to ask her if she knew anyone who would benefit from our product. Note that the “ask” came as a natural part of the conversation. It wasn’t forced and was not perceived as bothersome. In my experience I’ve found this request actually improves my relationship with a customer. If they respect what you’ve done for them, they want to see you succeed, and by giving you an introduction to someone else, they are now invested in your success. By the way, don’t be surprised if they follow-up with you to see how it went. And better yet, follow up and let them know how the meeting went. They will appreciate it–and they may even provide you with another referral (double bonus!)

2. A current customer referred me to a new opportunity within their own company:

According to Nielsen, 92% of respondents trusted referrals from people they knew. If you are working with enterprise level customers or prospects there are often many potential new prospects inside that same customer waiting to hear your value proposition. Think of these as “buying centers”–separate groups within a company that represent a new sales opportunity for you or one of your peers. Large companies are siloed, so the chances of cross-selling or upselling are high because different departments have different needs to be met. If you are referred to a new prospect from someone within their same company, your odds of getting a meeting are very high and you have a built in reference.

3. A board member referred me to an executive at another company:

In my role as CEO, I’m fortunate to work with a terrific board of directors. Each is a high profile business leader in their own right and is very connected.  Even if you don’t report to a board, executives within your company can provide the same conduit to meet other decision makers in different companies. I find this works best if I can be specific and have a company in mind where I know they may have a relationship.

4. A current prospect referred me to another prospect:

I admit this doesn’t happen often, but it recently did for me. I didn’t even ask. I was offering a prospect some helpful advice unrelated to my company business (I essentially referred her to someone who could help) and unprompted, the prospect sent me an email later that said he knew of someone that could really use our solution. Awesome. I think most of us are naturally wired to help others. Help others succeed, and you’ll often get rewarded in return.

5. A current partner referred me to another new prospect:

Growing our partner network has been key to our success at Amplifinity. Successful SaaS companies invest in becoming connecting to partners within their ecosystem in order to extend their overall value proposition. At Amplifinity, being a member of the Salesforce ecosystem has added tremendous value to our business. We are now part of a large and ever growing community of hundreds of other SaaS companies that share common interests and goals.  That very same ecosystem is also a naturally interconnected network that can help you find new business or potentially use your product or service.

I encourage you to make that leap to adopt  referrals as a business strategy. If you do, you’ll quickly see that systematizing it with a referral automation platform can be a very powerful channel for organic growth for your business.

If you’d had success using referrals in your business, send me an email with your story. I’d love to repost it here on the Amplifinity blog so that others can benefit.

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Care to further the discussion? Tweet me @Larryangeli

 

Amplifinity Announces Automated Referral Solution for the Telecommunications Industry

Telecommunications companies focused on customer service are using referral software to generate organic growth from satisfied customers.

Ann Arbor, Mich., January 28, 2016  — Large telecommunications businesses are household names, which makes it difficult for smaller companies to compete. While some telecoms may not be able to outspend their larger rivals, they can offer a more personalized experience. The challenge is to get the attention of new customers who are looking for exceptional customer service. Telecom companies like RingCentral, Jive, and Charter Spectrum are successfully using customer referrals to help spread the word.

Today, Amplifinity is announcing a new telecommunications industry solution based on its industry leading SaaS (software as a service) platform. The solution offers telecommunications businesses the capability to cut through the marketing “noise” with a referral automation platform to address the need to attract and acquire new customers. Studies have shown that one-to-one referrals from a trusted source, like happy customers, immediately increases the trust level that a new customer has with telecommunications provider. The Wharton Business School discovered the lifetime value of a referred customer is 16 times higher than a non-referred customer.

 

Amplifinity features that drive telecommunication success:

 

  • Better customer engagement: Amplifinity’s platform can help improve customer relations while growing revenue. Amplifinity provides sales enablement features that help sales and customer success teams stay involved and informed in the referral process. Access to customer advocate data enhances each interaction and improves customer engagement by enabling company representatives to recognize and thank customers that make referrals.
  • Mobile Access: Customers often refer during interactions with friends and family. By enabling the ability to refer from a mobile device, advocates can refer at the moment the opportunity arises.
  • Reward Choice:  Consumers will be motivated to refer for many reasons.  By offering the consumer the ability to select from different rewards types that are tailored to a customer’s preference, more referrals will naturally occur. Some popular rewards are bill credits, gift cards, and charitable contributions.
  • Advocate Nurture: The Amplifinity solution automatically sends customers proactive and informative messages that help nurture the referral process. In addition, advocates are always able to login to their customer account and see the status of every referral they’ve made.
  • Salesforce Integration: For companies already using Salesforce as their CRM, Amplifinity is fully integrated, so referrals can automatically become leads for the sales team. Amplifinity offers a fully integrated and certified managed referral application available on the Salesforce AppExchange.

 

“Referral programs are a very effective way for telecommunications providers to acquire customers and drive growth,” said Amplifinity’s CEO Larry Angeli. “Your happy customers will readily refer you to their network. This is a win-win for businesses focusing on delivering differentiated value with customer service.”

 

About Amplifinity

Amplifinity’s referral amplification software turns customer, employee and partner advocacy into revenue. Our platform provides complete referral tracking and management with 100% accuracy so none are missed. Enterprises like ADP and DirecTV trust Amplifinity to enable high-quality acquisition while providing an engaging, fully-branded experience for their advocates. www.Amplifinity.com

 

 

SMB Telecoms become tele-competitive with referral software

A revolution is taking place. One that might have very similar roots as the all-so-famous Revolutionary War. But what does this mean?  Well, in many areas of the country and the world, large telecommunication conglomerates have the monopoly on their telecom industry. Customers have only a few choices in their television, Internet, email, or phone service provider. In any way that matters, these telecommunication companies are essentially king.

So how are small and medium sized telecom businesses and newer technology driven technology driven telecoms supposed to convince customers to riot and switch over to them? Well, as you yourself may have experienced or heard from others, smaller customers don’t always feel well-cared for by the kings, and while they might provide great prices at first (this usually changes later),  many people have become frustrated and disenchanted with their unapologetic treatment of customers.

This alienation of customers leaves an opening for SMB telecoms. While SMB Telecoms  might not be able to match the pricing of the telecom kings, you can provide something that people and business are ready to revolt for, a personalized customer experience.

How RingCentral personalized their customer experience

RingCentral delivers cloud business communication solutions with a relationship focused sales approach. The success of their business depends on keeping every interaction extremely personalized. In their blog, RingCentral’s Sales Organization: Building Success by Building Relationships, they emphasize how building a relationship with customers is a necessary part of their business model.

To keep to this relationship focused approach, from the first phone call RingCentral starts their interaction on a positive note, which they believe can make all the difference in fostering a fruitful relationship. If your sales team demonstrates how they care for their potential customers and understand their pain points you can start to establish a relationship that builds to a sale.

For RingCentral this often pays off when pursuing a company that has more than one location. RingCentral noted that the previous fostered relationship then opens the doors for a client to test out their product in one location, and when it succeeds, the company often revolts against the previous telecom technology and fully implements RingCentral’s technology instead.

RingCentral claims that this success is “a direct result of our relationship-building efforts.”

And because RingCentral had proof of the power of a relationship focused sales approach they understood what the next step was to their approach – referrals. With small and medium sized telecom business increasingly focused on customer relationships, why not grow your business through mass personalization by incentivizing the customers who already know how valuable your product is? RingCentral thought along the same lines, and that’s why they implemented Amplifinity’s referral software to make their customers their best sales force.

The next step to relationship building sales – referrals

Referral software is the next weapon to spur the masses in the customer relationship revolution. Referral software mobilizes the customers you already have by incentivizing them to become advocates for your service or product. By empowering referrals with referral software you extend the trust between an advocate and their network of family and friends to include your business. The result of this is a drastic increase in your quantity of quality leads.

In fact, with referral software:

  • Customers are 400% more likely to buy (Nielsen)
  • Leads convert 4X better than marketing leads (emarketer)
  • LTV increases by 16% (Harvard Business Review)
  • Conversion rate from referral to purchase is 36% (Amplifinity)
  • Churn decreases by 18% (Marketing Business Review)

Discover your personal referral program ROI with the ROI calculator now!

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Questions? Email me at JEdmondson@amplifinity.com

Salesforce AppExchange celebrates 10 years of inspiring businesses’ innovation

Amplifinity Connector continues to empower Salesforce clients

January 14th contains an abundance of important events including birthdays, deaths, cultural and historical events. But today we celebrate a birthday that’s purely representative of innovation, collaboration, and specialization – the 10th birthday of the Salesforce AppExchange.

Birthdays, and especially a business’s birthday is a celebratory occasion because it demonstrates the ability to adapt to changing ecosystems and markets. But Salesforce’s AppExchange has not only managed to succeed with their own products and services, it also has enabled other businesses to extend their reach by challenging them to innovate easy product and service options that empower integration with Salesforce through the AppExchange. And as the AppExchange launches into the double digits we take a closer look at the innovation it has inspired.

The value of the Amplifinity Connector for Salesforce clients

One such innovation that offers easy application through a sophisticated managed app is the Amplifinity Connector. The Amplifinity Connector is the premier managed referral app that easily incorporates the sensational power of Amplifinity referral software into Salesforce. This simple solution aligns marketing and sales for optimal efficiency by leveraging customer and partner relationships and maximizes the value of Salesforce.

Felecia Flack of Northern Michigan University declares enthusiastically that, “The combination of Amplifinity and Salesforce enables our constituents to easily SHARE the word about our great university. We’re excited about the connections we’re making with prospective students because of this partnership.”

The success of the AppExchange has allowed Amplifinity to provide Salesforce clients a unique and unparalleled combination of Salesforce Cloud and advanced referral automation software that:

  • Increases sales productivity to optimize revenue growth
  • Enhances lead follow through from sales
  • Provides superior data to improve the use of Salesforce
  • Offers more advanced tracking to attribute marketing ROI
  • Improves marketing program results by creating a consistent channel for lead generation that is easy for marketing to maintain

This exceptional value has been a key instigator in the adoption of the Amplifinity Connector by Salesforce clients. But the AppExchange hasn’t only added value to Amplifinity referral software, but inspired continual innovation and product development (specifics coming soon).

The fact is, the Salesforce AppExchange does not only inspire innovation, but challenges businesses to keep developing advanced technology in a simple deliverable package. This train of thought goes beyond lending itself to the AppExchange but to large scale technological creation. So let’s raise a glass, eat a piece of cake, and develop a new disruptive technology to celebrate 10 years of the Salesforce AppExchange.

Women in Tech
10 Women in Tech toasting Salesforce with local, Michigan beverages on the AppExchange’s 10th Birthday!

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Questions? Email me at JEdmondson@amplifinity.com

 

Prompt your prospects’ referral passion: Part 2

Deliver referral features that inspire them to want you.

Lately, you’ve been singing the same old marketing song. Specifically:

I want you to want me

I need you to need me . . .

                                                                                                                  (Cheap Trick)

But I have to say, it’s starting to sound a little desperate. And if you keep carrying on this way you’re just going hear those six little word over and over again, “You’re not my type . . . of business.” It’s time to change tactics. Instead of having your referral program ask the prospect to want you, imbue your referral program with feature that inspire passion for your services and products and motivate them to become customers.

And while you already uncovered what advocates want in part 1, you must now ask the question, what do your prospects want from your referral program?

Well, that’s a good question. Luckily, Penny the prospect gave me the inside scoop at dinner one night.

“We want the buying process to be easy and simple,” said Penny. Your prospects don’t want hidden gimmicks or fine print, but a buying process that rewards them.

From that insight, 3 prospect referral desires were locked onto and 5 referral features were developed to elevate and ignite your prospects passion for your business.

3 prospect referral desires and the features that fulfill them

  1. A deal too good to pass up – What prompts a prospect’s passion is what prompts any customer, a good deal. Prospects want to feel like they have tricked the “system” or obtained a deal of an exclusive nature. By making sure that prospects as well as advocates are rewarded, you add another incentive besides that of their family, friend, acquaintance, or professional network endorsement of you.

 

A feature that fulfills this want: Double-Sided Rewards

 

  1. A personalized buying experience – While your prospect knows who referred them and has a pre-established relationship with them, most of the time they need more than just the referral to become a customer. Prospects want to be able to discuss with their advocate why they should buy from your business. The prospect might want this to happen over email, in person, verbally, through social media, or even through text. Your referral program needs to be equipped to handle every type of referral interaction. This keeps the dialogue going and builds up to the conversion from prospect to customer.

 

Features that fulfill this want: Empowerment Tools   Prospect Nurturing

 

  1. A simple and easy buying process – Prospects don’t want to have to make the extra effort to buy your product, and they won’t. Give your prospects the buying process they want by making it easy to complete and individualized to the prospects preferred method to purchase.

 

Features that fulfill this want: Supported Prospect Purchase via Brick-and-Mortar or Phone Call  Prospect Buy Flow   Prospect Lead Submission

These prospect prompting features will not only invigorate potential referrals, but as an added benefit, your advocates as well. By fashioning features that encourage prospects to become successful referrals it becomes easier for advocates to achieve a rewarding referral. But while prospects and advocates are very important to motivate and reward, don’t forget who builds those relationships and manages your referral program, your sales team and marketers.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this 4 part blog that will focus on what referral features your sales team craves and requires to enflame their closes rates.  And don’t miss part 1 to learn about the desires of your referral advocates.

Customer referrals

 

 

Best referral program

Interested in furthering the discussion? Email me at JEdmondson@amplifinity.com