This is a painful story. The lessons learned affect all SaaS solution providers and especially Enterprise Content Management providers.
“This account illustrates the 3 deadly marketing mistakes undermining almost all SaaS solution providers and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system providers. The lessons uncovered here can halt market share from slipping deeper into the laps of competitors”
Early in 2002 I had been away attending a private tech school in the Los Angeles area. Shortly after moving back to my hometown I took an outside sales job for an independent distributor of a prominent document management software company.
During my first 90 days with the company, despite having received very little actual training from the senior sales rep, I generated more solid leads than all the sales reps previous to me generated in two years, combined. This didn’t go unnoticed.
The owner of the company had me drive 80 miles round trip to sit with him and explain what the heck I was doing. He had mentioned no one had produced results like mine.
This Freaking Powerful Underground Method
Literally Forced New Leads Into The Company
Well, until I came along the company required sales reps to drive to a business area, park their cars, and just get out and go door-to-door one business after another trying to sell their software and hardware packages. It was as if they were trying to sell a copier or something. A widget.
As you can imagine that didn’t work out too well.
I too was required to repeat this dumb approach. But after my first 30 days of knocking my head I gave up the approach for something better. That something better is what got me pulled out of my territory and into company headquarters.
What was I doing?
Database marketing. I was targeting companies based on specific set of criteria.
- Company size
- Number of employees
- And most importantly, legally obligated to adopt Enterprise Content Management systems into their businesses.
You see, I took this job shortly after the Enron scandal of late 2001 broke. This was at a time when the feds first initiated sweeping changes forcing specific industries to adopt electronic records management systems.
How To Get A Crystal Clear Picture Of Reality
So after getting nowhere bumping my head with random senseless cold calls, I researched which industries were affected by the changes. I then pursued those industries that had locations and headquarters in the two counties of my territory.
The owner was so impressed with what I had laid out to him, he asked me if I’d be willing to teach this process to his second in charge. The company manager.
I was delighted.
The way I saw it, by their switching the bulk of this activity of finding companies, finding the contact names of c-level execs, and mapping out efficient territory driving routes for me I could spend more of my time talking to qualified prospects and less time digging through public databases myself.
Well, that is not what happened.
Why You NEVER Want To Show All Your Cards
A couple paychecks after my so generously and unselfishly having taught the office manager how to use online databases to uncover qualified leads (and they had verified the process really worked in-house too), they fired me.
Turns out they no longer needed an outside sales rep to generate leads. And since their senior sales rep had been in the industry for a number of years there was no need for two of us. I was so efficient I had efficiently worked myself right out of a job. (Didn’t see that one coming).
How To Start
An Enterprise Content Management Distributorship
That wasn’t the end of it.
Within a week of being fired I received a phone call from the document management software company itself—the parent company we were representing.
The person who called mentioned that the distributor I had been working for was not performing well at all. They were likely going to lose the distributorship unless things changed.
Why call me?
Turns out since I had established a relationship with the document management software company during my training by seeking answers to questions I couldn’t get answered by the senior sales guy, the parent company made a note of me and my activities. They were floored by what they were seeing coming out of my territory.
Well, long story short, I was offered an area distributorship. And get this. I was told that my main enrollment fees could be deducted from my future sales.
So in a nutshell it would essentially cost me close to zero out of pocket to get started, as opposed to the ten grand or so required to get even a basic distributorship started otherwise.
Total Submission Silenced The Monster-Sized Nightmarish Grudge Mutating Inside Me
I must admit. The chance to hit back full force with revenge was tempting.
Despite having no desire whatsoever to deal with the daily hassles of running a distributorship of my own, my little vindictive streak was pushing to come to the surface. I had seen firsthand that my former employer was vulnerable. They were overlooking a number of marketing opportunities that had been staring them in the face.
But after weighing the cost to my sanity and my psyche I turned down the offer. I figured no level of revenge or amount of money would be worth what it’d cost me in terms of my conscience in the long run. Ethics overpowered my revenge glands.
So I walked away and left revenge alone.
However, being a technology “nerd” at heart I had become fascinated by the industry. The concept bug of the ‘paperless office’ had bitten me. I’ve continued following industry trends ever since.
No Love. No Loyalty
Well, about a year later I received another related call.
A friend who was working at an annex location of the company that had hired and fired me was told to discretely find out if I’d be willing to come back. But this time as a senior sales rep.
The company fired their senior guy. Turns out he had been secretly selling through a distributorship of his own while all along claiming the leads were going nowhere. He got away with it for more than two years. That is why from the very beginning he tried hard to keep me in the dark.
Turns out the company lost perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales because of him. Karma? I don’t know. Maybe. Sometimes what goes around does seem to come back around. Not my problem.
Well, as far as going back to work for that company goes, my response was ‘heck no’ —or something close to that. I’m sure you can figure it out.
I can lift three principles from this story that affect all SaaS solution providers, especially Enterprise Content Management providers.
- Reward internal innovation, don’t punish those who increase or improve your bottom line. In my case, knowing in advance they had hired a copywriter as an outside sales rep they could have easily inquired if there were other opportunities they were overlooking and then added me to their marketing team. Instead they were shortsighted and let me go. Their loss. Literally.
- Seize every viable marketing opportunity. Those opportunities you overlook just may be the opportunities competitors use to steal market share away from you.
- Eliminate outdated time-wasting marketing methods that are no longer productive or never have been productive. Keeping active just for the sake of looking busy is senseless. Instead, keep in mind a quote former President Reagan made when referring to the Soviet Union: “Trust, But Verify.” In the case of marketing activities this means stopping all non-productive marketing guesswork and switching to strategies that produce provable, measurable, trackable results.
Business is full of choices. Some of those choices are painful. But not as painful as watching missed opportunities land in the laps of competitors.
Are you overlooking opportunities to introduce powerful marketing processes into your company? If so it’s probably not your fault. Finding a copywriter who can produce copy and marketing plans for technology service companies and SaaS solution providers can be tough.
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