Mike Sedzielewski

@msedzielewski

What we’ve learned about selling high-tech to mainstream customers

We’ve recently crossed the 100k ARR mark for Voucherify. Although we’re still at the beginning of our journey, we have discovered a handful of things on how SaaS (and software in general) marketing works. We have listed some of these points in the last article about product marketing but today, we want to focus on insights about selling high-tech products to mainstream customers.

When we set out to create Voucherify — an API-first platform offering programmable building blocks for promotional campaigns — we pictured our ideal target as the following:

  • is a middle-sized business with a splash of large businesses,
  • owns a tech-savvy marketing expert who understands how to connect software to marketing channels,
  • wants to compete with ecommerce giants with the same or similar levels of marketing personalization,
  • is willing to leverage API-first SaaS providers (understanding coding effort to high customization ratio),
  • is agile enough to roll-out new promotional campaigns in weeks, and finally, is fine with a self-service model.

We crystalized these characteristics when providing the software services to one of our clients — you can read how the idea for Voucherify was born here.

But the last 2 years have shown us these assumptions weren’t quite right in our case. Surprisingly, we’ve seen more interest coming from massive enterprises, including 2 companies from the Big 4 of Technology. Here’s a short note on why we think the above model turned out to be invalid.

Tech-savvy marketers are scarce

Over the last two years, we analyzed hundreds of leads from our inbox. Many times, the discussion had the following scenario:

[C]lient — We want to send out coupons and run friend-refer-friend programs
[V]oucherify — How do you want to send them out?
[C] — Email, we use MailChimp
[V] — OK, fine, we have a MailChimp plugin. How can your customers redeem coupons?
[C] — Our online shop
[V] — Perfect, your dev team will need to integrate your ecommerce platform with Voucherify. With our software libraries, it shouldn’t take longer than a day for basic scenarios
[C] — Developers… integrate… libraries…erm? Can we achieve it without developers?

In these calls, the client was often represented by a marketing team member. They became particularly reluctant if something involved technology. Certainly, there were more informed requests too, but they asked for slightly more complex features at the same time. For instance, one company wanted to offer discounts only for some product lines. Voucherify supports these types of deals given that you sync the product catalog and map the product categories accordingly. Because this requires IT support, the marketer’s enthusiasm for the whole solution has dropped.

This is an unwanted scenario for us because not having a product evangelist inside the client structures (especially marketing dep.) reduces the chances for successful conversion.

Going through these cases helped us learn that some marketers clearly see the benefits of our platform, but they find it difficult to assess the integration even on a basic (in our understanding) level. Sometimes the reason was a lack of CRM skills, sometimes we noticed that this phenomenon has its origins in not-the-best-shape relationships with the software team.

To counteract this, we’ve started facilitating meetings with both the customer’s software and marketing departments from the first day of cooperation. It works.

It’s worth noting that the companies who invested in a tech-savvy marketing team and bridged the gap between development and marketing have been able to leverage Voucherify to personalize their promo campaigns much more quickly.

Some developers want to build everything from scratch

Another problem we’ve been facing with medium to large businesses is the conservative approach to software development. There’s a type of developer who loves banter about all the latest technology stacks instead of focusing on delivering value. Sadly, this type is quite common in the B2C companies.

Even though Voucherify’s API is well-documented (I bet it’s at least better than their internal systems docs), full of examples, onboarding tutorials, and has dozens of SDKs, they still claim they can deliver the same functionality in less time.

We get the feeling that they ignore the total cost of development, including the effort required for documenting, marketing team onboarding, and maintaining this part of their system. And, like most of us, they are overly optimistic about delivery time. In some cases, the number of days they spent on deciding whether Voucherify fits their needs exceeded the effort required to integrate the platform and onboard the team.

Again, 1:1 meetings with developers helped us sort this out. By asking and answering a handful of questions, we’ve turned the majority of opponents into our agents.

Leaders are leaders not without a reason

One of our greatest surprises was the caliber of companies who requested a demo. We attracted a couple of the world’s biggest companies. They said good things about our product and showed willingness to integrate Voucherify into their projects.

They had everything middle and large companies missed: tech-savvy marketers and engineers who know the benefits and tradeoffs of employing various tools. They had seasoned PMs who understand the speed of their development team, know how to assess cloud providers, are mindful of the importance of cloud integration and realize when to tap into external help. Finally, they can calculate the ROI from integrating Voucherify with their marketing automation processes and therefore secure the necessary costs.

But at the same time, they requested very specific requirements we didn’t plan in the first place. This included so-called enterprise grade features like:

  • Role-based access management
  • PCI and GDPR compliance
  • Self-help and onboarding tutorials
  • Integrations
  • SLA and Support

The main issue with these companies is that they need time to push things forward. A lot of time. Sometimes, I think their smallest time unit is a quarter and the minimum number of meeting members is five. On the flip side, it gives us time to develop missing features to meet their expectations.

Recap

Over the last 2 years, our assumptions about the customer target have changed. We’ve learned that mainstream companies aren’t quite ready for the self-service model. They find face-to-face meetings helpful in uncovering all the benefits of Voucherify. At the same time, we’ve found out that F500 companies, despite having hundreds of developers, find value in an API-first platform like ours, too. To convert them, however, you need to be patient and equip your product with enterprise features.

More by Mike Sedzielewski

Topics of interest

More Related Stories