How to market your startup in Germany (and why you can’t treat it like any of your US marketing) Part 2

In the first section of this blog post, we discussed the first batch of tips for preparing your marketing strategy to conquer the German market. If you missed it and you want to catch up, you can find it here.

In this second part of the blog, we will discuss channels, marketing tactics and privacy issues.

1. Throwing away some of your most basic marketing conventions

In German marketing, the print is not dead. If you thought you could go completely digital and never print another word, think again – the notion that everybody throws away company brochures after a glance is not necessarily true; the printed document is still alive and kicking in Germany. In fact, a “real” document is even more appreciated. For example, when corresponding with Germans via email, they feel much more comfortable getting attached documents rather than hyperlinks to a website.

Also, you may need to take a different approach regarding your success stories. If one of your strongest marketing tools is Israeli and American success stories, you will soon find they will only take you so far. Because though these may be perfect examples from where you stand (same industry, same challenges), foreign success stories are often meaningless to Germans, unless we’re talking about well-known brands. If you had to choose between presenting a potential customer with a case study that is very much like their own, but is unknown to them, and a brand that has very little in common with them, but is well-known to them – it’s best you go for the latter.

2. Data protection and privacy are for real

Europe, and Germany in particular, take protection and regulation of personal data very seriously. In fact, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will be effective as of May 25, 2018, will affect any organization intending to conduct business in Europe. From a marketing perspective, this means that many of the tactics you are used to will no longer be eligible. If email marketing is an important channel for you, you should prepare for a big change; for example, there will be no more checked-in boxes, and no additional data usage allowed unless otherwise expressly indicated. In other words, to avoid unnecessary fines, preparing for GDPR should be an essential part of your marketing strategy in Germany in the upcoming year.

3. Have you ever heard of Xing?

Xing, the German social network, is pretty much the “German LinkedIn.” The main difference is that Xing relies on offline meetings more than LinkedIn, reminding us a little bit of the popular Meetup. To be credible, you should manage a company page in German on Xing, and create profiles for executives in your startup. As far as posting goes, the same LinkedIn rules apply in Xing.

4. Where are your customers?

Dreaming of a Berlinian nightlife? It might not happen. Berlin’s startup scene is hot, and it is exactly where you want to be. However, is it where your customers are? You should probably prepare to spend your offline marketing and sales efforts someplace else such as Munich, the center of the German automotive industry, or Frankfurt, where financial and more traditional German businesses reside.

To conclude, marketing in Germany is significantly different from your North American experience and requires more than a quick adaptation of the US-centric marketing materials.

Are you already making your first steps in Germany? We would love to hear what is working for you and what isn’t-
Want to take the discussion a step forward? Let’s chat.

Forabilis, blog

How to market your startup in Germany (and why you can’t treat it like any of your US marketing) – Part 1

Your startup is doing well in North America – the funnel is working, the leads are coming, and it seems that your marketing and sales efforts are finally paying off. You can pat yourself on the back (when no one else would). Another sign you are doing well is hearing your CEO tell you it is now time to conquer a new territory – Germany. Considering this is Europe’s largest economy and the world’s 4th largest economy, and keeping in mind Germans speak English – what could go wrong?

Well, many things. Ask Walmart, which failed miserably in Germany after losing a billion dollars in the process, trying to apply the same US formula that made it the largest retailer in the US.

Your startup is no Walmart; you can’t afford the time, and you certainly can’t spend billions of dollars. So, we have collected a few basic tips to support you in your initial marketing efforts in Germany. And because we wouldn’t want to wear you out, we split the list into two parts. Here’s the first one –

1. The German culture plays a role in your marketing

For once, the German thoroughness, punctuality and precision are not a myth. Germans research and compare competitive solutions, even if the solution they are looking for is inexpensive. There is hardly any buying impulse, so you should prepare in advance; Germans would expect you to hold to the same principles.

If you tell Germans a certain feature is “on the roadmap (the Israeli way of saying: “Good idea! We have no clue when we are going to have it!”),” they will expect to know exactly when they will be able to see it live. You should keep your promises!

As for your marketing efforts, English is not enough. Germans do know English; however, they expect you to make an effort for them, at least at the beginning of your relationship. So at the very least, have your landing page and product brochure in German.

2. Your funnel and sales cycle are about to change

You will need to rethink your funnel. If you have a low-touch-funnel, where conversion happens with hardly any offline efforts, you may need to rethink your approach; as you get closer to conversion, it is highly likely that you will need a face-to-face interaction to close a deal in Germany (we are talking B2B, of course).
Brace yourself. It is not going to be a quick sales cycle. Germans tend to have a long decision making cycle, which is no surprise considering their thoroughness. Prepare for a long lead nurturing process, and adjust your content marketing strategy accordingly. The upside is that Germans are considered loyal customers, and are not likely to switch easily.

3. Your product value proposition may need a facelift

You may also need to rethink product value proposition “Free” is not a good value proposition in Germany. Free product demos or free consultations might not work well with German customers, and may even cause you damage. Germans usually don’t trust free offers, and would rather pay more for higher value, rather than get something for free. In other words, in order to market in Germany, you need to rethink your value proposition. For example – improving workflow and efficiency; increasing value from existing investments; optimizing a business process; etc.

We hope you found some helpful and practical tips in this article. If you have any comments, please share them – we would love to hear what you think!

Stay tuned for the second part of this list.

Why Branding Is Worthless Without Positioning

“The rebranding Itch”

It usually happens before a significant company milestone or event – an important conference, a new product launch, a merger. It’s called “the rebranding itch”. Someone, usually an executive, scratches his or her head and decides it’s time for rebranding. We know it because it is at this point that we at Forabilis usually get the call. When we dig a bit deeper to try and understand the need for rebranding, we usually find that something isn’t working out – something bigger than the logo or the tagline – it usually has to do with challenges related to business objectives which tie directly to the company’s go-to-market strategy.

Rebranding as a painkiller

So, why do highly intelligent, talented, often experienced executives ask for new branding at this stage? It’s a bit like insisting on getting your teeth cleaned while what you should really get is root canal.

And there lies the answer. Going deeper, searching for misalignment, finding true answers to what should be done to fix it, what we call “repositioning” – that’s just as painful as root canal, maybe even more. It is much easier to go for the painkiller – the rebranding. If you go for the painkiller, you’ll soon find yourself fighting over colors, fonts, tagline, and the right words to package your product or service. Question is, would that save you from yet another visit to the doctor just a few months down the line?

Wait, so is branding not important?

Hey, we’re in marketing. Of course, we love branding and believe it’s important! We love it because it’s the fun part that comes after the root canal, assuming you survived. But here’s the thing about branding: It’s about telling your story. At the beginning of the branding process, you’ll be asked to tell your story in your own words, so that the branding agency or consultant you hired for the job can package it creatively, tightly, in a precise manner. And, if you were lucky to hire someone good, you’ll be asked all the right questions: Who are your competitors? What are your differentiators? Etc.

But what if you get your story wrong? That’s when it gets tricky. Because your branding consultant will rarely know to tell you so – the underlying foundation of the branding process assumes you have the right answers – they just need to be packaged by a branding pro.

For brand positioning, doubt is a necessity

When the challenge runs deeper – examples may be low product sales, marketing and sales misalignment, low customer retention, or event market trends which make your product irrelevant – that’s when we at Forabilis come in for the root canal. It’s not always a popular role, it’s hard to be the people that doubt your answers. Because you may think that all you need is branding. We may think differently. We may not accept your answers as is. We may search for answers in different places. This is a long, highly demanding process. It’s not for everyone. The outcome is a brand positioning document, which is the foundation for a plan and other activities such as branding. Branding works best when it comes after positioning. Otherwise, it holds little value, and the same problem will continue to haunt you.

How do you know if you should do branding or start with positioning?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I sure of what I need? If you’re not sure, usually this means you probably need positioning.
  • Why do I need rebranding?
    • Does the current brand speak my product or service language?
    • Am I expecting any major changes to my product or service offering?
    • Am I planning to go to new markets?
    • Is my company under merger, acquisition or reconstruction?

If the answer for one of the above is “Yes” – you probably need positioning

  • Do you really know how to answer the following questions, and is there a consensus among team members and company stakeholders on the answers?
    • What is it that you offer?
    • What is your promise to your customers? (no, it is not the same question)
    • What is your market or markets?
    • Who are your customers, users and buyers? What are their pains and needs?
    • What are your clear differentiators? (being better is not a good answer)
    • Why would your customers buy from you?

If you are not sure about the answer to one of the above, or there are disagreements among team members and company stakeholders – you probably need positioning.

If you’re good with the answers, then good luck with your branding process. We look forward to seeing your new logo.

Why answering the question “Why Now?” is crucial for your go-to-market

To prevail, answer this one question

You‘ve got it under control. You feel you are 100% ready. You’re about to step into your soon-to-be customer’s office, equipped with a product that will undoubtedly increase their ROI. This is a big sale. You go in. It feels like it’s going well. They really like your product, and it seems they understand the benefits. But what you hear at the end is what you feared most “Come back in a month or two. We’ll think about it”.

You got it wrong.

Wondering why? Because you didn’t ask one simple question.

Ask yourself “Why Now”?

A go-to-market plan is comprised of many questions you must answer. Yet, the importance of your answer to “why should a customer purchase my product NOW?” need not be neglected. “Why Now” ultimately means business opportunity. It is understanding what will drive your target audience to purchase your product as soon as possible, before the customer needs have an opportunity to change.

As consumers, we meet the “Why Now” in many of our shopping experiences. In consumer goods, “special deals” is a common tactic for “Why Now”, creating a sense of urgency and driving consumers to buy. Let’s take the real estate market as another example. If you’ve ever shopped for real estate, your agent must have said that “there is a very high demand for condos in this area, prices are absolutely going to rise”.

In B2B technology markets, things are much more complicated. Let’s take for example a ticketing system for an airline. It’s obvious that an airline cannot be relevant these days without a good ticketing system. What would convince the decision makers to allow for a web-based ticket reservation system? How about adding a mobile app software? Or maybe moving the reservation system to the cloud? The answer lies in market trends. As long as technology changes people’s buying habits, airline companies must follow it in order to stay in business.

Business leaders are always afraid to lose if they don’t follow market trends, especially when it comes to technologies that are already adopted by their competitors, and, of course, when they have a potential to disrupt their business.

The importance of market trends

The business opportunity is closely tied to the most recent trends that can be identified within the market. As business pace gets faster and market shifts occur often, your customers’ attention shifts accordingly. As a result, these ever-changing trends have a direct effect on your positioning, messaging, sales strategy and the product or service features, and are crucial in order to keep your offer at the center of attention. Before you decide to enter any market, you must understand what promotes a sense of urgency among your potential customers. This will diminish your chances of losing the deal.

Market trends may be in many times a good “Why Now” reason: If you don’t follow the trend, you are going to lose, while following the trend early enough creates an opportunity for you to extend your business and become a market leader. The sense of urgency is achieved by identifying a strong market trend that pushes decision makers to take action.

When your product is a ”Nice To Have”: Getting it wrong

Failing to identify what drives immediate consumer engagement and customer commitment can lead to an unwanted outcome – willingness to use your product or service, but no inclination to pay for it. Customers might view your offering as a nice-to-have rather than a pain reliever which they simply cannot get by without. Changing your target audience’s mind about their perception of what you represent will become a great challenge, which not all companies are able to overcome.

Trends, customer needs, and your product: What it means to get it right

As people search for ways to improve their professional and personal lives, new trends are formed. These trends disrupt technological, financial and many other markets, causing the existent equilibrium to shift. If the trends have a strong impact they might even lead to the rise of entirely new markets, such as mobile phones which replaced landline communication, allowing us to be connected at any given moment. To understand the business opportunity, you must first identify the trends in your market. Next, try to understand your customers’ needs as a result of these shifts. Eventually, in order to create a truly effective go-to-market plan, you must find an irrefutable justification for a sense of urgency in choosing your offer over any other available option.

Ensuring trade shows ROI : 7 rules to live by

Trade shows and conferences season is right around the corner. Summer is the time for decision making and quickly start with the very rigorous process of preparing everything that you need to ensure this substantial investment in time and budget materializes into real results. Here are a few things to keep in mind while planning for your presence at a trade show:

1. Which one? choose wisely

In every industry there are many relevant conferences and trade shows, with one or two that are the biggest, and then all the rest. While it would make sense to choose the most prominent one in your field, there might be a few reasons why you should reconsider. The first reason is price. The biggest trade shows are the most expensive ones, not only because renting a booth space is more expensive. Yes, that would also be true. But it’s more than that: It’s about how much you would need to invest in order to to raise the awareness to your product or offering above the noise. So if this is your first time, experiment with a smaller trade show first. Check to see where your competitors are exhibiting, and where they started exhibiting a few years ago. Go for a more niche target audience then a general audience. What you learn on a smaller scale, you can take with you to your next trade show, and over time go bigger.

2. Define your goals before you start the planning process

What would you like to achieve? Is it awareness, leads, trial users, or sales?
Put hard target numbers for your goals. These numbers will help you plan accordingly for your budget, resources needed, and marketing tactics. For example, if your main goal is to present your product to 20 decision makers in your chosen industry, you may need to target them before the conference, which requires an additional budget and dedicated resources for over a month prior to the actual event.

3. Cross-company planning process: A must for a trade show success

This is an outcome of the previous rule. Since a trade show integrates marketing and sales goals, it is not only the marketing team’s planing process. The objectives should be defined by the marketing and sales team leaders, and sometimes – for smaller organizations – involve the CEO.

4. Trade shows planning: The three-legged stool

Your trade show success will not be based on a brochure, a pull-up banner, or a demo. These are all deliverables and tactics that can help you, but they are only outputs of your plan. Think about your trade show as a three-legged stool: Pre-conference activities, in-conference activities, and post-conference activities. Essentially, your trade show is a campaign with three parts, each leading to the next in support of your goals. One will not be successful without the other.

5. The basics: Your pre-conference activities

How you plan your pre-conference activities can very much determine your success in the conference. There are the basics, of course, like letting your customers and prospects know that you are going to be exhibiting, but you can do much more. You can use social media to reach trade show participants way before the event. The Twitter hashtag makes it relatively easy to find people who are attending. Some conferences and trade shows have their own internal networking tools that you can use. You can also do online advertising to target the audience that might attend. Think about what you would like to achieve if you engage with the trade show conference participants beforehand: would you like to direct them to your booth? Would you like to schedule sales meetings? Or maybe you would just like to get their email addresses? Your marketing tactics should be carefully planned to meet your goals.

Note that pre-conference activities should start at least a month before the conference. Your marketing team is going to be deeply engaged with planning and delivery for at least six weeks before pre-conference activities. For small companies or startups, this is a burden, since all other marketing activities will take a hit for quite some time. Plan accordingly.

6. Your in-conference activities: It’s more than about the booth sweepstake

There used to be days when giving away an iPad in a sweepstake is all you needed to do to drive people to your booth. Those days are gone. Consider Dreamforce, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world. Over 100,000 attendees and over 400 exhibitors. Giving away cars is not even enough to drive engagement and booth attendance. If you have a small booth and a small budget, what do you do? For one thing, you should treat the booth as only one touch point – an important one, but definitely not the only one. Your on-the-ground team should do lots of work outside the booth. Your sales team should have the tools they need to engage – whether a demo, a good elevator speech, or a giveaway (consider something useful, not your typical tchotchke).
Take careful consideration of the venue’s limitations and use it for your own advantage. For example, if it’s an extremely big conference, your playground expands way beyond the conference floor and the expo hall. The hotels, bars, and public areas surrounding the conference are also your domain.
Each trade show and conference has a certain flavor – character, if you will. Some are just big parties. Others are more formal. Play the game accordingly, and invest time in figuring out the right creative hook that would fit that specific character.

7. Your post-conference activities: Don’t leave the planning for the last minute

The follow-up is where it’s all coming together. And just when you thought you’re done with all the work, the heavy lifting has only just started. This is where most companies fail – the ability to take the momentum created on the trade show floor and  carry it forward and up the sales funnel. This, again should be planned ahead. There are different lead nurture and sales processes that should follow, depending on the pre-defined goals of the trade show. For lead capturing, a well-orchestrated lead nurture should follow a few days after. Sales should follow individual leads with very specific messaging. If pilot users were obtained during the conference, ensure you have the customer success processes in place to support them.
Because everyone comes back exhausted both from the travel as well as from the adrenaline rush of a trade show, it is important to not leave the planning of this phase for after the conference.

Do you have any other tips to add? Have you seen any specific successful campaigns for conferences and trade shows? You are invited to share them with us.

How to create a killer sales presentation for B2B tech products

Developing a good sales presentation to sell B2B tech products is one of the most difficult challenges for a content marketer. Sales and marketing see things differently, and a sales presentation is the place where the sales-marketing misalignment is most commonly taking place. If a marketer is successful in developing a sales presentation that the sales team is happy to use – that is already a good sign that the organization is aligned. And if the sales presentation helps move a lead up the sales funnel – that’s a win.

Here are a few tips to marketers when creating a sales presentation:

Tip #1: Interview thoroughly the sales team

Most marketers know the organization’s messaging in and out. After all, they created it. But the truth is, unless you are talking to potential clients and prospects day in and day out, you don’t really know what ticks them. And that’s when you need your sales team. You need their feedback before you start.

Here’s a list of some of the questions you need answers to, assuming you know the product and the market:

  • How is this sales presentation going to be used? Face-to-face, through Webex, as a send-out?
  • Is the sales presentation the first touch point between sales and the prospect? What does the prospect know before getting this sales presentation?
  • What are the sales team expectations from this presentation? What does it intend to achieve?
  •  The prospect/potential client – how many sales presentations from competitors does he get to see? How hard is it to stand out?
  •  What works best when pitching the product offering to potential clients?

Tip #2: Take it down to the ground – start with the pain

Marketers have a tendency to aim high, think big and inspirational. Sales tend to ground their pitch in order to sell. Sales presentations need to be very grounded, and should speak to a very specific pain. A good place to start is the pain point of the potential client.

Tip #3: Take it down to the ground – Be specific about the next steps

Whomever the buyer is, in whatever type of organization, they need to know that what they buy can show impact within a very short timeframe. That’s not always possible with Enterprise products that take a while to deploy. But the important thing is to show very clear next steps and a path that is both impactful and efficient. Oh, and of course, your buyer within the organization should feel like it’s not going to be too hard on him. You – the vendor – will do the heavy lifting and support the organization along the way. When you develop your presentation remember that the buyer wants to be accredited for doing something meaningful for the organization.

Tip #4: Leave room for personalization – one presentation does not fit all

We’d like to think that if we are specific enough about our audience – industry, role, etc. – we can create just one presentation and run with it. It’s not like that in one-on-one sales presentations. For example, we sell content marketing. But it’s a different presentation when we approach a potential client that has an in-house marketing team, versus someone that relies mostly on outsourcing marketing initiatives.

Always leave room for the sales person to change the presentation based on the individual needs and challenges of the potential buyer. Create the presentation in a way that’s clear where the information changes.

Tip #5: Don’t forget any of the core components of a sales presentation

…and they are:

  • The need
  • The solution
  •  The product
  •  Why us
  • Implementation process
  • Next steps

These sections can be interpreted in different ways, of course. The product section can be a demo, or just a good description. The “Why Us” can be testimonials, or case studies, or hard numbers that support the product benefits. But you need to ensure that you have all of these in mind when developing your presentation.

Got any other tips for developing a great sales presentation? We’d love to hear them.

How to create email content that engages and drives to action

In 2013, marketers sent over 838 billion emails, according to Forrester Research . However, the average click-through rate for B2B marketing emails in Q2 2013 was 1.7%. Emails are the most common form of content marketing. In the typical lead nurture process, emails play a crucial role. Because we send so many of them, we sometimes tend to overlook their impact on our overall marketing success. It’s worth taking into account the following 5 tips when planning or rethinking your email marketing.

1. The basic, “Safe” lead nurture email structure
If you are new to email marketing and lead nurture, consider, at least for the beginning, to stick to the following email structure –
Start with a personal greetings and the reason why the receiver is getting this email. Add 2-3 sentences explaining the importance of the content or your offer, with added benefits in no more than 4 bullet points. Then finish with the call-to-action, explained again, in a different way. Sign your email with a real name and title.
Make sure you have hyperlinks to the CTA in every paragraph.
Here is an example:
email example
2. The subject line is as important as your email content
The subject line is going to determine your open rate, and therefore the success of your email. Make sure it doesn’t include anything that is too salesy – avoid “free offer!” and such. No one will open your email, and it will appear as spam. Write quality subject lines that relate to your customers, and explain the benefit of your offer.

3. Minimal design is better than overly designed emails
Ideally, you’ll be able to test different types of design, so over time you will learn what works better for your audience. But for the beginning, I would recommend going for the minimal approach. Banners and overly designed emails are sometimes a turn off, and imply a hard sell. A CTA button is good to have, but you should also experiment with simple, plain text emails. They imply a personal approach.

4. Be relevant: Use current events for content your audience can relate to
Here’s a quick content tip for you: Use what’s happening now to support your case and have your audience relate to your content. It can be industry-related news, or general news and events that anyone can relate to. For example, if your audience is in education, acknowledge if it’s the beginning of the school year. If you are writing about a social media product, acknowledge the latest company acquisition in the industry. Of course, it all needs to relate to what you’re trying to say.

5. Use the right content for the right lead stage
Not all leads are the same. Make sure you have the right content marketing to refer to in your emails. For cold leads than need education, have articles and white papers ready. For warmer leads, higher in the funnel but not ready to buy yet, have customer success stories and relevant blog posts. For sales-ready leads, have product sheets, brochures, and other sales enablement tools.

Remember, the emails are just the beginning. They are by far the most accessible, and easy to deliver marketing tactic. But you need to make sure you use them wisely. If you have any email content tips you are ready to share, we’ll be thrilled to use them and share them.

Marketing and sales performance: Are you on the right track?

Often we encounter organizations, especially on the SMB side, having a hard time with the term “marketing-sales alignment”. Sometimes they see marketing as an after-thought, not focusing on marketing as an integral part of the sales cycle. We think marketing-sales alignment is top priority for any organization that is interested in improving its bottom line.

For this reason, we created the Forabilis Sales effectiveness Assessment. Forabilis Sales Effectiveness Assessment goal is to help organizations evaluate the effectiveness of marketing and sales operations and their ability to meet revenue goals.

Forabilis Sales Effectiveness Assessment is based on L2RM methodology established by Forrester Research and on Aberdeen Group Consulting Research on Sales Enablement Effectiveness.

A short assessment process helps you realize how you stand as far as your sales performance compared to industry benchmarks, and where you can do better. Based on your results, we identify specific areas of improvements within your marketing and sales efforts. We make recommendations that impact your bottom line.

How does the Sales Effectiveness Assessment works?

Step 1: Assessment Questionnaire

We have you fill in a short assessment questionnaire that examines marketing and sales area related to your different products or services.

Step 2: Sales Performance Calculator

Using our proprietary sales performance calculator, we establish your sales effectiveness report through different parameters.

Step 3: Sales Effectiveness Analysis and Recommendations

We set up a feedback meeting with decision makers in you organization in which we answer the following questions, and more:

  • Does your organization produce the right amount of sales opportunities?
  • What is the quality of sales leads and how to improve it?
  • How effective is your sales team in terms of opportunity to deal performance?
  • What should be the size of your sales team?
  • How to setup revenue goals to the sales team? Is your overall budget is reasonable?

 

As Lori Wizdo, Forrester Analyst, said: “It is critical to learn how to create a way to take a single lead through a process that is optimized to convert and help increase the buyer’s engagement through a managed process. Then, repeat that process hundreds and thousands of times.” As marketers, we need to realize that our goal throughout the process is not leads, or leads conversion. It is sales.

Applying this managed process and optimizing it takes time. Understanding where you are and how you can do better – takes very little time. Contact us for more information on the Forabilis Sales Effectiveness Assessment.

 

 

5 Tips for your webinar’s content marketing

According to the Content marketing Institute, 61% of B2B marketers rate Webinars as the most effective content marketing tactic. Webinars not only position you as a thought leader, they are also highly effective for generating new leads as well as a playing part in your lead nurture funnel.
But Webinars are not easy to do. Or should I say, not easy to do well. The first time is the hardest, when on top of developing the content, you face the hurdles of the Webinar setup, prepping your host, and setting up the Wbinar promotion and invitations process. Here are a few tips that can make your Webinar successful –

1. Strategy first: answer the hard questions before you start on content development
– Is your Webinar purely educational or do you actively plan to promote your product?
– Is your Webinar free or paid? (if it is of high educational value, you can consider a paid Webinar – you will get less attendees)
– Is it a series or a one-time Webinar?
– What would you consider a success? What are your goals?

2. Build the database
If content is king, then the email database is queen. If you don’t have the email database to drive to Webinar registration, consider “riding” other email subscriber lists through partners or relevant newsletters.

3. Keep your content focus as narrow and as targeted as possible
It’s better to dive deeper into content that matters to your specific target audience then to go broad. People attend Webinar that provide high value on a specific topic, and that matters to their industry – content that they can’t easily find when skimming the internet. Ensure your speakers are prepared to go deep – check their presentation well in advance, and rehearse with them.

4. Create a Webinar promotion plan
Your Webinar’s promotion should be planned well ahead. For your database, prepare a series of emails. You might want to create a few different variations, depending on different target audiences. Don’t forget to prepare the Webinar follow up emails, including a leave-behind, if you plan to send one.

5. Create an on-demand recorded version of your Webinar
The beauty of a Webinar is that you can reuse it over and over again, if you have a recorded version. You can post it on your website, or you can use it to create another specific online event, that requires registration and possibly involved a live opening.

There is much more we can about Webinars – from establishing the right metrics, to presentation tips. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Product-Market Fit: The validation stage

This presentation is from a talk Natan and I gave to start-ups at a Grant Thornton event last week.

This presentation focuses on the crucial point in every start-up’s journey where the goal is to validate product-market fit. This is an essential part of every start-up’s Go-To-Market strategy, and without completing this process a start-up cannot scale. Product-market fit is defined as a point in a start-up life when there’s a product that is at least sell-able, and ideally a “must have” for its market.

Marketing and Sales Misalignment: 3 principles for effective change

In an interview earlier this year, Lori Wizdo , a B2B marketing analyst at Forrester Research, claimed that in large global companies, only 5 to 15 percent of the sales pipeline comes from marketing. On average, Wizdo claims, the number is around 50 percent.
Sales and marketing misalignment is not a new topic. What’s changed is the way customers buy – sophistication level is up, and the customer now gets through a substantial part of the sales cycle without engaging with a sales person, receiving most of the information from 3rd parties.

What also changed is marketing technologies and the way companies can now generate leads, qualify and nurture them. The marketing discipline is changing, but there is still way to go.

What can you do to align sales and marketing in your organization? If you are a decision maker, whether in marketing, sales, or another executive position, here are 3 principles you can start implement in your organization:

Principle #1: Collaboration
Encouraging collaboration between sales and marketing involves active steps that managers of both teams can define, among them –
– Weekly meetings
– Structured, consistent sales feedback to the marketing team about marketing content, tools, and campaigns
– Have marketing sit on sales calls and attend some sales meetings to better understand needs and hear the client
– Develop a library of sales materials for everyone to use and ensure sales are updated with new materials
– Involve sales in messaging and content development

Principle #2: Accountability
Both teams should be able to discuss openly alignment issues and use data to support their cases. Marketing and sales goals should also be discussed openly, while each team understands the way they support the company’s business goals.
Topics to be discussed should include –
– Leads flow
– Leads quality
– Close rate

Principle #3: Integration
To be able to support collaboration and accountability, it is recommended to integrate sales and marketing software. It is easily said than done, especially in smaller companies, but the benefits are substantial. This kind of integration helps everyone invested in the company’s sales goals see the entire lifecycle from lead to  customer. It helps both sides – marketing and sales – to better allocate time and resources to optimize results.

Do you have any other principles you go by to better align sales and marketing in your organization?

The magic of low-touch sales

The concept of a low-touch sales approach is not new, it’s been around for years. David Skok named it a few years back “the touchless conversion sales model” – a most accurate name.
However, in the past year, this concept seems to have some sort of a revival. We meet entrepreneurs and startups on a daily basis, and we hear from them over and over again “we want our product to be sold low touch”.

When we ask them what they mean, they basically say they want their product to be sold online with very little (if any) sales personnel. It almost sounds like magic. You put your product on your website, you drive traffic, and it miraculously, effortlessly sells.

Like most things magic, there’s an illusion behind the no-touch sales approach. Companies like Zendesk, Mailchimp, Surveymonkey and others that are identified with low touch worked very hard to get to a successful sales model. And they continue to fine tune it.

What does it mean to be low-touch or no-touch?
It doesn’t really mean that you eliminate your sales team. The touchless approach is not touchless at all – it differs in the way it places the necessary gentle touch of the sales team. the low touch sales approach eliminates or minimizes the sales team at the beginning of the sales cycle, while beefing up customer success reps after free trial. Call them however you want to call them, those customer success reps are doing sales. By showing value during a free trial, they upsell. So cost-per-acquisition is not necessarily low – it is basically customer support that drives conversion. That’s where the “hidden” sales costs are.

One interesting fact to note that all those great examples for low cost sales success stories: they have all added sales team later on. Mostly, Zendesk and likes started by targeting SMBs, and when they’ve outgrown their market, they added formal sales teams to target bigger accounts.

If low-touch or no-touch sales is the right approach for your startup, what are the basic requirements to make it a success?
1. A strong layer of customer success reps – less selling, more about trial success and showing value
2. Clear value proposition – a must, in order to shorten time-to-value in trial
3. Pricing needs to be very low, no more than $499/month on the expensive package (credit card limit), with a clear value to a free trial
4. You need to be able to generate large volume of leads

And, more than anything else, it is in a company’s DNA than anything else to be able to be successful with low-touch – it requires a certain approach to the market, the product, the pricing,  and only then the marketing.

If you have any examples for successful low touch sales strategies, please share them with us.

Product-market fit: 5 tips to get there faster

Product-market fit is that elusive term that refers to a point in a start-up life when there’s a product that is at the least sell-able, and ideally a “must have” for its market. You must reach product-market fit before you can scale. It’s at that point, when you know if your product has a future.

But usually reaching product-market fit is more complicated. Start-ups would go through hoops to get there. Sometimes they would have to pivot to a new direction (see our previous post about how to pivot), rethinking their product or their market. And many times they would fail in trying to reach product-market fit, burning too much time and money in the wrong direction.

Mark Anderseen wrote a few years ago about how a start-up life has two parts: before product-market fit, and after. Anderseen believes that as a founder, you need to do anything in your power to get to product-market fit, “…including changing out people, rewriting your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to, raising that fourth round of highly dilutive venture capital — whatever is required.”

So how do you get there? Here are 5 tips to help you get faster to product-market fit:

1. Always ask yourself: Are you solving a real problem?
If your product is a nice to have, that won’t cut it. When you present your product to your first customers, they need to show you they need it and want it now – because it solves a real problem.

2. Stay close to your first customers
Your first customers are your first true indication if you are close to product-market fit. It’s the best validation you can get. Track the way your product is being used (or why it’s not). Talk to your customers. Ask them as many questions as you can. Get to know the inns and outs of how they interact with your product.

3. Don’t confuse early traction with product-market fit
Make sure you don’t develop a product for one customer. Start-ups can get caught up with attending to their first customer at the expense of solidifying a more generic product.

4. Tie your solution to a solid business model
Your product is important, but there is no product without a business model that goes with it. The same way you are testing your product validity, test your business model to help you reach product-market fit.

5. Don’t be afraid to scratch Plan A
Plan A is not sacred. It’s the plan that comes before Plan B. Don’t be afraid to scratch it if it’s not working, and do so early enough, when there’s still money left for Plan B.

Do you have any tips to help reach product-market fit? if you do, we’d be happy to hear them.

 

When to Pivot

In the search for product-market fit, for a repeatable and scalable business model, for traction, start-ups need to be open to the option of a complete detour. Call it Plan B turning to be Plan A; Pivot; or a significant shift. Sometimes it is the only way.

Take Instagram, for example. Before Instagram launched in October 2010, the founders had built a location-based social network called Burbn. It was a very early example of a browser-based mobile app, developed using the then experimental new markup language HTML5. Instagram, based on Burbn, was mostly about mobile phone photos. That feature, uploading photos, turned out to be the most-used feature in Burbn. The location part proved to be a secondary appeal led the founders to the pivot: the creation of an iPhone app exclusively focused on photo-sharing.
And so, a $1 billion acquisition was actually based on Plan B. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom explained at Disrupt 2010:
“I’ve heard that Plan A is never the product entrepreneurs actually end up with. I didn’t believe it…in many ways Burbn was getting a bunch of press, but it wasn’t taking off the way we thought it would. We found people loved posting pictures, and that photos the the thing that stuck. Mike, my co-founder, and I, sat down and thought about the one thing that made the product unique and interesting, and photos kept coming up”.

According to Eric Reis in “The Lean Startup”, a pivot is  defined as a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.” Other great examples of successful pivots are flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Paypal. Each of these successful companies started as something else, and successfully shifted.

We were fortunate enough to be part of three start-ups and their pivots. The first one had to switch from a vision of a complex, expensive, and on-premise deployed product, to a lighter, consumer-facing, affordable online product. Six months into the process, the new product is getting real traction with investors and customers, in a way the old product never did. Another founder had to admit that there is no real problem to solve behind its platform, and together we are now defining a direction that is a better fit both for the market and for the entrepreneur’s core strengths. And another start-up brought us to consult on sales infrastructure, only to discover that in order to get there, there needs to be a complete shift in the offering to be able to reach product-market fit. After a product change was made, this start-up is now having for the first time successful discussions with venture capital firms on raising Round A.

These three CEOs showed courage and strength to be able to go through the humbling experience of admitting they were wrong, and seek a new direction, which proved to be successful.

But how do you know if it’s time to pivot? entrepreneur Bernard Moon, recommends you watch for these four signs:
1. You are constantly in a need to educate the market: You may have a great idea, but if you constantly in a need to educate your target audience and trying to create a market, you may be too early, and you should consider a pivot.
2. Your Beta users don’t like your product: Only Steve Jobs can say that focus groups and user feedback are not important. And you are not Steve Jobs. So listen carefully to what your users are saying, or what they are not saying.
3. Investors you meet aren’t buying it: If it’s repeated feedback that your product is not compelling, you should consider a pivot.
4. You’re being everything to everyone: Some startups develop products that are bigger than they should, instead of focusing on one core competency that is a problem solver to a specific market. Going after everyone might confuse your users, and will burn expensive  R&D resources.

Do you balance your vision and execution with flexibility and the ability to listen? check with yourself and with people that know you well.

Have thoughts on how to successful pivot a start-up? we’d love to hear them.

The Road to Round A: part 3 of 3

* This blog post is based on Natan Chosnek’s presentation at the Alternative Finance Conference on March 4, 2013.

In the first two parts of “The road to Round A” we talked about the difficulties in transitioning from the pre-seed period in a start-up life, i.e., “the age of innocence”, to post-seed and preparing for round A series – when “reality bites”. We also discussed the common pitfalls start-ups face when preparing for Round A.
We are now going to share our top 10 tips for overcoming these pitfalls, beating the odds, and succeeding in raising Round A funding. So here they are:
1. Keep your priorities straight: Your top priority after your first round is your second round. Ask yourself – what should I achieve right now in order to be successful in second round?
2. Involve your investors: Remember that your investors care about you meeting your goals as much as you do – so keep them involved. Investors should know about your success and your failures.
3. Be realistic, even pessimistic: Plan attainable milestones – ones that you can actually meet. Don’t try to impress anyone.
4. Be flexible: Be ready to change your goal and even your next milestones if needed. Remember that there are many more ways to miss a goal than to reach it.
5. Focus on the next “baby step”: Use your strategic plan as a guideline only – while focusing on your next milestone – the “baby step”. That’s where you’re going to be evaluated.
6. MVP and go: Create a minimum viable product with value – don’t become a product-centric organization. Your product probably has many features, stick to the ones that help you reach initial sales.
7. Look outside: Invest time in your viability within your ecosystem: Clients, partners and investors. Don’t get stuck in your office, look what’s happening outside. It will help you figure out where you should be heading.
8. Always work on your pitch: Don’t ever think your pitch is perfect – get at least one feedback a week on your pitch, and constantly improve work on improving it.
9.  VCs are just like customers: Study the VCs you are interested in for your second round early on. Raising funds is like sales, you should get to know your potential customers.
10. Product marketing is key: Think product marketing and not just strategic marketing. Make sure your product is your best marketing tool.

“This is the coolest time in a start-up life! You can do anything! You can change direction, and everything is open. The market looks huge, the potential looks infinite”, says Benzi Ronen, CEO of Farmigo, about the post-seed period. It helps to remind yourself about this, as you make your own mistakes. And good luck!

The Road to Round A: Part 2 of 3

* This blog post is based on Natan Chosnek’s presentation at the Alternative Finance Conference on March 4, 2013.

 

So, you raised seed funding. You should be much happier now, only you’re not. You have more demands to manage. You have new goals. You have staff. You have investors, and they don’t act like angels anymore.

We hate to tell you this, but it may get even harder. We are going to share with you a few of the common mistakes start-ups make on their way to Round A.

“Start thinking about second round as soon as you have the term sheet for the first round signed”, says PlanetSoho CEO, Ron Daniel, who raised $8 million series A round.

Start-ups don’t think about A round early enough, knowing that the second round is coming, and that the chance to succeed is totally dependent on the type of investors they need to approach, and their ability to set goals that will work for second round.

For some start-ups, seed funding came too easy. There are many reasons for it. A CEO that completed series A round in 2012 told us that this made him vain when meeting VCs for his second round. He got kicked in the butt – which he rightly deserved, and he had to change his attitude in order to succeed.

Vanity is just one of many mistakes you cannot afford when raising A round. Another is increasing your burn rate, and not taking into account that raising more funds will take longer than you expected.

The third common mistake we call “digging your own grave”. Many start-ups set unrealistic goals to attract their investors during first round. “Ambitious milestones are a double-edged sword”, says Yevgeny Safovich, CEO of SphereUp, raising B Round these days (Disclosure: SphereUp is a Forabilis client).

Start-ups and investors should realize that it is better to succeed in achieving realistic goals, rather then failing impressive ones. We have seen a start-up with a very impressive seed funding promising investors hundreds of paying B2B customers within a quarter, and, not surprisingly, failing.

Another topic many start-ups struggle with is whether to try and take giant leaps, or focus on baby steps. Giant leaps sound more impressive and the right way to go – but is it really?

Sometimes taking a small step towards your next milestone is more important than working towards a huge – but futuristic – goal. “You can do without the revenue, but even if a small number customers talk to your value – you still have a chance”, says Sharon Wagner, CEO of Cloudyn.

The last common mistake we will discuss, and it is a typical one for Israeli start-ups, is falling in love with features – and the more, the merrier. Developing your product should not come at the expense of visibility and marketing efforts. Dropbox is a great example for a start-up that had just enough of a Minimum Viable Product to go to market, used it to learn from its first customers, and become a huge success.

In summary, there are many pitfalls on the way to Round A. How do you beat the odds? we will share our best tips for the road in part 3 of this blog post.

The Road to Round A: Part 1 of 3

* This blog post is based on Natan Chosnek’s presentation at the Alternative Finance Conference on March 4, 2013.

 

So you’ve decided to make your dream reality. Some will say you are merely a dreamer – but I will say that you are totally awake. You are, however, in the age of innocence.

You have a great idea, and you go for it. You attend events; do lots of networking; learn how to pitch your idea; listen to smart people who know things that you don’t; you work from coffee shops; you do lots of brainstorming; you drink lots of coffee. You don’t have any money, but you’re happy. Everything is fresh, the sky’s the limit.

And apparently, you’ve done something right. Someone is willing to take a risk on your vision – you have raised seed funding.

You should be happier, right?

Wrong. Everything just got much more complicated. We call it “Reality Bites”, or, even better, we welcome you to the age of awareness!

There’s a real office and a bigger team; many more demands; investors to manage (they were angels before, now they want results); lots of demads.

Wait, shouldn’t this be the easier part?

Wrong again. This is where it gets tricky.

In the US market alone, 7 million start-ups are formed every year (yes, 7 million). Out of them, 50 to 60 thousands get initial funding.  And only 1,500 get to the next stage, and raise Round A. It’s a tough funnel – about a quarter percent chance of success.

Let’s face it: Raising Round A is much harder. Why, and how do you beat the odds? Read more in Part 2 of this blog post.

 

Scale or Die

You have no choice: it’s either scale or die.
Charles Baden-Fuller and Ian MacMillan wrote skillfully on the matter in the Harvard Business Review: “Many ventures fail to capitalize on successful prototypes because they make one strategic error: they do not understand scale-up. And failing to scale swiftly can be the difference between life and death of a product or company in a fast-moving world.”
At what point is it right to scale? The easy answer is: as soon as possible. But too fast can have long-term implications. There are a few things you need to do before scaling. Product-Market fit comes first, starting with your product discovery, followed by product and market validation, after which you test and improve the efficiency of your product within your market. Then and only after then, you can scale.  Once you scale, you have a whole different set of pains that revolve around creating a scalable and repeatable business model.
A great example of a company that scaled right is Akamai, a company that had a big idea – accelerate and manage Internet traffic on a global scale – but tested it first in a lab setting with no funding. After discovery and validation, the Akamai team went ahead and commercialized the product, reaching Product-Market fit within a year, with revenue of $4 million in their first year, then $90 million the second year. As a result of the quick growth, the company had to scale fast. Costly mistakes were made, but ultimately Akamai was able to overcome them. In addition, Akamai had to scale its product – from one product to a platform. Akamai had a strong enough product development process that allowed them to successfully scale their product offering to a line of products.
You may only be validating your product’s value proposition. Or you may be in early discovery. But you should already be thinking about what it would mean to scale. Your 10 existing pilot customers will have to be thousands or tens of thousands or millions one day. You have the power to create the right kind of business structure that can take you places – take you towards scaling up.
A few things to keep you in the right mindset of scaling – even if you’re not there yet:
• Realize that customers are not the same as users
• Recognize that first users are not the same as scaling users
• Anticipate that first products are not the same as scaling products
The evolution of your product also means the evolution of customers and users. Be mindful of your next steps and ensure that they take you where you want to go – towards scale.
Do you have any tips on successfully scaling your business?

The Forabilis story

Forabilis means “the ability to move things forward”. In our ever- changing business world, this ability becomes much more difficult. Why? Because today, many businesses struggle to gain their market share in a crowded and tough business environment. The number of marketing and business tools is endless and confusing. Picking the wrong business or marketing strategy and tools is at best costly, but at worst, it can cost you your business.

Those who succeed are companies and organizations that know how to scale in the global market. In the past, you could afford to be local. Today, you need to be able to use the right strategies and tools, speak the market’s “language”, and work with the right people to reach a wider market and be successful.

The notion that a company like Forabilis can support companies in their global growth came out of our experience. We wear different hats – the business and sales guy cowboy hat, and the marketing gal’s beret. The cowboy hat and the beret are both crucial to any organization’s success, but they don’t always play nicely together. If it’s a small organization, you usually have one person in charge of both, and since these two hats require different attentions, that person is mostly torn in between. If it’s a bigger organization, there’s the issue of sales-marketing misalignment, with these two domains struggling and not collaborating enough to be successful.

And so we met, a business guy and a marketing gal, and discovered that if we listen closely to one another, we produce the best business results. We met when marketing gall needed some business help at a startup where she was a founder, and brought business guy to support her. Later the roles reversed, and business guy brought marketing gal to another venture, using her expertise in product marketing. This successful collaboration resulted in a business shift and a remarkable product. Forabilis was born.

We share the same attitude: we are both experienced strategists, each in our field, but we both like to get our hands dirty and do the work. We surround ourselves with great partners all around the world that help us deliver the best results for our clients. We combine high-level thinking with doing, and we pride ourselves by the quality of our deliverables and our results. And we love what we do.
2013 is the year of Forabilis. If you have questions, comments, advice, or would like to work with us, we would love to hear from you.