• ashmadden

In detail: Growth by Market Penetration

This article builds on my recent blog post "Looking for growth? It's in your hands!" and provides the detail on information you might like to consider gathering to make the most of your existing business.

How will we do this?

  1. Define and understand existing customers. There are so many facets to understanding existing customers, it is often difficult to know where to start. It’s not possible to know everything about your customers but the more information you have, the better your strategy can be.

  2. Define and understand existing routes to market. Similarly, there are many key attributes to understanding your existing routes to market and you can't know them all. Optimisation of the company’s ability to succeed depends on a thorough understanding of all customer facing resources and their deployment. For this exercise, we focus in particular on sales capabilities (encompassing both your own teams and those of your channel partners), but the contribution of all staff is essential.

  3. Define and understand existing offerings. Understanding which products and overall offerings deliver value, and how they do so, provides crucial information to define and enhance your strategy.

  4. Define and understand existing relationships. Understanding the interaction between your customers, your offerings and your routes to market is crucial to understanding how your existing business can be optimised. Firstly, by ensuring that maximum value is gained from those offerings the customer has already adopted (for example, can they derive more value from what they already have?). Secondly, by identifying ways to deliver more value from other existing offerings (for example, what value can customers derive from those of your offerings they do not currently have?).

Ash Madden is Founder and Director of Madden Associates Limited, the Specialist Channel Sales & Partnering Consultancy

#efficiency #returns #partnering #channels #sales


Example questions to help define your existing business

The point of these questions is not that you should understand every last piece of detail but to illustrate how an in-depth understanding of pertinent information (that most likely already exists in your business) can help shape your future plans. The alternative to information is guesswork, assumption and intuition. Sometimes these produce results; sometimes not. Decision making is always better when armed with the facts.

1. Define and understand existing customers.

For this exercise, we consider customers as "end customers" who have purchased, or could purchase, direct from your company as a software provider and/or from your channel partners.

  • Who are your existing customers? Where are they? What size and shape are they? What industries are they in? What is their management structure? What is their ownership structure? How successful are they?

  • Who are the core customers? Who are the most valuable customers? Why are they most valuable?

  • What defines / characterises the customers? How are they different to other potential customers? For example, those who evaluated your offering but did not buy? Other similar customers?

  • How did they become customers? By what route did they become customers? For example, direct, a referral, through your channel partners?

  • How did they become aware of your company?

  • What are your customers' business challenges? What's their most important challenge?

  • Which of their challenges does your offering address? How important is this to them?

  • What process did they go through to evaluate your company? What questions did they ask? What did they need to see before they committed? What approvals did they need? Who signed off? How was funding approved?

  • What was their compelling event?

  • How long did the sales process take?

  • What alternatives and/or competitors did they evaluate? Was it an option to do nothing?

  • Did they buy everything they evaluated? And if not, why not?

  • Why did they buy some of your offerings but not others?

  • What channel partners were involved?

  • What was their return on investment? To what extent was price a factor?

  • What value does the customer derive from your offering (both tangible and intangible)?

  • To what extent does your offering make the customer's life easier? Enhance their competitive position? Protect them from threats? Connect them with opportunities?

  • What would enhance the value the customer derives?

  • What lessons can be learned from these experiences?

  • How are existing customers documented? For example, contact details, communication details & preferences, opportunity details?

  • What do your customers buy elsewhere that could be bought from your company?

  • Why do they buy elsewhere?

  • How satisfied are they with the product? How satisfied are they with the supplier? What would motivate them to buy from your company instead?

  • How should current and potential customers be segmented? By geography? By industry? By size? By behaviour? By the software they use? By channel partner involved? By level of expertise (e.g. IT staff)?

  • What do customers say about your company? What was their experience of the buying process? Their view of the customer experience?

  • To what extent do they consider your company to be “a safe pair of hands”? … to offer a “tailor made” service? … to be “customer centric”? … to be a “trusted advisor”? … to be “knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy”? … to be a “valuable partner” or “just another supplier”? … to value their business? … a visionary that will bring relevant new offerings to their attention? … able to accommodate the customers’ needs as they evolve? … shares mutual objectives with the customer? Likewise, for your channel partners?

  • How could your company and its channel partners become more valuable / more of a trusted partner to the customer?

  • How could the customer service be improved?

  • Would each customer provide a case study? If so, what would be the highlights? If not, why not? What would need to change for them to give a case study?

  • Would each customer provide a reference? If so, what would they say? If not, why not?

  • Would each customer recommend your company and its channel partners to other customers in the same position? If so, what would they say? If not, why not?

  • Would they make the same decision again? If so, is there anything they would change? If not, why not?

  • What would each customer consider to be your differentiators / Unique Selling Proposition(s)?

  • What would each customer consider to be your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

  • Would each customer recommend you to anyone else they know? If so, what would they say? If not, why not?

  • How do customers obtain information about your company and its channel partners? Prior to purchase? After purchase? From your websites? From social media? From direct interaction with your company? From other suppliers? From other partners and third parties?

  • What is the market opportunity for this customer? Revenue? Initially and on-going? Margin? Initially and on-going? Cash flow implications? Timescale / sales cycle? Potential for complementary offerings? What probability is associated with each?

2. Define and understand existing routes to market.

Who sells your offerings? Who do they work for? Who else is involved?

  • How are they organised? Geographically? Logistically? In relation to customers? By industry

  • How are sellers rewarded Commission? Referral fee? Bonus

  • What recognition do those involved in sales receive? Awards? Shares/share options? Career advancement?

  • What characteristics do your sellers share? What characteristics do the more successful sellers possess? How were these characteristics acquired and can they be replicated?

  • How were the sellers selected? How are they different to others that were not selected?

  • What are their differentiators / Unique Selling Propositions?

  • What are their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

  • What is their view of your market position? The company? The customers (quantity and quality)? Channel partners (quantity and quality)? Offerings (quantity and quality)? Strategy? Unique Sales Proposition/differentiators? Overall sales proposition? Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats? Pre-sales support? Marketing? Collateral? Website? Social media? Competitors? Pricing? Systems? Support? Maintenance?

  • What do the sellers think of their colleagues? Management? Peers? Other staff?

  • What do the sellers think of your company's processes? Sales process? Forecasting process? Support process? Other processes?

  • What do sellers think of your company as employers? Differentiators/Unique Selling Proposition? Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

  • Would the sellers recommend your company as potential employers to others?

  • To what extent do the sellers feel… Successful? Motivated? Trained? Utilised? Directed? Managed? Targeted? Determined? Valued? Rewarded? Empowered? Involved? Engaged? Knowledgeable? Experienced? Aligned (e.g. with company goals)? Trusted by customers? Trusted by channel partners? Trusted by their employer? A sense of urgency? Able to deliver what they promise?

  • How do your sellers think your company could be more successful? In particular, how could you sell more existing offerings to existing customers? What would enable them personally to be more successful? What additional contribution could channel partners and other third parties offer, if any?

  • What lessons have been learned? From previous sales successes? From previous sales failures? What lessons should have been learned?

  • To what extent do the sellers consider your company to be ... Visionary? Adaptable?

  • How do the sellers evaluate and prioritise activities? Customers? Channel partners? Opportunities?

  • What is the customer qualification process and criteria? What is the offering selection process and criteria? What is the opportunity qualification process and criteria?

  • How is the sellers' work documented? Customer interactions? Channel partner and third-party involvement? Opportunities? Forecasts? Sales?

3. Define and understand existing offerings.

  • What are your existing offerings? What is their composition (for example, software, services, consultancy, add-ons)?

  • How is your offering delivered (for example, one-off capital purchase, Software as a Service)? How would customers like your offering to be delivered?

  • If offered as a service, where from and how important is this to customers? What are the Service Level Agreements and what happens if these are breached?

  • What are your core offerings? Which are the most valuable offerings? Why are they most valuable?

  • What defines / characterises your offerings? How are they different from other potential offerings? From your own offerings? From competitors' offerings?

  • What languages and currencies does your offering support?

  • How can your offerings be segmented? By function? By cost? By intended audience?

  • How are your offerings typically purchased? What is the qualification process? What are typical selection criteria? What is the typical evaluation process and what are the criteria? What is the typical decision-making process and what are the criteria?

  • How does your company decide what products and suppliers to offer? And how does it decide what not to offer?

  • What are your offerings respective differentiators and Unique Selling Propositions?

  • What are the chosen offerings respective Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

  • What third parties are necessary for the successful provisioning of your offerings (for example, embedded software providers, hosting) ? What is the quality of the relationship with each provider? How could it be improved?

  • What resources are available for each product and supplier?

  • What marketing is available for each offering? Collateral? Website? Product specification? Articles? Frequently Asked Questions? Knowledgeable? Brochure? Roadmap? Recorded demonstration? Scripted demonstration? Video? Podcast? Fact sheet? Presentation? Case studies? References? Other documentation?

  • What marketing is carried out for each offering? Product launch? Events? Mailings? Social media? Articles? Sales training? Sales playbook? Telemarketing? Introductions and referrals? Technical/pre-sales training? Sales coaching?

  • What have analysts said about your offerings? Where do they figure in Gartner Magic Quadrants, Forrester etc?

  • What problem does your offering solve? How important is this for customers? What are the customers' alternatives (for example, to do nothing)? What value does it provide? What value could it provide?

  • How are your offerings documented? Commercially and technically?

  • How do customers and channel partners obtain more information about your offerings? Website? Email? Forums? Telephone? Social media?

  • How is your offering supported? How do customers interact with technical support? What hours of service are provided? In what language? What is the service level agreement? What is the typical response time? What is the failure rate?

  • How is your offering maintained and updated? How are updates distributed? How often? How reliable are the updates?

  • What drives new features? Who controls the product roadmap? Who has input into the roadmap? How quickly are new features developed and deployed?

  • How is your offering priced? How was the pricing devised? Who controls pricing and is it still appropriate? What discounts are available and how are they calculated?

  • How is your offering configured, priced and quoted? What CPQ systems are used and by whom? How are quotations created, validated, approved and updated?

4. Define and understand existing relationships.

  • What would existing customers and channel partners say your offering's differentiators / Unique Selling Proposition are? At the time of purchase? Now, if different?

  • What would they say the product’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are?

  • What value has each customer derived from your offering? What is the Return on Investment? Has it met or exceeded their expectations? If not, why not and can this be addressed? If so, can we document and use it as a case study? If not, why not and can it be fixed?

  • What value has each channel partner derived from each offering? What value have they been able to add? Has this met or exceeded expectations? If not, why not and can this be addressed? Will they be referenceable to other channel partners? If not, why not and can this be fixed?

  • What are your key differentiators for each customer and to what extent are they differentiators? Are they aware of each of these? Are they aware how competitors compare? What business benefit do they derive from these?

  • What do customers and channel partners think about your pricing? What would happen if prices were higher/lower/stayed the same? How should price changes be determined and communicated? How important is fixed pricing and price predictability?

  • What do customers and channel partners think about your marketing materials, marketing events, website, sales support and pre-sales support?

  • What do customers and channel partners think about your product roadmap? How do they input feature requests? How do they feel about the process for new features?

  • What do customers and channel partners think about your support services? The means and method of communication? Quality? Knowledge? Responsiveness? Frequency with which support is required? What is the impact on the value they derive from your offering?

  • What do customers and channel partners think about your maintenance services? Frequency and quality of updates? Distribution method?

  • What do channel partners think about the opportunities for added value? What impact would additional value-added opportunities have? What would make it possible for channel partners to add more value?

  • Which of your other offerings are existing customers and channel partners aware of? To what extent have they considered them? What would encourage them to consider your other offerings? What has/would discourage them?

  • How are customers that buy more than one of your offerings different from those that buy just one? What additional value do they derive that others do not? How can they perceive and obtain this value while others do not?

  • How can customers be categorised/segmented by the offerings they buy? Are the customers different? And if so, in what way? Or have they been treated differently in some way? And if so, how?

  • What would be the impact on customers and channel partners if your company sold fewer products? To what extent do customers and channel partners value your company offering a range of products even if they're not currently buying them? In their view, would your company benefit from specialising in fewer products?

  • How is the relationship between customers, channel partners and offerings documented? Who has which offering? Who bought what, from where and when? Who is interested in what and when? What happens with this information?

  • How is forecasting conducted? How are channel partners involved? What is the process? How is it documented? How often is it updated? How often is it reviewed? How accurate is it? Who checks and what do they do as a result?

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