With the advent of the Internet, VARs entered a new age of marketing. Acumatica VARs must build their brand to differentiate themselves from the competition. A version of this post first appeared on the PropelGrowth blog; read it here.
Our last two articles about Acumatica VARs leapfrogging the competition talked about developing your go-to-market strategy, your niche, and your ideal customer profile. Once you have those, it’s much easier to build your brand. But remember, you’re building YOUR brand, not Acumatica’s.
Brand before platform, services before technology
Most VARs spend more money marketing the platforms they represent than they spend on their own brands. Invest in marketing your services, not the technology.
This may seem counterintuitive, since most VARs focus a lot on marketing the product. But to win big, you have to do things quite differently than your competition.
Consider branding your specific approaches to cloud ERP implementation. Branding your approach, even if it’s not all that unique, will help you set yourself apart from the competition. It also helps your customers really understand and be able to articulate the advantages of choosing your firm.
For example, my company, PropelGrowth is a marketing consultancy with 100s of 1000’s of competitors. We have to find a way to differentiate. One of our services is producing thought leadership content for clients. This work requires us to do extensive research and can get expensive. In order to maximize the client’s ROI, we create as much derivative content as possible. We call this “using every part of the buffalo.” We’ve packaged thought leadership programs for fixed prices and branded the offerings “Buffalo Programs.”
Are these Buffalo Programs unique? Not really. Lots of firms do this. We’ve effectively productized our services and are able to use a value-based, fixed pricing and a standardized delivery methodology. The packaging, pricing and brand differentiates our offering from the competition.
Consider a similar approach for your business. Can you package a subset of your services and offer them at a fixed price like we do with our buffalos?
Consider also your brand as a trusted advisor to your clients. Travis Healy, the director of business development at Collins Computing, focuses not only on Collins’ brand, but also on his own personal brand. Healy said, “Every single big deal I’ve done has been based on gaining the position of trusted advisor. You achieve that by shifting away from a sales mindset to that of a business advisor. That means I often give out information unrelated to our products but relevant to our clients’ missions in order to help secure long-term partnerships. That’s a big part of my personal brand.”
Work on building your brand around your firm’s unique business strategy, target niche, methodologies, team and unique experience.
Embrace transparency, don’t fight it
Building a brand means you have to get your message out. To do that, you’ll need to publish thought leadership and content that clearly communicate your offerings and approach. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of VARs, including Acumatica VARs, are reluctant to be so transparent.
In the past, firms could hold information close to the vest. This allowed the salesperson to control information flow and be the primary source of education for the prospective client. This put your salesperson squarely in control of the client’s buying process.
But then the Internet and Google changed the way people buy. Now, there is a massive amount of information freely available online. So today, buyers will go through 60-70% of their buying process before you even know they’re shopping for a solution. As Tim Rodman, ERP implementation consultant at Aktion Associates, said, “You used to be able to control the conversation, but now with the Internet, you can’t. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.” Rodman speaks from experience. As a side project, he manages AUGForums.com (Acumatica User Group Forums), a Google search-friendly knowledge sharing website.
To understand the new customer buying process, let’s take a moment to consider how an imaginary customer might approach the beginning of his search. We’ll call him “John.”
John has a growing business in commercial HVAC equipment sales and installation. Fast growth has been creating some challenges in his supply chain. A few weeks ago, he came across an article about cloud ERP software and Acumatica that captured his attention. He did some research on Acumatica and was impressed with the technology. So now he’s looking for help in thinking through his options.
If John just uses Google to search for help, he’ll come across several VARs. But most of what he’ll find on their websites is about product features. He might come away thinking all VARs are alike. So how is he going to find and consider your firm? He’s not going to just call you. He’ll wait to reach out until AFTER he’s convinced that your firm might be a good resource. By then, he’ll be prioritizing price over value.
Will your website help John realize that you have exactly the experience he needs, or will he see only product- focused content that he already found on the Acumatica site? Will he lump you in with all the other VARs?
Anya Ciecierski runs the ERP Cloud Blog and also leads marketing for CAL Business Solutions. At CAL, Ciecierski has developed a powerful content marketing engine. She invests in it constantly, adding new relevant content.
Since 2009, 100% of CAL’s marketing-generated leads come from organic inbound marketing efforts and referrals. Ciecierski explained, “We used to do direct mail and telemarketing. But now we focus almost exclusively on content. We position ourselves as thought leaders who are easy to work with. To prove this, we give as much information as possible. For example, we give pricing down to the details. We cover the “gotchas” that prospects should look out for. We give them the tough questions that they should be asking. Most VARs think this should be kept closer to the vest. But we put that all out there publicly. That is what gets people coming to us. Referrals and direct leads from the website are our key lead sources.”
Let your customers drive your brand
Your customers are your absolute best source of insight for developing your messaging and brand story. Talk to them about their experience. Ask their opinion of your firm. Capture their voice to drive your positioning and messaging.
But don’t leave this just to salespeople and implementation consultants. Your marketing team needs direct access to customers. As Ciecierski said, “Get out of the marketing bubble and talk to the prospects. That’s how you figure out the real pain points.”
At PropelGrowth, we extract tons of value from customer interviews. For example, let’s consider a branding initiative. To do this well, it’s essential to get the customer’s point of view. We do multiple client interviews to dig into their impressions of the product and firm.
These interviews can serve triple duty:
- They capture the voice of the This helps frame your value proposition. Using the customer’s terms and phrasing helps ensure that your messaging resonates with future prospects.
- They provide in-depth stories for producing multiple case
- They help you sell. When you retell detailed customer stories, it can go a long way toward establishing the credibility you need to close your next opportunity.
In our next article, we’ll talk about building a marketing machine…and the importance of consistency and patience.
Want to learn more?
PropelGrowth specializes in helping Acumatica VARs define effective business and go-to-market strategies that facilitate long-term growth in revenue and business value. If you’d like more information about how we might help your firm, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at +1 970.300.2280.
And don’t forget to utilize the Acumatica Partner Program for additional training, resources, and tools.