Prior to founding SmartPM Technologies, and developing its construction schedule and analytics platform, I spent many years analyzing construction schedules and processes by hand. I was hired to help parties in legal disputes discover what went wrong. The common denominator that sent all those parties to court was an issue with the construction schedule. A problem-solver by nature, I wanted future owners, developers and general contractors to avoid disputes and issues by having access to effective schedule analysis on the front end.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to believe that everyone will “get” your product at the level you do, but that’s not always the case. Here are some strategies that have contributed to the success of SmartPM, and how you can leverage them.
Solve a real problem
Before entering the marketplace, study it in detail to ensure you’re addressing a problem that actually needs solving and a demand exists for the product you want to sell. This requires that you be honest with yourself that, until you interview at least 300 people, you really don’t know what the industry you are trying to sell into really wants. You may see a problem, have a solution for the problem, but you don’t know how the industry prefers to solve the problem. This is a critical first step to reduce risk of failure.
Do your due diligence of your target customer(s)
Be deliberate and know your clients. We made a list of the key players we wanted to target, developed personas for them and crafted messaging for each type of buyer. Our clients are general contractors and construction management firms, owners and developers, government entities, insurance companies and consultants. Each has a specific use for our product, and by understanding their role, challenges, pain points, objections, and key benefits for each, we are better able to prove the value and convert sales.
Use data-driven messaging
It’s important to know which descriptions and keywords are effective and help to drive client engagement. Experiment with phrases and messages to understand what appeals to certain clients. Then analyze the data to determine how to most effectively reach your target market. What times of day are best for your clients? Do they prefer email or telephone communications? What messages resulted in more opens and clicks? By learning these nuances, you can tailor your selling behaviors and messages to potential clients and have the data to back it up.
Know your market and treat them well
Clients have to receive value for what they’re purchasing, and they need to know you care about them and will help make their jobs easier. Clients want to know they are heard and their challenges matter more than you selling your product. Be intentional and recruit staff members who understand your clients’ challenges and work environment. Also, be aware of your product’s price point, especially when introducing a product that’s not established or trusted in the marketplace. Be realistic about the size of the deal you’re going to sell and be willing to prove yourself. For example, we had to lower our expectations of the initial deal sizes that we were selling — from trying to sell larger, full-scale enterprise contracts to smaller, to being comfortable with trial-based agreements where the client was able to purchase the software and try it to ensure it was a good fit. This resulted in more customers faster – with plenty of room for growth.
Listen and re-evaluate
Don’t be afraid to continually update, refine and improve every aspect of your business, always. This means: product, marketing, sales and customer management. Learn from prospects and clients about their needs and wants. Constantly be improving your sales materials and messaging so you are answering your prospects and clients’ concerns. Improve how you train your clients and strive to scale it.
Bringing a product to market — especially one that is unique and new — can be daunting and exciting. By solving real problems, understanding your potential clients’ needs and doing your due diligence, you’ll lay the foundation for a successful startup.