Abraham Lincoln reportedly said “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” I am wondering how this applies to the companies we interact with. I would worry if I was not recognizing my customers, and I work to be recognized by them. Recognition is a concept that goes both ways. And as a customer, I worry when I am not recognized, or no longer recognized.
Technology has enabled amazing one-to-one marketing for businesses selling to consumers (B2C). But how effective is this marketing in reality? I am always shocked that I can walk into a car dealership and not be recognized. When I am shopping for a car I always point out what I have leased in the past. I am trying to help the car salesman recognize me. Another example might be Nordstrom. You could expect a shopping experience where you only see clothes in your size or even style. “Hey Rich — we know you — here is what we suggest.” Shoppers want to be recognized but it just hasn’t happened yet.
Companies selling to business customers (B2B) will find these in many different sizes, from small businesses to the Fortune 500. Very large customers are easy to recognize.There is complexity in selling to the company and its many divisions or departments, but you know they are large and important, because the deals tend to be bigger than deals with SMBs. Ford, General Electric, Starbucks — when selling to a big account the seller certainly recognizes the opportunity and treats the account accordingly by offering solutions to their needs.
Selling to small businesses is more like selling to consumers. To succeed sellers must sell in volume. In enterprise software most start here. Selling to a very large company is not always an initial strategy for a software company. We call this B2C2B (business to consumer to business). Start with smaller businesses and work up in account size. Nearly every software as a service company (SaaS) started selling to small and medium size companies.
As SaaS sales teams work into larger and larger accounts, what happens to the small business customers that were their foundation? Are they still recognized?
20 years ago when Salesforce was just starting the large competitors were SAP and Oracle. And 20 years ago a Fortune 500 company was not leaving SAP for Salesforce. Salesforce worked from the bottom and edges to build into the current market leader. Salesforce tries to recognize its smaller customers as it has moved up the market from a base of small business customers. The Salesforce IdeaExchange is where small business customers with a need not currently served post their requests. Salesforce small business customers can vote on these because they match their own. Salesforce product managers can use this website to know what customers are asking for. This is how Salesforce recognizes some of the needs of smaller customers.
Truth is, if you are a smaller customer — not a “logo” and not Fortune 500 — your needs may not be prioritized.
How does this impact your research for business software? You have a list of needed capabilities and are reviewing vendors. As you check off the boxes what is important to know is not just if the current needs are fulfilled. These boxes are checked, but you also need to know if your future needs will be fulfilled. Will you be recognized as important when you learn next quarter that your software needs have evolved? Will the software you chose also evolve with you? Do they offer custom solutions? Will they grow with you? Do they strive to be worthy of your recognition?
I am not a Salesforce developer but the company makes a great example, as it grew so fast. So I just talk about partnering with Salesforce here, especially since I regularly speak with a Salesforce partner, Rich Rosen, CEO of Fastcall. However, the same principles apply elsewhere. And as we can see in the example above Salesforce has become a very large company serving the largest of the Fortune 500 as well as many small businesses down to the single-user realtor or mortgage broker. It is truly remarkable to see a software company service such a wide variety of customers.
As a small company dealing with a very large company, Salesforce, you may want to think about the advantage of partnering with smaller companies as found in the AppExchange. The smaller Salesforce partners offset the largeness of Salesforce. Salesforce itself is not able to recognize and be very high touch with the smallest accounts, but smaller Salesforce partners are equipped to do so. You also have the choice of partners who are more experienced in your vertical or in a more convenient regional office.