Here at ThoughtFarmer, we’re software designers, not marketers. Learning how to sell our intranet solution has taken years, and we still have so much to learn. We’re getting better, though, and revenue growth is very strong. Here are a few thoughts about our market, which we’ll call “enterprise social software”, and what’s worked with our sales process — and what hasn’t.
My take on the “enterprise social software” market as a whole.
- It’s in its infancy
- It may be the first time that technology actually has the opportunity to transform organizations instead of just optimizing business processes
- Explaining it is hard
- The vocabulary we’re using (“social”, “enterprise 2.0”, “complex adaptive systems”) means nothing outside the industry
- SharePoint is presently the only competitor to worry about
- It’s going to be a really, really huge market
- We’re pleased with our positioning as intranet software. It’s a keyword we can actually compete on (as opposed to, say, “collaboration software“) and we have a good story to tell about our intranet heritage
- We’ve landed some respected reference clients, like IDEO
- We’re getting some play on our case studies in books and conferences
- Our blogging and tweeting seems to drive lots of interest
- Our “Tubetastic” campaign was very memorable and greatly increased site traffic and brand recognition in the industry
- We seem to be well-liked. In fact, the Gartner Magic Quadrant even says so. 🙂 “ThoughtFarmer is a well liked and capable product.”
- I personally handle 80% of sales. This is not sustainable, but it’s a big reason why we close as many deals as we do. People feel like they’re talking to someone who really understands.
What hasn’t worked.
- We haven’t sold much to “regular” people. It’s mostly to early adopters and social software keeners.
- We find ourselves fighting against SharePoint too often.
- We are too often trying to sell at a level of the company that doesn’t have sufficient decision-making authority.
- No pro-active lead generation. So far, we just answer the phone.
- No sales team. Know anyone? We’re hiring!
- No PR. We’re looking at getting some.
Our positioning vis-a-vis our competitors.
- An intranet solution, not a wiki. Differentiates us from Confluence, MediaWiki, SocialText (more than a wiki, but still perceived as one)
- Fast turnkey deployment. Differentiates us from SharePoint.
- On-premise installation only, minimum 100 users. Differentiates us from SaaS offerings like PBWorks, Central Desktop, BackPack.
- Microsoft platform. Differentiates us from SocialText, Jive.
Our secret sauce.
- When people demo it, they “get it”. It’s easy to use. Almost all of our customers say that’s the reason they bought. Unfortunately, ease-of-use is impossible to quantify and difficult to express with any kind of credibility. We try to communicate ease-of-use on our web site without words.
2010 will be a huge year for ThoughtFarmer. If our fourth quarter is any indication, we’ll double or triple our revenue. Our 4.0 release, in Q2 2010, will be transformative. But sales won’t happen on their own — that’s just not the way it works with enterprise software. It will take constant learning and improvement on our part.
I think we’re up to the challenge.