Situation: A company is investigating off-shoring to lower costs. Trends are confusing with some companies returning operations to local production and others continuing to offshore. In addition, options include partnering with an existing company with expertise, or developing off-shore resources themselves. Does it still make sense to off-shore?
Advice from the CEOs:
Instead of looking at broad trends, narrow your focus to what other companies in your industry or closely related industries are doing. You can get this from industry publications and trade associations, as well as from other companies with whom you have personal relationships. This will help to clarify trends that potentially impact you.
Consider whether there are complimentary objectives that will influence your decision. For example, do you want to expand your market presence abroad and would off-shoring operations help you accomplish this?
Look at other US locations – for example the Midwest. Midwestern moms working from home provide high quality customer service for Southwest Airlines. Part- or flex-timers may be less expensive than full-timers.
Make this move in steps. Consider breaking up your needs into distinct components and outsourcing each component from a different provider or vendor. This will help to preserve your “secret sauce” and corporate IP resources from those who might want to steal it if they saw the whole picture.
Good off-shore functions utilize as little management as possible. Distinct tasks are easier to off-shore than complex processes.
Look at scalability issues – based on your own past experience.
Tie the resources that you need to what is readily available in different geographies.
Interview with Sai Gundavelli, CEO, Solix Technologies
Situation: A company has top talent and a better technology solution. However their large competitors continue to compete by discrediting them – “nobody was every fired for choosing IBM!” How do you compete effectively against large incumbents?
Advice from Sai Gundavelli:
Invest in your product.
Work to attain best-of-breed status in your industry with a constant focus on and investment in building a great technology. Solix’s constant goal is to be the technology leader in information lifecycle management and Data Privacy.
Be organic and focus on integration, smooth operation and scalability. Build your system from the ground up. An organically designed solution where the pieces work seamlessly offers higher and more efficient performance.
Invest in alliances.
Solix continually invests in our partnerships, including our OEM relationship with Oracle Financial Services, and we have more such partnerships in the works that will help us expand our presence in the market. Partnerships increase your presence and visibility as you scale your own organization.
Focus your efforts.
We at Solix are 100% focused on our product, whereas our large competitors are juggling multiple priorities, like a juggler trying to keep a large number of balls in the air. While we are smaller, this allows us to more effectively focus our efforts without lots of conflicting priorities. We focus exclusively on information life cycle management and Data Privacy.
Have others talk about you.
Solix’s answer to our competition is let our customers speak for us. We have many happy customers such as Honeywell, Duke Energy, American Tires, who are happy to participate in joint webinars and customer case studies. We work closely with them on the latest developments and direction and use their feedback to guide future product direction.
Situation: Even with a better mousetrap, an early stage tech company can’t afford a large sales force to cold call enterprise prospects. How do you build an affordable, scalable sales model – one which lets you quickly identify potential customers, and sell to them with a predictable rate of success?
Advice from Scott Dietzen:
From our experience, there are three steps to the process:
Form and quickly test hypotheses about your early adopters, and be prepared to iterate. “Friends and family” customers typically provide this test bed;
Look for ways for candidate customers could self qualify, and then strive to make that easily repeatable; and
Once have honed your messaging, leverage PR, viral marketing, social media, and other inexpensive means get your value proposition in front of more customers.
The chain of events between hypothesis, private experimentation and public launch is crucial:
Before launch, you want to have many confidential conversations about your value proposition with early prospects, and hopefully get many customers to privately try out your product. What do they love about the product? What changes will make it even more valuable? Listen and learn. At Pure Storage, we spent a year and a half in customer testing before we came out of stealth.
Most companies work too hard on the product and too little on the go to market plan. It’s better to do these in tandem. At Pure Storage we thought our messaging would skew toward performance, but learned that the fact that we saved customers 10X on their power and space budgets was equally important to them.
By having referencable customers in place before launch, you are better able to declare and defend first mover status and their validation is crucial to a successful launch.
A great way to accelerate growth on a start-up budget is to let customers self qualify for free:
At WebLogic, we offered developers a free download evaluation version of our software. A developer could choose to use WebLogic for free, and then go to their manager only after they had a WebLogic solution up and running. This made it far easier for management to make a buy decision, and took off so fast that it was hard for our sales force to keep up with the inbound license key requests!
At Pure Storage, we give away a software tool that storage administrators can point at an existing storage workload. The tool allows them to evaluate the savings from our data reduction algorithms, and hence how much their companies could save in cost and power by converting from mechanical disk storage to Pure solid-state flash. Enabling the customer to generate their own ROI story is an easier, more economical path to winning a happy customer, and the end user insider becomes a hero for delivering value to his/her organization.
Key Words: Technology, Solution, Model, Sales, Marketing, Customer, Identification, Hypothesis, Early Adopter, Social Media, Scalability, Pre-launch, Stealth