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Marketing – The Second Customer

Since it’s a new year, I need to start looking at my marketing plan.  One of the big things I need to begin doing is better utilizing my “second customer”.  What is the “Second Customer”?  this is someone that will recommend me to someone that may buy my products.  In a nutshell, it’s you…  my blog readers.

So, let’s start simple.  How do you get a Second Customer?  In my case, these are often friends, fellow consultants, and even previous clients I consulted for.  That’s a great start, but let’s be honest, it’s not enough people.  This is why I started the blog.  I’ve been working at posting pretty much 5 days a week in order to try to attract new potential second customers.  The big thing with the blog is that you need to provide value.  While I admit, not all of my posts fit for everyone.  I can be a bit all over the place, but I’m hoping it’s part of my charm =).  I write about Service Management, Variant Configuration, Basis, running your small business, marketing, and anything else that I do to launch my software business.  My goal is simply to pass along the lessons I’ve learned.  This does 2 things.  First, it shows that I have actual knowledge that can be useful to other people.  Second, it builds a connection to everyone that reads my ramblings.  My auto-responder is the same deal.  It’s all about making a connection with anyone I can.  Blind marketing is very expensive, very time consuming, and there is no guarantee you’ll get any sales.

Only after you have a connection, can you ever expect anyone to recommend you.  My goal is connect with all of you.  If you’re doing anything similar to me,  you need to connect with everyone you can.  Start a blog, an auto-responder, spend time on forums answering questions.  The short story is that you need to provide value early and often.  You don’t need to write a novel every day, but you need to keep delivering “cookie” content.  Eventually, one of your readers will provide you with the lead for your next sale (hint, hint)

Thanks for reading,


Getting Some Help – When is it the right time?

Being a small company, it’s a big deal whenever you start thinking about bringing in more help.  Right now, I’m the only developer for a small software company.  that means, I have a limitless amount of work that I can do, and since I’m still doing consulting, my time isn’t limitless 🙂  So, how do you fix this issue…

1.  Space the work out, and prioritize!!!
2.  Bring in some additional help

Recently, my partner found someone interested in working with us…  but are we ready for it?  Since I am admittedly a bit of a control freak when it comes the software, I’m naturally resistant to the idea.  Do we need it?  can we afford it? How do I know he’s any good? etc.

So this post is going to be about all the things to consider when you start to think about bringing in some help.

1.  Financial:  We’re small, so we can’t afford to pay someone by the hour, especially for something that “may” sell, but we don’t have any orders for it.  that pretty much leaves paying a percentage of sales on the product.  Even this is hard because our margins are still tight.  We’re offering big money for anyone that can get us a lead (FYI.  $10,000 is still out there if you connect us with a lead that brings in a sales.  No selling, just give us the lead).  On the flip side, 100% of 0, is still 0.  So it’s better to get a some of something, than get nothing…  you get the idea.  Plus, it may help open new markets/prospects.

2.  The application:  It must be designed as a standalone application, but still be easy to integrate with our existing offerings.  Sounds easy, but since I’ve done all the development, I haven’t really documented my standards.  So having someone new comes in would force me to figure out what I want.  While I am the CTO of this venture, I haven’t really acted like one up till now.  I’d still need to review the code, but this would give me a chance to learn some new techniques.  Never a bad thing. finally, is there a market for the new product?  Is it really important enough to bring in someone new?

3.  Legal:  This is the tough part.  We need Non disclosure agreements, as well as documents that give our company complete ownership of this stuff, and still provide the % to the developer.  We need to expressly state that no money changes hands until we get paid.  Plus, there is the whole issue of developer license.  We only have one currently, but I’ll talk more about that in section 4.

4.  Technical:  How will he develop?  I’d have to set up a system for him to create everything in and provide access to that system.  Not impossible, but certainly one more challenge to deal with.  The developer license is an issue.  We only have one, so do we need to buy another, or can we find an alternative?

Anyway, these are the angles to consider.  I think I’ve made my choice… but I’ll talk more about that in the future =)

thanks for reading,


Making a Sales is a Lot Like Dating

I heard this statement in one my marketing lessons, and it really struck me as an interesting analogy.  When I stopped to think about it, it really is more true than I imagined.  So let’s look at this, you’re looking to make a sale, what’s the first thing you need, you need a customer.  The customer is key to everything, without them, you have nothing.  I know what you’re thinking, duh!!!  But bear with me as I get to my point 🙂

A customer is a lot like looking for husband/wife.  You may go to a bar, or meet someone in a public place.  Do you see someone, and just walk up to a stranger and ask them to marry you???  Of course not.  But why?  because you don’t know if they are a fit for you, or vice versa.  Plus, what person in their right mind would say yes.  So how do you figure out if you’re “right” for each other.  You take small steps.  How about going out for coffee to talk?  Well, in the business world this is a lot like checking out your website or blog.  It gives your prospect the chance to get to know you slowly.  By putting out a blog, you let the prospect see that you know what you’re talking about and figure out if there’s any reason to go further.  So, you’ve gone for “coffee” and kinda like what you see.  So you move to the next level, how about a real date…  in the business world, this would be some form of opt-in, like an auto-responder, a mailing list, or a newsletter.  This says I’m interested enough to get free info from you…  but nothing more.  Ok…  now you’re dating…  but it’s still early stages.  It doesn’t mean you’re exclusive or invested…  just interested.  Now if you have enough qualities your customer likes, they may buy something small from you… a sort of trial thing.  This could be like meeting hte parents, or going on vacation together.  It’s still not marriage, but it’s pretty serious.  If the customer likes the small thing they bought, they may finally invest in your big offering…

Now of course marriage isn’t a perfect analogy, since you want as many customers as possible (well, unless you live in Utah).  But you get the idea.  You need to present enough value to get the customer interested in you.  They aren’t just gonna give you their money until they know you can provide the value you claim.  Plus, if you follow the idea of the “Ideal Customer”, you want to check out the customer too and see if they fit for you.  This is a two way street (of course, in my case, I’m early on, so my ideal customer is anyone that will buy from me.  ha ha ha).  but I look forward to becoming more exclusive in the coming year.

anyway, thanks for reading,


Putting together my first Autoresponder

For those of you that know me, you know that I am far from a sales/marketing type person.  I’m an engineer/computer programmer.  So this journey of sales and marketing has been a challenging.  My friend Justin and I have been doing this on-line program called the remarkable marketing blueprint.  All of the information is solid, and useful.  The hard part as been trying to apply it to what I do.  I’m not really a writer, or a hard-core blogger.  I don’t sell small products or services for the masses.  I do highly specialized service and applications for a LARGE computer program.  What I have found is that there is more in common than I ever expected.

Because of that course, I actually took the time to put together my first auto-responder course.  Sounds easy right?  just spew out stuff that know by heart, and drop it into mail program.  Well, for me, that was hardly the case.  In order to try to make the content worthwhile, I spent a lot of time coming up with the topics to talk about, getting screen shots and collecting all the relevant data to the subject.  In short, I spent about 10 times longer building this than I expected.  Don’t get me wrong, I would do it again.  Even sharpening my skills (and like so much of this blog) it’s a notebook to remind me how to do things if I forget =)

Well, I’ll touch a little on the technical side as well.  I chose to build a web page for each of my E-Course Lessons.  I then did a small email with the first paragraph or two from the auto-responder with a link to the page.  I did this for 2 reasons, and my thinking may have been flawed.  So if anyone reading this actually knows how to do this stuff, please feel free to give me some constructive criticism (go easy on me…  it’s my first time).  First, I wanted to get people to my website, so they could see everything I had to offer, including the blog, newsletters, and of course my products.  Second, Mailchimp has this really cool feature that tells me if anyone clicks on a link from my email.  This gives me a heads up if anyone is actually reading the stuff, or if just getting the emails.

So far, I have about 4 people that signed up.  You have to start somewhere 🙂  if you’re interested in learning how to improve your SAP SM, give it a read.  You might just learn something,

thanks for reading,


Finding a New Audience

Well, since I like to be diverse, I’m jumping back to some of my marketing efforts.  Once again, some of my best ideas come from talking to my good friend Justin.  We were recently chatting, and he put the idea in my head of the “guest” blog post.  this is a concept out of the Remarkable marketing Blueprint.  We both signed up for this, and it has been so helpful to have another perspective.  Well, the idea of the guest post I pretty much wrote off.  Who would I guest post on?  I’ve looked, and I can’t even find any other blogs talking about SAP Service Management.

Justin, in his great way of playing devil’s advocate with me brought up the idea that posting on SDN is just like a guest blog post.  it is a new audience, new readers and another place for me to try to jump start my readership.  So…  for that reason, you’ll notice that I’m only going to be posting 4 times a week.  I’m going to start moving one of those posts over to SDN.  If you’re one of my readers, I’d love it if you could follow me out there as well.

Michael Piehl on SDN

Anyway, thanks for reading, and please feel free to forward me onto your friends or colleagues that you think might benefits from some good SAP knowledge =)


Mail Chimp – Using an Old List

Hello again,

Now that I’ve been experimenting with Mail Chimp further, I have another valuable lesson.  If you have an old list, don’t be surprised if your account is temporarily suspended.  I just had it happen to me with the last newsletter I sent out.  I imported my list into Mail Chimp to test my list.  I purposely didn’t filter out the returned names I’ve received in the past, thinking that maybe Mail Chimp could get through where I couldn’t.  Ooops.  I ended up getting 40% of my list bouncing, and instantly my account got put on hold until I could explain what happened.  I explained that it was an old list that I hadn’t really been emailing in a while.  They were ok with that.  Also, note that you get 2 warnings and then your account is shut down.  So, play by the rules.  it’s for everyone’s benefit.

The other thing I learned is that you can NOT include any names that you did not gather personally.  I recently did a marketing campaign with SAP EcoHub that resulted in some names (I’ll tell you more about that later).  Because there was a third party involved, I had to remove those names from my Mail Chimp list.  Another valuable lesson learned for me.

On the bright side, for the time ever in my newsletter I can see how many people opened it, someone else takes care of any returned mails and unsubscribes, and I can even see if they’ve clicked into my link for the rest of the article.  I love Mail Chimp, but I’m still learning.

I recommend checking them out.  Now that I’ve cleaned my list pretty well, I’m going to look at doing a pay as you go auto responder.  I need to get more details on if I still get 12,000 newsletter, and pay for the auto-responder, or if you lose that benefit when you start paying (I certainly hope not).


Creating the Sales Contract

when you finally  get the pleasure of doing a sale, you need to make sure you have the right paperwork in place.  One of the key things is the sales contract.  Luckily, I had the agreement that I signed for the SAP partnership, so I was able to use that a guide for structuring my own sales Contract.  What I learned is that there are some pretty standard pieces of it…  then from there, you just need to add your own spin.

For example, here’s the main pieces of mine that I just put together.

1.  The general section.  From the ones I’ve seen, this is the easy part.  It has the name of what you’re selling with a short description, the customer’s information (name, address, etc..)  My contact info and any annexes (additional documents)

2.  Scope of the agreement.  this pretty much specifies what you are selling and what’s included/not included.  It also defines who “you” are.

3.  Next is the Renumeration…  pretty much, what’s the agreed upon price.  Any discounts, etc.  the short story behind this, what are you getting for the sale.  In my case, I gave a list price, then stated the discount the customer gets in exchange for a reference and signing the agreement by a certain date.

4.  Invoicing and Payment.  Pretty simple…  payment terms.  when will they pay by, do you offer a cash discount, do you provide the product or service before or after receiving payment.

5.  the next one was something I added in because it was a customer concern.  that was support.  Because I’m a small company, the customer is obviously concerned about how I will support the product after the sale.  The funny thing is, actually he’s likely to get much better support out of me than he is a bigger company, but regardless, it still needs to be spelled out in the agreement.  Some important things to include are also what isn’t covered in your support.  If you don’t clearly state this, you could end up providing support for things you didn’t intend.  Do your best to think like a lawyer here =)

Finally, the signature page.  Make sure to collect the customer’s PO number.  the name and title of whomever will be signing this agreement, and once again the date.  Finally, you will countersign this agreement to make it all legal like.

All and all, it was pretty painless, but I”m sure glad I had an example to start with.  If you’d like to see mine, just make me an offer on my software and I’ll be happy to send one right over to you =).

As always, thanks for reading,


Mail Chimp – Newsletters made easy

I just had my first experience with Mail Chimp, and what I can, I’m hooked. I signed up for the free version, uploaded a list of contacts from an excel sheet, put together a slick post card, and have been tracking my results. Previously, I’ve been using a hokey macro that I found online (and of course tweaked) to send emails to my contact list. Using Outlook, there was no tracking, I could only send txt or html (both of which I had to completely design).
I can’t begin to express how much easier Mail Chimp made my life. It handles the subscriptions, I can upload a list, or build a list using a form I added on the website. this was another really cool piece. Mail Chimp lets you design a subscribe form, and then gives you the HTML to put onto your website, or gives you a link to use their form. I haven’t scratched the surface yet, but now I can do newsletters/emails to my list. i didn’t even mention the many templates they have out there to make professional looking emails, newsletters, or whatever you need to send to a group.
I’ll be posting again in the new future when I start to figure out how to do the auto-responder piece. This part you have to pay for, but I do like the idea that you can do a pay as you go format, and then switch over to a monthly fee. When I figure out how it works, I’ll share it with you.
Thanks for reading… I’ll keep learning the hard way, so you don’t have to…

Features vs. Benefits – It really does matter

My latest marketing lesson that I learned is just how important it is to sell benefits, not features.  Being a programmer, I’m used to dealing with features.  What does it do? is it cool? How fast is it? etc…  but after listening to the lesson, I learned that even I need to know the benefits.  Just because your new widget can do something, until I know why I NEED it to do that, I’m not going to buy.  The latest lesson had us focus on converting a feature into a benefit, simply by going down the ladder of why does my customer care?  For example, you have a feature that provides the fastest dry cleaning in the county.  Ok, great…  but why do I care?

Fastest Dry cleaning in the county:
It gets me my clothes faster than anyone else

why do I care?  I have a big meeting tomorrow, and I need to look my best.
why do I need to look my best? I need to give a great presentation
why do I care?  I need to be my most confident self.
why do I care? it makes me feel good about myself.

I apologize if I butchered that, but the short story is that everyone needs to feel good about themselves, so for every feature, you need to walk up the ladder until you can get that response.  IN this case, having my clothes ready tomorrow for the big meeting will give me the confidence to feel good about myself, so I can make a great presentation.  I just did this exercise with my Broadsword 1 page sales document.  It actually made a big difference.  No, I didn’t make a sale yet, but this gets me 1 step closer and increases my chances of feeling better about myself because my 1 page document are more likely to hook a prospective customer 🙂

Anyway, that’s all for now.

Mastermind Group – You Need One

Tonight, I made a new revelation. A mastermind group is invaluable. I’m doing this marketing class called the Remarkable Blueprint. I’ve been doing some of the exercises, and I kinda hit a wall a day ago. I got to the point of being overwhelmed with all the exercises and trying to apply it to the all of the materials I’ve already generated for my products. I’ve found that often I can get bogged down when I have too much to do, and I don’t have a good starting point. Which is funny, because every time I get to this point, as soon as I start doing something, anything, I get out of the rut.
Well, I was talking to my friend, Justin, who is also doing the Blueprint. He hit me with a flash of the obvious. Just pick one product, and perform the exercises for that one product. The other areas can be tackled later. So I just decided to do my dashboard. I’m going to start cleaning up all the marketing materials for Broadsword. I’m actually pretty excited.
Now, my original point is simple. If you want to get the most of your endeavors, you need someone (or a group) that you can bounce things off of. I actually gave Justin his own ah ha moment, much like he gave me. It’s often as simple as having someone that isn’t neck deep in the details to point out the obvious. So, start finding some people that have similar aspirations. I bet you can help each other out in more ways than you imagined. The funny thing is that I read this in Think and Grow Rich, many years ago… but it took until now for it to finally sink in. It’s amazing the things you learn and don’t use… then out of the blue, it hits you.
Anyway, that’s all for now… I hope you’re learning from my mistakes,