In this tech driven world, it is essential to develop tech platforms built for scaling. Just like a tech platform should be sturdy and built to scale, so does a commercial platform need to be. Very few entrepreneurs realize this, as they often spend most of their time perfecting the tech platform (product).
Putting a product in the marketplace does not make it fly just by itself. Those working towards consumers know this – they go quickly out of business (due to lack of users) if they don´t. They focus on building just as sturdy a commercial platform, as they do building the tech platform (product).
A tech platform made for the enterprise/B2B world needs the same approach.
However, the commercialization model I see most often chosen by startups, can be described as the following:
1. Design a company/product website that looks mainstream enough, but still hot – using the same (or similar) template to other players in the industry
2. Hire as small sales crew as possible (often with the “hire three, fire the two least performing” approach)
3. Sponsor a few trade shows and get a stand (in the far-end corner) to display what you do (and hope somebody important happens to walk by)
4. Buy some cool give-aways for extra promotional effect (who doesn´t love freebies, right?)
This image is courtesy of the SalesProBlog, which has a hilarious post on the best giveaways to make you succeed in sales 🙂
Building a commercial platform entails much more than what is described above. It demands evolvement over time, adjusted to where the market, product and the company are at. Much can be planned ahead and laid out in a commercial roadmap. However, just as a the technical roadmap changes over time, so does the commercial roadmap.
Questions that will arise along the way, are things like:
- How do we shape our partner strategy? Should we look into establishing OEM partners? Specific strategic alliances? Partner programs?
- Will we need pre-sales and other sales support people or systems? When is the right time to deploy these?
- How do we approach analyst relations? Are there any analysts covering our area? Other third part influencers we should network with? Who/what type of role/competence should brief them?
- Should we start a network where we gather lighthouse clients, partners, and other experts? Should we throw our own seminars? What is the purpose? Education, idea generation,…?
- Do we need to verticalize our offering at some point? What does this mean for our sales team? Our marketing communications efforts? Trade show presence?
- Does the branding fit our purpose? Does it fit where the market and our competitors are at this moment in time? Does it have the strength to grow and morph over time?
- Can we leverage customer testimonials more extensively? Does this influence our sales contract structure?
The list goes on – this is just a snapshot of some of the commercial decisions needing clarification along the way. Building a commercial platform demands a 360 degree view of the complete ecosystem the company is part of, identifying what goes into the customer journey, and finding out how the commercial platform stays relevant and develops as the market and product change over time.
So, take in that building a commercial platform takes time – just like building a tech platform does. It demands taking bits and pieces and putting them together along the way. Make sure you spend as much efforts and thought process into building the commercial platform as you do building the tech plattform. It is usually what makes or brakes a successful idea, product and company at the end…