Improve Your Open Source Sales Funnel with Targeted Marketing Collateral

One of the great things about Open Source software, is its ability to significantly cut the length and expense of the sales process, by allowing prospects to “self-qualify” themselves for the product offering. Simply put, because an Open Source software product is freely available for download, potential users can get it, try it out, and decide for themselves whether it works for them. If it does, they can then decide to approach the vendor for additional services or technical support.

From the Open Source vendor’s perspective, this is a great place to be, because it’s getting a constant stream of leads which are (a) already educated about the product and (b) interested in pursuing a commercial relationship. This makes things much easier for the vendor’s sales people, because they typically need to do far less work in convincing the prospect of the suitability of the product and they can instead focus on meeting specific requirements and closing the deal. In summary, a shorter sales cycle for the vendor and clearer expectations/less disappointment for the customer.

Understand the Buying Process (and the Buyer)

The trick to this, of course, is to ensure that prospects have enough information to self-qualify. And this is not simply a matter of “provide a download link and they will do the rest”. For an Open Source vendor to fully exploit the informational advantages of Open Source, it needs to make sure that potential customers have all the information they need to satisfy their questions and concerns independently. And so, it is necessary to prepare and make available different types of marketing collateral for each stage of the buyer decision process.

There are two important aspects to consider here.

1. The stage of the buying process

The typical buying process consists of need identification, research, evaluation of alternatives, purchase and post-purchase evaluation. These stages are performed sequentially, and the prospect’s information requirements change from one stage to another.

For example, in the first and second phases, the prospect may have a wide range of options, but as the evaluation progresses, the field is whittled down to a few likely candidates. Correspondingly, the granularity of detail required also increases: for example, in the first two stages, the prospect may only be interested in (say) the platform and integration requirements, but once the main candidates are identified, the prospect will examine each in detail to understand the relative benefits of each. This is clearly seen in the following simple diagram.

2. The status of the buyer

The status of the buyer must also be considered. In small firms, the economic buyer (the one who actually pays for the product) and the decision maker (the one who takes a final purchase decision) might be one and the same. However, in larger organizations, the decision maker might be a developer, while the economic buyer might be a business manager or CFO. The information provided must be correctly targeted to the buyer’s status within the organization.

For example, consider the evaluation stage. At this point, a developer is keenly interested in the technical benefits of the product and so would gain maximum value from technical white papers, sample code, technical presentations, and other collateral that illustrate the technical capabilities of the product. However, a business manager at the same stage of the process would like to read case studies of similar deployments, white papers about collaboration features, data sheets listing service and support options, and so on.

Marketing Collateral Cheat Sheet

Here’s a quick cheat sheet, based on my experience, of what you could provide to different types of prospects to help them at each stage of the buying process:

Information search Evaluation Purchase
Business Manager or CxO Product brochuresBusiness white papers

Third-party reviews

Case studies for similar deployments

Service and support data sheets

Sales presentations 

Demos

Project Manager Product brochures 

Business white papers

Third-party reviews

Case studies for similar deployments 

Service and support data sheets

Competitor analysis

Sales presentations 

Demos

End-user or Developer Technical feature overview 

Technical white papers

Third-party reviews

Technical manuals or API documents 

Demos

Screencasts and videos

User manual

Demos

A final question to consider: how do you actually make all this material available to prospects? The best way is through your Web site, as this offers several advantages:

  • It’s the first place a prospect will visit for more information on your product/service offering.
  • It’s publicly accessible, which means that sales people (yours and your partners’) can use the same collateral for direct sales.
  • It’s central and 100% under your control, which ensures that updates occur in a single place and you don’t have to worry about salespeople or partners working off outdated material.

Conclusion

Open Source offers a number of advantages, and these are not restricted only to the software aspects of your product or service. By making available as much information as possible, you’re allowing potential customers to validate your offering against their needs, and giving them the tools to make an informed decision. This allows them to self-qualify or self-disqualify themselves, serving as an automatic filter and granting you the benefits of a shorter and more effective sales cycle.

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