Hen House Ventures is fortunate to work with several Enterprise-oriented B2B startups, where new and upcoming companies are often entering a well-established space. After years of experience, we can attest that a large part of entering these established markets extends beyond trust and heavily weighs upon the appetite for risk-taking.
The phrase “No one gets fired for purchasing IBM” has been deeply ingrained into every professional’s evaluation thought process for decades. However, if every business runs the same software, then their business aperture will be exactly like their competitor’s aperture. And this is where the risk-taking appetite comes into play: Are companies willing to adopt a new software, break away from the benchmark - to change their aperture, business process or their entire customer approach on a new and upcoming startup technology?
We empathize for the Enterprise business person who needs to evaluate if it’s worth putting their own professional reputation at stake by bringing in an alternative solution. We have listened to the difficult conversations, the resistance, the perception that ultimately influences their peers and interactions.
And that’s why we encourage our startups to expose their new solution to the enterprise decision makers. Commonly, this is the press and analysts who are keen on the industry, who have used these incumbent solutions, and have previously held positions at companies and were responsible for implementation and success.
And when we have a startup client that trusts us, we are enthusiastic about the possibility, because quite honestly, these conversations, demonstrations with these powerful industry influencers are quite humbling (since no product is perfect), educational and in the bigger scheme of things, uplifting.
Hen House Ventures has been working with X2Engine, Inc. on getting its new X2CRM Enterprise release exposed to media and analysts, since its announcement last October. X2Engine is the creator of X2CRM - a Customer Relationship Management software that has an innovative approach, plus a pretty powerful platform that plans to disrupt a 40 + year old industry.
We have had a variety of experiences and even wider range of responses - but all is great experience for X2. The results of these efforts have been tremendous so far.
With every introduction, discussion, customer referral and demonstration that X2 provides to the influencer base - the perception of what’s next, and where disruption is happening for the industry is affected. Eventually, the tail will wag the dog.
The feedback that these experts provide is invaluable, and also doesn’t affect the sales pipeline for the startup company. Their words become the startup’s canary in the coal mine, and can identify areas of opportunity or possible threats.
If the influencer is publicly recognized after the connection, then give your startup a “high-5!” because they said and showed something that drew the attention from experts. This public recognition will ultimately lower the adoption risk perception for prospective customers in the future.
Here’s our advice to other startups who are breaking into established categories - Befriend Analysts and Journalists ASAP.
Start by researching the influencers that your buyers/ prospective customers listen to, or simply figure out who they are by top search engine results.
Then read the influencer’s work. All of it. Figure out their approach and their experiences to see how the new innovation can change the game to where they pay attention to.
Have someone that you both trust, make a meaningful introduction to the influencer. Please don’t “pray and spray” emails to folks - especially to those that you want to listen to your company because that’s uncool.
Connect the influencer with the visionary person in the company. This is an important relationship to foster.
Prepare ahead of time for the conversation. Then, take a minute to breathe before your first hello. First impressions are important. Also be real, say what you know, and ask the influencer about the stuff that you don’t. This will make the meeting more conversational and real.
Conversations never go as planned. Things happen such as dropped calls, miscommunications, missed expectations, or sometimes harsh feedback is given. Take it all as a learning experience because sometimes the bad stuff is more valuable than the good fluff.
Ask about awards, contests, reviews, etc. that the influencer runs or may know about. All influencers are aware that coverage is important, and they can help your startup identify new opportunities.
The most important tip of all is to FOLLOW THROUGH. If you say you’re going to apply for an award or grant or what-have-you, do it. Startups only get one shot at market entry, and reputation for follow-through is imperative in this type of race.
And how does this advice pay out? Great (and relevant question). X2CRM has won several awards from three different media groups in the last few months:
And the X2Engine team is exuberant about the recognition because it supports their prospective clients during the decision making process, because their solution is recognized by experts in the field. This makes the introduction experience much faster.
Questions or comments? Please ask away. If you’re an entrepreneur who is ready to put a stake in the ground, contact Hen House Ventures for help, guidance, or just brainstorming.