Flashback to November 2006 – Digital MediaWorks
At Digital MediaWorks (DMW), founders and co-CEOs Roman Mitura and Dean Klimchuk told me the story of landing their first big order. The company designs Virtual Reality software, with products aimed at special applications – e.g. assessment of ADHD (Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder) in children with a DMW product called “VR Classroom” that simulates student distractions and reactions in a school setting.
Up front, I need to declare an involvement as an active advisor to DMW – working with the Strata team of management advisors headed by Robert Morais. Strata’s “idea to ideal” concept was established in January 2005, from a group of serial entrepreneurs that count a number of local companies in their portfolio of experience.
Landing a first big order
Our discussion identified several key action ideas to land a first big order:
1. Find a prospect with money and a well respected industry position – The target was chosen with care. As Mitura commented, “We identified this prospect based on their potential as an initial customer with the ability to fund a project, and their potential strategic value as a future distribution channel and joint venture partner. Then the organization’s structure and products were extensively researched prior to engagement and meeting.”
2. Meet key players at industry conferences – Given a target market, the professionals in prospect companies go to conferences that serve their needs for learning and networking. This is also a place to meet the 3rd party professionals your buyers would respect. As Mitura said, “We had met a number of key players at a professional conference…this provided a means to more readily make contact in the organization at a higher level.” You must identify all these conferences in a “Marketing Calendar” as soon as possible to allow a 12-month window on what travel options you have. Ask people in the market which ones they plan to attend, to get the best travel plan options – then book tickets & hotels well ahead of time, to get low travel expenses.
3. Enlist respected Domain experts – There are always visionary experts who are willing to work with innovation companies. DMW enlisted a researcher who was widely traveled and well respected in the field of interest. This helped to increase the prospect’s interest in a detailed dialogue. “Having a team member who was versed in both the technology and applications, with a solid reputation in the eyes of the customer, acted as a reliable source of common ground between us and our prospect,” commented Klimchuk. Readers should also consider setting up an “advisory board” and describing it on your website. Look for people who can be an advisor on the application expertise, make introductions in the target market, and enjoy the visibility added by the relationship.
4. Use adaptive strategy – Surprises will occur. In most cases you are selling a new paradigm to an established organization, and there will be many points of resistance. As Klimchuk commented “Traditionally our prospect’s customers were laggards at best, and we had to present the opportunity of a cutting edge solution in terms that made sense to both the visionaries and the late adopters – a big challenge unto itself.” Don’t be selling technology – sell action ideas that build around specific needs and internal problems identified by the prospect as you get to know them.
5. Practice the personal touch – The individuals you meet at the prospect company have each got a history, a life, and a personal story that motivates what they do, how they do it, and who they buy from.. As Klimchuk comments “We always try to foster a positive, even a ‘personal’ relationship with our clients without losing sight of our business objectives.” This is a strong part of the DMW culture, Mitura explained “It comes from years of doing service work with clients from small companies to Fortune 500 companies, where all of our marketing of services was purely by word of mouth.” Traveling to meet the prospect is a vital part of this, and bringing a highly appealing demo helps the customer visualize success and generate interest in funding a project or initial purchase. You’ll know you are winning when you can see both personal agendas and corporate objectives being met for your prospect.
6. Sell professional services to help deliver a “funded Proof-of-Concept” – Don’t include product development in billable work, so you can still market your product when the project is done. There are lots of other ways to get paid. Billable work can include things like project management, special requirements definition, trial user engagement, testing and report preparation. Also, include language in your contract agreement that protects your company’s rights to intellectual property you create during the course of the project, conserving your ability to have a product that is both marketable and proven to meet buyer needs.
Results – The Company has completed the big project successfully, has a growing pipeline of product marketing opportunities, and has a steady flow of consulting revenues to finance growth.
This article by Peter Fillmore, was originally published in SCAN – MARKETECH in November 2006.