Developing Appropriate Marketing Strategies for IT and Software Development Projects
Competency is required in the software development industry. Based on the ever changing demands of the information technology market, the software industry has to be adaptive to gain and retain potential clients. This dissertation focuses on the marketing approaches used by software development firms and determines their limitations. Furthermore, an evaluation of possible marketing approaches has been done and how these strategies can be used to enhance the performance of software companies has been determined. The information used in this research has been retrieved from reliable, peer reviewed, articles, journals, books and websites. In an attempt to overcome marketing barriers, it has been recommended that technology firms adopt the holistic marketing strategies. The emphasis is on the interrelationship with market stakeholders with an aim of achieving distinction while focusing on the requirements of the customer.
Keywords: Holistic marketing, integrated marketing, relationship marketing, marketing function, content marketing.
Table of Contents
The engine that stipulates the success of a business is the market share it holds (Musaeva, 2013). Having such a solid understanding of marketing is essential since this dissertation focusses on the field of marketing in IT. Understanding marketing as an engine helps in knowing whether a software company requires a unique strategy to attain a greater market share. A market refers to a commercial pool where goods, services and money exchange hands (Pride and Ferrell, 2008). Firms apply different marketing strategies to ensure they have an upper hand in the market(Keefe, 2004).These strategies are based on the market share a firm hold. They include market leader, a follower, a challenger and a niche maker. They will be evaluated later in detail in the research.Developing and executing an effective marketing strategy is nonetheless not an easy task. Several factors such as price, promotion, place and product have to come into play, and therefore a marketing strategy that might be effective in one organization or in selling a certain type of product might be ineffective in others. This appears to be particularly true in IT products and software development projects (Nigam 2011; Svensson 2001). With the increased growth of the information technology sector globally, a majority of firms are competing to have a global appearance. The information technology sector is among the global leaders in terms of expansion. Statistics from the international data group indicate that in North America, technology firms are the major market share holders (Pulizzi, 2013). However, this reality has been misused by a number of firms in their attempt to implement marketing strategies. The belief that the global image and appearance to potential customers gives them automatic benefits is a vague and unsubstantiated theory (Blythe, 2006). Like any other skill, marketing is more than just making a physical appearance. It requires substantiated skills of convincing potential customers that the business has the best, irrefutable and high quality services.
Marketing is a process that requires patience and consistency (Brunk, 1999). It is better evaluated in the long run other than in the short term. The benefits of utilizing effective marketing strategies are not reaped within the short term. However, with consistency, the trend of benefits accruing to the firm through marketing is achieved. There are a variety of marketing strategies that appear as options for implementation to a firm. However, the ability to choose and apply the most relevant strategy is what differentiates market leaders from poor performing firms in the industry (Blythe, 2006). In this respect, information system firms are not an exception. Despite having an upper hand in the market, there are a variety of factors that have to be considered in the implementation of a marketing strategy for software development companies and IT firms. The argument that these organizations have an upper hand in the market is not fully synthesized. It is entirely based on the need of a majority of firms in the industry to digitize their operations therefore, opening a wider market for IT companies that act as the basic suppliers of the requirements for automationhands (Pride and Ferrell, 2008).
This is a result oriented research. The main aim of the research will be to establish and recommend appropriate marketing strategies for IT companies and software developing companies. In an effort to evaluate these strategies and recommend the most appropriate ones, there are a number of objectives that act as the basis for this research. The following is an overview of the objectives driving the research.
- To establish whether IT/Software Companies require a unique marketing strategy compared to the current strategies being adopted.
- To determine what element of marketing strategies should be changed to effectively market IT/Software product and services.
- To establish what marketing strategy or strategies works or is expected to work best for IT Companies/software developers.
- To determine how to effectively utilize the most relevant marketing strategies for the benefit of IT and software companies
- Determine the best market entry approaches based on the strategies adopted by the software/IT firms.
The research involves answering a number of questions which depict a relation between marketing, marketing strategies and the information technology sector. There are a number of variables that relate these two fields and their understanding and analysis cements the research. Some of the research questions that cement this research are listed below.
- What are the objectives of strategic marketing?
- What is strategic focus and how is it determined?
- How does a firm determine and define customer targets?
- How does strategic marketing help to curb competition?
- What is marketing mix and how does it influence effective marketing?
- How to implement strategic marketing and monitor market performance
The information technology sector will perform exemplary in marketing, and increase its revenue if effective marketing strategies are carried out and implemented.
Marketing is a challenge that a majority of firms face. The challenge is severe in start-up companies and small and medium companies. The drawback making a breakthrough in marketing a challenge is lack of enough funds to finance marketing campaigns. The lack of adequate and precise information on how to approach potential customers is also a major drawback towards the mission of success of these firms. Therefore, understanding of the market is critical to the success of any firm. This is not an exception for software development companies and IT firms. Furthermore, the need for understanding potential customers and how to engage them to the services and products offered by the firm is essential to creating a solid customer base (Blythe, 2006). The market is the major avenue that any organization should exploit to guarantee its success(Pride and Ferrell, 2008). It is among the building blocks that define the success of a business. The others include the availability of capital, production factors such as labor and materials and a ready market. However, there are a variety of forces and factors that hinder effective marketing for organization. The software and information technology has had its drawbacks in the marketing industry owing to a number of things. It cannot be reputed that the information technology sector is among the market leaders in sales and revenue returns. However, the benefits accrue to multinational companies while the local and upcoming industries in the software development sector struggle to survive amidst meagre returns.
The problem of soliciting customers is a huge drawback to the success of the firm. Other than this, a firm has to maintain a constant supply of customers to guarantee its continued success. This can only be achieved by years of experience and an excellent public portfolio. This is a challenge for upcoming firms and penetrating in a market that is already dominated becomes a challenge. Despite this, the promising returns in the industry are a huge base to focus on to ensure that the firm gets a fair share that breaks even the investment costs incurred. This justifies the need and quest for an effective analysis of a marketing strategy and how to segment the available market share for the benefit of the business (Blythe, 2006).
This research does not take into account an ideal software firm for analysis. On the contrary, it uses a variety of comparisons and contradictions on how software companies are faring in the market. It is worth noting that there are a variety of factors that affect the performance of a firm including internal and external factors. In this research, these factors have been assumed to be constant in the industry. This has been done to enhance a vivid analysis of marketing strategies as the basic drivers towards the success of a software development industry. Other than this, it has also been assumed that the strategies to be adopted by an information technology firm are highly influenced by the type of product and services the company offers.
The scope of analysis and research adopted here is limited to a certain market fragment. Since the focus is on information technology and software development industry, the research does not contradict the strategies of marketing to be adopted in this industry with other industries. On the contrary, it shows the how and why the strategies of marketing in IT are relevant and viable. From a technological point of view, the credibility of any software system is determined by how well it meets the needs of the end-user (Francis, 1981). This is contrary to the business needs. Economically, the credibility of a marketing strategy is determined by how appropriate it meets the mission and vision of the marketing firm. Therefore, an effective marketing strategy is organizational oriented while an effective software development process is client oriented. This is a limitation while augmented in the same platform. An information technology firm has been equipped and strategized to deal with the concerns of the clients’ forehand. Trying to reverse the process and put the business needs beforehand will create a loophole that calls for a compromise.
The dissertation has been organized in a chronological manner to enhance the experience of the reader. The paper does not only provide an overview of the marketing models that can be used by software and technology firms. However, it starts from the basic evaluation of the current models that are prevalent in the industry. The paper is a journey that takes the reader from the research method used. Under the methodology, a step by step search strategy was adopted. The relevance of this process is to create a background understanding of the marketing models and strategies that the information technology sector uses. The section of methodology explains the various resources used to enhance the content of the research and why they were used. After this, the review of the literature is guided by the concept of figuring out whether software developers require a different model of marketing. Here, the current models are reviewed and the existing changes determined. After evaluating the existence of the current models, a strategic plan is set in motion. The contents of the plan are reviewed and the discussion chapter kicks off with the evaluation of the marketing function. Various aspects of marketing and especially content marketing is evaluated. Marketing is further focused to entail the perspective of software products. Different aspects of the marketing are discussed in this section including the agents, sales, finance, operation and product development cycles of the software. In an effort to correlate existing marketing strategies with the proposed available options, the research further provides an analysis of holistic marketing. This is done to enhance the understanding of the reader towards the hypothesis of the research and the existing facts in the market. This enhances the propagation of a strategic plan. Here, both internal and external factors that influence the decision of a firm are considered. The result is a marketing strategy that is adaptive to the objectives of the firm and that is adaptive to changes in the requirements of the software industry.
Chapter two: Methodology
Methodology refers to the plan of action to be adopted to carry out a research(Francis, 1981). A dissertation must adopt a relevant methodology depending on the issue being investigated. In this research, a peer reviewed methodology has been adopted. This is based on a need to know basis. Peer reviewed journals and articles are reliable and contain information that is not only varied, but also credible to the degree of approval. The implementation of the methodology involves two major steps; identifying the sources of reliable information and selecting the resources to be used. Online databases related to the field of marketing and technology came in handy in the development of this research. A lot of time was used in the University of Manchester library gathering relevant reading materials related to marketing and the information technology sector.
A simple step by step process was adapted in this paper to conduct the literature review. Of course the first step, as portrayed by the paper format, was identifying the research topic. Factors considered while choosing the research topic included, main area of study, interests, professional and industry challenges observed or outlined in academic and professional materials. The viability and relevancy of the topic was determined by first conducting preliminary research; this generally involved scanning different material to determine the type of information that is readily available. After doing so, the second most important step was developing and executing a search strategy which followed a two-step process. The steps are: (1) identifying preliminary sources, and (2) Selecting essential sources.
Preliminary sources include databases that contain a variety of information in form of abstract and full texts of different types of topics (Mertens 2010). To ensure only relevant material was searched, the University of Manchester Library databases were given emphasis as the main source of information. The use of the Internet was also expansively used. Here, Google search engine was used due to its ability of enabling a highly focused search. Google scholar and general Google were used to conduct the search using key words derived from the general topic, aims and objectives of the paper. Of course a huge number of organic search results were presented and therefore it was crucial to ensure only credible materials were considered. Therefore, even before reviewing relatively deeply a potential source, its database or owner of the website whereby it is retrieved were checked to ensure they are credible. Only papers from reputable website and databases were considered as appropriate. Reputable websites are those published by Government, professional bodies, or an organization that is not directly promoting a product or service through the paper. On the other hand, reputable databases include databases that publish only those articles and papers that have been established to be highly credible and in most cases are peer reviewed. These include emerald, IEEE Computer society digital library, Springer, Educational Resource Information Centre (ERIC), JSTOR, PROQUEST, among others (Mertens 2010).
A number of potential literatures were retrieved from the preliminary sources. The topic and title of the paper was used as the first test of determining whether the paper would provide useful information. Those papers whose title appeared not to be closely related to the topic under review were immediately dismissed. On the other hand, those papers whose titles were appropriate were quickly scanned, starting with the abstract, introduction, and conclusion. The three elements of the paper were the initial main focus since they quickly familiarize one with the paper and hence determine its appropriateness. After doing so and the paper is established to be relevant, further test were conducted to establish whether it qualified to be a core reference.
Papers were chosen as core references if their credibility was certain. A paper that is peer reviewed and published by a respectable journal is no doubt considered to be credible due to the rigorous testing it undergoes before being awarded that status. Also very crucial was its ability to answer any of the research questions posed as aims and objectives of this paper. In fact, every core reference addresses at least one aim of this research. Additional reference was used to build on the information acquired from the core references. Books and journals retrieved from the university of Manchester library were considered to be reputable and of high quality. The fact that the library serves as a teaching basis for professionals in the field of business and Information technology was no doubt a major reason to declare the research material viable.
After the materials for carrying out the research were selected, the analysis was done on a comparison basis. The views, opinions and conclusions of different writers was taken into account and compared on the basis of their research. The basis of the research was determined on the scope, level and type of businesses and case studies being analysed. This being the case, the conclusion and recommendation was not automatically drawn from the different views held by the writers. Knowledge from the course came in handy in drawing a comparison that was conclusive and that illuminated the views of the writer. Therefore, the data collection and analysis was used as a tool that propelled the research but did not force the conclusions being adopted. This enhanced a non-biased research and considered the scope of firms operating in the information technology sector and the software development environment.
Marketing strategy refers to the overall strategy that relates a certain segment of a market to a particular firm. Approaching a particular market involves a number of steps usually planning, analysis and decision making in an effort to define and implement an effective market approach. Marketing involves arousing the awareness of the buyer regarding the existence of either a new product in the market or an existing one(Ryan and Jones, 2009). The motive for carrying out marketing boils down to the need to increase the sales of the firm and raise the profit levels. There are a number of constant aspects that accrue to all marketing strategies. One the process of adopting an effective marketing strategy is cyclical. This means that an organization is mandated by its needs to constantly review the strategy to determine the performance of the firm in relation to its expectations and the accrued benefits. A strategy is also dynamic. There a various factors that tilt the balance and performance of the strategy. The major stakeholders in this cycle are the customers, competitors and the suppliers (Lindgreen and Sempels, 2001). Lastly, a strategy must be shared within the organization in an effort to guarantee its implementation success. There are different components that make up a marketing strategy. This are as outlined below;
Figure 1: components of marketing strategy
It cannot be denied that the rise of technology has significantly changed the marketing environment. It has affected those companies directly dealing with technological products and services as well as those dealing with other types of goods. It is worth noting that the clients of software development companies are other businesses. For example, the operation of banks, schools and hospitals to mention just a few heavily relies on the availability of digital products offered by software companies. Therefore, an IT firm is a business to business model based firm (B2B). A B2B firm focuses its activities into selling to other firms. Therefore, the products and services it offers affect its clients in a direct manner. The focus of this paper is on companies that directly deal with technological products and services, to be precise IT/Software development companies. Therefore, one of the most important questions to be answered by this research is whether IT companies/Software developers require a unique marketing strategy to market their product. Nigam (2011), categorically states that software/IT products contain inherent attributes that demand for their marketing strategies to be different from those of traditional (non-IT) products.
Nigam (2011) argues that the fact that these products are neither pure services nor pure products implies that they require a highly flexible marketing mix. The production of software products requires a high level of understanding of the activities of the client firm. As a service, it entails provision of authentic, purpose driven products that address the needs of the clients. On the other hand, as a product, a software is quantifiable on the level of service it offers. The lack of physical appearance and a measurable touch makes it hard to categorize a software product as a pure product. On the other hand, the presence of the look and feel of the software differentiates it from pure services. Nonetheless, these products and services should be marketed cautiously as ineffective marketing strategy can easily destroy the brand equity of the company or developer (Doyle, 2003). However, if a proper strategy is developed and executed, the IT company/software developer is bound to enjoy a long-term relationship with its clients. Some elements of the strategy that are likely to develop and enhance this long-term strategy include the sale of contracts the company enters with its customers, and the training, maintenance, product updates and services it offers to its clients.
The fact that there is no evidence to prove that Nigam (2011) utilized a scientific approach to conduct his research and arrived at the above conclusions can lead to the questioning of the credibility of his paper. The paper is published in a reputable peer reviewed journal that implies it has been adequately tested and proved to be credible. Even more important is the fact that his findings are in line with a scientific research conducted by Wang, Wang, and Yao (2005). Wang, Wang, and Yao (2005) concluded that rise in technology have profoundly shifted market participant behavior and competition strategies. The paper also agrees that change in strategies is due to the unique attributed of digital products, particularly IT products. The uniqueness of the products and services that software companies and IT firms handle require a well-integrated and effective marketing strategy to enhance the performance of the firm.
After establishing that IT companies and software developers actually need unique marketing strategies to market their products and services, the next important question that needs to be answered is what element of marketing strategies should be changed to effectively market IT/Software developers’ products and services? Wang, Wang, and Yao (2005) argues that while developing a marketing strategy for IT companies and software developers, it is important to point out that most of these goods and services are sold online, and therefore, the strategy must contain unique attributes that fit this mode of distribution. Physical goods require almost totally different logistics and considerations. These sentiments are held by Mahajan and Venkatesh (2000) when they suggested the 4P’s of marketing do not fully apply to goods and services sold online. Traditionally, price, promotion, product and price play a central role in the determination of the price of a good or service.
Other marketing models have been suggested to replace the 4Ps marketing mix when it comes to selling digital products, which IT products forms large part. The models include 4C, 5P, 4S, ICDT, 7P and three “flow” models (Wang, Wang, & Yao 2005). A deep focus on these models will be evaluated later in the dissertation. Wang, Wang & Yao (2005) argues that 4C and 4S are the most popular models for selling digital products. In 4C, the most important element for marketers to pay attention to are: Consumers wants and needs, Cost incurred in satisfying those needs, Convenience associated with buying the product, and Communication. 4S is a web marketing model and no doubt appropriate for IT and software marketers. Marketers should focus on the Scope, Site, Synergy and System attributes of the site (Wang, Wang, & Yao, 2005). However, Wang, Wang, & Yao (2005) concluded that the traditional 4P marketing mix still has its place on IT and software marketing. In their analysis on appropriate marketing strategies for online utilities and tools such as anti-virus software, he concluded that 4P and 4S are highly suitable models for handling this product sales.
While Wang, Wang & Yao (2005) study is not directly focused on IT and software companies but rather on any company that conduct business online, its findings are not far off those of Harmon, Raffo& Faulk (2005); a study that focuses specifically on the software industry. According to Harmon, Raffo& Faulk (2005), pricing decision is one of the most important marketing decisions facing software and IT companies. Unfortunately, most of these companies do not achieve their full potential in terms of sales due to focusing on the wrong things when it comes to pricing.Their failure to differentiate unique attributes of the software products usually misguide them into adopting a pricing strategy that is similar to that adopted by physical goods. A deeper look into the elements that need to be considered to set the price of software products will be analyzed later in this research. To be precise, software vendors are usually inclined towards adopting cost-based pricing approach. This approach is not only short-term in nature but also it might fail to capture the unique needs of software customers. Harmon, Raffo& Faulk (2005), argues that it would be more beneficial to both customers and vendors if a value-based strategy was adopted. This is a strategy that is based on the perception of value held by customers and not on the cost, as is the case in the latter strategy. Such a strategy will create long-term value for customers consequently building the trust customers have on the vendor (Keen &Digirius 2005; Wirtsch-Ing, Lehmann, &Buxmann 2009).
While a customer focused approach is an extremely an essential attribute of the marketing strategy adopted by software and IT companies, its adoption and implementation, as elaborated by Alajoutsijarvi,, Mannerma, &Tikkanen (2000) does not come free of challenges. Maintaining relationships, especially in a globalized market, is particularly one of the greatest challenges facing IT and software marketers. Alajoutsijarvi,,Mannerma, &Tikkanen (2000), software industry demand total transformation from transactional to relationship marketing and companies that are not well equipped to do so are likely to suffer. Alajoutsijarvi,,Mannerma, &Tikkanen (2000), categorize software marketers as those selling projects and those selling product. In project development, companies should maintain strong relationship so as to encourage the cooperation by customers needed to develop tailor made software projects. In product selling, the companies have to encourage continuous customer feedback so as to improve the product through update and later versions. All in all, customer relationship cannot be substituted by anything in software marketing (Fuller & Lewis 2002).
In order to take in account the unique attributes identified as essential for marketing IT and software product and services, IT and software development companies should adopt a holistic marketing strategy (Nigam 2011). In holistic marketing, development, distribution, selling and post sales activities are considered as marketing functions. They are integrated to support each other hence guaranteeing the effectiveness of the software marketing strategy adopted (Nigam 2011). Nigam (2011) argues that holistic marketing is an effective marketing approach for selling software and IT products because it takes into account the uniqueness of this type of products and services. Harmon, Raffo& Faulk (2005) might agree with assertion considering pricing is one of the most important elements of this marketing approach/strategy. Relationship marketing is also an important component of this strategy and therefore,Alajoutsijarvi, Mannerma, &Tikkanen (2000) would similarly agree with Nigam (2011) assertion.
When it comes to relationship marketing, proponents of holistic marketing recommends for software developers/IT companies to concentrate on offering superior customer service and product quality. Developing and deploying effective IT system that are highly customized to meet the unique needs of the targeted customer is an integral part of the relationship marketing to be included in the holistic marketing strategy. It is important to note that some software products are developed to meet the specific needs of the particular clients; that is the product is not sold to mass consumers. For instance, a client might demand for their business system to be customized so as to be able address a certain unique need of the organization. The software marketer must be able to understand these unique needs and demonstrate to the customer that they can provide product that is able to meet them. The marketing efforts should not stop at this but should extend to providing after sale support services that will guarantee the effectiveness of the software. This will ensure that the company not only wins the contract but enjoys long-term benefits associated with superior customer relationships. These benefits might be repeated business with the client or positive recommendation from that client (Nigam 2011; Kohli&Devaraj 2003).
Integrated marketing is a second component of holistic marketing mentioned by Nigam (2011). In essence, pricing decisions are part and parcel of the integrated marketing recommended. While the effectiveness of 4P might be questionable, pricing as part of the 4P is extremely vital and hence cannot be ignored when marketing software and IT products and services. The value based pricing strategy recommended by Harmon, Raffo, & Faulk (2005) should be adopted. Also, part of the integrated marketing recommended is certain to enhance promotional decisions. According to Nigam (2011), direct sales on one-to-one basis with targeted clients is the most appropriate promotional strategy for Software Companies. In addition to hiring sales representative to perform this duty for them, the company should adopt telemarketing, telesales and voice mail video calls. Use of internet as a promotion tool is vital since it is not only cheap but increases the chance of easily reaching the targeted customers. Through the internet the company can easily release free demo software, educational and promotional material, sell final products, and provide software updates hence boost after sales services that will ensure long-term business relation with the client (Nigam 2011). As will be determined later in this paper, the success of a software company is highly influenced by a long lasting relationship with its clients.
Internal marketing has also been mentioned as a key component of holistic marketing. In fact, any software developer and/or IT company should engage in internal marketing whether or not it is adopting holistic marketing. This is because internal marketing involve building the knowledge of the workforce thus ensuring they fully understand and hence are able to support the business in achieving its objective. This is so important since IT/Software development business is knowledge driven(Quinn, Doorley and Paquette, 2013). Two important considerations in holistic internal marketing are; ensuring all marketing functions are working in unison, and secondly ensuring marketing consideration key driver of every major organization’s decisions (Nigam 2011).
This section provides the basic framework upon which the analyses, results, conclusions and recommendation are deciphered. The first logical step in a marketing strategy involves analyzing the elements of a marketing function. Having an understanding of what a marketing strategy is, it becomes easy to determine the best strategy that can be included in the marketing of the products of a software company. In this regard, the important aspects of the marketing plan can be determined and hence the preferable organization of the management can be adopted. The why and when the marketing function is and can be used enhances the development of a marketing plan and campaign.
Organizations are often quick to respond to challenges and opportunities in the marketplace (Young and Aitken, 2007). However, despite the available chances of survival, most of these organizations fail to anticipate future changes in the market. As a result, the strategies and approaches they adopt do not favor them in the long run and have to be reviewed constantly. According to the Journal of Marketing, a strategic plan defines the direction to be pursued by a firm in its operating environment(Zou and Cavusgil, 2002). The purpose of the plan is to oversee the allocation of resources for maximum performance of the organization. Effective strategic plans are comprised of four major steps; these are an operational plan, a marketing plan, a personnel plan and a finance plan(Young and Aitken, 2007). In these steps, the business has to stipulate the goals, objectives, strategies, tasks to be carried out and the budget in an effort to remain abreast in a competitive market. With the high rate of growth in the information technology sector, the software industry is among the green pastures that are highly competitive. In this regard, a firm has to engage in a rewarding strategy that does not only guarantee success in the short term but also in the long ran (Laws, n.d.) There are various ways of defining an effective strategic plan. However, the approach adopted depends on the mission and vision of the organization. Success in an information technology sector is highly influenced by the ability to retain customers. Unlike a one stop shop or mall, the software industry thrives on mutual trust of the client and the business. Therefore, maintaining a professional relationship based on trust is essential to the success of the business.
Before inculcating change, an organization must conduct a situational analysis that shows the available opportunities and threats in the market(Mintzberg, 1994). As a result, this enhances the course of action to be taken by the firm in an effort to mitigate and alleviate the threats or take advantage of the opportunities in an effort to meet it mission goals and objectives (Powell, 1992). During this process, the organization assesses its competitive power. After the realization of the competitive power, the aim of the plan must be established. The aims are based on the priorities of the firm that are aligned with its objectives. After drafting this steps, the organization is in a better position to determine the strategies that are most effective in a competitive and broader market (Juin, 2000).
The aim of every business culminates to one platform: making profit (Bryson, 1988). Based on the type of business, some are better acquitted in meeting this aim without the baggage of worrying on the long term effects of their goods and services. This scenario cannot be said to be true for any reputable or upcoming software development company. As previously seen, the success of an information technology company is bound by its ability to satisfy customers in the long run. Unlike businesses that rely on one time clients, the software industry flourishes on returning customers(Brunk, 1999). The nature of the services offered by the software industry requires constant monitoring, updating, maintenance and servicing. In this regard, a good reputation is necessary for the business to define its area of operation. Understanding the needs of the clients and responding to them promptly is a basic necessity that guarantees the success of any software company. The software and information technology sector is a service based industry other than a product driven industry. However, there lacks a basic classification of the type of products offered by this industry. Basically, this is due to the nature of the services rendered. To a majority of clients, especially those that are opposed to technology, information technology companies are money grabbing giants that demand lots of money doing little or nothing (Rao and Klein, 1994). However, this cannot be termed as true especially in the eyes of a technical expert that understands the jargon and work around involved in the development, deployment and maintenance of information systems (Bryson, 1988).
According to information systems management, software development companies rely on the principle that the client is always right. Clients have different demands depending on how they require their needs handled and the expected output. Therefore, the theory of fixed rates for all information system services does not necessarily apply to an IT firm (Srivyshnavi, 2013). On the contrary, an effective strategic plan for a software company is client driven other than business driven. The motto: give them what they what applies to this type of business.
The sheer proximity of marketing to the customer makes it an ideal function that drives an organization(Walsh and Lipinski, 2009). There are various departments in an organization and in most aspects, marketing has been integrated in major organizations as an independent department. As a department, marketing has its own objectives and goals. However, for conscious performance of the firm, major organizations integrate the objectives of the organization with those of marketing in an effort to increase the returns of the company. The case applies for large companies that operate within spans of market and even nationally and internationally. However, for small firms the marketing department comprises either a single person or just a few members (Kotler, 1971). Naturally, in this event, the cooperation with the entire firm is well blended as there is small or no distinction between the activities of the firm and those of the marketing department. A majority of small organizations bundle their members with columns of duties which largely range from the daily internal activities of the business to the external involvement of the firm. Customer satisfaction is the major goal of software and information technology firm. Despite this, the reliance on marketing to meet this goal is not viable. The unity and coordination of the entire firm is what comprises customer satisfaction(Bund and Carroll, 1957). Therefore, the necessity of a cross functional marketing and department collaboration is required to enhance the success of the company.
The software business requires the cross functionality of the marketing department in an effort to meet the demands and needs of the customers. The inevitable changes in the needs of the clients from one extreme to the other call for the need of the department to be responsive and not rigid. The turnaround time of the marketing department in a software company is not business driven but customer oriented. The software industry is volatile in it needs and the life cycle of the product keeps on changing. Most companies, take the risk of developing products that essentially customers do not have a clue about and end up not buying (Franses and Paap, 2001). According to Mark Zuckerberg, the greatest risk in a software company is not taking a risk (BrainyQuote, 2014). The competition is cut-throat and every firm want to be abreast in the introduction of new technology as well as embracing changes in the technology. It is worth noting that some of the changes introduced in the software industry are not cross platform. Therefore, changes that may be adopted for a certain company may not be applied in another company based on how the company works and the type of service it provides. Such a unique comparison can be seen between a software company and a networking company all which lie under the category of information technology firms.
Software companies are mainly distinguished by their size. It is largely hard to encounter a medium sized software company (Baskerville et al., 2001). They only exist in two extremes; large multinational companies or small sized companies. In small sized companies, software developers and marketers possess cross purposes. On one extreme, the developer has technical solutions which are vital in minimizing the cost in development and implementation. On the other hand, the marketer tries to meet the needs of the clients in relation to the technical aspect of the developer. In this regard, it becomes extremely important to collaborate and explicitly define the risks that may arise due to cross purposes (Franses and Paap, 2001). One of the strategies that have survived from the inception of software companies is teamwork. Not only has teamwork been adopted in the development cycle of the products but has become an essential part in meeting the marketing objectives of the company(Dahlander and Magnusson, 2005). As a team, the company has an upper hand in identifying the competitive advantages and maintaining success in the market.
Like in any programming language, proper understanding must be available for a function to be coded and perform logically. The same applies in the marketing field. The success of a marketing function depends on proper understanding of marketing as a field and its relation to the business and the customers. Before implementing a basic marketing function, it is essential to provide employees with marketing knowledge through training. Training enhances teamwork and supports the objectives of the firm (Dahlander and Magnusson, 2005). Emphasizing the needs of the firm and the need for the marketing department to meet a specific hit ratio ensures that the firm does not work blindly. On the contrary, it enhances a continued learning which is a certainty that distinguishes failure and success. Equipping the development team and employees with the tactics to respond in a non-defensive approach to threatening information and paradigm shifts can enhance creative ways to generate, create and enhance value for the firm (Franses and Paap, 2001). For this to be a success, the learning process should not only be initiated by the management but also have the full support of the firm.
As a function, the success of a marketing strategy heavily relies on understanding who the business clients are and how they can be approached, won and retained(Koiso-Kanttila, 2004). According to a report compiled by B2B software content marketing (2013), there were some key findings that were not only astonishing but astounding. The following section provides the findings;
- Software marketers allocate approximately 29% of the total budget to content marketing.
- The increase in content marketing increases by 53% every 12 months.
- Software marketers put a lot of emphasis on thought leadership unlike other business to business marketers. They also cite lead generation as their top goal
Despite this key findings, effectiveness is a major challenge to the developers just like any other marketer in the industry. Buy in and content marketing is a challenge especially when it comes to allocation of the budget(Koiso-Kanttila, 2004). Regardless of this challenges, statistics indicate that they are the leaders in content marketing. This boils down to the reality that software marketers are resourceful. They are expected to increase their confidence and grow their effectiveness with time and as experience gulfs increases.
There are numerous tactics that are used in marketing. Among this, software marketers have adopted information technology related tactics to stake ahead of their competitors. A clear indication of the major tactics that are adopted by this markers is as presented in the chart below.
In an effort to achieve their goals, software marketers tailor their content in a certain way to effectively meet their potential customers(Walsh and Lipinski, 2009). This approaches involves personalization that ensures that customers are met one by one and persuaded on the need to acquire certain software and services (Rowley, 2008). Content segmentation has been an essential requirement towards the success of the software industry in an effort of meeting their clients.
Having understood the approaches that are used by major software marketers to meet their clients, it is critical to know the risks and challenges that are encountered in this process. As a result, a comparison can be done between the most favored approach among modern marketers and other available approaches that may be viable and ideal as marketing strategies for software development firms. In this approach, it has been seen that lead generation is the major goal of IT firms(Rowley, 2008). Clients are not acquitted with the need to follow blindly. In an information age where lots of information is flying through the air, people have become skeptical. It is not simply enough to convince potential clients that you are the best in what you do and the services one provides. Therefore, providing enough content and content that engages becomes a major challenge (Bouman and Westman, 2005). Other challenges that are encountered in this tactic are stipulated in the graphical representation below.
These challenges can be encountered in various ways. IT companies may adopt other marketing and selling strategies that incorporate the different media in totality. An effective strategy of marketing should incorporate a variety of medium to ensure that all the needs of the client and the business are catered. Marketing software products requires creativity and the ability to maintain a high niche that does not only attract new customers but also creates loyalty and maintains returning customers(Baskerville et al., 2001). Software companies and IT firms have the advantage of utilizing two forms of sales; online and brick and mortar locational sales. A good example of a company that has blended the two approaches is Amazon. Starting as a mere book store, the company is among the leading online firms that provide secure storage, purchases and payments throughout the world. The ability to meld traditional concepts such as direct mail and incorporating personalization and emails, the business has transformed into an online mogul (Bouman and Westman, 2005). Traditional mail can be personalized and transformed into emails that maintain a constant flow of information from the client to the business inform of notifications. This strategy of personalization is not only limited to the online transactions. However, it is also adopted in other forms of advertising such as TV, social media, direct media, Internet advertising among others. The idea is to maintain consistency and reach a number of customers through a personalized message.
Holistic marketing in the perspective of software products entails a number of touch points as outlined in the figure
Holistic marketing is a new paradigm in the software industry. Agencies play a vital role in holistic marketing as they are responsible for provision of different marketing strategies (Mullins and Walker, 2013). Online agencies, advertising and public relations are among the leading approaches adopted by agencies. To effectively develop software products, an approach that creates interaction with the end-users has to be adopted and implemented. Creativity is the platform upon which agencies thrive. Therefore, the ability to wrap a marketing strategy around a marketing campaign is essentially important(Baskerville et al., 2001). Carrying out marketing research guarantees that the firm is in a position to track deviations from the strategy and inculcate changes where required.
Like any other field, effective marketing requires understanding the different stakeholders of the firm. As a result, it becomes easy to blend the objectives of the company with the needs of the client. Therefore, in the marketing of software products, the process should be initiated in the marketing department other than the cross-functional software development division (Mullins and Walker, 2013). According to the holistic marketing evaluation provided by Nigam, software products should sense the live, breath, eat, and smell the company’s brand (Nigam, 2011). The firm, through the department of marketing should be able to know the potential customers and provide product customizations that relate to the needs of the customers on a one to one basis. The effect of this relationship is that the organization will be adaptive (Tuttlebee, 2002). It will be able to change the requirements as pertains the needs of the customers. In this regard, there are certain effective marketing approaches that can be adopted to enhance the performance of the firm. Email campaigns, research including SWOT analysis will provide the organization with a clue of what needs to be change and when. If the changes are carried out effectively, the products of the firm will be positioned with the needs of the clients (Tuttlebee, 2002). Doing this will result into an effective, streamlined communication process that is otherwise jumbled and hindered in a busy marketing place.
The sales team acts as the representation of the firm in the face of the customer. Having an adept sales forces is critical to understanding the varying changes in the customer requirements. They have the opportunity to interact with the client on a one to one basis and can feel the changing sentiments of the customer and where they are inclined. To ensure that the customer prerequisite demands are captured and inculcated within the business requirements, the sales force has to be responsive(Walsh and Lipinski, 2009). Prompt response to the changing needs of the client will result into coordination between the various departments of the organization. Recording the feedback from the market in critical for incorporating future changes in the event that the firm adopts a new production or selling strategy. The feedback recorded can also determine whether a certain marketing strategy or campaign is working (Musaeva, 2013).
The marketing department heavilyrelies on the finance department. Unlike other departments in the firm, no activity can commence and become fruitful in the marketing department without proper funding from the finance department(Mintzberg, 1994). Therefore, as initially cited, executive support is required to ensure that the strategies to be adopted by a firm are achieved. Failure to this, the synchronization of the business activities and their relationship to the marketing process would be hampered.
Sale of software products provide the best scenario of after sale services. After a sale has been made, it is accompanied by other services such as delivery, installation and maintenance (Ho and Zheng, 2004). All this operations must be carried out effectively and efficiently to increase the experience of the buyer. A major reason for enhancing the experience of the client is to ensure that accompanying services such as updates are sourced from the company.
The product development life cycle determines the quality of the software. Therefore, this process has to be thorough from requirement specification, analysis, design, development, coding, and implementation to testing and installation(Nasr and Kamrani, 2007). Despite the regularity of the process, the vast changes are cross platform as the needs of the customer largely vary from one client to the other. The center of attraction is the quality of the software. If the marketing campaign promises are not me by the product, the business will be in a rude shock as failure to meet the needs of the clients spells doom for the firm(Hewett and Bearden, 2001).
It is the duty of the customer support team to ensure that new and returning customers are retained. The customer service department can achieve this through provision of exemplary services through a prompt and timely manner (Hewett and Bearden, 2001). In a majority of firms, the motto of the customer service department is to ensure that new clients are retained to become long term valued clients of the firm. The ability of the business to address the changing and upcoming needs of the clients is what differentiates a successful organization from a failed firm (Acorn and Walden, 1992).
Every organization has to adopt a strategy that guarantees success in the market (Negash, Ryan and Igbaria, 2003). Therefore, incorporating the different departments of the firm towards a common goal is a step in the right direction as it ensures that all the aspects that relates the customers to the business are covered. There are various consideration to be made before taking this approach as sited below.
- The firm has to consider its image in the industry and the relationship it has with the clients. The business should determine the regard the customers hold towards its products and services.
- Understanding the needs of the clients is also critical. The business has to determine what types of products that the clients want and gauge whether it is in a position to provide that quality
- A clear understanding of the internal processes of the business and those of client firms and how they affect the running of the software company. Essentially, this can be provided from the feedback of the firm activities in the market.
- A plan of action that will meet the business objectives in relation to the software quality both in the short term and in the long run(Dahlander and Magnusson, 2005)
- The marketing plan has to be carried out using the proper channels of communicating with potential customers.
Kotler and Keller define four different approaches that are inclusive of holistic marketing(Kotler, 1971). This marketing approaches have been largely sidelined by the traditional marketing approaches and not given due importance. However an evaluation and deeper understanding of this approaches shows that they are relevant and can influence the decisions of a firm and especially for software companies.
In the software industry, there is continued interaction of the client and the business(Berry, 1995). Therefore, the two parties are entitled to develop a mutually beneficial relation. From the perspective of the business, the availability of the client means constant increase in profits through support services. On the other hand, the client is inclined to maintain a reliable service provide to ensure that their business uptime is kept maximum. It is worth noting that a majority of the clients for software based companies are other businesses. Mainly, this is through the provision of support services as well as hardware support from IT based firms (Berry, 1995). Therefore, maintaining long lasting relationships with clients is key to the success of the business. Marketing from the aspect of a relationship brings out the right mix of customer service, marketing and software quality service (Gaudeul, 2010). Therefore, relationship market has a direct influence on all the stakeholders of a software development firm. With a strong relationship, it becomes easy to develop a professional relationship with software vendors and link them directly to the clients (Peck, 1999). As they focus on the customer, software development firms should also try to promote affiliate relations with all the stakeholders in the industry. With this kind of relationship, it becomes easy to develop a marketing network of the firms. The approach is ideal and cost saving in the long ran. It helps maximize the returns of the business due to reduced price in advertising and creating awareness of the existence of a new software product in the market (Baskerville et al., 2001).
The deployment of IT systems with an effective degree of customization of services and software products to meet consumer needs will result in effective marketing. To ensure that the message is conveyed in the proper manner, it should be inclusive of the specifications of the product. The message can be advertised online (Peck, 1999). In the end, this will save the time that is incurred during negotiations. To ensure openness and that the need to buy is enhanced in the client, comparison options of the product with competitor firms should be provided. For a smooth flow of the sales process, the software companies should stress on reducing their sales cycle. The relationship is further enhanced by ensuring that the firm provides ample time to listen to the specifications of the client and compile their needs (Powell, 1992). When the selling process is drastically reduced, it means that the firm will generate revenue more effectively and increase the productivity of the sales department. There are ways that software organizations can adopt to reduce the sales cycle.
22.214.171.124 Utilization of the web
Software industries should be effective in marketing their products. Enough information should accompany demos and app stores (Rowley, 2008). Other than this, there should be an open communication regarding the price that will act as a filter between prospective buyers and admirers. Providing prompt response and valid information will increase the interactivity of the members in the website (Peck, 1999). On the contrary, other than focusing on this needs, a majority of websites dealing with the sale of software endeavor in answering basic customer questions.
126.96.36.199 Lowering the risk of the buyer
During the installation of software products, the buyer always incurs the risks of implementation failure. In an effort to build trust with their clients, a software company may result in selling the product on a license based period. This will ensure that the company will monitor the performance of the firm and receive feedback on any available bugs in the installed program (Tuttlebee, 2002). Full licensing can be done after the monitoring period is over. The result is the client firm will develop a loyal attitude towards the selling firm which in effect will enhance future sales for the software company.
188.8.131.52 Product configurations
Choice and preference are major drawbacks that hinder clients form making decisions regarding buying software products. The lack of knowledge on the workability of the back-end side of the product makes decision making a slow process (Tuttlebee, 2002). In an effort to curb this situation, Nigam argues that software project should be flexible and provide the client with different modules that may be configured independently (Nigam, 2011). Adopting this model of product provision will ensure that the client gets what they want irrespective of what the firm has in store.
184.108.40.206 Parallel tracking of paperwork
In an effort to ensure that the products of the company are moving at a high rate, it is critical to ensure that the process of sales is fast. The acquisition of one client should not hinder other potential customers(Walsh and Lipinski, 2009). Therefore, the terms of contract and the policies of the organization should be provided parallel to the negotiations of the terms of the project and the pricing. Adopting this approach will ensure that the needs of all potential customers of the firm are addressed.
220.127.116.11 Customer service
Customer support dictates the attitude that clients have regarding a certain business. Therefore, to ensure positive relationship between the business and its clients, it is advisable to have a prompt customer service and response team (Blythe, 2006). For a software company to thrive and obtain favor with its clients, prompt help desk services and maintenance are required(Svensson, 2001). The availability of online customer service around the clock is important to respond to any technical issues that the clients may be experiencing.
An integrated marketing option is full of choice and preference. Customers are offered a variety of products and services to choose from based on their requirements and needs. Providing the same product in a variety of forms is essential to fishing the different preference that customers hold (Baumgarth, 2008). However, software companies fail to pay attention on the different look and feel of the product but they struggle to provide a unique product that is not only ideal in performance but also in appearance. In an effort to move up the value chain, software companies should consult and endeavor in providing products that are user tailored not only in functionality but also personalized from one client to the other. Catering for a specific niche in the market will differentiate software companies from the other firms in the market(Baskerville et al., 2001).
Software companies are unique in their provision of service. The basic idea behind their operation is that they start operation as exploration. The main goal and objective of software companies is realization of a problem and developing applications that are focused in solving that problem. The result is operation in a new market that has not been entirely explored. Typically, this firms begin operation from the known towards the unknown(Alajoutsij\”arvi, Mannermaa and Tikkanen, 2000). In the end, they gain experience and are able to move up the value chain. Once enjoying a certain niche, the firm start developing around a high end sector specific and consulting regarding high end products. Slowly, the needs and requirements of the client are sidelined and engulfed in a pool of similar challenges that are addressed from a certain platform. The ISO standards specify the requirements that software products should be tailored to adhere in order to meet the global scalable standards(Baskerville et al., 2001). Software companies working in niche markets result in adopting in depth and comprehensive ideas on the best approaches towards marketing and software development. Once the company has acquired a certain market segment, the next move involves creating a superior brand that is unique, distinguished and client based. The company concentrates on creating customer loyalty. In an integrated market, when a firm has come to the realization of this particular step, it becomes important to invest in brand promotion especially within the target market. Two major aspect in integrated marketing are price and promotion
Comparative analysis of the software products of a firm can be achieved through competitive pricing. Differentiating the unique features of the software and making this information public on the website of the firm gives the product an upper hand in the face of competitors (Bouman and Westman, 2005). Providing the clients with the price options is essential in swaying their final decisions regarding what the cost and what they are willing to pay. Pricing of a software product is determined relative to a number of factors. The speed on which it is installed and working. Here, the manpower used in terms of time is used to equate to the software price. In the information technology sector, developers are mainly paid depending on the number of hours they spend on a project(Berry, 1995). Pricing should also cater for the needs of the customer. For example, if an installation is scheduled during business hours, it should attract any additional cost for the customer. Utilizing such an approach shows consideration and sensitivity on the side of the client. On the other hand, price should not be constant, there should be a distinction between premium prices and normal prices depending on the priority and the turnaround time (Bouman and Westman, 2005). Other factors that may influence the pricing of a software product may be due to outsourcing and the level of skill of the people involved in delivering the product. The technical support may have different rates depending on the level of experience. Therefore, the consultancy changes will evidently affect the overall cost of the product. In summation, it is worth noting that the overall cost of the product is inclusive of the total expenses incurred during acquisition and development and the expected returns of the software.
As alluded before, software products are neither categorized as pure goods nor as pure services. The uniqueness of the products is due to the presence of a look and feel while lacking the physical appearance. In this regard, the products have to be promoted to ensure that the target market is reached. Promotion is the process by which the awareness of a product is created and instilled in the potential market. Effective promotion relies on the marketing expenditure that is set aside by the financial department(BrainyQuote, 2014). One of the approaches that promotion takes is the direct approach. In this approach, the marketing expenditure is allocated on the direct sales to the potential customers on a one to one basis. However, direct sales are an expensive approach that small and medium firms do not mainly afford (Alajoutsij\”arvi, Mannermaa and Tikkanen, 2000). The returns of a small and medium sized software firm are minimal. One of the contributing factors to this is due to the medium sized projects that this organizations acquire. Large companies do not only enjoy the benefits of economies of scale, but also find favor with large corporations (Brunk, 1999). Organizations are reluctant to give out contractors and tenders to small sized companies. From a business point of view, this is due to the need for security on their investment. The principle of risk evasion applies to this corporations and in the end, small sized companies are sidelined and have to deal with other medium sized firms.
To counter this challenge, the organization should consider substituting its direct marketing approach with a more viable strategy. Direct sales can be replaced with telesales, voice mail and video conferencing. Some of these tactics such as video conferencing may be expensive during the initial stages of setup. However, the long term returns are feasible and can be strategized for maximum returns on the firm. Other than focusing on returning salaried sales people, the organization should opt acquiring sales representatives. The payment of these agents should be flexible and based on a commission (Bund and Carroll, 1957). The sales compensation program should be focused on increasing rewards in the event that higher sales are achieved. The use of the internet and the web should be done extensively in the promotion of software services and products. As a medium of communication and socialization, the internet and the web provides a platform for reaching potential customers once proper advertising is done(Hall, Beecham and Rainer, 2002). Unlike the traditional modes of marketing tactics, this method is cost effective. A large consumer base can be reached with the proper means of communication and targeting. For software products, providing free trial demo versions can increase the number of customers (Dahlander and Magnusson, 2005). However, the trial demo may not be effective if not accompanied by proper documentation that persuades the clients on the need to purchasethe full version. With the richness of the web, the manual can be done in form of a video tutorial, a slideshow or some other interesting demonstration that captures the attention of the client. The basic idea behind online promotion is to increase the consumer base and communicate relevant information as simply and quickly as possible.
Promotion is the basis upon which strategic focus is achieved. The definition of strategic focus is that it is a mechanism that enables an organization to focus on its strengths and eliminate distractions that may arise along the way(Hewett and Bearden, 2001). The strategic focus is modelled to attain the strategic objectives of the business. There are three key elements of the business model that capture that strategic focus. The elements are as explained below;
- Value proposition of the organization- it entails the promises of the organization to its customers. The value proposition is captured in the quality of the product offered by the organization as well as the level of service. A high value proposition can be attained from the perception of the customer. It evaluates what the customer values in what the organization offers in terms of quality and rewards. The customer is entitled to evaluate the value of the product based on the pricing and the level of the service. If the two correlate, the organization is said to have met it strategic focus in satisfying the needs of the clients(James, 1985).
- The passion of the firm- an element that drives the firm in its daily activities is the passion. A strategically focused passion is based on the mission, values, vision and strategic vision of the firm. The correct mixture of these elements motivate and inspire the members of the organization towards a common goal(Juin, 2000). It is worth noting that the goal here is to achieve profitable returns for the firm that are strategically aligned to the objectives of the firm.
- Distinction in competition-this is an element that distinguishes the products and services of one firm from another. Software companies adopt cutting edge technologies that distinguish them in the industry. For example, for end user support services, Microsoft Corporation is well known as a market leader in the provision of custom based and friendly software programs. The distinction was first achieved after the development of the windows operating system followed suite by the office package. This can be seen to be contrary to what Google offers, the latter is well known for internet services as it is termed the number one search engine. Such a distinction is achieved through concentration on what the firm is best at and reaching potential customers (Hall, Beecham and Rainer, 2002).
Strategic focus gives an organization a significant long term competitive edge. According to Wiggins, 70% of companies that have persistent superior economic products are those that maintain a consistent strategic focus (Wiggins, 2002). Therefore, the success of an organization is highly influenced by its strategic focus. Providing transparent information regarding the sales and services should be the work of the sales staff. The information acquired in the market should enhance the decision making of the organization in its attempt to reduce and mitigate the risks incurred in doing business (Laws, n.d.). To maintain their focus strategically, software development firms should inculcate efficient global networks for distribution to respond to the changing needs of their clients. Other accompaniments that should be provided is the provision of service centers near the customer. For physical goods, the service centers would accelerate the delivery of service, support, upgrades and maintenance (Mintzberg, 1994). Clients mainly consider the aforementioned parameters in their choice of software vendors. The return policy and guarantee in case of a breakdown or failure in the software is another consideration that clients make. Therefore, to ensure that these needs are addressed promptly, it becomes relevant to setup service centers near the customer. With the presence of distribution centers near potential clients, it becomes easy to provide efficient and timely delivery of the orders of the clients.
Internet promotion ensures quick delivery of the software product once the purchase is done. Therefore, it is an economical and viable option as the software may reside on the serve and activated for downloading once the purchase is done. Using such an approach ensure instant delivery once the software has been purchased. The result is that the firm realizes more sales and this can also drastically reduce the pricing of a software product. With the internet and the automation of global payments using payment platforms such as PayPal and Payonneer, small and medium sized companies are in a position to compete favorable with large firms as they can reach potential customers across borders. The approach of direct selling through online platforms eliminates the need for distributors (Mintzberg, 1994). In this event, the price can be reduce through huge volumes as the company deals with the client on a one to one basis. Software firms should adopt this channel of distribution to ensure reduced cost and earn more customers.
Another strategic dimension of holistic marketing is internal marketing. An internal marketing approach involves enlightening the internal workforce on the benefits and the products of the firm (Piercy and Morgan, 1991). A success factor that drives a software based company is a knowledge driven workforce. To create the awareness of the internal employees, marketing principles should be applied and adopted in an organization. These principles involve hiring, training and motivating employees who are ambitious and have a zeal to serve the clients of the firm. There are two functions that are considered in this process. The top level function that is considered is the marketing function. Here, the sales, advertising, customer service, market research and product management are considered. They are conjoined to work together to attain the strategic goal of the firm as well as retain the focus of the organization in the target market. After a proper concentration and gaining control of the above parameters, the firm should strategize in making the marketing function pervasive in all the levels of management(Peck, 1999). This can be done through post-sales support and positive communication. The internal and external image of the firm determines to a large extent how customers perceive the organization and the products and services it offers. In an effort to maintain an industry standard, uptime quality level of software products, the firm should be focused in maintaining qualified and experienced developers and programmers (Piercy and Morgan, 1991). Experience is a stature that is achieved with time through subjection to a certain level of standard output. Therefore, one of the greatest fear of software companies is the outflow of skilled programmers, designers and developers.
The firm should be focused in providing training and support to its employees in an attempt to increase their prospective skills. In addition to the provision of technical expertise, effort should be incurred in providing managerial and marketing skills. If this is done on a regular basis, the firm will tap potential employees who have the ability to promote the sales of the company. Internal information is essential as it helps the firm to determine the changes in the market, new trends and the tactics and strategies adopted by competitors(Negash, Ryan and Igbaria, 2003). Therefore, having a knowledge driven personnel will guarantee that the information gathered from the market is internally analyzed and all the loopholes that can arise are seen and addressed. In addition to this, in house analysis enables the firm to keep its secrets to a minimal and ensure that the proposed new strategy is internally retained. The result is that the firm will maintain competitive advantages in the market. Attaining an upper hand in the market is essential in stipulating the success of a software company (Quinn, Doorley and Paquette, 2013). Therefore, to enhance this, software firms should consider having specialized marketing departments that are responsible for marketing research. In an effort to gain current trends and changes in the market, the department of marketing should liaison with professional market research consults, local and international agencies and trade missions. This will promote an effective and through analysis and prediction of current and potential markets. The results and analysis will ensure that the end software products are maintained to a certain level of standard in the production and marketed correctly(Negash, Ryan and Igbaria, 2003).
Creating internal awareness of the local, national and global expectations of the clients enhances software development to meet certain standard. Some of these standards include breaking the language barrier. A software product may provide the same functionality, run on the same operating system but be customized to uniquely feature the language of the client. The ability to provide such a product is critical to breaking language barrier and penetrating new markets. Maintaining such friendliness influences the client’s choice of software vendors. A good example of why major online ecommerce platforms perform excellent is the ability to be converted to the local dialect of the client. For example, sending money through Payonneer in China will ensure that the interface of the site is interpreted in Chinese. This is based on the fact that China has Chinese as the national language (Quinn, Doorley and Paquette, 2013). The same platform, offering the same functionality will be available in the USA or the UK in English since it the national language of communication within this regions. Such an ability to get in touch with the local in their national language ensures that the platform gains local acceptance within the majority. Localization of a software package involves the inclusion of foreign languages that are persistent and prevalent in the target market.
Localization entails understanding the local market and reviewing the needs of potential customers. Therefore, this requirement merges well with the earlier analysis on the need for a focused and centralized marketing department. Market analysis should provide information that would enhance the extraction of text and consideration of culturally offensive language. Once this is done, translation and modification of the software content would be based on the needs of the users (Walsh and Lipinski, 2009). At times, this may require the re-engineering of the core software products to reflect the needs of the clients and comply with the cultural setting of the target market. This will result in more sales in the target market. It can be seen that proper internal marketing will drive the efforts of the firm in acquisition of a larger market and eventually increase the sales of the company. The summation of this reality is that the success of a software company in the market place is based and influenced internally.
Purpose driven marketing does not overlook the social, ethical, legal and environmental guidelines(Carrigan, Moraes and Leek, 2011). From a social marketing perspective, the marketer is responsible for carefully considering the needs of the community. This relates directly to the ethical standards, requirements and expectations (Young and Aitken, 2007). For example, an adult content website must provide its content discretely and be regulated by the laws of a country. In some countries, pornography and nudity is banned by the constitution. Therefore, despite the lucrativeness of this billion dollar enterprise, providing content that can be termed as pornographic is illegal. The concepts of social marketing stipulate that the organization is responsible for determining the needs and interest of the clients. On the other hand, social responsibility involves giving back to the society. This may be done directly or indirectly. In the direct approach, firms set aside part of their profits and give back to the society(Carrigan, Moraes and Leek, 2011). This may be in response to a call to action. For example, software companies such as Microsoft, Infosys and Google are donating huge sums of money in action to social problems such AIDS awareness and eradication of poverty in third world countries. The indirect approach is the most common approach that a majority of firms implement. The approach involves undertaking social welfare programs that facilitate and enhance the livelihood of the members in the society. In this form of marketing, the organization is concerned about the welfare of the people. In its response attempt, the company gains a reputable public image (Bund and Carroll, 1957). This augurs well with the performance of the firm in both local and international markets.
Having understood the various approaches that software companies can adopt for marketing and penetrating local, regional and international markets, it is essential to evaluate the available marketing models that can be adopted. As cited earlier under the changes of the elements of marketing, there are a number of marketing models that will be evaluated in detail in this section. A marketing model is an abstraction of a real marketing phenomena (Kotler, 1971). This abstraction is used as a foundation platform of reference to enhance and facilitate the decision making process of a firm.
This is an approach that is centered on the consume other than the product. The 4cs are the customer, cost, convenience and communication. Selling online products can inherently adopt this approach. The availability of products online makes it convenient for consumers to place their orders from anywhere around the globe. Unlike the 4Ps that define place as a crucial requirement for marketing, this model is adaptable. From conception, the development of a software product is consumer oriented. The processes of requirement gathering, analysis, design, coding, testing, implementation and maintenance famously known as the software development life cycle (SDLC) are consumer oriented (Franses and Paap, 2001). The customer has to be involved in all the stages of development to ensure that their needs are fully captured and integrated into the software. Therefore, this is a consumer based method. If this approach was adopted to the market field, the company would be in a better position to meet the needs of the end users.
The application of this model involves understanding the target consumer and understanding the different groups of consumers that may be available. It was cited earlier in this research that a software development company deals with selling products and services to other firms. It should be noted that firm in the industry have different requirements and potential(Cox, 1967). Therefore, for this model to be effective, a software company has to classify its clients on the basis of groups and their requirements and potential. The product to be developed will then be positioned for maximum profitability (Franses and Paap, 2001). The needs of the customer will be met during the requirement gathering and analysis phase. Understanding the customer will influence the pricing and decision making regarding any changes to be introduced in the product.
When it comes to cost, the pricing to be set in this model is based from the client side of view. The affordability, level of satisfaction and value are the elements of consideration. This is contrary to the former holistic approach where pricing was internally based on the expenses for the production of the software. Determine the cost from the perspective of a customer may not be feasible in the software industry(Franses and Paap, 2001). The customer may overlook the work done to provide a software program and undervalue the program. If this happens, the firm stands at the verge of losing profitability and potential clients. Therefore, incorporating the needs of the clients should not be done at the expense of undervaluing the cost incurred in the development of a project. Proper price inclusion should reflect the work done and the span of time taken for completion(George, 1990).
Communication is another aspect of consideration in this model (Franses and Paap, 2001). Determining the most appropriate mode of communication with the clients ensure that a professional working relationship is maintained. During the development of software products, a constant interaction with the customer is common to discussion current issues to be captured and solved by the software and future changes and updates(Hall, Beecham and Rainer, 2002). There are different modes of communication that can occur during this process such as brainstorming, questionnaires, note taking and observation. All this approaches are efforts of capturing the needs of the clients and ensuring they are proper documented.
Lastly, the 4Cs marketing models evaluates the convenience. Here convenience is measured from the customers’ point of view other than that of the business. The business should be committed in eliminating purchasing barriers and increasing the convenience of the customer. In today’s Internet age, convenience is paramount (Mullins and Walker, 2013). A software company should focus its efforts in providing convenient products and services to the customers (George, 1990). For example, rather than just providing one mode of payment online, the business should incorporate various modes of checkout. This may include, Visa card payment, MasterCard, PayPal among others. An online ecommerce website that offers this model of payment is likely to attract more customers than one that is rigid and offers just one mode of payment. Convenience ensures that consumers enjoy the flexibility offered by the service or product at the comfort of their homes.
Like the 4Cs strategy of marketing, this model aims at satisfying the needs of the customers through the application of a number of tactics. The elements of this marketing model can be controlled (Gurtuna, 2013). However, they are dependent on the internal and external marketing environments of the organization. Marketing mix is achieved through the integration and incorporation of the different elements of the 5Ps. They include the product, price, promotion, people and place. In this marketing approach, the product must feature all the values and core elements to be passed from the organization to the customer. It inculcates the benefits, features and advantages that consumers acquire through using the product of the firm (Hewett and Bearden, 2001). Therefore, the success of a superior software product that adopts this model must inherently meet the needs of the customers through delivering the expected value. Underpricing using this concept, the organization must be adept on how much the clients are willing to pay for a particular product or service. Therefore, this model can enhance not only the price of the product but also how the product is to be delivered. A software is a combination of different modules(Ho and Zheng, 2004). For example a school management software may include the finance module, the student module, the subject module, the exam module among others. Selling this product as a combined module may be expensive. However, a certain client may just need the exams module and do away with the other modules. Such a scenario may require a different term of payment that is cheaper than the whole module(Quinn, Doorley and Paquette, 2013). Therefore, designing the product such that the client only activates the module they paid for can become in handy. It will also create room for future upgrades depending on the need of the client. This price model will attract more customers and ensure that the company maintains a competitive edge.
Under promotion, this model is not different from the promotional tactics discussed under holistic marketing. The basic idea behind every promotion tactic is to create the awareness to the potential consumer of the availability of a product in the market. Sales and advertising tactics should be relevant to the business model as well as ensure that the organizational resources are utilized maximally (Keefe, 2004). Inevitably, this can be done through online advertising platforms and social media. As indicated in the section of content marketing, it is advisable for a software company to embrace online sales and advertising. This will create an image of a digital market that is modern and arguably flexible in the minds of its customers. To adopt the best promotion method, a firm should evaluate its operational overhead costs, expected returns in line with the strategic goals and objectives.
People in this model refer to the internal personnel of the organization. According to porter, lack of a strong internal relationship within an organization is a major cause of failed performance. Therefore, in an effort to maintain a mutually beneficial and fulfilling relationship, a firm should ensure that its personnel are held with high regard. One of the most valuable assets of an organization is its personnel. In a software development and IT firm, this is particularly true as the work is personnel driven. Without the presence of personnel the activities of the organization would come to a halt (Koiso-Kanttila, 2004). With this realization, it is extremely important to value the people working in the organization. There are a number of ways through which this is achieved. For example, proper remuneration should be done based on the quality of work done. Programming, being one of the most daunting jobs requires skills. Paying this individuals based on the number of hours does not only raise their morale but also ensures they are motivated to give quality products (Quinn, Doorley and Paquette, 2013). This should be further accompanied by regular training to ensure that the organizational skills are cutting edge.
When it comes to place, online sales are cross-boundary. This has been made particularly possible due to the presence of the internet. Therefore, with this channel of distribution, organization can achieve a high competitive advantage as the ground is leveled.
Constantin ides developed a marketing model known as the 4S. It is famous for describing elements of the web marketing strategies which are the scope, the site, synergy and the system. Some of the products that are aimed for the end users are well blended using this model (Pfleeger and Menezes, 2000). It is a marketing model that aims at controlling the four elements. In particular, the scope is important as it is the basis upon which strategic decision are made. These decisions include;
- Operational and strategic objectives of the online operations
- Market definition- this includes measuring the potential of the market and classifying the customers and the visitors of the website.
- The degree of preparedness of the business towards online transactions.
- Role of the online transactions to the achievement of the strategic goals of the organization
A software company can use the website as the primary communication interface and also for carrying out transactions with customers and for interaction. With proper advertising, a website can attract potential customers, establish focus with the online market and create a brand name for the product of the firm to the online customers (Svensson, 2001). Through collaboration, three types of issues can be embraced through the website. The back office, the front office and the external stakeholders are collaboratively synthesized. The communication and conventional cooperate activities are handled in the front office (Koiso-Kanttila, 2004). The physical support of the ecommerce infrastructure, the legacy integration and the incorporation of the online activities into the values of the company are carried in the back office(Gosselin and Poitras, 2008).
With the 4S marketing model, there are different ways upon which a software company can prepare for web marketing. From a strategic point, the main problem is addressed through ensuring that successful web marketing strategies are adopted. The emphasis of this strategy is that the web marketing strategy adopted be consistent with the enterprise strategy of the organization (Svensson, 2001). If this is achieved, the firm will enjoy competitive advantage. Lastly, for this to work, a layout that provides a consistent web marketing strategy should be provided.
This model aims at enhancing the efforts of businesses to exploit the existing opportunities on the Internet(Mediacircus.net, 2014). This model is adopted from the four virtual spaces created by the internet. This are classified into virtual information space, the communication space, distribution space and the virtual transaction space(Sprague and McNurlin, 1986). In this model, the internet is seen as an extension of the traditional form of marketing. According to Angehrn, it is the locus with associated interaction modes where economic agents engage in businesses activities (Angehrn, 1997). The interaction modes present to the agents enhance the exchange of information, communication, and the distribution of products and services to initiate and cement formal modes of business transaction. The summation of the four virtual spaces can be integrated and presented as shown below.
The activities of an organization in all the virtual spaces should be focused in attaining maximum profitability for the firm. As previously seen in the strategic focus of an organization, the activities of the firm are influenced by the mission, vision and the objectives of the firm. Therefore, the operations and undertakings in the four areas of the organization should be channeled towards increasing the performance of the firm. For example, evaluating the ICDT model from the perspective of a software development company various aspects can be seen. The information space provides a business with new internet-based channels that can be used to convey and display information (Watson and Brancheau, 1991). As previously cited, software product are neither pure goods nor pure services. This uniqueness of the services makes it easier for internet based distribution channels. With a website as the critical point of interaction between a firm and its clients, software development companies are well suited for internet based selling. The company can use this platform to persuade potential customers to purchase their superior products. The ease of accessibility of the web makes it like a free global billboard. This channel is suitable for marketing agent to reach their clients at an affordable low cost. The virtual information space further provides added advantage to the business. It provides free access to updated market information. With this information, the firm can stay abreast its competitors and align its prices to meet the demands of the clients.
As a virtual communication space, the internet provides marketing agents with a platform to communicate and exchange ideas. The growth of the internet has experienced significant growth from merely being a platform that support only text communication. Today virtually every form of presentation is supported on the World Wide Web (Pfleeger and Menezes, 2000). This ranges from text to images, animation and other forms of communication, online communication thorough video and chatting has been made easy with third party compatible software (Watson et al., 1997). The software are easily integrated in any type of business. With the proper programming and design, this software can be used to keep track of the business visitors, both client and potential investors. This enhances lobby, collaborations and exchange of ideas thereby transforming the business into a different type of community (Fernandez, Sim\’eon and Wadler, 2001). A software company can use the presence of the virtual communication space to increase and keep track of its customer base. One of the ways that this is possible is through analysis the information from the visitors of the site. The information can enhance an understanding of where the business customers are concentrated. As a result, the company can adopt a proactive reaction to the needs of the customers within this region. On a service level, the company can focus its strategic aims into setting up a physical location that provides the required services to the people within this vicinity (Cornish, 1996).
The virtual distribution space offered by the internet provides a suitable way of marketing and selling directly to the customer. It was seen earlier that there are different ways of pricing a software product or service. The two main ways earlier discussed involved setting the price either from the evaluating the potential of the client or from the expenses of producing the software and the expected returns. However, it is worth noting that in this two ways the price of the product is further influenced by the mode of distribution. With convenience in mind, the internet provides the most reliable way to dully deliver a software product to the client. This is because all they have to do is make the payment and the download link is generated and activated(Watson and Brancheau, 1991). The need of a middleman is eliminated and as a result, the price of the product is reduced. Software products are digital goods and well adopted for distribution via computer networks. Their ease of distribution makes it easy to hire cheap freelancers from around the world. One this mode of development is adopted, the price of the product is reduced drastically. To take advantage of the virtual distribution space, software companies must be adept in organizing, supporting and outsourcing their distribution logistics on the internet. One way to enhance this channel is to ensure that the serve where the downloadable software reside are available 24/7 and technical hitches are resolved promptly(Fernandez, Sim\’eon and Wadler, 2001). This will increase the experience of the users and assure convenience on the products being offered
Orders, invoices and payments can be exchanged via the internet and the ICDT model provides for this analysis via the transaction space (Calt.insead.edu, 2014). During its conception and the preceding first phase, the Internet was barely used as a transaction platform. This was due to unsupported legal, security issues and unreliable aspects (Hoover, 1995). However, the technical maturity of the Internet and its ability to meet industry standards influenced the development of the necessary infrastructure for supporting transaction processing. The availability of third party processing agent with compatible application programming interfaces (APIs), makes it easy to incorporate online payment systems (Peltier, Drago and Schibrowsky, 2003). With this development at hand, software development companies are in a position to utilize online tools for transacting business.
The 7P marketing model incorporates the product, price, promotion, place, physical appearance, people and processes(Cornish, 1996). With the proper integration, these elements can be incorporated to attain an effective marketing mix for an organization. The summation of what the elements entail can be presented as shown below.
The proper marketing mix is a sure way that ensures a firm gets maximum profit. It all starts with understanding the customers of the business. People who come into contact with the products or services offered by the business have a profound effect; either positive or negative (Marketingmix.co.uk, 2014). A software company being a client based company highly depends on the perception of the clients regarding it products and services. In the paraphernalia of the 7Ps, people include internal and external stakeholders of the firm. Internally, the firm has to be a knowledge based driven platform(Watson et al., 1997). Developers, programmers and marketers must provide excellent and distinguishable service to the clients. When this is achieved the external people, who in this essence can be clients or potential investors in the firm will be happy and the firm will have a positive feedback. It is worth noting that periodical training of internal staff increase their performance and credibility (Coachingcosmos.com, 2014). Therefore, a firm must invest time and resources to train the personnel to increase the quality of service. Proper handling of customers by the internal people ensures that despite increased competition, they remain loyal to the firm.
Other accompaniments that come in handy when responding to the needs of the people are the product and the place(Alajoutsij\”arvi, Mannermaa and Tikkanen, 2000). As seen earlier, convenience is critical in the information age. Therefore, the quality of product a firm delivers should meet the expected value to the client and provide the feature set. The feature set refers to the capabilities and services offered to the customer by a product or service. A full feature set has three elements;
- The actual product- this are the core benefits that the product offers. If these benefits are met and provided with consistency, customers will prefer transacting business with the firm as opposed to turning to competitors. A software development company has the obligation to its customers to provide high quality products that provide the expected functionality to the users.
- The core product-refers to the actual benefits that the customers receive from the product. From the psychological mindset of a buyer, one always settles for a product that provides more benefits than the other. This is the choice and preference rule. A software should be developed to provide core benefits to the customer (Moen, Endresen and Gavlen, 2003). For example, a program designed to carry out calculations should be able to load faster, computer faster and even provide a variety of options like normal calculations and scientific calculations
- The augmented product- a quality product should provide additional benefits to the customer. Customers will be inclined to settle for products and services that provide excellent additional benefits. In the former example of a calculation software, additional benefits may include customer friendly interface that can be customized to adopt the look and feel of the customer (Moen, Endresen and Gavlen, 2003). This may include providing customers with the ability to change the background, button colors among others.
The process of providing the product should maintain uniformity. This creates a reputable brand for the product and the company. When such a process is achieved, the company must strive to strategically position itself in the market. This can be done through the place element. Having understood potential clients and their location, providing service within the location of the buyer creates a sense of personal contact. The marketing mix is achieved through creating awareness (Watson et al., 1997). Promotion is valuable tactic that information and technology companies can use. This is through advertisement, both online and offline. Special offers, endorsements and free trials can be an effective way of attracting and retaining customers. The use of vouchers and bonuses on quantity buying will ensure that the clients are impressed by the service of the company. Another promotional approach that benefits the firm and its customers is the use of affiliate programs where referrers are rewarded. The physical evidence of an organization influences service delivery and enhances the infrastructure (Watson and Brancheau, 1991). However, it can be seen that the availability of a business enterprise online through the internet has replaced the need for a physical appearance to the user.
Almost every paper, if not all, reviewed appear to agree that software/IT products and services demand for a unique marketing strategy due to their unique attributes. Nigam (2011) suggest that software products possess unique attributes because they are neither pure product nor pure services. While addressing the second aim of the paper, Wang, Wang, and Yuan (2005) offer similar assertion as those offered by Nigam (2011). To be precise, Wang, Wang, and Yuan 2005 suggest for certain element of the marketing mix need to be changed so as to allow for effective marketing of these products. He argues that depending on the specific nature of the product/service being marketing, 4P, 4S or 4C marketing mix model can be adopted.
Some researchers, such as Mahajan and Venkatesh (2000) appear to take a stronger stand when it comes to marketing online goods, which IT products and services forms a big part of. Unlike, Wang, Wang, and Yuan (2005) who appear to suggest that even though IT/software goods and services require different marketing strategies, they can at times incorporate traditional method of marketing, Mahajan and Venkatesh (2000) argue that digital goods require totally different marketing strategies, therefore making the 4P marketing mix model irrelevant.
However what appears to be an underlying conclusion is that customer needs should be given the highest priority. To do so, software developers should adopt a holistic marketing strategy. This strategy recommends for marketing decision to be the main driving force in software companies. Every department in such a company should make decisions that are influenced by market consideration. This will ensure customer based product are developed since relationship marketing is one of the main component of this strategy. This component is concerned with understanding the needs of the customers and hence developing product that clearly meet these needs. Doing so will ensure IT/software developer build a long-term relationship with their clients. The developers are therefore likely to benefit from strong business relationship with their customers while customers will benefit from being provided with customized high quality products.
After a careful analysis of the existing marketing models, this research emphasizes the need to articulately adopt a model that does not only cater for the profit value of the company, but also meet the needs of the clients(Watson and Brancheau, 1991). Such a model will focus the firm into attaining its strategic focus amidst utilization of effective marketing mix. The relationship marketing that is a component of holistic marketing is an integral strategy that augurs well with the business model of software development. The development process is a cycle that is implemented using the software development phases. These phases kick-off only when the client’s needs are gathered and analyzed. During this process, it is essential for the business to establish ties with the customer. It is through this ties that the firm will have adequate information to propose a strategy to be implemented for the pricing. As discussed in this research, the adopted strategy may range from one firm to the other. This is due to the strategic objectives of the organization and the size of the firm. To ensure that the most relevant pricing approach is used, the organization has to stipulate it expected returns and ensure that this are encapsulated in the expenses of producing the high quality product.
The concept of correlation has been adopted to relate the findings of the literature review with those of the actual research. While the findings from the literature review are very clear, it is also clear from the research that software development companies and information technology firms needs a comprehensive marketing strategy. As opposed to the dominant content marketing approach, adopting a holistic marketing approach is essential to the success of the firm. The discussion has evaluated successful IT firms and the approaches they use to maintain a reputable global image. It is evident that the client is the center of focus in this organizations. Therefore, despite the size of the firm, it is essentially important to focus the attention of the organization into providing quality, customized and customer friendly software products (Watson and Brancheau, 1991). With this as a basic recommendation, it would be prudent for the company to adapt to the essential requirements of software development.
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