Smart Entrepreneur Takes Start-up from 0 to 200

When my good friend and collaborator Jonny Goldstein of Envizualize introduced me to Mina Mansour in January 2010, I thought that Mina had a brilliant concept for a product family of software plug-ins that add ecommerce capabilities to Salesforce.com, the popular sales force automation system. Mina is the founder and president of IdaApps, a software company she started after 2 years of building custom apps for Salesforce.com customers.

Mina saw that many of Salesforce.com’s 65,000 customers needed inexpensive online product catalogs and shopping carts so they could easily add ecommerce to their Salesforce.com operations, instead of spending $100,000 and up for custom-built ecommerce sites. Mina explained to me that she had:

  • built and tested two easy-to-setup ecommerce apps for Salesforce.com’s Force.com cloud computing platform
  • submitted the apps to Salesforce.com’s app certification process
  • identified several consulting and software services firms who could resell and customize her apps for their Salesforce.com customers
  • started building a pipeline of leads by networking with people at Salesforce.com meetings.

When I talked with Mina, I realized that she had two more assets that would be very valuable:

  • she had 1,000 followers on Twitter (from connecting with people in the Salesforce.com ecosystem)
  • she had the “can do” attitude required to overcome the obstacles that all start-ups face.

Over the next 6 months, I worked with Mina to help her negotiate a contract with and close her first customer, sign her first channel partner, build her marketing and sales process, fine tune her marketing messages, fill her pipeline and close more deals. With over 200 customers worldwide today, Mina has proven her concept many times and over, and taken her start-up to the big leagues.

Please click on the image below (opens a YouTube page in a new browser tab) to see a terrific video about the eCatalog and eStore apps from IdaApps, and then check out the IdaApps website for testimonials from her customers and more info.

IdaApps video

 

Using RTM in a Marketing Life Cycle Process

In 2001 Adobe Systems executives made the Routes-to-Market methodology the cornerstone of their Marketing Life Cycle process. Their goal was to transform the company’s engineering culture to focus on customers. The results were exceptional — over the next 6 years Adobe’s sales grew 179%, profits increased 252% and its stock price rose 179%, more than 5 times the gain in the NASDAQ Composite Index and more than 6 times the S & P 500 Index. In the video below, Peter Raulerson interviews Mamta Shah, Adobe’s Director of Strategic Planning, about Adobe’s experience in adopting Routes-to-Market.

 

Crossing the Chasm with Wireless Scanners

Using the Routes-to-Market methodology, the management of technology start-up Baracoda changed the go-to-market strategy to take their innovative wireless barcode scanners across the chasm and became the leader of a new product category. Here’s a video interview and case study explaining how they did it.

 

Bluetooth Scanners

In 2002 Baracoda, a French start-up manufacturer of wireless data capture devices, introduced an innovative line of barcode scanners that used Bluetooth instead of physical wires to connect to data networks. Bluetooth is a standard for wireless communications between devices, widely used today to connect headsets wirelessly to mobile phones. Barcode scanners read barcodes printed on packages and manufactured goods, for applications such as managing inventory in a warehouse. Baracoda’s innovation was embedding Bluetooth technology in barcode scanners before the established barcode scanner manufacturers did that.

Hitting the Chasm

A few early customers bought Baracoda’s Bluetooth scanners, but Baracoda’s management was surprised that sales did not pick up as expected after they signed distribution agreements with barcode scanner distributors throughout Europe. Management thought that customers would buy Bluetooth scanners for their existing barcode projects because they were easier to use than scanners requiring wired connections. But the distributors were returning Baracoda’s scanners one after the other because they could not sell them.

RTM to the Rescue

In 2003, interviews with Baracoda’s early customers found that, instead of using Bluetooth scanners in traditional barcode applications, they were rolling out new applications which required data entry via barcode for mobile workers, such as field engineers recording part numbers when doing repairs, and delivery teams doing product replenishment. Baracoda’s early customers were enthusiasts and visionaries in phase 1 who invested in developing their own software to make Baracoda’s Bluetooth scanners work in their mobile environments. The reason that sales had stalled was that pragmatic customers in phase 2 could not buy scanners without software for their specific needs. The customer interviews also revealed that customers who had bought wired barcode scanners did not see the business benefit for replacing their existing scanners with wireless units.

Crossing the Chasm

With those insights, Baracoda’s approach changed radically. They started contacting independent software vendors who were developing solutions on mobile platforms, and gave them free scanners, technical training, support, and co-marketing help. Sales picked up as each software vendor completed development and their customers started buying Baracoda’s scanners.

Success in the Mainstream Market

In 2004 Baracoda’s US sales team closed a significant contract with Nextel (which later merged with Sprint) to distribute and support Baracoda’s Bluetooth barcode scanners to Nextel’s application partners, so that they could deploy mobile applications for Motorola and Blackberry handheld devices on the Nextel network. Nextel’s application partners did not want to deal with multiple vendors of Bluetooth scanners because that would greatly complicate their deployments. Nextel chose Baracoda and acted as a “value-added” distributor by providing an immediate physical point of presence across the US and access to all Nextel partners and customers. The result was a rapid increase in Baracoda’s sales as Nextel partners sold Baracoda scanners combined with mobile applications software in several industries including construction, field services, professional services and real estate.

Conclusions

Baracoda succeeded in navigating the transitions from phase 1 to phase 2, and from phase 2 to phrase 3. When management understood how phase 1 customers were actually using Baracoda’s product, they realized that it met different customer needs than they had originally thought, and they changed their approach to exploit that opportunity, bringing Baracoda’s product across the chasm. By showing Nextel management that they could accelerate the success of their applications partners by giving them a single, common product to deploy (instead of a variety of incompatible products), Baracoda drove the transition from phase 2 to phase 3 by triggering a tornado of orders.

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