In the planning stage of building an app with a monthly subscription element targeted to small business merchants having 1 - 10 retail venues.
Looking for any advice on a go to market strategy to generate buzz, and create a distribution channel to reach potential clients across the country when it is so expensive to work with affiliates commanding 30-60% in commissions and even more expensive to hire full/part time sales reps going door to door.
Any ideas beyond the web, seo, ppc, display, social advertising ?
Appreciate your replies.
Penetrating the SMB merchant market is extremely difficult, and I would recommend against the standard SEO/SEM type solutions because it's unlikely that these merchants are actively looking for a solution - they are mostly running their business, and when they have a few minutes late at night they might do some searching.
So, rather than try to "generate buzz", I'd try to make some sales. One channel I'd recommend that I've seen work is the reseller channel. There are lots of small independent sales reps and marketing agencies that already have established relationships with these businesses. You need to be able to offer them a "wholesale" price and ideally allow them to white label the product so they can sell it as their own.
There are really good reasons that the affiliate networks for accessing retails can company steep commission levels. There are also really good reasons that hiring a experience sales person in this market space is going to be a significant monthly expense.
Retail Expensive to Penetrate Retail is a crowded market with a significant number of vendors consuming the oxygen of attention of your target customers. Relationships are paramount. And there is a revolving door between the target customer s and the sales people selling to the target. Success rate is so poor on an individual basis that each hit is paying for lots of cold calls, failed proposals and "we will talk to you next quarter"
A Marketing Plan You are going to need a "go-to-market" strategy which has been developed as part of the marketing component of your overall business plan. In this plan you are going to need to narrow the initial focus from general retail to a very specific target. Hopefully this will be a target which has a natural affinity to your product and team. You will also need to develop some targeted geographic areas. Once again hopefully this will overlap some resources available to your team.
A Pallette of Tools As you customize the core value proposition to each of the particular market segments you are going after you will begin to find mediums and examples which will tell your story easier than others. this will guide which tools you use. As you pointed out there is SEO, PPC, Display, social advertising and general web. In addition to these your overall mix will need to also include: Business associations, networking groups, conferences, cold-calling, door knocking, networking, and guerrilla marketing.
Marketing Campaigns These individual tools will be organized into specific campaigns. There campaigns will be structure to provide you an opportunity to track the results and develop the metrics associated with your "pipeline" This information will be critical polish and improve your marketing/sales engine. (A good way to learn this structure is to build it out within an existing CRM)
Build On Success In your space -- I believe that you will need a track record and case studies of happy customers. Your first ones will be the most difficult to get. You are going to need to use every trick in the book to get the fist 5-10. You will need to bend over backwards to make sure that they are the happiest people in the world. You will make no money on them. You will however build the portfolio, case studies and references you need to close other retailers.