We're in the final stages of building an online quoting system that automates quoting and lead generation for B2B companies, via their own website. The overall market for our software is large - basically any business that generates quotes, which is typical for B2B. The question is, how do we drill down on that and find a specific target market(s) within the B2B space? What are others out there doing to find out who truly benefits from your product the most, and with the easiest sell?
We are confident in the product, as we started by scratching our own itch and have since sold it to several other businesses on an ad-hoc basis who love it. That said, the companies we've sold it to thus far are in diverse industries and we haven't sold enough of them to find a solid pattern. Our approach thus far has been to market it as a generic "quoting" product, but we've found that not very many businesses are searching for such products, probably because they don't know that they exist. We did launch a private beta recently and have received about 200 signups, but would like to build a good strategy for promoting the product to specific niches once we launch.
I'm interested to hear others' stories, as I don't doubt that some of you have faced similar challenges.
It sounds like you will find a lot of answers somewhere in those 200 signups.
I am reading a book right now that might help you and I know that many people on this site would swear by:
"The Four Steps to Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win" by Steven Gary Blank
The book has very positive reviews on Amazon and I have seen many references to Blank's methodology here on answers.onstartups.com.
His basic idea is that startups should do "customer development" alongside product development. Blanks says most startup founders have a product thesis but not so much a customer need thesis and find themselves precisely in the same predicament of not really knowing who their customer is.
One of his initial suggestions is to focus on your early adopters and to build the product around their needs because they will help you sell the product downstream.
I am still early in the book but I think it will give you the methodology that you are looking for to figure out exactly who your customer is.
first I have to backup with Miguel is saying about Steve Blank's book.. Definitely a must read!! It will give you some steps about how to find your target market.
To get back to your business it seems to me that a quoting product per sey isn't enough. If I'm a business and need a Quote tool more sophisticated than an Excel spreadsheet that means I probably have some processes in place. So the question is: What other tools are they using?
If it's a company that sells hardware or software, they must have a tool to keep their catalog of products or assets? what is it?
I'm asking this because if you realize that your customers (among the 200 you have today) use a certain tool, you might want to piggy back on it. Let's say they use Salesforce.com for their Sales, but maybe they have the Profesional edition (which doesn't have quoting), could it make sense for you to integrate with Salesforce and make sure your customers can build Quote with customer information they have in Salesforce? Try to figure this one out.
The thing is, instead of trying to define a target market, try to find who you would get along the most and attack this market :-) . Your sale pitch will also be easier.
Another lead could be: Try to figure what people switch off of (among your 200). That might give you a common pain that will help you define the kind of Businesses that are likely to have the same pain as those other guys. That might give you something: Focus on the pain, then find out who is most likely to have it.
Also, you could try to segment by type of quotes. Are they tangible goods or are they mostly services? Is your tool better for one or the other? That is still pretty large in both case but it might reduce your scope a bit. Note that a lot of companies can do both..
The more I think about it, the more I see the piggy backing around an inventory management or Sales tool is good option. You could even contact this partner and try to strike a deal with them so you can exploit their sales force instead of you alone.
This is a quick answer but I hope I gave you some ideas to work on..