Four Steps to Beating the Big Boys and Challenging the Status Quo

Clint Oram —  January 16, 2017 — Leave a comment

As a founder of SugarCRM, I am often asked the question, “how do you compete against Salesforce?”  After all, they have great buzz in the marketplace.  And because of their position in the CRM space, we must beat them at some stage of the evaluation process every time we sign up a new customer.  How do we do it?

I usually answer this question by talking to the strengths of our product and our company.  SugarCRM customers choose us over Salesforce because of 1) our application design (customers LOVE our user experience and our focus on building for the individual end-user first and the manager second), 2) our technology flexibility (we integrate with EVERYTHING and deploy EVERYWHERE), and 3) our best-in-class customer loyalty (winning the PC Magazine Business Choice award for CRM two years in row says it all).

But there is a lot more to building a successful company than just a killer product and an avid customer following.  How we engage with our prospects and customers is critical to how we beat our competition.  Yeah, that’s called CRM and we live it everyday.

Our own CRM strategy at SugarCRM is the result of some very thoughtful planning.  This blog post will point you to the resources we used to build our brand and define the programs that educate our prospects to choosing Sugar and becoming successful SugarCRM customers.

Let’s be clear.  I am opening the kimono.  This is the secret sauce.  You’re getting a very real view into how we operate behind the scenes.  If you are the up-and-comer in your market and challenging your industry’s status quo, pay close attention.  This is our formula for challenging the status quo in the CRM industry.  You can follow this exact same formula and become the next challenger in your industry.

To begin with, competing against the big boys takes more than just inspiration and guts.  It takes a focused strategy on building a brand that your potential customers will pay attention to and that your existing customers will love.  Every next market leader starts off with no brand recognition and must compete against a category leader that dominates their market’s awareness.  How to do that?

In 2009, Adam Morgan wrote the book “Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders” which describes how small companies can effectively compete against the brand of large companies.  This is good stuff.  Marketing jujitsu at its best.  Building a brand takes a lot of work and this book details your roadmap to disrupting your industry.

Quick Start #1:  I thank Adam profusely for recognizing that most business leaders like me appreciate the Cliff Notes version of business books.  He published an excellent 9-page summary of his book that I recommend to every CEO and CMO.  Read it.  It will change your worldview on how to approach culture, innovation and brand development within your company.

Now to the next step.  You must turn this brand strategy into how your employees engage with your customers.  Creating a sales and marketing execution based on the Challenger Brand requires a different perspective than what is outlined in “Eating the Big Fish.”

In 2011, a consulting firm called the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) wrote a book called “The Challenger Sale:  Taking Control of Customer Conversation.”  Building off of the Challenger Brand idea, but focused much more on how to engage with potential customers rather than the market as a whole, The Challenger Sale has become a “must read” book for start-ups across Silicon Valley.

Quick Start #2:  Here is an excellent blog post summarizing the Challenger Sale book into a short 10 minute read.  This is good stuff.  If you have worked with a SugarCRM sales rep, you will immediately recognize how we turn this theory into practice.

But isn’t there a missing piece?  Some smart guys wrote about building a Challenger Brand and executing on the Challenger Sale.  However, a bridge was needed between the brand and the sale.  That’s called marketing.  Translating brand strategies into marketing tactics that support sales execution requires a unified framework for your product marketing, demand generation, field marketing and all other components of your marketing execution. Most importantly, you need a crisp “challenger” message.

The Customer Executive Board created a very thoughtful Challenger Marketing framework that does just that.  It enables your marketing team to tell a disruption story to the market built around the storyline of “the world is changing, old is bad, new is good, we deliver new.”  Challenger Marketing is a rich framework with several key concepts and approaches for building a multi-faceted challenger marketing program within your company.  It takes some time to digest all of the concepts and build them into your content and delivery.  This is where you have to buckle down, pay attention and really think through how to implement these ideas.

Quick Start #3:  Our friends at CEB created an excellent 55 minute overview of Challenger Marketing  in this YouTube video.  Presented by Brent Adamson, customer brainiac, co-author of the Challenger Sales book and co-creator of the Challenger Marketing methodology, this gives your marketing team the details they need to turn concept into reality.  I have to tell you.  Wow.  Mind.  Blown.

Now that you’ve decided you want to “challenge the status quo”, what’s the status quo you want to challenge?  This is where my company, SugarCRM, comes in.

SugarCRM customers have chosen to differentiate themselves in their marketplace by embracing digital transformation to build a killer customer experience.  Don’t you want to win the PC Magazine Business Choice Award for your industry?  I bet you do.  This is where we help you map out your company’s customer journey and translate that into an easy-to-deploy set of business processes built in a killer app called Sugar.  Gotta love that name.  Puts a smile on my face every time.

Quick Start #4:  Learn how to look at your business through the lens of your customer, by reading this short ebook on how digital leaders use customer journey maps to guide business transformation.

There you go.  A four-step recipe for success. And I do wish you the best of success.  I believe there is no better satisfaction that taking on the big boys and beating them.

Want to carry on the conversation we started here? Connect with me on LinkedIn.  I look forward to meeting you.

Clint Oram

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Co-founder and CMO, SugarCRM

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