We started our company in 2000 providing managed services and custom dev. In 2007, we entered the early days of cloud computing, and were lucky enough to cultivate some great relationships that helped us thrive and grow. Companies like Google and Microsoft were our lifeblood. We helped migrate their clients to the cloud, taking on the technical work that was not in their wheelhouse, and profiting handsomely with little to no business development or marketing effort. Essentially, the business was handed to us, which was a blessing that ultimately became a curse.
In 2013, this became our reality. After six years of consistent growth, the market became more competitive and we hit a down period, which exposed a fundamental flaw in our overall business strategy: We had become overly reliant on just a single source for all of our new leads, opportunities, and pipeline. We needed to adapt quickly and develop additional sources of business.
The big lesson: You have to own your destiny in business, you can’t rely on others to feed you, and you can’t rely on a handful of big customers. You have to balance customers across various industries and segments, establish key differentiators such as industry knowledge or key services/product IP, and constantly adapt to an ever-changing market. Here’s how we made the shift:
Create an in-house capability to source business.
The first step in changing our approach to sourcing business was allocating resources to build an in-house infrastructure and systems to generate a pipeline of new clients. We created a head of marketing role and hired the best person we could find to lead the charge. That person helped us imagine what a sales/marketing team would look like and filled key roles we needed, helped create a marketing budget and the system that has evolved into an engine for sales and a driver of revenue. Building an infrastructure for sourcing new leads can put your company on a steady growth curve that you can control, as opposed to waiting for business to come to you.
Build your own brand.
Previously, we had always been behind the scenes with Google and Microsoft. And because they had been resellers of their cloud solutions, there had been no need for us to focus on being distinctive or even visible in the marketplace. But that all had to change; we needed to move into the forefront and differentiate our value-added services from that of other partners. So we started developing thought leadership content focused on relevant trends in the market, sharing customer success stories, sponsoring and participating in conferences and events/panel discussions. This helped us develop a digital presence as well to drive inbound leads. We also positioned SADA as thought leaders in everything related to productivity suites, cloud platforms, IoT, machine learning, collaboration, mobility, and security. And we’ve become experts in key verticals such as healthcare, media and entertainment, and technology. Specializing in specific markets can help differentiate you from competitors and give your sales team the ability to be highly targeted.
Connect directly with customers.
SADA has a “customers for life” focus; we don’t just migrate the customer to the cloud and then call it done. There’s now continuous account management to advise and recommend new technology solutions, addressing change management and training services, as well as managed services for continuous IT support needs. As a result, customers see us as their go-to partner for everything tech as well as helping solve real business challenges. This is a massive strategic change from the way we used to operate. A more relationship-driven, less transactional approach to business fosters loyalty and sustainability, resulting in more business.
If you put all your eggs in one basket, you will ultimately be left with an empty basket. In an ever-changing climate, you cannot depend on one channel/stream of business. You must expand to source business from multiple channels and partners. Thanks to our wake-up call, our basket is now full. We’ve evolved into a far more sophisticated company with a solid sales pipeline. Our business was once 100% dependent on our partners; today, just less than 50% comes from partners. The shift has also had an extremely positive impact on our corporate culture. The investment we made in business development and account management teams, change management experts and enterprise consultants has helped encourage our entire team to focus on their individual impact on the business, and on how they can stay ahead of the curve with customers/prospects and provide value.