In 2010, we became acquainted with a developer of a proprietary electronic point of sale software.
With a high street location, they had prime footfall presence for supporting local retail businesses with point of sale solutions – but their sights were set on nationwide expansion.
Circa 2007, this EPOS software developer purchased the commercial shop lease for a cash register dealer as a going concern.
They took on some trade stock as well as the name of the existing business as a going concern.
With software development as a core competency, the management team planned to diversify into primarily selling a range of electronic point of sale products.
Significant capital expense and personal financial sacrifice was made to develop an entirely in-house produced proprietary point of sale software, which could be applied to many retail business types.
Some Early Growth
Whilst renaming the business to fit a generic industry descriptor rather than a unique brand name, they took advantage of the associated online search benefits.
A well designed brochure website, with a sprinkling of well placed online HTML links started the inbound lead generation ball rolling.
Targeting ‘software trial’ based keywords, they quickly amassed a prospect list of potential customers who had downloaded an abbreviated version of the full software package.
Over time, the key business issue they had however was having no dedicated sales function within the business to convert opportunities into sales.
The Slow Drift
The electronic point of sale industry, like many tech based industries, has become awash with undifferentiated offers which all sell heavily on feature, but communicate little in the way of investment guidance or substantial advice.
This leaves most customers knowing they have a need for computerising their point of sale, yet not having understanding of the bottom-line commercial benefits to be gained from one product vs. another.
This lack of distinction leads to customers exhibiting an overly sensitive aversion to price as the risk/benefit ratio remains very high.
This means, with little value difference seen between solutions – customers are left only to with the challenge of spending the lowest amount possible to minimise potential loss.
As this happens within the marketplace, POS software providers find it increasingly difficult to maintain previous margins upon which their business planning (survival) is based on.
Customers becoming further de-sensitised to the feature rich soup of industry communications, leads to ever decreasing margins and fewer cognisant ways to demonstrate added value for market providers.
Businesses like this our POS software developer are fast losing the battle to fight back and to gain a profitable foothold in obtaining a sustainable business future. Their survival is under threat.
Early attempts at correction
Our early attempts in seeking after a way of helping this business led us to hazard a go at outsourcing sales in an attempt at converting the constantly increasing mountain of incoming enquiries via their well optimized website.
With only their 2-man director team taking sales enquiries, alongside fulfilling all the other management and administrative functions of the business – we figured relieving them of a heavy sales burden, whilst increasing conversion, would grant them enough traction to push on.
We underestimated just how convoluted their sales parameters had become however.
In an attempt to jockey for advantage they had a spent much effort chasing the pack, mimicking offers, discounts and price deals they had seen their peers adopt.
This meant fulfilling an outsourced sales function was fraught with complexity to keep up with all their trade adjustments.
Whilst we referred many highly qualified sales leads to the management team which were primed for ‘the technical close’, miscommunication in the mechanics of the trade often led to a falling at the final hurdle which led to disappointment.
Opening the vault
Our following attempt at turning the corner for this business was to dig deep within the vaults of their existing customer base for up-sell/cross-sell opportunities.
Many customers which had bought a EPOS system when our business owner client had newly taken over the cash register business were due to take advantage of new hardware and software advancements. But our client needed a reason to return.
We worked on assessing his database of existing customers for such further sales opportunities.
By taking an export of his digital accounting records and cross referencing with his product portfolio, we marked out a cohort of retail businesses which could be approached for re-introduction to the newest, most advantageous solutions.
After a solid attempt at warming up some of these contacts with email marketing, we unearthed a few opportunities for POS system upgrade which converted, but nothing consistent enough to warrant continuance of the campaign.
Attempt to tap into volume
With experience in working together, it fast became apparent that unless we could help our client shift higher volumes of his software licenses, even at discounted prices, were we not going to justify the marketing expense.
Our focus fell on finding software resellers and dealers specialising in serving shops and physical retail businesses.
Whilst they had an existing qualifying questionnaire on their website which identified if an enquirer was a software reseller or an end user, our client had just hadn’t the time to follow them up.
We began chasing up these potential high volume loose ends on his behalf, by phone.
Upon discovery of prospective volume buyers, we found many potential dealers were small IT service support businesses looking for another string to their bow of product offering to retail clientele.
A few trial license purchases gave early indication that we were headed in the right direction, until our client’s patience for holding out on ROI came to an end.
We parted ways and chalked it up to experience.
Our Resumption Of Contact
After about a year down the line, we resumed contact with our former point of sale software client.
Pressure on profit margins was increasing and he was fast running out of ideas to turn things around.
In the interim we had learned a few things about how businesses could use communication to gain sustainable market leadership, by way of teaching customers how to make more prosperous investment decisions.
Getting started again
We applied our new approach to thinking around his problem with copious amounts of peer research and figured he might benefit greatly from a complete re-positioning of his EPOS business.
Our campaign approach had drip feed increments for changing his strategic alignment, but offered some early wins in redefining his online sales funnel to increase the quality of enquiry for higher sales conversion.
We drafted a strategy and agreed on a phased approach to implementation.