Written for anyone wanting to launch their business in a new market or sales teams looking for lead generation strategies. I’m sharing our strategy to scale and launch Magnetic Software in the UK, some of the takeaways include; the most successful email we sent and why, strategies that worked and failed and a list of great resources for any business looking to generate leads and launch in the UK.
By Dan Marcus, Director of Agency Solutions at Silversoft (and Founder of Magnetic software – a subsidiary of Silversoft)
First I’d like to give you some background on why we chose to enter a new market, the decisions we made when considering which market to enter, and then onto which techniques worked and which failed horribly.
Based in deepest south of South Africa, Magnetic, our Cape Town SaaS had reached local scale and owned a large chunk of the market in our niche; marketing and advertising agencies. We chose a niche, as it meant that we could be a thought leader in a fairly untapped industry with only one major competitor.
Our First Hurdle
We wanted to scale, but our leads were drying up, so we had our first key decision to make; enter a new vertical, or go offshore to a new market in the same niche vertical.
So we did what any rational decision-makers do, we made a pro’s and con’s list 🙂
New industry was not the best route to take.
We very quickly saw that entering a new market while still selling to agencies was the more viable option.
Once we had decided on a new market, we needed to decide between the UK and USA. While USA has a much larger market, and generally are faster decision makers, we decided on the UK (London) for these key points:
- Surrounding areas of London were well populated with agencies, and untouched by competition
- Similar time zones
- Similar culture
- The Magnetic founders hold British passports so allows for easy access
How I got started
1. Understood the market before entering:
- Joined industry networks
- Researched all partners/suppliers in the industry and made as many connections as I could
- Understood competitors, offering, what we were missing, pricing etc.
– We made sure we developed all key features we were missing that would hinder our ability to sell in the UK. This was a benchmark goal before we could enter the market
- Took part in industry surveys to gain better insight into the agency world in the UK
- Read everything I could get my hands on that would help me better understand the market, the prospects and the competitors
2. Spent a week every month for almost a year in the UK
There was too much risk on our current business for me to move to the UK permanently before we had proper validation that our product would work there, so once a month I’d hop on a plane and spend a full week in London (and a week in JHB – heavy on the family!).
We used a number of techniques to generate prospects before my trip, which generally lined up +- 10 pitches per week. I would then spend the plane trip home consolidating notes, and writing various thank you / follow up mails.
Once back in Cape Town, the leads from the UK trip formed part of mine and my team’s daily follow up cycle, which helped keep the focus on our day-to-day operations. Fortunately I had two tech partners based in Cape Town who kept everything else moving forward and a solid senior sales team supporting me.
3. Focused on the outer areas of London
Through my research, I discovered that while London held the majority of the market share (18%), there was enough in the outer regions to 10x our current business. With this insight, I spent the majority of my time travelling between Manchester, Brighton, Bournemouth and so on and very quickly realised that these regions were totally neglected by our competitors and so I doubled down on my efforts here. My opinion is that this principle can be repeated in many other markets.
4. Conversational first meetings
In general, my first meetings with new prospects on each trip were more relationship starter meetings, where we discussed the industry, and what challenges their businesses are trying to overcome. I tried to avoid the hard pitch as much as possible until I had formed a relationship and prospects trusted that we had solid knowledge in their industry.
5. Networking and Referrals
I made sure I attended at least one industry event, networking drink or conference on every trip. If there was nothing happening, I invited prospects to a lunch/dinner/drink, anything to get in a room with a few people to network and talk industry stuff.
I made a conscious effort to ask every contact that I had, and even every prospect that I met, for referrals which played a big role in filling my diary every week. It may seem odd asking a new prospect the first time they meet you for a referral, but being transparent and explaining my goal of meeting as many agency people to better understand the UK industry worked. I got a ton of introductions.
The outbound strategy that worked for us
1. Personal Dedication
Despite having a team around me, as a Founder and CEO, I had to dedicate my time, a lot of it (many late nights catching up on day job stuff). I created and drove the strategy including replying to every prospective outbound email (good or bad), made every call and wrote all the content (I am the opposite of a content writer or editor, so don’t be afraid if you aren’t either).
2. LinkedIn became my best friend
Unfortunately a lot of what I did a few years back is no longer possible due to various LinkedIn policy updates, but the concept still works.
- Using various tools, I optimised my personal profile to look appealing to my key market.
Tip Your headline should not be your company position, it should be what you do to help your customer. Mine is “I help agencies become more profitable”. This is the first thing anyone sees when you visit their profile, and any agency looking to make more profit would immediately be drawn to this
- Subscribed to LinkedIn premium to increased my search capabilities
- Connected to a great tool (no longer exists) which allowed me to auto visit all the profiles in my search results — this meant that everyone I visited would see that I had visited them, with my tag line being front and centre. This lead to thousands of visits to my profile, which meant I was more visible to my core target market and hundreds of inbound connection requests of key contacts I wanted to engage with, making it easier to start conversations.
3. Email Marketing
Cringe, I know — but it worked, really well! First I needed email lists, so I did some research and came across Growbots and Revboss. Two incredible platforms that assist in driving targeted email campaigns and generating the leads.
Growbots and Revboss work in much the same way, you give them your lead criteria, and they go about searching the web, finding email address and then launching a nurture email campaign. This was great, worked well and got us our first batch of hot leads. But, it’s pricey and slow (worth it for a first go if you don’t have any knowledge of email marketing or lead generation).
So, back to LinkedIn I went — I did some more research and discovered a tool which allows you to download the email address of any profile you visited, so I did this for weeks until I had every email address I could get in my search criteria. I then ran the list through multiple validation sites (sites which test the accuracy of the email address) which is important so your mails don’t get spam blocked due to hard bounces.
Once my list was clean, I then used Google Mail Merge to send custom emails to each prospect. The below example was more generic and had our best open rate (reason below), but we spent hours researching each lead, and customised a lot of our initial emails per prospect, going as far as including the latest news (if relevant) that they had shared on Linkedin as a reference point. Mail Merge is a great product, even for general customer mails if you can’t fork out cash for the big guns like Intercom.
This is the most successful email I sent with a 76% open rate, which eventually led to over 200 hot prospects.
The key to the success of this email: I sent it to the completely wrong person in the business. Our core target position was Business Owners, CFO’s, Head of Ops & Head of Traffic. In this campaign, I targeted the opposite; Account Managers, Designers, Strategists, Content marketers etc. In doing this, the receiver didn’t feel like I was selling to them, so they didn’t have that initial “I don’t have time for this”. I received hundreds of “soft” introductions from these people to the exact person I wanted to be talking to, and because the introduction came from someone they new and trusted in their organisation, they were more open to talking to me.
4. Know your metrics
The key to understanding the success of your outbound campaign, is understanding your metrics.
For us, our key success metric was demo sign-ups, because I know my sales team and I close 40% of all demo sign-ups which request a live demo. Of all demo sign ups, about 25% requested live demo’s.
This meant, if I got 100 sign-ups, 25 would want a live demo, and we’d close on average, 10 of those. So if I wanted 30 new paying customers, I’d need 300 demo signups. With this info, I could work backwards to understand how many emails I would need to send, based on various open/click rates in order to get 300 new demo signups.
I tracked these metrics daily, continuously optimising each campaign to help increase my chance of success.
Things that failed / could have been done better
- Using outsourced meeting setters failed for us, as we have quite a complex product which needs deep contextual knowledge of the industry when selling it. So having strangers pitching our product to try book meetings just didn’t work and often lead to wasted time in meetings with prospects who had no idea why they were meeting us.
- Digital Marketing because we underspent, didn’t have the right setup in place and used a local firm who didn’t have international or SaaS experience. This said, we’re now engaged in a full scale digital strategy with the guys at iMod Digital (still SA based, but have the experience required), and we’re already seeing results because we’ve follow a rigorous setup to make sure we have all our ducks in a row.
- No local reps on the ground was a big challenge. It meant that I often had to spend time on the next month’s UK trip trying to re-engage with a previous month’s meeting, and often these meetings would be cancelled as I touched down in London. I believe if I had someone on the ground to handle follow ups we would have had even greater success. Granted, due to Covid-19, online meetings are far more acceptable now.
Bonus: some resources I found super helpful (UK) if you’re setting up a UK business
- Stripe: Credit card transactions
- Wise: Digital banking and integrates with Stripe
- Seedlegals: Legal Setup / Founders Agreements / employee contracts / shares / options / board management etc.
- Empowerred: Help with R&D refund
In summary, entering a new market for us was successful, but took significant time to in preparation (far more than we initially thought) to really ensure we went in with our best foot forward.
My advice for anyone looking to launch in a new market is to make sure you really know why you want to go there, how you plan on doing it, what it will cost you and most importantly, you are going in as a stranger, so get your story right.
Disclaimer: GDPR obviously plays a massive role in email marketing now, so it is crucial to follow the correct procedures when it comes to privacy law in whichever market you are entering and take advice from experts in the field.
If you are looking to grow your business and are considering a new industry or market, feel free to schedule a virtual coffee with me. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I can’t promise that I have all the answers, but happy to share experiences.