I recently gave a talk at Outsource People in Minsk. My presentation was 45 minutes, so I can’t repeat the whole story here, but I wanted to share some of the insights. The conference was a very positive experience for me since I was the only speaker from Western Europe and almost the only English speaker (unfortunately I couldn’t understand any other speaker since all was in Russian). The question I often get from outsourcing providers in Eastern Europe (and Asia) is how to reach out to customers, how to attract more projects.
Now there’s no step by step answer to that question. I believe that it’s about trial and error; you push this button and see what happens. You try the next and see what works. But there are some generic things to take into consideration:
Every marketing or sales guru will say: differentiate. But I think it’s DIFFERENTIATE in the outsourcing industry. The problem is that outsourcing firms are in an incredibly competitive market. And providers are everywhere. India was the pioneer in the outsourcing industry and today, software outsourcing firms provide services to Western customers from about any country on earth. The funny thing is: almost all of them make the same basic ‘error': they lead with WHAT they offer. They shoot out mass emails and LinkedIn messages, which all come down to the same:
I hope you’re doing well. Now let me introduce myself. I work for company ABC and we provide the following services:
PHP, .NET, JAVA, ANDROID, IOS, ………………………………….
And we operate in the following verticals:
Manufacturing, electronics, transportation, government, education, …………………………………
Find attached a pdf with some case studies and some of our customers.
When would be a good time to discuss a partnership?
With kind regards
Now I’m not joking: I’ve been in this industry for over 10 years and I think I receive emails along those lines about 3-4 times a day. What should I do with this (even taking into consideration that I don’t see myself as a potential buyer)?
I think the good news is: it’s very very easy to differentiate. You could for example start by investing 5-10 minutes to find out more about me as a person, what moves me and what my business is about. Then you’d send me a personal email, referring to some of my challenges (e.g. I am a business owner and I’m always looking for investing in new products; I’m keen on growing my business and look for ways to do that; I’m launching an academy now and can partner up with companies to provide these training across the globe). You could then propose a call to HELP ME with some of those challenges (and maybe add some examples of how you did that for people like me).
Doing that would already make you stand out from the crowd substantially.
Selling ‘hands’ or ‘technologies’ isn’t attractive nowadays. There’re few buyers really looking for specialized teams that know a certain technology, but with the amount of providers offering that, it’s a very small chance they’ll pick you. I believe the future of outsourcing lies in partnerships, in innovation. As a provider, you need to specialize in offering innovative solutions in a niche market. If you’ve built a solution for healthcare and your teams know a lot about the healthcare system in Germany for example, you may choose to focus on hospitals in Germany. Or maybe in Bavaria.
Based on your knowledge of that market, you can propose customers to do joint innovation. You could send over one of your specialists to do a workshop to brainstorm possible new process improvements or new products. From that, there might be a demand for software development services. But you don’t lead with those services. Instead, your primary concern is to make the business and life of your customers better, to improve their business and earn them more money (as opposed to the sole purpose of you earning more money because they hire some of your ‘hands’).
And last but not least, you need to get close to your customers. This means that, especially in Europe, you need to pick a certain country and maybe even an area within that country. And you try to grow into the groups of people that you want to reach out to. If your target customer is a hospital in Bavaria, you won’t win them over by shooting out cold emails from Asia. You’ll have to repeatedly show your face at healthcare conferences in the area. You have to build relationships with the people that make the decisions. And you need to become knowledgeable about their businesses, their industry, what moves them. This means it’s probably a very good move to open an office in Bavaria, move someone over there or even better, hire a local German guy (because in general, a German trusts a German speaking German just a bit more).
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