Many software and hardware businesses, particularly smaller ones, are religiously focused on a specific vertical market. As well they should; focus is one of the most important attributes that can bring a business from startup to a strong growing business. This is often one of the key areas I concentrate on with many of my consulting clients. Many businesses just can’t turn down any sort of deal, no matter what the effect it has on their existing product development plans or other key corporate initiatives.
But there is another side to the focus issue. Many tech companies have developed excellent, mature technology bases at huge expense. If that basic technology has a horizontal appeal, it can be quite profitable to spend a modest amount of additional effort to bring that technology to other adjacent markets that the company is currently not serving.
Care needs to be taken, of course, to not spread your marketing efforts too thin. But if you’re smart about it your company can increase, sometimes dramatically, the return on its product development investments. Let’s take a look at a few potential tactics, all of which I’ve used successfully both at companies I’ve run and with consulting clients:
Customize your products for adjacent markets
As an example, maybe you have an ERP software package aimed at retail markets. It might be quite easy to customize the product for other inventory-oriented businesses, such as distribution or service/repair businesses. By doing this you’ve created a potentially large new revenue source, at a fraction what building that product from scratch might cost. The trick in this instance is often marketing the product–read below for a couple of ideas on how to accomplish that without doubling your marketing budget.
Private Label/OEM products
Private labeling or OEMing your product to another vendor can be an excellent way to extend your product development ROI. It might be as simple as partnering with a non-competitive vendor who takes your existing product “as is” or with minor modifications, as well as changing the product identity and labeling. The target partner would be a company very strong in a market segment that you aren’t successful in, have no interest in directly marketing in, or simply is beyond your resource level. If done well, this is a win-win for both companies. Your company gets additional revenues with little to no additional costs (“pure profit”), while your partner gains additional revenue in it’s target market–without any product development investment.
Integration & bundling with other products
One of the best things a software vendor is to create a “developer’s version” of it’s product, which essentially consists of creating APIs (application programming interface) to the software. This allows easy integration with complementary software applications and even hardware. Back when I was CEO of a mapping software company with limited resources, we created a developer’s version which enabled both integration and bundling with a number of complementary applications, notably in the real estate and CRM segments. Once again, this tactic required only modest product development investment and enabled us to draw revenue from a number of different markets. We would never have had the resources to pursue these markets if we tried to build a new product from scratch as a company would traditionally do.
Different price points
Using my favorite mapping software company example, we were often forced to think creatively to wring out as much revenue as we could out from our existing technology. One of the other tactics we used was “de-feature” our existing $99 high-end consumer application to create a $9.95 version, which we then sold through mass market retailers of all kinds. Not only did this create more revenue, but the high volume business also created a bunch of opportunities to upgrade these entry level customers to our higher-end core product. This is a strategy I’ve used many times; you almost can’t go wrong when creating a larger customer base for your technology. I use the simplistic phrase “the more you sell, the more you sell” to illustrate the advantages of this approach.
Business vs. consumer version
At that very same mapping software company we used one other great approach to extending your technology: creating a B2B version of our consumer product which was aimed at road warriors such as sales and service professionals (the converse works just as well). The B2B version had a few additional features and we sold it via different channels and strategic partners. It didn’t have the unit volume of the consumer version, but the margins were much higher.
So there are a few ideas on how to extend the use of your IP to increase your overall ROI. What are your ideas on creatively utilizing existing assets to create additional growth? Please post a comment with your own thoughts so we can all benefit.