Use cost effective Social Media and Email Marketing to win first few sales

Shankar Krishnamoorthy co-founded Asteor Software along with Gowri Shankar and Bhoovarahan. Now, Asteor Software has two world-class software products – Techcello and Synergita. Techcello is a SaaS development framework and Synergita is a HR Performance Management Software. First product is Techcello and Synergita followed after two years.

Jothi Rengarajan and Janakiraman joined the founding team as core team members. They found a big opportunity in the companies that were developing software products – these software companies were developing engineering components repeatedly on various modules thereby spending lots of time, effort and money and facing the risk of their product idea going obsolete by taking the product late into the market and also a high level of dependency of skilled people to be a part of the team. They also found that SaaS and Cloud were catching up in a big way in 2010 and it is more challenging to build SaaS engineering components. Since the founding team has a strong software product development background being involved in a large software services company (Aspire Systems), they thought of productizing their experiences in form of a SaaS framework and they began building these modules in generic way. They felt that they should build a framework which can be used both inside Aspire Systems as well as by any other ISV or System Integrators. They spun this entity as a separate company and began partnering with multiple large companies such as Symphony, Persistent systems to name a couple to use this framework.

The team put together a few of what they thought were the essential components required for building the SaaS product at the engineering level and took it to a few of the prospective customers and made them sign up for a POC. They made sure that these customers used the framework and provided them good after-sales-support to convert into a fully paid version. There were many changes those customers wanted while doing POC and because of their background in technology, they were able to articulate and convince the customers on what were the important functionalities in the framework that they need to worry about and also gave a product roadmap on what the customers will get now and what they will get later and began acquiring customers. They began analysing the usage pattern of the customers and spoke to them very extensively and understood the value proposition. Shankar recollects that the version 1.0 is probably 30% of the current version (4.5).

In reaching out to the target market and in creating awareness, they used email campaigns and webinars as their two major sources because they had mastered the art of penetrating global accounts using email in their parent company. They decided to carefully plan their market reach and penetration and began focussing on HR and CRM product companies where huge SaaS Migration and Adoption was happening. Using email as an effective way, they reach out to a wide variety of audience and invite them for webinars. They also effectively use Social Media Marketing on (LinkedIn and FaceBook) to invite people to webinars and they had good number of audience with one webinar having more than 400 people as attendees . Shankar says that they spent only 50$ per month for the entire marketing exercise per webinar and also got the first customer through webinar. Invision – a German based company was the first customer. They had an on premise product and were looking to migrate to SaaS and they received Techcello’s email to attend the webinar. Invision got intrigued and attended the webinar and discussed with them after that and signed up.

Shankar recollects that the objections that came in from the customers has still not changed even today. Major challenge is build Vs buy. Every engineering team worries about the limitations that a framework would impose, especially if it is coming from an external company. Techcello team overcome those by showing the value proposition and by doing POCs on how easy it is to save time and money by using Techcello and how this framework can make the customers focus on building the core business functionalities instead of tinkering the engineering side.

Shankar’s Advice – Work very early on with both prospective customers as well as with analysts. This helps in figuring out how the product should shape up and gives you a balanced view of what the real customers will be looking at.

Techcello, currently has 12 employees and has 27 customers. They have partnered with HP, Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. They have a good customer list that includes Sutherland Global, Secova, Invision, Infront Australia to name a few. They are also a Gartner cool vendor for cloud application platforms and have been featured as Nassom top 10 innovator for 2012 and were the finalists in the prestigious Codie Award and a Microsoft WorldWide partner of the year for cloud platforms.

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