The Marketing Idea That Helped A Small Canadian Software Company Disrupt An Industry
By Alex Zlatin
This software CEO explains why the simplest marketing strategy is a genuine and humble message about the state of your company and your plans.
Toward the end of 2017, I faced a very common challenge: running a mediocre company, in a conservative industry. I was looking at ways to differentiate our software company from the competition, an exercise CEOs all over the world are tackling daily. I had a limited budget and resources while having a never-ending appetite to grow, be profitable, and disrupt. Our existing marketing activities were yielding dismal results, and there was no real progress tackling our biggest challenge of brand awareness. Even though we had valuable offerings, the market would just ignore our message.
The traditional business approach suggests embarking on a capital investment in market research, focus groups, rebranding initiatives, and other expensive adventures. But experience tells me that for every complex and complicated challenge (whether business or not) there is a simple solution and approach. After many sleepless nights, I had such a simple idea that, at first, I thought was crazy. The simplest marketing message is not a marketing message at all. It is a genuine and humble message about the state of our company and our plans. And this was how my “Letter from the CEO” idea was born.
Like any good idea, the initial implementation (first draft) was not in line with the original idea. However, after some time spent with my team, the first letter was finalized and was an honest and genuine “state of the nation” type letter signed by me. Now that the message was ready, we had to find a good communication channel for it to reach as many people in our region as possible. We found a way to use our existing list of potential clients and incorporate other (paid) outlets to reach the majority of the market. It was originally just another marketing campaign to test, but as it evolved, it became clear we had stumbled upon something that might fundamentally change our whole marketing approach.
Results were almost immediate and were better than any marketing campaign that we’d ever launched. But that is not the main reason why this idea is a powerful tool for all industries. The main reason is the longevity of such a campaign. To illustrate, we sent our 2019 letter mid-January and are still receiving inquiries about the items in this letter. Potential clients arrive to our meetings with a copy in hand. This is the main strength of this approach, and I’d like to share the three main components of it here.
#1 — HONEST, HUMBLE, AND GENUINE
Most companies exist to make a profit. If this is the sole purpose of your organization, I urge you to stop reading this article, as this would be a waste of your time. If you and your company are set to be profitable by assisting your clients to succeed long-term, then this can be a very successful approach.
The contents of the letter must reflect the genuine purpose of your organization and be a simple outlet for communicating it to your target market. Customers are becoming much savvier in their technology buying decisions and therefore often feel deceived, misled, or tricked right away. I cannot stress enough the importance of having greathearted intentions and using this approach only if you are looking for a healthy long-term relationship with your clients.
#2 — INNOVATION AND DISRUPTION
It is not enough to communicate the same solutions everyone has. As software companies, it is our job to bring innovation to our respective industries and help them achieve efficiency through intelligent software tools and exceptional service. In our 2018 letter, I introduced a free license to our practice management software for all dentists in Canada, including a free data conversion. This triggered curiosity, a natural human instinct, which initiated potential clients to ask us “What’s the catch?” There was no catch. I want all Canadian dental clinics to have our software, even if they do not pay me the support subscription. That is the magic.
#3 — CONTINUITY AND CONSISTENCY
In 2019, a second letter offered free unlimited online training in addition to our free license and free data conversion. This added continuity to the innovation and disruption element of 2018. Dental offices have now received the second letter. This creates an expectation for what the letter of 2020 will have in store for them. Obviously, I have to ensure we have disruptive and innovative solutions to offer in 2020, but I have that figured out already and can’t wait for 2020. The secret of any marketing message is consistency and continuity. If we decide to have a letter every year, we have to make sure we have the right content and value delivered to our entire target market.
The software business is evolving in an interesting direction. The user interface must be simple and intuitive to the extent that a new user shouldn’t require professional training to use it from day one. To accommodate this, the back end must be very thorough and complex and must incorporate machine learning, Big Data, and even artificial intelligence. As such, software companies take quite a long time to get a working prototype of all basic functionalities. This is despite the fact that agile methodologies are implemented. This is why software companies must realize that all their efforts must go towards a long-term relationship with their clients and providing more and more value throughout the relationship. I found that focusing the entire organization on that goal is beneficial through an on-going marketing campaign like the one outlined above. I urge you to check out my letter and benchmark them for your industry. I would be happy to connect and assist with your individual challenges as well. Both letters can be found at https://maxidentsoftware.com/press-release/.
Letter From The CEO, 2018
To All Canadian Dentists,
Since taking on the role of CEO at Maxident, I have been working hard on building a strong foundation for our company. A strong foundation is crucial when you are about to revolutionize your industry! Through my conversations with many dentists and their staff, I am constantly surprised and saddened to learn there are clinics with no software at all or software that has limited capabilities in managing the patients’ electronic records effectively and efficiently.
This is the year I decided to make a change!
On January 2nd, 2018, we started offering our full-featured Maxident Practice Management software at no charge to dentists throughout Canada. Risk-free and no strings attached. Backed by over 40 years in Canadian dental software, we are able to provide you and your team with a robust, all-encompassing, and flexible software tool. Also, we will be doing free data conversions to ensure your valuable patient records are brought over.
In these times of rising cost, you are seeing every aspect of your expenses rise constantly, year after year. I believe that proper patient management should be affordable and, most importantly, accessible to any dental clinic in Canada. This is the role we want to play in helping the dental community ensure proper oral health services are provided to all Canadians!
It is our purpose, here at Maxident, to empower you and your team with intelligent software and exceptional service. We are committed to giving back to the dental industry, and this is one of our first steps in a long journey, helping you with responsible dental ownership.
I encourage you to reach out to me for a conversation about your vision for the clinic, challenges, and aspirations. It is my pleasure to offer a free 1-hour strategy session with all Manitoba dentists. This will include a free copy of my recently published book, “Responsible Dental Ownership—Balancing Ethics and Business Through Purpose.”
ALEX ZLATIN brings over 10 years of management experience to his role as CEO of Maxim Software Systems. He has streamlined processes companywide and helped to ensure seamless day-to-day operations at Maxim. Zlatin is also a member of the Software Executive editorial advisory board.