His previous local IT Services business saw Phil and his team involved with a wealth of local businesses across a wide range of sectors. Although these businesses had many differences when it came to their IT demands they all seemed to have one thing in common, a need for a CRM product that was sympathetic to their data management needs.
Drawing on many of the conversations Phil heard whilst mentoring businesses on other areas of their IT structure it was evident that whilst there were plenty of CRM products to choose from, customers were often frustrated by the rigid contracts they were being forced into, that didn’t effectively allow them to extract their workable data, leaving them disappointed by the value actual being delivered.
In response to these insights, Phil developed the concept of RealtimeCRM, a software package built around the functionality needs of the customer first, supported by a flexible delivery model.
The idea behind the design for the new RealtimeCRM product, under the company name of Cambridge Software Ltd, was focussed on a unique approach. Launch a basic CRM product driven by signing customers up on a trial basis, giving them full access to all features with their first user lifetime licence. Ultimately providing the team an opportunity to interact and harness design detail from the users as they experiment with the full breath of the software first-hand, including all new developments as they appear.
The key elements of the business model were to:
- Place the customer firmly in control
- Allow them to trial and use the product before making a commitment
- Provide the trial user with an accessible means of providing feedback and suggestions
- Make it easy for the customer to walk away (if desired)
- Focus on simple and clear pricing with no hidden extras
- Develop a valued and sustainable product
- Support a business opportunity to convert customers from trial to paid licences at multiple points, rather than following a traditional product lifecycle subscription model.
It was a bold and brave idea relying on interacting with users on a regular basis to encourage the feedback necessary to develop a valuable and tailored final product. The ambition being that by giving trial customer a voice and involving them in the process of tailoring a product that solved their business problems, it would in turn promote business growth for Cambridge Software.
It offered a fresh thought process behind the concept of the traditional CRM model, providing a business proposal geared towards small businesses that allowed full product access for a single price, instead of tiered levels of functionality that is synonymous with the industry. This thought process gave the competitive edge needed to sustain within a saturated marketplace.
Help from Support Organisations
Despite previous business experience, Phil saw the value in crafting the best strategic plan for his new vision, especially considering the risks involved in entering a highly competitive marketplace.
His team approached CPCA Growth Hub, the free business signposting service from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP that connects businesses with the help, support and funding they need to grow. Phil had a well-developed concept built around an actual customer need, however needed help to refine a robust business plan that could provide clear strategic guidance, help the business sustain in a busy marketplace, and convince customers of their unique approach.
Our CPCA Growth Hub Navigator took the time to understand Phil’s needs before connecting him with Enterprise Europe Network East (EEN).
Enterprise Europe Network East (EEN) is a local support organisation designed to help businesses innovate and grow internationally. They provide a gateway to many other business support services including EU funding.
The Cambridge Software team now have a finalised product, offering customers a powerful and intuitive package with more functionality than competitor products thanks to their careful customer listening, and work with EEN on a strategic and robust business plan to support their activities. In addition, EEN were able to help Phil identify gaps in his original planned approach to avoid them becoming bigger problems further down the line. As the EEN Advisor said, it’s all about cultivating a view of the bigger picture, with careful product positioning.
Networking events, such as Venturefest East and those hosted by organisations including the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, have also provided new engagement and brand awareness opportunities.
Phil has this advice for fellow entrepreneurs and business owners just starting out on their journey to success: “You need to learn to sell your vision to others, whether looking for investors, customers or staff to get onboard with you. In the early days all you have is your idea and a vision for how you want your start-up to move forward and grow. If you can’t formulate a compelling ambition and articulate it well, there is no reason why anyone should be interested in what you are trying to achieve, and this makes achieving your goals so much harder.
“It’s not where you are today that always captures people’s attention, but instead where you will be tomorrow and what impact that will bring to others.”
Be Prepared for Challenges
According to Phil, as a business owner just starting out, or even scaling up an existing business you are likely to experience many challenges.
Phil said: “You will always have more reason to give up than continue, but it’s important to stay focussed and believe in your vision if you want to succeed.
“Maintaining good control over projects is key, particularly keeping a close eye on cashflow whilst trying to get work done, are all important for the survival of your start-up. Invest in the right tools for managing and running your business, and remember communication is key.”
Cambridge Software Ltd has enjoyed successful and steady growth in the local Cambridgeshire area, however the focus for 2018/19 is to capture trial users on a national scale who can actively be up-scaled to paid customers later.
The emphasis is now about taking their marketing strategy to the next level and focusing further ahead through business exhibitions taking place around the country, to wider the scope of their brand awareness, and lead generation and engagement.
Find out more about RealTime CRM here.