How a software conference helps countertop shops

Jun 28, 2011 | Business

In early June, Ted & I attended Microconf – a conference for people building and running small software companies. We had great conversations with the speakers and attendees who also own software businesses.

We shared experiences that will help our business and ultimately our customers. Here’s the top 5 things I learned.

  1. Your customers are smarter than you are. You should talk to them frequently, figure out what they want, and run your new ideas by them – early and often. We’re more systematic about our calls to customers and we’re about to send out our first-ever survey. We’re also working on a secret new project, which we’ve run by a few customers, even though not all of our employees know about it.
  2. Communication is really, really important. In the past we’ve been lax about posting on our blog, tweeting, and sending periodic emails. That’s a missed opportunity to remind people of why we’re here and what we do. If you’re one of our customers or prospects, you’ve probably gotten more contact from us in the last month than you remember in the past.
  3. Talk about the pain, not your product. To paraphrase Patrick McKenzie, nobody wakes up in the morning looking for scheduling software for countertop fabricators. We need to talk about our customers’ needs, it’s not about us. That’s already how we do our sales, and our website and other marketing is getting there, too.
  4. When the going gets tough, double-down. What’s the one thing that’s unique about us that makes people fanatically happy? In the past, we flirted with other markets. Now, we have a renewed conviction that we can be even awesome-er in our niche… building, selling, and supporting software for the countertop industry.
  5. Automate, outsource, edit. What are the key things that we do? What are the distractions? For me personally, I love talking to customers and participating in stone industry events, then writing about it. I’m going to keep trying to do more of what I love and outsource or eliminate the stuff I’m not good at (like “designing” yet another ugly trade-show banner).

So how does this help our customers?

I think the lessons I learned apply to most other businesses, including countertop fabricators. But more than that, if we can make Moraware more efficient, I’m convinced that it means more valuable updates and support for our customers. And, if we are better marketers, we can spread our software to even more granite shops… we know that we help our users waste less time on paperwork and mistakes, and it’s silly if others are missing out just because they never heard of us.

Being immersed in all of the conversations with peers really made a difference – it crystallized the thoughts we had before. So much of building a business feels like a black hole. It’s nice to have confirmation that talking to customers, writing valuable (hopefully!) content on a blog, and getting smarter about marketing is worthwhile. Thanks to Rob, Mike, all of the speakers, and to all of the new folks we met.

Want to know more? At Moraware, we make software for stone fabricators. JobTracker is scheduling software that helps you eliminate the time you waste looking for job folders. RemnantSwap is a free place to buy and sell granite remnants with fabricators near you.

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