Musings For A New Year: Do vendors have to make it in the U.S. to be successful?

Posted on January 12, 2016


Editor’s Note: The following are musings from a mind with too much caffeine, a computer, and observational inclinations.

As such, beyond what is plainly written, there is an underlying message. Do you know what it is?

If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere . . . – Lyrics from the song New York, New York

I had an interesting discussion with Kelly Barner, with whom I co-wrote our new book Procurement At A Crossroads.

Here is the exchange regarding an article that came across my desk titled ELEVATING PROCUREMENT TO THE NEXT LEVEL – EUROPE AT A GLANCE PART ONE– by the way, why is everything in CAPS?

Me: Thought you might find this Zycus piece interesting . . .

Kelly: Why do you suppose they chose to limit that particular message to Europe? It seems pretty general to me…

Me: I think because despite their best efforts, they have not gained the level of traction they had hoped in North America – in particular the US and . . .
I think that Europe is going to become an increasingly interesting and maybe even important market . . .This last point raises the question . . . do you need to make it in the US to be a successful player?

Like the lyrics from the song New York, New York; if I can make it there . . . does a solution provider or vendor have to make it in the US to be successful? When I say make it, I am talking about gaining significant market share.

Or to put it another way, is success outside of the US by itself, tantamount to winning the batting championship in the minors?

Take Zycus for example, who I mention only because they are the source of the article referenced above. Have they really made the inroads they had hoped when they first launched in the US?

How about Bravo Solutions? Proactis?

There are many other names (i.e. Elcom, Unimarket, Tradeshift), but let’s start with these companies.

Long pause . . . should I continue to wait for an answer 😉

While each would – at least I assume they would – publicly proclaim that their foray into the promised land of the American market has been a success, what are they really saying behind closed doors?

Another pause . . .

Here is something more interesting, at least to me it is . . . a better question is not whether they have had success but, does success in a cloud-based, borderless world depend on geography?

In other words, do companies founded in the US have a competitive edge in winning business in the US, than those that were started in other parts of the world?

My answer would be no, and here is why.

Unlike the belt with suspenders, no one ever got fired for buying IBM generation before them, the up and coming generation are not intimidated by technology. Nor do they consider geographical origins to be an all important factor.

As a result, they are not blindly dependent on the Gartners and Forresters, or even the bloggers and so called industry pundits to guide their selection of a vendor. Sure, they will to a certain extent, use them as one of many possible resources. However, this new generation is tech savvy and confident enough to do their own research, and are therefore more than qualified to make the right choice for their organizations.

For vendors seeking the brass ring of prominence in America – or for that matter anywhere, they now have to recognize this trend towards self-sufficient information gathering, and find ways through which they can connect with these new market decision-makers directly. When I say connect, I am talking about building an actual rapport and relationship with end client prospects, as opposed to using as a go-between, industry pundits providing product analysis. There are no longer any gatekeepers.


Capitalizing On A Widening Funnel

What does this widening of the information/intelligence funnel really mean?

It means that vendors need to become more proficient (or self-proficient) at blogging, direct social network engagement and, connecting with their target market outside of the traditional infomercial framework.

They need to become storytellers, with a message that builds the all important know, like and trust rapport that goes beyond technological analysis. And, they have to really have something to say that is somewhat brand agnostic. The information and insights they provide has to have a universal value beyond their own technology.

For some, this may seem like a contradiction in that one might protest that if they “don’t lead with their branded product, how will the market know how great they are?”

My answer is simply this . . . trumpeting how great your solution is will not have the impact you expect, as the emergence of the cloud-based SaaS app has leveled the playing field. Especially when you consider how the industry has progressed since the ERP era – when implementations took years instead of weeks and days. Today, one could use Perfect Commerce and Ariba just as easily as they could use Coupa. And if they could use Coupa, why couldn’t they just as easily use any of the other vendor solutions?

I mean , is there really that much of a difference between vendors from a technology standpoint?

Of course the analyst firms and pundits want you to believe that a technological chasm exists, because that is how they make their living . . . peeling back the supposedly nuanced layers of a complex onion.

The truth is – and I agree with the following statement from Kelly Barner – “If you are just looking for access to technology from a SaaS provider, they are all the same.”

people over technology

The real differentiator according to Barner, is in the service capabilities of the vendor, and the relationship they are able to build with their clients.

What I take away from what Barner is saying, is that it is the people behind and within the vendor company, and not the technology, that matters most. No argument from me regarding this last point.

Going back to the focus of this post, the vendor world as a whole, needs to become much more adept at establishing a meaningful rapport with the market. No one can do it for them, they have to do it themselves – plain and simple.

If vendors are able to establish a strong relationship dialogue with their prospective clients, they will gain the meaningful traction that will enable them to realize their full potential . . . both in America, and on a global basis.


Posted in: Commentary