MEEDIA: MarTech – Interview with Christopher Roskowetz on the subject of software purchasing

The purchase of new software and the replacement of existing legacy systems often present companies with major challenges. The change is often accompanied by consultants. Bluplanet is trying to break up this routine. However, marketers have to do their homework.

We are now using Salesforce. We are now switching to Hubspot. Next week, we will be holding training on the new CRM system Microsoft Dynamics.

Sentences like these make people who work in operational marketing shudder. Once again, the company’s chief buyer or managing director has fallen in love with a new tool at a conference. Once again, processes have to be adapted and efficient routines revised. And once again, you can expect it to take months or even years to get back to your current level of productivity. It is not uncommon for companies to switch to the next tool before they have even exhausted the existing one.

One software to which this is particularly true is Salesforce. The system is still seen as a CRM program and there are still companies that just use this powerful tool for their email marketing. Yet it is not a tool at all. By opening up to third-party developers and through its own further development, Salesforce has evolved into a comprehensive marketing cloud that can do almost anything in marketing.

And it is precisely this wealth of offerings and complexity that is one of the biggest challenges when selling MarTech software. Where do you start? What internal disputes are you prepared to enter into? And how much training does the order entail?

The company Bluplanet, founded by two former Salesforce specialists and an experienced agency manager, has a different idea.

Mr. Roskowetz, what was the impetus that led to the founding of Bluplanet?

My two co-founders are former Salesforce employees and I worked on the agency side for years. We realized two things: Firstly, purchasing software in Germany is subject to very specific conditions. Secondly, Salesforce as a product is so complex that it really isn’t easy to understand. The purchasing process was very time-consuming and we thought: There’s an easier way.

What are the special features in Germany?

German marketers like to buy from German companies or at least from companies that are based in Germany. This obviously has to do with issues such as product quality and data protection, but it also has to do with the fact that you need training during the implementation of the new software or support in everyday use.

We are one of four companies in Germany that are allowed to sell Salesforce. The market is currently changing from direct sales to an indirect market.

Where does the name come from?

Blue is the logo color of Salesforce and with Planet we wanted to express that it is about the comprehensive approach. This doesn’t just apply to the software itself, which has long been much more than a CRM system.It also applies to our approach.

What is your pitch?

Our concept is based on four pillars.The first and most important is that we believe that purchasing software can become easier. There are different customer groups that have different requirements. But that doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel for every single customer. We want to bundle the products that are relevant for a company and make them easy to understand and sell.

We don’t do the implementation ourselves. Instead, we have good contacts with implementers of different sizes.

The third pillar is that we manage licenses and contracts for companies.

And fourthly, we work together with interest groups. This could be DATEV, the German Startups Association or an investor that has various startups in its portfolio.

What is the simplification, beyond the bundling of typical software packages?

One important aspect is that we are a single point of contact for companies for everything.In the past, brands had to deal with many different people at the respective software providers.

But is that enough to establish a successful self-service solution?

For certain target groups, it is. Companies from the start-up scene, but especially from the scale-up scene, know exactly what they need. They want to have the product quickly and buy it.

But it’s true, of course: there are many companies in Germany that are increasingly digitizing right now. We go in and advise them personally.

How do you promote such an offer?

The associations and larger cooperation partners really do play an important role here.

In Austria, we have taken an unconventional approach. We sponsor SK Rapid Wien. This is one of the largest business clubs in Austria and is a great way for us to enter the market. It makes the Bluplanet brand better known.

I was on the agency side for a long time. But I could never get excited about running one TV commercial after another. I’ve always looked for things that are different and therefore stand out.

Why should companies that already know what they need buy from Bluplanet?

There are various factors. Companies want regional contacts, as I have already said. Companies want everything from a single source, which makes it easier to handle.

How does Bluplanet earn money?

Only through the commission for the sale.

We don’t charge anything for the consulting part or contract management. That is our service. Our vision is that one day we will have built a comprehensive self-service portal: Check24 for software.

What motivates your company to provide customers with intensive support even after the purchase?

Customers only come back to us if they were satisfied with the first experience they had. Customer lifetime value is the most important target for us.

How credible is Bluplanet to sell Hubspot or Microsoft when Salesforce is so strongly behind the founding concept?

Not at all and we don’t do that either. We only sell products from the Salesforce ecosystem. There are now over 4000 applications and Salesforce doesn’t sell them itself. And that’s where we see the potential.

Does the market know this or is Salesforce still seen as a CRM program?

That’s an exciting aspect. It’s by no means widely known in Germany. As a company, we handle almost our entire operational organization via Salesforce, including accounting.

What is the current investment situation in Germany?

There are two camps. Some are holding back at the moment, for example because they can’t assess consumer sentiment. For other companies, now is precisely the time to invest. This has to do with the accelerated digitalization due to coronavirus and, of course, remote work. Many companies want to make their working models more flexible and are realizing that they also need to invest in software.

I don’t know if you can put it so harshly, but I think you can see where entrepreneurs are in charge and where managers are. The managers are careful not to make any mistakes at the moment. Entrepreneurs realize that now is the time to move forward and invest.

When new customers come, what is their pain point?

At the moment, the main motivation is the fact that we offer this from a single source. The customers who come to us are already in the ecosystem. They want to simplify their processes.

Where do companies that are making new investments use Salesforce first?

It’s usually sales and marketing. Sales is then also close to service. Medium-sized companies from the manufacturing industry in particular have a sales force, for example. And these processes need to be digitalized. E-commerce, on the other hand, tends to happen at enterprise level.

Are there currently reservations about the use of US software, also in view of the GDPR?

There are, and they persist, although all major US software providers are trying to take this into account. Salesforce has two data centers in Europe. The data stays here. To refute the prejudices, you have to talk to the companies. And it seems that SMEs in particular would rather listen to a German company like Bluplanet than the manufacturer itself. That also has something to do with language.

What is the argument that convinces the critical German SME sector?

It’s not about features or the price. You have to be able to clearly show companies where their individual benefits lie. If you can show that you have already solved a similar problem for another company, then that is a strong argument.

However, there also needs to be an awareness that software like Salesforce does not stop at departmental boundaries. Many companies still think in terms of departments and each department has its own software. This makes it difficult to successfully install a complex suite like Salesforce.

With a product like Salesforce, but also with other data-based solutions, it’s not software that you simply buy and then use. It is more of an ongoing process. It won’t work in the traditional top-down way. You have to approach companies differently.

Where do German SMEs need to rethink when it comes to software?

It’s about openness. You have to start getting involved in something, even if it hurts. We are still too often looking for the one, German solution. We in Germany are only a small part of this universe. Also in terms of software.

Interview: Frank Puscher
published in MEEDIA on 08.11.22


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