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the challenge

Jamie Lippay, left, and Michael Bolton, co-founders of Keyora Inc.Kevin Van Paassen

Every week, we will seek out expert advice to help a small or medium-sized company overcome a key issue it is facing in its business

Jamie Lippay and Michael Bolton built their business by selling their product to everyone who asked for it. But after eight years, the partners are through servicing every sector that knocks on their door.

Now, the co-founders of Keyora Inc., an Oakville, Ont.-based company that creates e-commerce software, want to go the opposite of the customization focus of their industry and essentially offer a one-size-fits all solution for each of three industries: retail, beverages and companies that sell replacement parts for equipment, such as cars, vacuums, lawn mowers and more.

The reason for the change, says Mr. Lippay, Keyora's chief executive officer, is that they're tired of tailoring software for multiple industries. The company sells software that allows people to order goods online or through their phone; company employees can then track those orders.

But every industry has different needs, which get costly and time-consuming to incorporate. By narrowing their focus, they can create one product for each sector. Not only is that easier for their business, but it's cheaper for customers to buy – by at least 10 per cent, he says – as customization is expensive.

Mr. Lippay and Mr. Bolton, chief technical officer, have chosen these three industries because they share a lot of the same needs, Mr. Lippay says.

As well, they already have at least one flagship client in each on board, who can help vouch for the company and direct them to new clients.

Mr. Lippay has high hopes for this strategy. He aims for the 35-employee company to this year double the $3-million in revenues it brought in last year.

That means they need to get more customers in these industries focused on Keyora's products. It'll take more than traditional marketing, he says. He wants to get in front of key decision-makers and figure out how he can make Keyora's product the first that comes to mind .

"For this to work, we need people to think of us day-to-day and have us top of mind," he says.

The Challenge: How can Keyora best target three specific industries?


Barry Linetsky, a partner with Toronto-based business consultancy The Strategic Planning Group

He needs to create a story that he can tell to the industry about why they should pay attention to Keyora. Too many companies rush out and say we're the latest and greatest thing. He needs to figure out why he really is the best in the industry. To do that, he needs to talk to those customers already in his target sectors about why they chose him. Also talk to people who turned him down. He needs to get that competitive information.

He should also become an industry leader. They claim to have excellent service quality. If there's an industry benchmark around that, they should get on that list. You want an independent party to verify that story. Yes, you can tell your own story, but it's even better if you can say an objective third party also thinks you're the best. Do that and companies will start talking about Keyora and its product.

Michael Denham, Toronto-based managing director at Accenture

The best way to make this work is by reaching out to small- and medium-sized companies looking for low-cost solutions. There are a lot of companies out there looking for this type of software. Play up the fact that there is a cheaper, cloud-based option companies can purchase. It'll be easier to capture attention if he has something that's cost-effective and easy to use.

He should then go to industry-specific trade shows, which are usually attended by the small- to medium-sized company CEOs. Promote the cloud option, which is growing in popularity, at these shows and also online in LinkedIn groups, and that should get the word out. The key is simplicity and cost-cutting. This is what people are looking for.

Jonathan Godfrey, CEO of Toronto-based Holophone

One of the things we've done is tap into communities. For example, we connected with the pro audio community, which has about 200,000 people. These are broadcasters and engineers, people who buy high-end audio gear. We'd physically carry our product to an event and meet with audio engineers. We'd attend shows and other gatherings. Soon, when people needed to buy products, they thought of us as a source. He should seek out organizations in the sectors he wants to target and do the same.

Also get on the trade-show circuit as a speaker. I've flown all over the world to speak at different things, and that's been a huge benefit to us. It gives us more respect, but it's also about the optics. People don't ask someone to speak unless they know what they're talking about. Executives attend these conferences, they hear you speak and then they call you up. These things have been helpful.


Hone a message

Talk to existing clients in the target sectors to find out why they chose you over others. Use that information to create a message for potential customers.

Attend industry-specific trade shows and events

Work shows and events that cater to the industries. Set up a booth and meet several potential clients at once.

Become an industry speaker

Become known as an industry leader by speaking at events and shows, which helps build credibility and respect. It also gets you in front of hundreds of people, many whom will be decision-makers.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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