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Sourcing my extension (Part 3) – Bid Analysis

This is part 3 of Nick Drewe’s foray into a domestic eSourcing exercise for his house extension. Nick has now held all the site visits and chased in the quotes.  Time for a spot of bid analysis to prepare for the contract award.  You can catch up on part 1 here and part 2 here.

Apologies for the delay in compiling part 3 of this eSourcing project.  Amazingly over a month has passed since my last update, and what a hectic month it has been.  I had scheduled in site visits with 20 builders over the period.  3 of the builders did not turn up, which presented itself as an easy method of establishing their reliability, or lack thereof, as it happened!

The remaining 17 appointments were conducted smoothly.  I gave an extra bonus point to those who came with the drawings and specifications in hand: always good to prepare for a meeting to make best use of the available time.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask them about their experience of using the Market Dojo eSourcing tool, which was thankfully overwhelmingly positive, despite a few of the guys needing to ask their siblings/cousin/mate if they could use their computer to access the internet!

Anyhow, the quotes steadily trickled in.  Some declined to quote due time constraints or an unrealistic budget (we’ll see about that minute), whilst some provided an entire bill of materials and profit and loss account!  The detail was astounding, literally right down to the last screw.

Despite this professionalism, the difficulty I faced with this as a layman was that I was lost in the detail.  I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.  I almost preferred the quote that said “This quote includes everything in the spec, except we need you to buy the kitchen and sanitaryware.”
I mentioned there were a few objections to the budget, which for the record was circa £70,000 ex. VAT.  After a fairly thorough market analysis I believe I have my defense on that, as here is the complete set of quotes I received:

There are a number of great things to witness here.

Savings!

I could have chosen to proceed with one of the two initial offers on the table from the architect, which I’ve termed the ‘incumbent’ bids.  Perhaps I could even have negotiated 10% off through a classic face-to-face discussion.  However I would not have been able to afford them in their entirety, so I would have had to make detrimental changes to the spec. by going back to the business and consulting with the key stakeholder, a.k.a. my wife!

However, with a 33% saving against the best ‘incumbent’ bid, on a like-with-like spec, we are now in a great position to secure the build that we want.  As 33% equates to some £35,000, I can say without question that this exercise has been worth my time.  Furthermore whichever outfit I do go with has such a good knowledge of what I’m looking for now that they can hit the ground running.

Finding market price
There is a clear trend towards the market price, almost like a flattened S-curve from the best bid to the worst.  This gives me several affordable options, options I shall gladly exploit in part 4 of this exercise when I make my award of contract.

Engaging market forces
The two bids I received via my architect prior to embarking upon this sourcing project are undeniably the least competitive.  I could argue this is because I ran my sourcing project on a professional level, creating an impersonal barrier between me and the market via the eSourcing tool, which in turn gives the builders the impression that I am not doing a half-hearted effort.  Consequently this can encourage more competitive offers.  Sadly neither of the previous ‘incumbents’ took the opportunity to quote again, so I can’t be certain.

It does illustrate that if you approach just a handful of suppliers in a liquid market, you have no assurances whether you have unintentionally approached the two towards the right of my graph or towards the left.  As with any statistical analysis, you need to increase your sample size to increase your certainty.  I feel that by approaching 90-odd builders, I have sufficiently achieved this.  I could have invited or proactively chased more but I would then be at a greater risk of diminishing returns.

Either way, I don’t think practically that I could have achieved this without using the eSourcing tool.  Furthermore it proves that you can achieve excellent ‘savings’ from a robust quotation process without the need to go to an eAuction.  In this case an eAuction is not on the cards given that I’ll likely revise the spec to compromise on areas of low importance (the sun-tube seemed like a good idea at the time but a light-bulb would be £700 cheaper!) in order to maximise investment in the focal areas, e.g. the kitchen, now that we have our itemised costings.
Stay tuned for part 4 where I make the all-important assessment of both the price and non-price elements of the bids to reach the award decision.

Market Dojo is 3 years old!

Last Friday we proudly turned 3.  If we were talking about a human rather than a company, we might look a little like this guy:

However, we are a business and to reach this milestone is a great accomplishment.  According to the Entrepreneur Weekly, 44% of businesses fail by Year 3.  Yet here we are, still self-capitalised having turned down investment offers along the way, and still growing at over 100% year-on-year with even steeper growth projections in our pipeline as some of our newest innovations hit the market.

We asked each of the three co-founders of Market Dojo for their highlights of the last 12 months:

Nic Martin:
In September we released ‘Samurai’.  Building Samurai was a much bigger project than our previous enhancements, and we learnt a lot of lessons along the way.  Working with new people and making so many improvements to MD was a great experience, particularly when it was all over.  It’s also given us the ability to tick many more boxes for our customers and allowed us to work with a much bigger range of organisations.

Alun Rafique: 
We have fantastic clients, who are all working on great things with our software from simple RFQ’s to complex weighted auctions. Many of our developments are client led and so we ensure our direction is in line with your needs. The latest client and reseller is ABM Global solutions in the Philippines who we extend a warm welcome to.  We could not do this without you all so please accept our greatest appreciation.  You can see some case studies on our website. A massive thanks to all!

Nick Drewe:  there have been quite a few to consider, such as achieving a 100% renewal rate on our annually paid licences to signing up very recognisable high street brands as customers, or even being nominated for a supply chain award by one of our customers, Arqiva.   It’s all pointing towards the fact that our clients like what we do for them.  However, for me there is one highlight that does stand out and that is the award of our second grant from the Technology Strategy Board.  The first grant enabled us to build and release Samurai, which was immense.  However, with this second grant we’ve created a whole new module within eProcurement, one that does not exist at the moment.  Fitting in somewhere between Spend Analysis and eSourcing, we hope to announce Category Dojo later this year.  Sadly I can’t elaborate too much at the moment, but drop us a visit at eWorld next month where we might be able to let you in on it!

Want your own eSourcing portal?

Earlier this year we proudly announced the release of our white labelling enhancements (http://bit.ly/13m6uMB) where you could customise your own unique web address on marketdojo.com, for example http://my-mega-company.marketdojo.com (this is not a working example in case anyone tries that link!).

Well, now we’ve gone a whole load further.   In our latest release last night we’ve given our users the ability to create their own web address, branded in their colours yet powered by the Market Dojo eSourcing tool.

Some of you may already have such a feature with other providers, but the difference here is that we haven’t done this by simply setting up a new server and popping a cloned version of our software on it – no, we are still 100% single-instance, multi-tenanted.   This gives every one of our customers the added benefit of no upgrade issues nor delays, instant access to new features (such as this one!), no implementation fees and more affordable licences fees, since we have much lower maintenance and support costs.

It’s a really simple process for you to set this up.  Simply buy your web domain from someone like LCN or Go Daddy and point it at www.marketdojo.com, then buy an SSL certificate for it so your data remains encrypted over the web.  Send us this info so we can pop the certificate on our server and assign your account with the bespoke web address and you’re good to go!

All the other great customisation features still apply, such as:

You might also like to place web links or even your own Log In / Sign Up buttons on your website that take the user to your branded sourcing portal.  But we leave all this in your own hands or those of your webmaster.

So, if you’d like to take advantage of all this, give us a call today!

Market Dojo: how to set up your mega organisation in minutes

We’ve been involved in a number of discussions and tender exercises recently with large organisations who require hundreds of users on our platform.  When we tell such organisations that they can set up all the users and the whole e-sourcing tool themselves within a matter of minutes, including the supplier databases, document templates, user permissions and even the white labelling, we are met with incredulity.  “That’s not possible”, they say, armed with a tender response from a competitor that states they require 6 weeks dedicated external resource to implement such a platform.  Well, let us tell you now, it is completely achievable.  Here’s how to do it with our software:

1) Sign yourself up on Market Dojo, completing the 8 simple fields. ~2 minutes

2) As the first user from your organisation, you will be the nominated ‘superhost’, which means you have the default Admin rights over your organisation.  Once logged in, you will see in the menu the ‘Admin’ option where you can do some great things.  Start by clicking ‘Display Settings’.  This will let you change the logo and the menu and text colours to ones of your choosing.  All your other users in your organisation will see these effects, as well as any participants your organisation invites to take part in your tenders. ~ 3 minutes

3) From Admin, select the ‘Document Library’.  Here you can upload all the templates and standard documents that you wish your organisation to use.  No more do they have to rely on their local document folders with document templates that differ from one user or hard drive to the next. ~ 5 minutes

4) Now pick ‘Participant Database’ and do an unlimited bulk upload of all your participants (e.g. suppliers) using our really easy templates provided on our website.  Only the typical details such as e-mail address, company and name are needed.  Categorise them if you wish, using free-text definitions of your choosing.  Put suppliers into multiple categories, as we all know they can have multiple offerings.  Now your organisation will have an excellent database of participants to invite to their sourcing events.  ~ 4 minutes

5) Move to ‘Host Groups’.  Here you can bulk upload your own users, those who will be creating, viewing or editing sourcing events.  A few minutes later you can have them all populated in the software and put into your own organisational groups, be it by spend category, by department, by site or whatever you like. ~ 2 minutes

6) Finally in Admin, use the ‘Host Permissions’.  Add any users here that you wish to give specific rights.  So, your UK Purchasing Manager might want to see every event run by the UK team, likewise the Manager in the US for the US activities.  The Group Purchasing Director might want to see, but not edit, everything that is happening.  Set it all up here.  Some users might want to have the ability to edit other people’s sourcing events.  You might even want to let that external consultancy have an input into your events.  ~ 5 minutes.

Hit the ‘Email user(s) of any changes’ button and everyone you’ve just added to the Permissions will be given an activation link and can be up and running a minute later.

Grand total:  21 minutes to get the whole thing set up and in the hands of your team.  Granted we’ve assumed that you have the information at your disposal, such as your colleagues e-mail addresses, but it really is that easy to populate the tool itself.

At this point, tell your invited colleagues to head to the ‘Sandpit’ and they can play about with all types of sourcing events from both the buy-side and the supplier-side until they are confident how it all works and want to use it for real.  You can even check that they have used the Sandpit before you  give them a licence, a bit like your Driving Test if you will.

Of course, the one final piece in this puzzle is to ensure they all have valid licences to use the software.  Whilst you can buy these yourself through the software, we would hope you might involve us in this bit as we’d love to hear from you!

Many hands make light work

We are delighted to announce our second major upgrade of the year.  Log into marketdojo.com today and use our new User Hierarchy feature.  It has been released to help our more enterprise customers collaborate on their sourcing activities.

Some of the key features include:

Here are a couple of scenarios where you might find this feature very useful.

Showcasing your work

You’ve put in weeks of hard work preparing your tender documents, managing the suppliers, chasing in timely proposals and validating the responses to ensure all is on track.  However, you’ve largely done this in isolation via your Market Dojo e-Sourcing event.  Next step you want to conduct negotiation via e-Auction and you want others to witness your accomplishment, especially those overseas stakeholders.   Well, this is now very easy: simply add them as a user and give them view rights over the auction event.  Our software will send them a viewing invitation, guiding your colleagues through the process.  Let them sit back in amazement at your success!

Being assisted by consultants
Many of us wish to have a helping hand with our work.  With User Hierarchy you can either run the sourcing events yourself yet give a third party edit rights over your events to keep things on track, or you put the consultant in the driving seat who can then give you access to their sourcing events – it’s your choice!

Managing a team
Finally, with User Hierarchy you can build your own online sourcing team.  Define which team members can have edit rights over things like the Supplier Database or the Document Library.  Pick a team leader who can be given a team-wide view of the sourcing events.  Have multiple team leaders if you wish and give yourself complete visibility over everything that is going on.  It is completely up to you on how you wish to structure your team.
We really hope you find this useful.  Best of all there is no cost at all to add a user to view sourcing events – licences are only required for users who wish to create or edit events.

Two French students came to Bristol…

Here is an article written by our second intern, Antoine Boton, from École Atlantique de Commerce in Nantes.  Here he empathises with how British people may view their arrival.Please note that all views of expressed within belong to Antoine and are definitely not those of Market Dojo!

It’s a usual British Friday night; two young people disembark the Paris to Bristol plane under a torrential rain. You can’t really tell that they are French because they don’t wear a béret nor a striped sailor shirt, which is odd. You only can tell when they begin to speak with a horrible accent and complain about the bad weather.  Surprisingly, they looked almost clean, which is  rare for French students!

After a brief tour of the city, they were shocked, of course, by the left-hand traffic (which is the better way to drive), and by the lack of space in the street because of the parked cars. We don’t need garages, that’s a French word!

First Saturday night in England, aside  from the fact that they can’t figure out what each coin is worth (easy, the biggest coins are worth the least, duh!), they also have troubles to understand our (magnificent) British accent. Of course we help them progress by speaking as quickly as possible.

Another weird thing, they weren’t eating junk food at 3am in the street like everyone else. Also, they looked very silly with their warm clothes and their hood on despite the pretty good weather (see picture).  Oh, and we successfully trapped them in our galleries by locking them in at 6:15pm, classic!  They seemed to not know that we close our stores early in order to eat early which means drink early!  And when it’s time to drink (7pm to 7am), we do it with heart and soul so that we sometimes sleep in our neighbour’s house by mistake because of the likeness of our houses.

Aside from all of that, we try to make them feel welcome by using all of our French vocabulary: “bonjour”, “Paris” and “crème fraîche”.

Anyway, we hope that they will enjoy their stay in England and have fond memories of our beautiful land.

Market Dojo – eSourcing made simple

Our first upgrade of 2013, with so much more to come!

Over the weekend we completed our first 2013 upgrade, following on from the second upgrade to Samurai back in December of last year.  Such is the elegance of the Software as-a-Service model, each and every one of you can benefit from the upgrade when you next log in.

Quite simply, there are too many improvements to list (70 to be precise), so here are some of the important highlights:

On top of this, we have made a number of upgrades to our infrastructure to keep ahead of the increasing demands of our customers.   We are now sending several thousand e-mails a day, practically becoming a MailChimp in our own right, and so we have upgraded our e-mail account to ensure uninterrupted communications between our Hosts and their respective participants.
We have also upgraded our servers (again) to ensure we maintain our 99.9% uptime record.  Some events have even had over 500 participants involved, and so we’ve learned a great deal about where potential bottlenecks may lie and catered for them accordingly.

What’s next?
We have a number of exciting new features we are working on that will be released imminently.  For example, in collaboration with our customer Arqiva, we are in the final steps of testing and improving our User Hierarchy feature.  This will allow our users to invite friends, colleagues and countrymen to view their sourcing activities, or even to have edit rights should they have a licence.  You can manage all your internal users from a central place, see all the events across your organisation from your own Dashboard, and even invite external users such as consultants to have their input on your activities.

We are also nearing completing of an enhanced white labelling feature with another collaborative partner in the US as we help them with an exciting new venture.  Our users will be able to define their own URL for the sourcing events, such as www.esourcing.marketdojo.com, which will have your logo and menu colours with your own log in, sign up and password reset facilities.  In short, it will be your own portal: even the e-mails will come from you.

Here’s to a fantastic February ahead!

PS:  If there is anything you’d like us to work on, get in touch and we’d be happy to talk.
Market Dojo – e-sourcing made simple

First impressions of the UK – by our intern Camélia Chiguer!

For the next few weeks, we are lucky enough be working with two interns from France, Camélia Chiguer and Antoine Boton.  Here are the observations about the cultural differences they have encountered, through the eyes of Camélia:

Ever since I’ve arrived in the magnificent mother country of Hugh Grant and Coldplay (big fan here), I’ve had lots of opportunities to notice random details that are slightly – or sometimes considerably – different from France to England.

Above all, I can say that everyone here loves Frenchies – everyone that I’ve met so far anyway. Not to mention this (awesome) obsession about what we sound like when we talk: when I try and make an effort to speak proper English, some people even ask for my “real accent”!

In fact, the main difference between us is how friendly and welcoming English people are. It is a huge change compared to France, which is full of people doing nothing but being grumpy and looking unhappy all day. People here are polite and a stranger will always answer with a smile when you ask for your direction in the street. I am not used to it. A stranger smiling at you is something you should almost be afraid of in France, it definitely hides something.

Another area where England is way ahead of France is music. Lennon once said “French rock tastes like English wine“. Need I say more?

Well, enough with putting our English fellows on a pedestal. There are some daily things that got me really confused ever since I’ve been in this country.

First of all, what’s up with the taps here? There are no signs of any mixing valve. The water is either ice frozen or boiling hot, never in the middle. How practical.

I’ve also had the chance to experience the “typical English weather”: I saw some snow when I came out of the plane, then a lot of rain on my way from the airport, quite good weather the next day but then 5 min later a storm, lightning and even hail stones; and all of this happened in less than two days. I can say that at that point I was really missing France.

I’ve also noticed to my great surprise that English people and especially young ones aren’t actually sensitive to this lovely weather, and they don’t seem to like wearing clothes that much: even whilst out at night I could see people wearing nothing but a simple t-shirt, when I, on the other hand, was struggling with keeping my fingers attached to my body, wearing several layers of clothing, a scarf and everything.

Furthermore, I have also been disconcerted by how everything closes at   6pm, if not 4:30pm. I found myself locked in some mall at 6:15pm after   having dinner really early (trying to get used to the British way of life, ya   know). Similarly, most of pubs close down at 1am on the weekends   (whereas in France it wouldn’t be before dawn). On the contrary, nobody’s   surprised to find dozens of restaurant open at 3am… no offence guys, but   you have got a quite nonexistent sense of time management

Anyway, back in France, as you can imagine, we have a few preconceived   ideas about English people. We always imagine you really blonde and   really pale (not true (well, not always)). You’re famous for your food   across the Channel – not in a good way though – and we have this idea of   you eating all the time what we just call “pudding”, which is this jelly-ish   Christmas pudding of yours (not quite true again). However, you do drink tons of tea. And you cherish your favorite sport teams in a way I can’t describe. I mean, I’m not sure that entirely disguising yourself is required when supporting your team at the local pub, but then again it’s only my opinion.

Conversely, you have a stereotyped representation of us as well. So sorry to break it to you, but we do not hang around carrying a baguette and wearing a beret. If the cliché of us eating lots of bread isn’t that incorrect, the only time I actually saw someone wearing a beret was here in Bristol on my first night out.

PS: I have learned about you calling us “frogs”. Well, back in France, your nickname is “rosbeefs” so that’s one all I guess.

PS 2: we are so going to beat you up at the VI nation game France vs England! (But then again, I don’t really care if we don’t. I’m just saying this because I’m trying to fit in the British spirit, remember?)

Guest post – Successfully Implementing e-Auctions for Legal Services

Back in 2012, we received a great deal of interest from customers and prospects considering the use of Market Dojo for sourcing of legal services. Today we are pleased to welcome a guest post from Jason Winmill, Partner at Argopoint Consulting LLC, a management consulting firm dedicated to helping corporate legal departments address their most significant management and strategy issues.  Read this article to learn more about legal sourcing.

Sophisticated supply management professionals are introducing electronic sourcing solutions to their legal departments, and in doing so, delivering millions of dollars in savings. The media is gradually beginning to pick up on these successes: a recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that several companies (including GlaxoSmithKline, Toyota, Sun Microsystems, and eBay) are using competitive bidding and e-auctions to purchase legal services. As with other important services, effectively sourcing legal is a delicate process with major upside.

Strategic implementation of e-auctions for legal services represents a radical change for most legal departments. While competitive bidding is commonplace in many other sourcing categories, it has been received with skepticism by many in-house attorneys. Legal services are highly complex, sensitive, and high-risk; supply management professionals face the difficult challenge of building credibility in the legal department and moving along a steep learning curve without losing sight of short-term savings goals. In spite of these difficulties, savvy sourcing and procurement departments are earning the appreciation of their legal colleagues and earning public recognition through the use of e-sourcing technology.

Three Important Steps to Successfully Implementing e-Auctions in Legal:

Into the Sandpit – head first…


Photo courtesey of tawalker

The one feature of Market Dojo that gets me most excited is the Sandpit area, where we invite you to come and experiment with Market Dojo. Everyone likes the option to try something before they buy it.  It helps you feel secure and confident in your purchasing decision. It just makes sense!

A key part of our philosophy is transparency, and we already deliver this in other areas (e.g. pricing).  So, we wanted to expand that to show everyone what our product can do, before they reach for their credit card.

For those lovely people that have already made the leap to become fully fledged customers, the Sandpit now offers the valuable opportunity to test different strategies before running an event, and to keep these tests separate to the results of real negotiations.

The Sandpit is a great asset for both these groups.  It’s available to all our users, it’s really easy to get started using our intuitive user interface and we offer helpful guides providing additional advice.  We’ve even made a video to show how it works!

Once you have your feet in the Sandpit, you can test all the features available in a regular event, including RFQ, Questionnaires, different negotiation strategies, and reporting.  You can quickly switch between acting as a Host and acting as a Participant (so you see exactly what your suppliers would see).

So, if you wondered what Market Dojo is all about, but haven’t tried us yet, give our Sandpit a go.  It’s free to sign up, there is no obligation.  We’re really excited about it, and would love to know what you think.

Come on in and have a play!

On boarding suppliers for e-Sourcing

If you are facing a bit of resistance from some of your suppliers to e-Sourcing, here are some tips.


Please also see our guide on ‘How to enrol participants’ from our resources page http://marketdojo.com/resource. It may not solve all your problems, but it might help.

You can do various things to mitigate supplier resistance and there is no right or wrong answer.

1. Make sure there is a clear directive from senior management and communication that this is how business will be awarded
2. Make sure there are no routes in the organisation that will countermand the process
3. Chat to all the suppliers first and dont just send an invite
4. To bring them on board maybe run an RFQ first just to get them used to e-Sourcing befor running an auction
5. If you are going to do an auction then you could run it on a buyers choice basis and say you will bring the top 3 suppliers in after an auction to talk about other areas apart from price. Or you could run a weighted event to take into account the other factors during the live event.
6. You could use the event as a way of consolidating business and so making it more attractive
7. On the first communication you should say why they are doing it…business directives etc…
8. You can also sell the benefits of an auction. Many suppliers find the first time tough however after the initial hurdle it becomes easier and it is more transparent than paper RFQ’s.
9. If there is an incumbent supplier, you should stress the need to work together on this. If you have any issues with specs or otherwise then the other suppliers might be not bidding like for like and the incumbent will lose out.
10. You could also send your suppliers our guide on ‘Psychology of Online Negotiation Events’ and ‘Myths of Online Negotiation Events’. If a supplier reads these guides which discuss the importance of communication, their attitude might change. (this is available in the resources section mentioned above).

A fantastic article about Market Dojo on Buyers Meeting Point

Buyers Meeting Point has written a great article about our new Samurai release. We were so pleased, here it is in full:

ENTER THE SAMURAI: ESOURCING MADE SIMPLE

In October 2010, Buyers Meeting Point received an email from Nick Drewe, the co-founder of a then new-to-market eAuction solution provider based in the U.K. He asked to have Market Dojo listed in our vendor directory, introducing their offering as “very easy to use, has all the professionalism that you would expect, and is offered at a transparent price level.” We have since gotten to know Nick and Market Dojo’s other co-founder Alun Rafique quite well. Their belief in the value proposition of their solution has caused them to invest in development that makes that value apparent to us as well.In the two years since they launched, much has changed – both for Market Dojo and in the spend management solution landscape. Market Dojo has steadily increased their presence through successful application of their technology and industry recognition of their thought leadership. They have been recognized by the U.K. public sector, receiving two Technology Strategy Board (TSB) grants to develop additional functionality. They recently announced the release of Samurai, an upgrade of their solution nine months in coming. This new release brings a revamped user interface and new functionality that increases the breadth and depth of the solution.

While they made their initial entry to the market with a focus on auctions, including less commonly found event types like Japanese auctions, Samurai adds best-of-breed RFx capabilities to the solution. With an eye to the strategic need for collaboration with suppliers, Market Dojo has also added an innovation portal for soliciting and accepting well-defined ideas for improvement from the market and a ‘sandpit’ where buyers can validate the presentation and setup of events by test-driving them before release to suppliers.

Of the changes included in Samurai, the one most likely to make an impact in procurement organizations is the addition of scoring capabilities that can be applied when weighting the information and prices collected in RFx’s and eAuctions. While scoring itself is hardly a new idea in eSourcing, Market Dojo’s approach is closely tied to their philosophy on procurement decision-making and the relationship between procurement and the rest of the organization. Much has been made of procurement’s (sometimes precarious) relationship with Finance. Beyond questioning savings calculations and realization, many Finance groups have trouble accepting the ‘transformational math’ used in scoring scenarios that allow too much subjectivity into what should be an objective evaluation process.

Market Dojo supports two approaches for scoring, both linear in nature:

In the first case, non-leading prices are scored purely against how they rank in the market, as represented by the participants. In a pro rata (or proportionate) scoring scenario, both the market and the buying organization’s expectations are reflected in the pricing score.

While the RFX or eAuction is under way buyers can clearly see the breakdown of the price and non-price scores in real time, adding transparency into the negotiation and decision-making process. This breakdown can be clearly communicated to the participants as well, mitigating the risk of participants challenging the award decision. Furthering the need for transparency, price and non-price scores are independent of one another, which is fair and consistent for the participants. If a participant earns a score of zero in the qualitative (questionnaire) portion of an event, they can stay in the process (if allowed to by the host) by offering a competitive price.

The additional capabilities added to Market Dojo with the release of Samurai allow them to compete for business with a broader base of prospective clients. They have expanded their reach in the sourcing process while their established place in the negotiation phase.And yet, with all the growth and change, Nick’s introductory statement holds true. Market Dojo is still easy to use, professional, and transparent. Two years after launch, Market Dojo saw £120 million auctioned through their solution in a single month. Buyers Meeting Point looks forward to seeing and hearing more from the Market Dojo team as more companies harness their solution to manage spend and innovate with their suppliers.

Market Dojo – the e-route to cost-cutting

Here is our latest press release, announcing our Samurai release and some of the work we have been doing with Shropshire Council…

Market Dojo helps organisations to save money when negotiating with suppliers. We do this by providing software that enables employees to conduct an online auction. Our service is simple and secure, it’s quick and cheap, and as an example, in a recent auction, one of our clients saved £140,000 on a £500 investment. Purchases have ranged from new vans to powdered milk and brake pedals.

Already proven in the private sector, now Market Dojo is available to the public sector.

We have recently received a grant of £25,000 from the Technology Strategy Board, the government body that aims to help the public sector to cut costs without losing quality of service. The grant was awarded to enable Market Dojo to develop software that would make it possible for organisations within the public sector to tender, legally and with full compliance, throughout the EU.

Shropshire Council’s Integrated Passenger Transport Services team has used Market Dojo’s software to put bus and taxi operators services out to tender through e-auctions. To date the Market Dojo software has saved the council 8% from last year’s prices.

“In our first e-procurement using Market Dojo software we saved over 8% on our contract prices,” says James Willocks, Principal Transport Officer, Shropshire Council. “This was a great success, especially considering the current pressure affecting the transport industry. Market Dojo’s 12 month licence costs no more than running a single event with an e-Auction facilitator. We look forward to future developments with the company.”

Market Dojo was founded in 2010 by two young entrepreneurs from Bristol, Alun Rafique and Nick Drewe, and now they plan to roll out their service to government bodies throughout the UK.

“The public sector is facing major budget cuts and job losses, and if every council can make a significant saving, the taxpayer will save a massive amount of money,” says Nick Drewe of Market Dojo. “Our software is easy to use, affordable and environmentally friendly, and the return on an investment in our e-auction package is very quick.”

The cost of using Market Dojo?
From £500. An annual licence costs £5,000 and can be used every day.
About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

The British culture seen by a Frenchy

editors note:  this is the second blog entry from our excellent intern Hadrien Geffroy.  Sadly Hadrien’s internship has reaached it’s completion and we have to say au revoir, but Hadrien, you are welcome back  any time.

Advice: this article could contain French humour which some English people could possibly not understand. I apologise for it, and I ask you not to take it wrong or feel offense. Thanks you for your understanding.

I don’t know if it’s because we are neighbours or if it’s a direct consequence of globalization, but the British culture isn’t so different from the French culture. I mean we are both Occidentalized countries, lead by a democratic government and severely influenced by the American culture. But a few things caught my attention. The first things that shocked me when I arrived in Bristol were the streets and houses, all the British houses look the same and there are no garages to park your cars!  Where are your architects? Do you have architects? Do you know what an architect is? Do you want some of ours? Fortunately Banksy is here to beautify your walls!

The second example of great interest to me personally is FOOD. Being French, food is for me a big part of the culture and even if I come from France and the food I eat there is the best in the world, I have to admit there are a few good things in your kitchens. Obviously I’m not talking about this stupid chilli (I’ll get back on it later). By good things I mean crumpets, Shepherd’s Pie, crumbles, bacon…  And even if British food isn’t very sophisticated, the meals I ate all along my stay were quite good. Breakfast is on the top of the list of my favourite British food. I tried typical brekky twice and each time it was a really culinary orgasm. I was also fond of Fish & Chips until some made me ill. I love curry as long as there is not too much chilli. You may probably think I make a fixation on chilli but you have to know that for my first lunch with Nick & Alun they put so much chilli on my sandwich that I thought my tongue would fall off. I’d like to talk about beer but I don’t want to shower you with too many praises.

In the UK, and more especially in Bristol, the culture is more visible on the streets than on the plates. The street looks like a perpetual carnival, there are so many styles of people: hippies, Goths, hipsters, coloured haired girls… and what about girls… I don’t want to introduce an endless debate about which of British or French are the most attractive but I heard someone who said that French girls have pretty nice faces and bodies but they are too much introvert whereas British one’s looks sometime “not attractive” but they are sexier… I let you give your point on it on the comments 😉

There is another reason I will never forget this summer: Olympics. One of the questions people asked me the most while my stay in UK was “what do you think about the opening ceremony?” And here is another point in which I have to admit you are very good. I watched the Opening on the big screen in Bristol’s town centre and the atmosphere was awesome.

Being in the UK while the Olympics were on gave me the opportunity to spend a day in London, I couldn’t watch any event but I enjoyed the infatuation of the Olympics. Of course, as a Frenchman, it was very difficult to endure all these gold medals for Team GB or to see how many British people scorned handball. Everybody told me it was a sport for girls…Oh sorry, it’s true, you got the most athletic sports in the world: Darts, Snooker and Cricket…

If there is a point on which France should copy the UK, it’s on the place of sport in society. When you see the place of sport in the daily life you quickly understand how the British athletes managed to reach 26 gold medals at the Olympics. In France sport is most of the time just seen as a way to stay healthy but in the UK it’s much more than that; so one point for you.

Now you read my article, you’re obviously allowed to do the same for French culture!
About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Once upon a time, a Frenchman went to Bristol

editor’s note:  this is the first of two blog entries by our intern extraordinnaire, Hadrien Geffroy from École Atlantique de Commerce in France.  We were fortunate to have Hadrien join us for 6 weeks this summer and to take us to markets we have never been before.

The 9th of July, on a wet summer’s day, I set my foot on British soil for the first time of my life. Obviously I would have preferred to spend my holidays in my native country, the beautiful and sunny France. But a special mission was waiting for me, here in Bristol, and more precisely two businessmen: Nick & Alun (or Alun & Nick, no jealousy there).

Indeed, as part of my studies, I had to complete a 6 week long internship abroad over the summer. “Why Market Dojo?” You might ask? In fact I had heard about Market Dojo by chance. Fond of the web and new technology I was looking for a trend company as a start-up which related to my business studies. It was only after a few researches that I found Market Dojo. When I applied for my internship, I didn’t imagine how much I was lucky to work for this company.

Today I’m working for Market Dojo as intern and thus for 6 weeks. Because my work is very boring and uninteresting (humour), I have time enough to talk to you about the fantastic professional and life experience I’m currently living in Bristol.

Monday the 9th of July 2012 at 09:00, I knocked at the door and two young (it’s all relative) smiling guys opened the door. I quickly understood they were very cool and relaxed, but also very professional so we didn’t lose time before we set to work, just the time to take a cup of tea (the first of many). But Market Dojo is a kind of modern company, most of the work is home-working and the atmosphere is relaxed, which makes my working conditions very comfortable.

Now let me talk to you about the advantages of working in a little company. Having the opportunity to work for Market Dojo allowed me to see this. Indeed, I wish to every student to work for a little company to live both a professional and a life experience. In little companies the border between working life and private life is very thin; which makes work less boring and gives me ample time to learn about the British culture.

Hadrien receiving his internship certificate

Concerning the work, I quickly realized my responsibilities would outnumber what I was expecting. In my case, my main goal is to make Market Dojo’s website and software accessible for any French native who wants to use Market Dojo’s service; which means translating approximately 15,000 words (so easy!!). But I also have to think about Marketing for French market, software testing, assist a conference, and make cups of tea (wringing the tea bag is much more technical than it seems). Being an intern at Market Dojo also involves eating bacon sandwiches, playing tennis, going to the cinema, watching the London Olympic games, looking at videos on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCiY1y3uJ3o), so many things that make you forget you are here for work!!

So many thanks to Alun, Nic and Nick for these 6 weeks!

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Market Dojo celebrate their second birthday with a year of amazing growth

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
August 2012

Market Dojo celebrate their second birthday with a year of amazing growth

Last week marked Market Dojo’s second successful year in business, with a massive ten-fold increase in the previous year’s revenues.  Co-founder Nic Martin was delighted with this important milestone, “the last 12 months have been a fantastic period of growth for our young company and has really proven that our business has the key ingredients to succeed, from a great product, excellent customers and a brilliant team”.

The rapidly expanding software technology company, based in the South West, offers an online application that helps businesses negotiate more easily and efficiently with suppliers via the internet. Businesses can also run reverse auctions where suppliers compete to win contracts to supply goods and services.

Market Dojo now has in excess of 25 customers who use the application up to 5 times a day to receive quotes from suppliers for goods and services as varied as electrical cables, paper bags, van and car hire, brake pedals, machined parts and office furniture.

“What makes us unique is that we have taken a concept that was previously restricted to large businesses, due to the complexity and cost of existing software, and made it accessible even to small-to-medium sized businesses”, explains fellow co-founder Alun Rafique.

Their ambitions now lie in building the customer base, both home and abroad, as well as releasing a whole new product upgrade which is just around the corner.

Editors Notes:

Sprechen sie Deutsch?!

Today, we are really pleased to announce some great new features for Market Dojo.  We believe these reflect our four core beliefs: being collaborative, transparent, agile and to have fun doing it.

Here are the highlights…

Translated Market Dojo into German and Russian
We added these specific languages in direct response to customer needs.  We are well aware that our users are based all over the world, and for many of them, English is not their first language. This release also lays the groundwork for more languages in the future. We are already planning improvements to the public areas of the website in these first two languages with a new web design planned for July.

Bigger file uploads
Several customers told us they needed to include bigger files with their RFQ and Auctions Events.  We have increased the maximum file size to 10Mb, to allow even more detailed documentation to be included.

Improved Edit Mode
Changes happen.  When they do, it is important that they are correctly communicated to all affected parties.  We have learned that when you are dealing with dozens of people in several different timezones, more focus and detail in the information you provide up front will save time later.  Previously Market Dojo automatically notified everyone of changes to an Event, now this is done at the Hosts discretion, so only those who are affected will be informed.  Hosts are able to include a detailed message explaining exactly what has changed.

More upload/download formats
Previously, data imported and exported from Market Dojo was only  in CSV (comma separated values) text format.  Now, we also support Excel (XLSX) format files.  This format will address problems for users in countries where the comma is not used in CSV files and also give us more flexibility in the format of reporting we provide. Currently this is a ‘beta’ feature, and we are really keen to get any feedback on how this works in the field.

Improvements and bug fixes
We have made more than 20 improvements  and fixes to give our users a better a experience.  These range from changes to which information is shown first at various stages of an Event, to clearer messaging and integration to our customer database.
We have had a lot of fun putting this release together, but we are really looking forward to is hearing how it helps our customers.  Do let us know what you think!

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Big thanks to University of Gloucestershire Digital Film Production students!

We would like to say a massive thanks to Tea, Liz, Sanni and their lecturer Ben, all from the Digital Film Production course from University of Gloucestershire , for their time and skills in producing an excellent video for us.

For those who haven’t seen it, you can find it on our YouTube channel here: Barney – your average co-worker!

The team came up with several great concepts before bounding on with our preference of the story of Barney, your average co-worker, who is bored, frustrated and generally disillusioned with life in the purchasing office, with all the manual processes and wasted time.

However, upon a fleeting introduction to Market Dojo, he latches on to how it can transform his working life by allowing him to carry out his purchasing activities more easily and more efficiently via a web-based tool.

He quickly shares the benefits with his colleagues who are enormously grateful, resulting in him getting the recognition from his boss that he truly deserves.

It was an absolute pleasure working with the team and fantastic to celebrate the completion of the video with an enjoyable lunch out.  We are really pleased with the results and look forward to hopefully working with them again.

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Market Dojo needs you!

We have created accessible e-sourcing software, attracted customers both large and small, proved its value and now we want to share our success.

“Market Dojo is looking for resellers”
SaaS solutions are being adopted by many companies in the market and offer advantages over the traditional software applications. We have taken this and applied it very successfully to the e-Procurement space as a best of breed e-Sourcing solution. Our solutions currently extend to electronic quotations and auctions, however, we have many more developments coming soon.

We have demonstrated that our software is as competent as many solutions out on the market, yet is available for a fraction of the cost:

To help bring our solution quickly to the global market, we are looking for resellers. We are happy to work with consultancies and also pure software resellers where our solution will be a great addition to your offerings.

To see some of the benefits and more detail, please go to our Webpage or send an email to reseller@marketdojo.com

What is a Japanese Auction?

We have just implemented Japanese Auction capability in our software at the recent request of a customer of ours.  Despite our procurement consultancy past, this is an auction format of which we have very little prior experience.  In fact, how much knowledge and experience is there in the general purchasing community of this approach to negotiation?

For those who are not familiar, here is an excerpt from our website of the Japanese Auction process:
“The Host states an opening price and participants have to accept that price level or withdraw from the auction.  Acceptance indicates that the participant is prepared to supply at the stated price.  When all participants reply to a certain price, the software lowers the price level by a pre-determined amount and again asks participants to accept or decline at the new price level.”

The process continues in this manner until all participants have ‘opted out’ of the auction.

As you can see, the approach can be very effective at establishing the final price for each participant in turn, regardless of the market competition.  Consequently the approach can be adopted in situations where market liquidity is very low or markets which are dominated by a handful of major players, such as dairy or utilities.  The Japanese Auction can even be used for a single-source negotiation, which was the major reason our customer favoured the Japanese Auction, ever since they used it to negotiate a significant cost reduction with just a few keen participants involved.

Other situations where the Japanese Auction can be used effectively are when there are large cost differences between bidders, despite both quoting for the same specifications.  With your typical Ranked Auction, the participant in first place will unlikely be challenged, even though they may have built in some margin to play with.  However, utilise the Japanese Auction and even that participant will be asked to improve their offer.

So far we have outlined a reverse Japanese Auction, i.e. where the bidding comes down in value upon each round.  However, we have encountered situations where a Japanese Auction can be used in an upward price direction, such as the negotiation of rebates amongst your supply base.  Since it is fairly meaningless to give suppliers market feedback on their rebates, as each supplier could be contracted for different goods and services and different spend levels, the Japanese Auction presents itself as a superb way to negotiate with each supplier individually, yet concurrently in a single auction.  For example, in Round 1 the suppliers are asked whether they agree to a rebate of 0.5% of full year spend, with an answer of “Yes / No”.  For those who reply favourably, they are then asked in Round 2 whether they agree to a rebate of 1.0% and so on.  There is a huge efficiency saving compared to the traditional way rebates are negotiated, as well as the potential for far greater results.

There are of course challenges to Japanese Auctions.  Firstly, they are not widely known about, which means that participants will require a greater degree of hand-holding and reassurance.  Secondly, they offer little to the participants in the way of market feedback.  Nevertheless, post-auction you can certainly provide feedback at your own discretion and to whatever extent you wish.  Thirdly they operate in a rigid manner, with participants only able to accept or decline each price level rather than to come in at their own price level.  It may mean that some participants have to wait a little longer to submit their final offer but the goal of establishing the market price is still achieved.

If anyone would like to know more, please feel free to contact us and we would be happy to take you through a web demo to show you how it works.

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Commoditisation of e-Sourcing Software

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post Market Dojo, a Bristol-based e-Sourcing solution start-up.

As technology advances, the most sophisticated products of the past become nothing more than amusing artifacts. Take the early versions of the car or the television or the mobile phone. My grandparents used to recount the stories of embarking on glamorous week-long trips across England in their open-top sports car, an MGB GT V8, barely meeting another car during their travels. A decade later they would be completely astounded when my father could answer his car-phone, installed at great expense, whilst blistering along a motorway.

Today I take my mass-produced hatchback across the country just to have a short meeting with someone, allowing an extra 30 minutes for traffic, whilst chatting away on my hands-free to a business partner who could be anywhere in the world. I pay little for the technology and I would never expect to have to pay any more than I already do. I take it all for granted, provoked by the commoditisation of technology.

In the mid 90’s, FreeMarkets was founded by Glen Meakem and began to find huge traction from large enterprises such as BP, Heinz and United Technologies (amongst others). FreeMarkets were able to command prices as high as $250,000 for their innovative ‘reverse auction’ services, a price that mattered little to such large organisations given the money that they could save from the process.

If we fast-forward to the “noughties,” reverse auctions began to shift into commoditised territory. The solution was presented as an à la carte menu, competition was rife and the cost of the service had been driven to a tenth of FreeMarkets offering. As the service became commoditised, it was increasingly difficult to base the fees on the value that the service created but instead to base it on a cost plus model, as you see with every commoditised piece of technology. Despite this, the savings from reverse auctions and the standard of the service were certainly on par to those achieved back in the 90’s, only at a fraction of the cost.

This meant that large consultancies were struggling to compete and instead had to diversify into newer offerings such as category management and cost reduction programmes to incorporate a broader range of services. Niche providers sprung up in abundance, innovating their fee mechanism but doing little innovation of the service or software itself.

Historically there has been a strong bond between e-Sourcing software and e-Sourcing services. For example, there are only a handful of providers that offer software without also advertising their own provision of services. Granted the profit margin on services tends to be greater, unless you truly are offering highly specialised software, but in our view there is another key reason. The software that has been designed to accompany the services relied on the services to make it perform. The software was wrapped around a specific process — a consultative process — where it played the supporting role. Therefore, since the service element had become commoditised, it was assumed that the software had even less of a chance.

However what we are seeing today is e-Sourcing software breaking free of those chains. It is a new breed of software that guides a novice user through the process — it educates them and advances as they advance. This has meant that the software has its own lease of life that can continue to add value to any organisation. It has become truly self-service.

Compare it to “gamification” if you like, whereby computer games, with their vast depth of complexity and sophistication, are able to gradually take their users on a journey. They start with the basics of walking before running, building up to aiming and shooting and so on until before you know it you are abseiling out of moving helicopter, commando-rolling onto a roof, dropping a grenade down a chute, hijacking a car and making your getaway!

There are many examples of this in other software markets. I’m sure you remember the annoying talking paper-clip that used to appear in earlier versions of Microsoft Office, appearing when you least needed it and suggesting something suitably opaque. There is the classic saying that no one taught you to use Amazon. Or iTunes, or the iPhone, or Facebook or even other software offerings like MailChimp, Zoho and Skype.

As we move increasingly into the realm of Software as a Service, there are a few key attributes that such SaaS companies share, or at least should share if they want the best chance of success. First, they are very clearly presented. Within a few seconds you can understand what they do and why you might use it. Second, they are very clear on costs, as ultimately if you think you might want to use it, your next question will be on cost. Third, they are very well designed, so that someone who casually makes the purchase via the web is able to use it successfully without any complicated interruptions from sales, marketing, accounts, help desk and so on. That is unless you would like such an interruption, as many of these companies do offer that assistance. The final attribute is that they are capable. The stated function or feature that they promise has been aptly delivered.

To us, this is what we mean by commoditised software. Is the market ready? Only time will tell!

A UK Start-Up’s Viewpoint on the Paradigm Shift in e-Sourcing

We were recently asked to contribute our on-the-ground thoughts of the e-Sourcing market, as we witnessed it.  The original posting can be found here, although for ease we have included it below:

As a new entrant into the already crowded space of e-sourcing during a major economic downturn, it certainly makes for interesting times. After persevering though our first year, we can see many factors actually in our favour (and of course many against, but let’s focus on the positives).

First, procurement continues to gain visibility within organisations, as we know that an efficient procurement strategy can mean the difference between profitability and receivership. Having been both an engineer and a buyer, it is pleasing to see these professions gaining more traction at a board room level, although still maybe not as much as we’d have liked.

Secondly, there is a strong focus on reducing costs. Perhaps that is stating the obvious; however with sales ever tougher under increasing global competition, procurement is the area where you can really recover that lost profit. To quote a figure commonly bandied about during my time at Rolls-Royce, “a one percent saving could increase profits by as much as ten percent.”

Lastly, we perceive a paradigm shift in the e-sourcing market, which is why we chose to develop a SaaS (Software as a Service) application. As an aside, in our opinion, SaaS is just a re-branding of the type of companies formed during dotcom boom, except this time the internet infrastructure can cope with the delivery of their benefits.

The last fifteen years have definitely seen procurement technology come on leaps and bounds. It has evolved from pipe dreams to disparate applications to fully integrated ERP systems. These have been traditionally maintained by the local IT team and supported by a host of consultants with each required change to the interface or operating system costing the better part of an arm and a leg.

The shift that we thought we were predicting was the shift of this technology to online hosting, coupled with the rapid application of these e-Sourcing solutions to the SME and mid-tier market. In many ways we believed we were looking at the commoditisation (or “consumerization” as we learned to call it in the US) of the technology, embedded with more intelligence yet easy to use, professional and openly priced. We had thought that the larger companies were sewn up with the ERP behemoths who, even as we speak, are slowly moving to online hosting by development and acquisition. Parallels could also be drawn to the dotcom boom here, where large multi-nationals swept up the few successful e-providers who survived the bust bubble to give them that dynamic edge.

However, we seem to have got it wrong. We were too early — although we have found that being ahead of the curve is not such a bad thing. What we have hit upon is a lot of interest from large tier one companies desiring a simple, online, and accessible solution which can be used in parallel with or sitting on top of their existing ERP solutions, even if those systems already contain e-Sourcing modules. This is most certainly due to the slower reaction speed and migration period to true SaaS solutions exhibited by the larger providers.

What is the reason for this? Our view would be the need for accessibility and easy adoption. Niche SaaS providers offer uncomplicated, pay-as-you-go products that are easily accessible and have been designed with the end user in mind to deliver very focused solutions. In our case, it is to provide in-house sourcing professional tools for e-RFQs and e-Auctions which can be switched on and off with no implementation costs and very little training. Obviously the large providers are adapting, trying to catch up with different pricing models to counter the competition from the smaller, more nimble SaaS providers. Ariba has demonstrated this most recently with their “free” license option. However, the change in the way software is being delivered, combined with the customers desire for an uncomplicated product, at least lets us put our foot firmly in the door and, in the end, we still have the small and medium tier to approach. All in all, interesting times.

About: Market Dojo provides accessible e-sourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Market Dojo vs. eWorld – Round II, September 2011

Over a year old and apparently a lot wiser, would we be able to take the time out to tackle Revolution’s second e-purchasing event of the year? Is it worth attending? Will there be value in a biannual event?

I must admit that whilst stuck on the M4 into London, admiring the Lucozade advert and the well placed broken down vehicle causing a 5 mile jam, I had second thoughts.

However, on arriving at eWorld just after nine a.m., all the concerns evaporated, along with the oxygen debt from the sprint from the station! My fellow co-founder had set up the stand and was engaged in deep conversation. There was already a great feel to it. Obviously we weren’t the only ones to agree on its value and decide to pop along. The floor was busy, everyone engaged in conversation and lots of smiles.

Clair Boffey and Revolution had managed to again squeeze us in at the last minute in a great position at the foot of the stairs to the seminar rooms. Our bright-coloured stand and viral videos were catching more than a few people’s attention. With the fantastic London backdrop it really did set the scene for a great day and we even managed a small interview for the events show-reel (which can be seen Here).

The whole day went in a bit of a blur. Admittedly there seemed to be fewer delegates than in March, which seems normal for an event held later in the year, but in the end we only had minutes to spare in between discussions and live demos. For an exhibitor, you would think that the main time for engaging with the delegates is between the seminar sessions, although many delegates took advantage of the quiet periods for more detailed chats on our solution and our unique view on e-negotiation.

The main difference this time, apart from our dashing red ties and balloons on the stand, was that we knew many people there and they also knew us or knew of us. There were friendly faces passing by to see how we are getting on, many new people who had heard of us and also even a few customers.

At one point, we had our third co-founder come and join us. As a new business breaking out in this market, we are very fortunate to have been able to generate a real buzz in the e-purchasing community and it is an exciting time for us all.

eWorld is certainly the right place to meet companies interested in e-Procurement and it once again proves itself with real value and many conversations to follow up, a number of which have continued from the previous event in March. The corner has certainly been turned and we really feel that we have arrived.

As the day drew to a close, we only seemed to become busier and before we knew it, we were once again the only stand left as everyone else packed away amidst the complementary drinks. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and our only disappointment would be the lack of an after-show party – Revolution…maybe next time?!
About: Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Why we are so grateful for the ‘cloud’

Last month we surpassed the milestone of our first year in business.  Understandably we were delighted, as we read previously that up to four-fifths of start-ups fail in their first 12 months.  Yet we feel we are truly on our way to becoming an established player in this market, with a client list that is expanding rapidly.  However, when we look back at how we started Market Dojo, there is one aspect that stands out when assessing what helped us reach this goal, and that is the use of cloud technology.

For those who are not familiar with cloud technology, and to admit such a thing is akin to never having watched a Star Wars film or never to have heard a Beatles song, our take on it is the use of software or an application over the web on a ‘pay per use’ or monthly basis which you can use straight away with clear benefits.  Think Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube.  No installation, no set-up costs, and in many cases no fee.  If you like just think of it as the dotcom boom version 2.0, only this time it is here to stay!

When you consider any business, you will find it will most likely have office infrastructure to some extent.  Such infrastructure might include a phone system, an e-mail system, a fax system, an accountancy system, a CRM system, a calendar sharing system, a data storage system, a web-hosting system, or even a customer support system.  Clearly there can be a lot of systems and many of these are non-core to your business, meaning time and money spent in these areas would be detrimental to other areas of your business.

I can only imagine how much it might have cost us 15 years ago to cater for all these systems.  We would probably require a receptionist for the phones, a PA to manage the CRM, an on-site accountant, a very large printed calendar, an even larger filing cabinet and a staffed front-desk for our customer support.  We would then need a rather large room to host all this.

This takes me to why we are so grateful for the cloud.  At Market Dojo we have embraced the best of today’s technology to turn us into a professional company, as ultimately that is what we wish to extend to our clients.  
Our phone system is Skype, where you rent a phone number by the month and only pay for your usage, most of which is free.  This includes video conferencing, file sharing and instant messaging for everyone in our company and gives us a global presence by allowing us to rent or cease renting international phone numbers when we like.   Whilst Skype is not strictly cloud, as you do install software, you can log in across the world from any computer that has it or that you can download it to, so in many respects it is very similar.

Our CRM is Zoho.  We only pay per user per month.  It integrates with our other applications, including Skype, which means no repetition.  Within our own software development we have the approach of “Don’t Repeat Yourself” (DRY) which any business would be wise to apply to administrative tasks as well.  Zoho also caters for the customer support system on the same basis.

Data storage and sharing, calendar sharing and e-mail is all with Google Apps, which is completely free and is as robust as the google.com website, even though everything is still in beta!

Our accountancy software is Clearbooks.  Again, pay per month per user.  We can even add our accountant to it so that they never even need to set foot in the office, as we can upload all our receipts and invoices to Google Docs.
We don’t have any need for a fax system, but if we did there are plenty of cloud systems out there that charge per use.

And finally our web-hosting is all with an external hosting provider, secure and backed-up daily, paid monthly of course and with zero set-up costs.

The advantages that cloud technology has brought to us are simply enormous.  The most obvious one is cost.  If I were a sole trader, I would be able to set up and manage all of this for less than £600 a year.  I would need no training and no upfront capital expenditure.  To ‘house’ all of this technology, all I would require is a computer, in fact no, a smartphone.  It would take me all of about 3 hours to set up and I would be happily catered for until I was running a global empire, at which point some apps might start to creak at the edges.

The main risk that companies quote for not examining the cloud as a serious solution can be easily mitigated.  Data security is a major and very understandable concern.  However, with such a broad choice of hosting providers on the market, you can always source a provider that offers the necessary level of data protection, whether for personal use or for the Ministry of Defence.  You can also find cloud-based data back-up providers!

Another major objection is reliability.  Today though, the internet is probably less likely to fail than your internal LAN and with an increasing number of companies providing networks that are dual-hosted, these risks are diminishing.  In fact, you can actually end up with a more reliable solution than your own internal network.  For your servers, do you have back-up generators, CCTV, a fire suppression system, 24/7 security patrols, CESG accreditation, dual-hosting and multiple internet providers?  This is certainly what we look for in our hosting provider.

When you compare the old approach to starting a business and the new with all the technology that is now available to us, the two are worlds apart.   You don’t need capital expenditure for office infrastructure, nor the staff to manage it, nor the space to house it.  You don’t need a hardware refresh, nor have costly upgrades as you grow or as old technology becomes redundant.  There is a valid question over whether you need an office at all.  And best of all, you only pay for what you use.

Just like you do with us!

Our Press Release (A bit late!!)

Market Dojo celebrates their 1 year birthday!
Market Dojo, an innovative Bristol-based software company, recently celebrated their first year in business.  The company, incorporated on the 2nd August 2010, is looking to soon become global with potential clients in Greece, Peru, US and Germany.

Co-founder Alun Rafique reflected, “It has been a fantastic year in which we have learned a lot and come a long way.  We’ve been very surprised by the level of interest that we have seen, not just from the small-to-medium sized companies but also from the larger enterprises.”

Market Dojo offers easy to use, professional e-sourcing software to help businesses save time and money on their purchases. The key benefits of their software include increased efficiency, centralisation of information, repeatability, transparency and auditability of the sourcing process.

To date Market Dojo has helped their clients average savings of approximately 30% from e-auctions alone, as well as bringing major efficiency improvements for all involved.  The more standard Request for Quotation activities have seen similar results, which is all the more significant given each client averages 15 new sourcing activities a month.
Even more impressively, their clients have generated an average return on investment with Market Dojo of little over 2 weeks!

Alun Rafique looks forward to the next year with huge enthusiasm, “We have laid a great foundation for the future.  We have established the business and proven the benefits of our product, so it is now a case of expanding the sales and marketing activities to bring the benefits to many more companies.”

About Market Dojo:

We offer Business to Business e-Sourcing software [RFQ’s and Auctions] to help companies save time and money when negotiating for their goods and services.
Our guiding philosophy has been to develop cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) suited for the in-house professional.

It is designed around three core ideas:

Our software costs just £1,000 per sourcing event or £5,000 for a single-user annual licence to run as many sourcing events as you wish.

For more information please refer to www.marketdojo.com
Key contact: Co-founder Alun Rafique, 0117 230 9200, alun.rafique@marketdojo.com.

Why should you go for Best of Breed?

We were having a meeting the other day with a vastly experienced ex-CPO of many FTSE 250 organisations, whose counsel to us was that we should look at developing a fully integrated eProcurement toolset if we were to have a chance of working with FTSE companies. Given our current direction, it did get us thinking about the whole best of breed versus enterprise solution debate.

The main advantage of best of breed is that is allows customers to select the ‘best’ product for each requirement, rather than going for one tool that can satisfy every requirement in perhaps a sub-standard way. Time and again we have seen certain modules of these enterprise solutions gathering dust within an organisation simply because they are not a best fit yet organisations are paying the software companies for supporting these unused features. In worse cases, best of breed applications are still brought in to do the very same task, only better, leading to the company paying for the same requirement twice over.

It is frequently cited that enterprise solutions have less integration costs. However in many cases it can be far more costly to implement an ERP solution onto the current IT infrastructure and then to bespoke it to fit the specific requirements. Perhaps if there were any true SaaS ERP applications out there at the moment then maybe the implementation costs would be much less. However adopting a best of breed route opens up the choice in the market considerably, which in turn increases your negotiation potential, in the same way that a buyer might devise ‘Lots’ for a tender process. This becomes particularly prevalent when it may come to switching your provider, as the fully integrated solutions will be extremely challenging to dislodge, whereas you can phase out individual best of breed applications gradually.

Furthermore integration costs can be cut drastically, in terms of price, time and complexity, through the use of clever cloud-based integration tools that remotely link SaaS applications. Boomi, Pervasive and Cast Iron are some example solutions for this. Suddenly the potential to integrate best of breed solutions becomes even simpler, and all possible via the web, thereby greatly increasing the flexibility of this approach.

From our side, the first major hurdle we would have to overcome to become an enterprise solution is that we would need to develop the other modules, such as spend analytics, contract management, P2P, SRM, SIM, project management and so on. This would create huge development costs on our side, costs which would of course be transferred over to our clients. It would also mean our maintenance and upgrade schedules would be vastly more complex as our team has to keep an eye on tens of thousands more lines of software code, much of which cannot be refined in isolation but must be looked at as part of the bigger picture. Naturally, as soon as this happens, cracks appear in previously excellent products, functionality starts to suffer and the user experience is greatly diminished due to the increasing number of options that the user is presented with. It is no surprise that best of breed applications are more streamlined than the larger ERP solutions, as they only have to handle 99% of the capability. As soon as attempts are made to plug the final 1%, which can move them further into the ERP domain, the application becomes unwieldy.

Instead we could partner with best of breed vendors in each of the key areas, using cloud integration tools to integrate our respective solutions, and then our team can focus on our key strengths and plans, and our partners can focus on theirs. We could even have multiple partners within the same product type, for example contract management, so that we could present our clients with several possible solutions from the all-singing, all-dancing right down to the very basic.

The partnership between applications can create huge value. Just a casual glance through the Google Apps Marketplace and you can find thousands of best of breed applications, designed specifically for simple integration with Google Apps. Google could have kept all their software behind closed doors and prevented third parties from branching out. However Google recognises the innovation and perfection of solutions that is created by promoting such an open network of best of breed applications. We certainly use a number of these applications, such as Zoho and Oggchat, and thanks to the way that these applications can feed off the functionality of Google, the costs are extremely low and integration was a doddle.

So, the next time you are looking for a suite of solutions to cater for your procurement needs, please do bear in mind the best of breed approach and use it to create your own solution to perfectly fit your needs whilst keeping your options open for the future.

Market Dojo Interview with Buyers Meeting Point, November 2010

To get us started, give us a little background on Market Dojo and the team.

Two of the founding Directors, Alun Rafique and I, worked as cost reduction consultants for a nearly a decade combined. We helped companies like BP, Asda, Tarmac, Meggitt, Rolls-Royce and others to reduce cost and risk in their supply chains through strategic sourcing, tactical negotiations, supplier workshops and managed e-auctions.  During this time we noticed a gradual shift whereby companies wanted to carry out the activities in-house.  This gave us the seedling that became Market Dojo, the business-to-business e-auction software provider.

Our third Director, who used to work as an IT database specialist, but now currently designs complex data analysis software, has created solutions for companies like Tesco, Argos and Best Buy.  Therefore between us we feel we have all the necessary skills to create and manage an e-auction software company.  Our goal is to enable small and medium-sized businesses to run their own e-auctions successfully.

There are already so many players in the market – why enter the scene now?
We think that the timing is ideal.  We’ve noticed procurement organisations are facing new challenges as many of their clients who have enjoyed their services now wish to self-manage e-auctions to reduce costs.  Businesses have also learnt from the consultancies and there are an ever-increasing number of educational e-auction courses available.  Thus we have focused our company to supply the procurement professional with a commoditised solution.  We are not aware of any other e-auction providers that offer a product which is openly and reasonably priced (with no hidden prices or price escalations), yet easy to use and adopts professional processes to ensure success for third party use.  Furthermore the “cloud”, which is big news at the moment, allows us to provide the software-as-a-service solution to a very broad market with no set-up costs.

Our offering, which aims to provide businesses between $5m and $500m annual turnover with the tools required to run their own e-auctions, is very neatly spaced in its own market niche.  A number of our competitors would struggle to keep their skilled consultant workforce if they approached this market with our philosophy.  We believe this is exemplified by Ariba divesting their consultancy arm of the business to Accenture.  Both experienced professionals as well as complete novices are able to use our software.  We embed best practice into the software, which means our support costs will be greatly reduced.

One of the distinct things about Market Dojo is your credit based pricing system. Why did you choose to take this approach rather than just charging straight GBP for a license?
The credits model is to give us and our clients flexibility.  What we offer is a solution that caters for 90% of the e-auction market as standard, but with modular functionality to satisfy the remaining 10% of users, for example having bespoke categorised participant databases or using advanced reporting.  Our clients can expend credits to add such functionality to their account, if they so choose, and can make this choice once their experience and requirements develop, i.e. once they feel comfortable.

Credits also allow clients to consolidate their purchasing and invoicing transactions and allow them to continue to use their account uninterrupted. This works in the same way as something like ICIS LOR, the plastics and chemicals market price database.  Credits can be purchased in bulk by our clients to be used how they want, when they want.

For us the credit system is an advantage because the consolidated invoicing also aids our cash flow.  Furthermore the credits allow us to carry out some great marketing initiatives.  For example, exclusively for Buyers Meeting Point, sign up with Market Dojo before the end of 2010 and drop us a line quoting “Buyers Meeting Point” and we shall give you 25 free credits towards your first event, plus a further 25 credits in return for a case study.

One of the challenges of running a successful auction is being absolutely prepared. How you plan to be sure that users of the Market Dojo solution have positive results – not just because the software is useable but because they have the knowledge in house to follow a good process in advance?
We completely agree that the so called “plug and play” e-auctions can require just as much work as the consultancy-led managed auction process to be successful.  We have worked hard to inform our clients of the work and thorough process required, which is encapsulated in our free guides, yet by streamlining the process within the software we have managed to reduce the workload.

Whilst working as a consultant I recall assisting a client who wished to run their own e-auction.  After initially agreeing to proof-read their RFP, I ended up re-writing it for them, as well as adjusting the spend data and Lot structure.  However, despite our warnings, we just could not convince them to bolster the number of participants.  In the end they received a mere 3 qualification bids and during the e-auction itself just one further bid was placed.  It just demonstrated that the traditional “three bids and a buy” embedded itself in their process so firmly that even the e-auction became a part of it.  However, there is also an element that because the company sought to run an e-auction themselves via software from a consultancy, there was a blur in the roles and responsibilities, which ultimately caused it to fail.  At Market Dojo we counter this by clearly outlining the process in our guides and by taking on the clear role of a software provider.

Our past experience gave us a great learning platform to incorporate into Market Dojo. We have developed a number of features to make our clients, in their own capacity, run successful e-auctions. Firstly, we offer only self-managed e-auctions, therefore the clients know what to expect. To assist them we have created nearly 20 guides packed full of our consultancy knowledge and experience, which are free for all our users.  We have established our own community site, called Community Dojo, which encourages the free exchange of knowledge and learnings from running e-auctions and using Market Dojo. We have created professional, step-by-step software that has information help icons for every title, button and action that not just state information but provide advice and tips as well.  We also have professional support on stand-by in the form of e-mail, phone and Live Chat.

All of these features combined mean that we have used our past learnings to fuel the future success of our clients.  Nevertheless, although we do focus on the software, we are a new company and we would be happy to go the extra mile in return for a testimonial or referral to make sure that our clients exceed their targets.

What is ‘market price’ and how do I know I’ve found it?

I realised recently that this is a term we brandish about quite frequently at various meetings and conversations we have.   Occasionally we get nods of appreciation for the term, but more commonly we receive a look of faint recognition, as if it were a friend last seen in school days wearing braces and ill-fitting clothes.  So, perhaps it might be worth giving our take on the term, just to help freshen up the concept, plus a little advice on how you might seek it.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides the following:  “a price actually given in current market dealings”.

There are several key words in this definition.  Let’s take the word ‘actually’ for example, for the above sentence can make perfect sense without it, yet the insertion is deliberate.  It adds gravitas to the word ‘price’.  It is not a suggested price or an implied price or even a piece of estimation, but an actual price.

What we would interpret this to mean in the procurement world is that this price is genuinely valid and acceptable.  It has been submitted based on all the specified requirements of quality, technical, commercial, logistical, operational, administrative, health and safety and so forth.   In other words, it is real and it is based on a product or service that meets your needs.

Another key word is ‘current’.  A market price cannot be so if it is founded upon old or even future information.  It has to be based current facts and information.  If I purchased my property for £200,000 two years ago, I would be misinformed to say it is now worth the same.  And nor could I actually tell now you the market price for it in 6 months time.  If I want to know an accurate figure for my property today, I would consult the market today.  It’s the only way to be certain.

The same applies in procurement.  Where certain prices rely heavily on raw material costs, such as fuel or steel, don’t leave it to the supplier to hedge their bets on raw material price movements as part of their offer to you.  It won’t be a market price if this happens.  Instead, ask them to give you a price based on today’s raw material costs and to provide a raw material index mechanism for future price reviews.  This way no one needs to take a gamble and lose out.  Such a mechanism is fair, open and transparent.  Currency reviews should operate in the same way.

However, what this definition does leave open is that you could receive a number of so-called ‘market prices’.  Which one is the right one?

This is where we would go a step further.  We would classify a market price as, “the best actual price in current market dealings that is sustainable for the required term”.  It is in no one’s interest for the price to be so competitive that it causes a supplier to go out of business or conversely so uncompetitive that it causes the buying company to go bust.  So, put into plain English, we see the market price as being the best price for a product or service, based on current market conditions, that meets your needs and is sustainable for the duration you want.
So, if that is what the market price is, how do we go about finding it?

First you specify your requirements.   Second, you engage the market.  It’s as simple as that.  Think about something like Money Supermarket or Compare the Market.  By filling in your car insurance requirements, you are provided with up to 30 quotes.  The top two or three are usually around the market price level, i.e. the best price, based on current market conditions, that meets your needs and is sustainable for the period you require it.  Beware of spurious prices, the ones that look too good to be true, because usually they are! A bit of due diligence is required just to double-check that the quotes are based on what you require. You don’t want to later find out your excess, for example, is ten times more than the next best quote.

For procurement, it is a case of designing a robust RFQ or set of requirements, leaving as little scope for interpretation as possible.  Secondly, you distribute it to your own private market, whereby you should have a plentiful number of capable and interested suppliers. Finally, pick the top two or three bids and carry out that bit of due diligence to make sure everything has been understood and that the quotes are accurate.

The knack is in creating your market.  If you were to approach two suppliers down the road and get prices, would you say that you have approached the market?  No.  If however you approach 10,000 suppliers around the globe, would you say that you need a few more before you know the market?  Also no, you would say you have covered a sufficient number of bases.  Clearly something lies in between.

Thankfully this is where online sourcing technology can greatly help you by keeping everything together in an auditable and controlled manner, allowing you to involve huge numbers of suppliers.  My personal record was a sourcing exercise that involved 1,500 suppliers, of which 140 or so provided prices.  Having completed this, I was particularly confident I had found the market price.

However this is a one-off example.  The practical way to create and involve the market is to:
1) Outline your supplier criteria, such as geography, turnover, accreditations, capabilities etc.
2) Source suppliers using your contacts, your experience, trade shows, associations, sourcing agencies and databases such as Kompass, Hotfrog, Kellysearch, Applegate, Alibaba, TradeIndia and so on,
3) Qualify the suppliers against your criteria, using questionnaires and submitted responses if time permits.

Once done, send out the RFQ or grant the qualified suppliers access to it and simply manage any questions that come back.  Once all the prices are in, carry out the competitive negotiation, be it an e-auction or otherwise, and the market price will be revealed before your very eyes!

About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.

Gamification – An evolution in software design or just continuing the trend?

Recently there has been an article in Supply Management (issue 6th Jan 2011) and also on the UK Spend Matters blog by Peter Smith (3rd February 2011) touching on the subject of Gamification.

For those unfamiliar with the term, here is the Wikipedia definition:

“Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. Read More 

The gaming industries revenue is measured in tens of billions and it is growing at an almost exponential rate. They are obviously doing something right. 

Should the business software world take note and learn from this industry? Is it just a fad? Or is ‘Gamification’ just renaming of existing practices that companies are already engaged with whilst ignoring other elements of the gaming industry such as story telling which are central to games but not so relevant for business applications? 

There is quite an academic debate around this issue. This article is not about resolving this but to give a pragmatic viewpoint.

What you can say is that irrespective of the naming convention, it is obvious that the business world has a great deal to learn from the gaming industry. Software in the business world is becoming more useable, functional and can be easily customised, but misses the point if it is trying to learn from the gaming industry. 

The primary strength of the gaming industry is around the user experience. There are many other words that could be included here but it is the user experience which seems core to the uptake of their technology. There are many facets which make up the user experience: ease of use, attractive GUI, inbuilt intelligent tutorials, dynamic interfaces, fun to use, reward mechanisms, online communities, challenges, stories, scoring and so on… The list is endless and different applications will focus on different points.

The key is that the user engages with a very complex system easily and effortlessly to become proficient and then is self motivated to continue and progress and share information. It is the user experience which drives this however it is made up. You can’t say this about many (any?) business applications. Although you can certainly see that many modern websites and applications are starting to take on a different look and feel which seems to draw on important aspects of the gaming industry. They have taken on a more fun approach and well as a clearer and easier to use interface. Some nice examples here are Survey Monkey and Value my Stuff whose websites and functionality are laid out in very clear and simple steps.

Obviously business applications are always striving to become more user friendly, and this has been an industry trend for many years. However it seems that they always put functionality first above the user experience. They can continually make the user interface easier but it is by examining other industries such as the gaming sector that will result in an application which people want to use. If more business application started design by looking at the user experience and ultimately engagement first then there would be less multi million pound software implementations where much of the workforce don’t use to their full capability. We have spoken to companies who have Oracle and SAP implementations where they need to bring external consultants in to show them how to use the systems and increase uptake. Forcing users to uptake new technologies by changing processes is one way but wouldn’t it be great if users really wanted to use a new technology? 

Gamification, for want of a better word, seems to embody an incremental step change in the way business software applications are designed through the priority given to user experience.
You could just say it is a next level of design, but the word itself embodies a very specific element in the way design strategy is changing and there are other benefits to just user uptake. Games tend to be fun. This is because they are easy to use and encourage engagement. They tend to avoid repetitive tasks and focus on getting back into the thick of it. Thus the advantages of enhancing the user experience through design from the gaming industry in business applications will not just be around the faster uptake of the technology but also other areas such as reduced administration and efficiency.

One just has to look at Apple. It is very impressive how they have put the user experience first and have thus created a loyalty in their user base which continually grows. The IPhone has many little nuances which impress and you can see how it also makes the experience easier and richer. It seems they looked at the market and put the user first before putting in the functionality. (OK, still a good question around flash!)

At Market Dojo we believe the skill is not just around a nice looking GUI, or inbuilt tutorials but much more fundamental. Our philosophy is built around making a software product which people want to use rather than one that they simply can use. It seems this is now the goal of many other upcoming SasS vendors who are new to the market and it is a very interesting time for business applications and their evolution in design.

About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more atwww.marketdojo.com.  

10 (and a bit) things you didn’t know about Market Dojo

*This has since been beaten, and we have had a client register, purchase the software and run an auction within a 48 hour time period. Amazing! Some of our more experienced users are now so familiar with the process that they can turn set up an auction with questionnaires within 45 minutes.

About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more atwww.marketdojo.com.

What are the top things to do when starting a new Pay-per-click campaign?

I recieved a question on LinkedIn recently.  Specifically it was: “What are the top things to do when starting a new PPC campaign or optimizing an existing one?”.

Not really being an expert in this area but having learnt a lot through trial-and-error recently from our Adwords campaigns, below is the response I gave.  It happened to receive the “Best Answer” accolade on LinkedIn so I thought I would share it here, in case it may be of use to our readers;

1) Typically I’d begin by thinking what I am looking to advertise, particularly if my website has a number of different products or services. I’d build that top level list of products or services that I wish to promote.

2) I’d think about the landing pages I would want for each ad and whether my current webpages match the ad objective, or whether I need create a completely new webpage that would convert the customers better.

3) I would then get stuck into clustering my ads into groups that share the same keyword types, e.g. an ad group that has ads focused on tracker mortgages, another ad group that has ads focused on fixed rate mortgages, and so on, all within the campaign, “Mortgages”.

4) Once the ad groups are created, I’d try and get into the head of my target customer and think, what do they want to see, what would make then click the link, what would make my ad stand-out vs the competitors. This would then influence what I would write for my ads, e.g. “Best Tracker Rates for the most affordable mortgages on the market, click here” or whatever! It’s important that the ad must contain words that are relevant a) to what the customer wants, and b) the keywords you are going to apply the ad to.

5) Which brings us on to the keywords for each ad. Use various Google suggestion tools and those from other sites to research a great list of keywords, their revelance, their search frequency and your gut-feel for suitability. Apply those keywords and define a sensible bid price that won’t ruin you on day 1. With high volume searches you will have a good load of feedback very early on to then make refinements, keeping a close eye on your Quality Score (mostly based on the keyword Click Through Rate), AdRank (based on cost per click and Quality Score) and overall daily / weekly / monthly cost vs return.

6) So, with the objectives defined, the campaigns set up, the ad groups organised, the keywords targeted, the ads appropriate and the landing page catered for, all that I would then do is go live! Then monitor very closely for performance and not be afraid to make tweaks along the way.

About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more atwww.marketdojo.com.    

The Market Dojo eWorld Purchasing & Supply experience!

Despite being in existence for only 7 months, we decided to invest in exhibiting in the eWorld show, having recognised it to be the premier event to exhibit for organisations in the e-procurement market after several great recommendations.

Organised by the very personable and accommodating Claire Boffey from Revolution Events, we were fast-tracked at the very last minute for the March 2011 event at the QEII Conference Centre in the heart of London.   Our position was in a great spot sandwiched between two networking areas and adjacent to the buffet area which allowed us to chat with the hungry visitors.  The London Eye and Big Ben provided the fantastic back-drop to our stand.  Setting up in the morning was the greatest challenge, unravelling our pristine banner and laying out the freshly printed brochures, although the highlight was the relief sought after dropping the heavy cargo off my now-disfigured back!  Revolution Events were very helpful in making sure we had all we needed, helping us overcome the usual technical issues of connecting to the wireless internet.   Chatting to our neighbours left and right whilst setting up, we discovered we were in the presence of an ex-Dragon’s Den contestant, which provided a fun start to the day to learn the truth behind the scenes of a smoothly-edited television programme!

Our first visitor popped by shortly after 9am and by 9:30am we had a steady stream of engaging discussions.  We were able to give live demonstrations of the software which proved popular, as did our prize draw for a free e-auction, amongst other prizes.  One thing we did see was the very noticeable ebb and flow of visitors in harmony with popular presentations scheduled throughout the day, which meant that one minute all would be quiet and the next you would have people queuing up to talk with you.  This did become a tricky balance as you didn’t want to cut visitors short or allocate them a later time for fear of appearing rude, yet at the same time you couldn’t keep people waiting either.  Even with the four of us on the stand it did get a little frantic on occasion, but naturally we took this as a great sign of encouragement!  Bizarrely it took us until the afternoon to realise that rather than doing a full live demonstration of the software each time, we would be just as informative by talking visitors through the 2 minute demonstration video that we have on our homepage of the complete e-sourcing process.  I don’t know why it took us so long to think of this.

As the afternoon passed, the visitor numbers began to dwindle, as did the resoluteness in our feet.  We met our final visitor on the dot of 4:30pm whilst those around us were starting to pack up.  Looking back on it, we were quite fortunate for not packing immediately as our visitor had just arrived, saw that we were the only ones still going, and we now have an exciting meeting scheduled with them.  We also have already had a great meeting post-eWorld with one of our neighbouring stands and we have many more meetings lined up as well. It really was a brilliant day for generating numerous opportunities and I highly recommend eWorld to anyone else thinking of taking part, be it presenting a talk or sponsoring a stand.

We were also pleased to announce that the winner of the free e-auction out of our 30 or so entrants was the Alzheimer’s Society.  I hope that this will be of great benefit to them and a very worthy cause it is too.
About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.

Old versus new: why work with a start-up?

As a bootstrapped company trying to make our forays into a mature market, there is one major trait that we have that our competitors can never encroach and that is that we are a start-up, having only been in existence for 7 months.  However, is this a good thing that we should be exclaiming from the roof tops or does it have a negative connotation that we should surreptitiously conceal?  Well, here are some of the reasons for why it is a huge advantage to work with a start-up like ourselves as well as some of the common objections that we have seen since our inception.

The advantages

Enthusiasm: Start-ups are typically founded by individuals who are experts in their field.  Start-ups are also hugely conscious that referrals and testimonials are their key to success.  The best way of ensuring the referrals is to go the extra mile and this is exactly what any self-respecting start-up will do.  Combine expertise with boundless desire to excel and you have a fantastic offering.  Take us for example, for our first client we analysed over £12 million of spend data and made recommendations on tender strategies at no additional cost, simply because we wanted to exceed all expectations.  The attitude of start-up isn’t just “can do”; it is “will do”.    This positive mentally can be very contagious and is hugely refreshing in a market that has gone a bit flat.

Flexibility:  Market feedback is important to all companies, but none more so than for start-ups.  In combination with the willingness, start-ups can act on requests, suggestions and continuous improvements on almost a daily basis.  The number of times we have encountered a company who is unhappy with their provider as they have failed for the nth time to listen to their request.   A start-up feels ashamed even when a client has to make a request for the first time, “doh, why didn’t I think of that already – I’ll get it done tomorrow!”.  We use start-ups ourselves for many of our requirements and on occasion it is almost like they read our mind as we think about a feature, “wouldn’t it be nice if it did so-and-so” and later that week there it is!

Accessibility: If you were to call our switchboard phone number, you will be answered by one of the founders, equipped with the in-depth knowledge of our company, our clients, our software and our expertise.  If you are the client phoning our switchboard, then we’ll know you very well indeed!   How many times have you called a company switchboard and not even been put through to someone, even if you have a serious issue?  If your internet fails, for example, it could take hours to get through to someone who can help.  With the majority of companies, if you send an e-mail after 5pm it won’t be looked at until 9am the following day, at which point it is buried in a list of a hundred other e-mails.  Send a start-up an e-mail, you’ll likely have a response within 20 minutes, even at 9 o’clock at night.  Again, these kind of free service levels are frequently overlooked but they really do add value.

Innovation:  Start-ups are not content with the status quo.  Start-ups wish to grow their products and services, to innovate and to expand into new markets.  By working with a start-up that has such raw energy and drive, a client can feed from it and use it to their advantage.  Help influence the creation of products that will set you apart from your competitors.  Use their services to enthuse and educate your employees.  Start-ups have an eye for an opportunity and they will not hesitate to make suggestions to their clients for improvements to their way of working.  After all, it is in the interest of the start-up that their clients are growing in the right direction as well and so expect a symbiotic relationship that you may not get elsewhere.

Typical objections

Financial risk: Certainly there is a risk that a start-up can decide the pull the plug at a moment’s notice and so it is wise to have mitigation plans in place.  However in reality start-ups are more in control of their budgets than many large companies. For example we know our balance sheets implicitly and we don’t have long-term costly expenditures like employees, leases, supply contracts and so on that would drag us into the red when quiet periods occur.  In fact we can exist on a shoestring so that any money that comes in from our clients is largely re-invested into our software to benefit our clients further.

Inexperience:  A question you cannot avoid as a start-up is “who are your clients?”.  Naturally when a client wishes to work with a company, they want the reassurance they are not the guinea pig or the crash test dummy.   Unfortunately we encountered this many times in our very early days and we were honest by saying we had none.  Now some people immediately saw the advantages, as listed above, whilst others would be visibly put off by this.  Prospective clients, when faced with this situation, should bear in mind the advantages of working with a start-up and should entertain the prospect of requesting freebies in return for feedback, market penetration, referrals and testimonials.   As a start-up, we would far rather have this response from a client than a categorical “no thank you”.  And remember, whilst the start-up may be inexperienced, the people within it are frequently highly skilled and are quite the opposite.

Reliability:  As start-ups may not have proven foundations or products, prospective clients can be very hesitant to work with them on the basis that failure is deemed more likely than with an established outfit.  This is a very understandable concern and it is rather challenging to overcome.  You can make promises until you are blue in the face yet they will never be a method of prevention.  Whilst we carry out product testing each and every day for a myriad of scenarios, we cannot guarantee that everyone else in the world who uses our software will not find a fault.  However, this is not just restricted to start-ups.  Every organisation in the world has a risk of product failure, just think of Microsoft!  However, try as you might to get Microsoft on the phone to come round and fix your problem, at least with a start-up you can be rest assured that the moment you tell them of your troubles, they are probably in the car on the way over to see you!

Resource constraints:  It is recognised that start-ups typically have all hands on deck at any given moment.  This means that if a prospective client does come along with a significant project, the risk that delivery is compromised or even never materialises is significant.  Naturally, being a start-up they may not be so inclined to turn down business and so the ambition can lead to over-ambition if not carefully managed.  Clients recognise this and do take comfort from larger companies who can bring in extra resource if required.  Nevertheless, larger companies do have carefully controlled budgets and will not allocate additional resource unless there was something in it for them.  Compare this with the aforementioned passion and drive that start-ups possess and you may find that a start-up with a “whatever it takes” attitude will work a 12 hour day, 7 days a week at no additional cost and is able to achieve more than a larger company can with double the resource.  Furthermore start-ups quickly build up a network of like-minded individuals as they propagate through the market and so they can draw on partners with the same ethos if the work does mount up.

Summary
I hope that this has provided some insight into the perspective of a start-up and the challenges we encounter and how we actually think they can be positives.  I suppose from the tone I have adopted for this article I have answered my own question posed at the beginning: being a start-up is something to be proud of.   I have encountered companies that advertise their ‘US office’ which is little more than a dedicated mobile phone sitting on the bosses desk in the UK, all for the appearance if seeming bigger than they are!  Being labelled as a start-up is a privilege with a perishable timescale, so make the most of it whilst you can.  Who knows, that start-up you partner with could even become the next Google!

About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.

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