How Does a 100% Remote Tech Business Develop First-Rate IT Projects?
Working 100% remotely and having Slack as a virtual office, SoftwareMill has a 10-year history of developing IT projects (just like Polidea or 10Clouds).
Listed in Top 10 Polish Custom Software Development Firms by Clutch, SoftwareMill is now moving towards building its own products and embracing blockchain. While they are developing one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in Europe, one of their pillar blockchain products is blockchain agnostic transaction monitoring tool - CryptoHarvester.
In 2018, for the second time in a row, SoftwareMill was among the winners of the biggest stationary hackathon in the world, HackYeah! The challenge was...a blockchain project. I wonder why? :))
Besides Blockchain and Crypto, they are Scala evangelists, being very much involved in the Scala community.
They even organize a conference around it!
So we’ve got the community, we’ve got passion...what else for SoftwareMill?
You’ll just have to find out next in our analysis where we let all secrets aside and investigate the strategies that brought SoftwareMill on the verge of success.
SoftwareMill - the Marketing Strategies Reverse Engineered
B2B marketing is going through a revolution, with a number of trends completely redefining what it will take to be a market leader over the next five years.
Shifting loyalties, savvier customers, automation tools, advanced analytics are transforming marketing from art to science.
Is SoftwareMill aligning with the new trends?
This is what we’re trying to find out next. We’ll reverse engineer the marketing and branding strategies to see what is fueling the SoftwareMill growth.
So, let’s move!
TABLE OF CONTENT
SoftwareMill - From Outsourced IT Projects to Building Own Products
From Big Data, web and mobile apps, UX/UI design to consulting, SoftwareMill seems to know it all.
Is it really so? Let’s dive our noses into what former clients have to say about how SoftwareMill delivers IT projects. It seems they are:
- Proactive and passionate
- Communicating really well
- Highly skilled in project management
- Delivering quality results at affordable rates
- Committed and proving to be great at customer care
From startups to enterprises, SoftwareMill projects are various: FinTech, telecom, e-commerce, energy, and logistics.
Now, SoftwareMill fell in love with blockchain and building its own products.
Check these out:
- A ground station software for PW Sat 2 satellite built by Students’ Space Association
- The aforementioned blockchain agnostic transaction monitoring tool - CryptoHarvester
- Lawyer firms marketplace platform
- PoC of their own real-time indoor location tracking system - or how to turn an IT project into an innovative product http://indoor.softwaremill.com/
It takes some courage to move beyond the outsourcing stereotype. But this is a eat or be eaten game. Time will tell who will last until the end.
Now, the floating question is: how do you market services, products and most of all - a brand? How can you make your voice heard in a fiercely competitive market?
Well, we’re just gonna have to find out, won’t we?
We’ll drill into SoftwareMill’s digital marketing strategies, analyze the social media presence and branding building.
Before jumping into the analysis I want to give you some hints about what’s coming up next.
We’ll find out which are the main SoftwareMill assets in the new era of IT outsourcing:
- Conferences, meetups, workshops, hackathons, open-source contributions: SoftwareMill is everywhere, no wonder 50% of their website traffic is direct
- Building the proper employer brand
- Using Medium as a blogging platform can open up doors for your business
Follow me for more.
Brand Awareness at SoftwareMill
Today, digitalization is forcing companies to take a closer look at their brands so they can consistently cover the digital touchpoints. In a digital age, brands can be stronger than ever or more vulnerable than ever.
Now, news travel with the speed of light and if you don’t do well conflict management, customer care, you’re kinda screwed. Because it’s all being broadcasted live in the social media channels.
But enough with the chit-chat and let’s analyze the SoftwareMill branding efforts.
- 5th in Top Custom Software development companies in Poland, by Clutch. It’s Warsaw peer 10Clouds sits on the 4th place.
- 12th in Top 50 Blockchain Companies by The Manifest
- among the top 5% of all teams screened by Digital Knights experts, a tech due diligence company that assesses the quality and performance of tech teams worldwide.
SoftwareMill’s Social Media Presence
As I’ve mentioned before, one of the social media’s super-powers is that it’s really useful in building the business brand or the employer brand.
On the other hand, it can also open Pandora’s box, when things are not done ok.
So, what about SoftwareMill, how does it build its social media presence?
Facebook is very much used to build employer branding. Posts are related to the company culture, events they organize or attend.
They emphasize a lot on the fact that they are a 100% remote company.
Jobs are being posted on the Facebook page. From what we’ve seen so far, this is natural for software houses. It would be weird not to see this pattern.
Their Medium content is shared to prove that they are really knowledgeable in the field. They want to establish themselves as Scala and Blockchain experts.
The Twitter profile also goes two ways: employer branding and proving expertise in Scala or Blockchain.
Lots of events are promoted, from workshops, meetups to the Scalar Conference they organize annually. They have a different Twitter account dedicated to the Scalar Conference.
And the blog articles are not left out either.
The LinkedIn account is really focused on building employer branding, community building and sharing knowledge. Client acquisition is not in the spotlight, unlike the case of the other software houses.
Blog articles are featured here, in an attempt to prove expertise in the field.
IT Projects are featured in order to prove they are really skilled.
SoftwareMill is also highly involved in open source. They contribute and host plenty of projects, such as: sttp, MacWire, Quicklens, and Tapir.
SoftwareMill is portraying a company culture where they learn together, share knowledge, celebrate success, get involved in the community.
Community Building at SoftwareMill
Engaging stakeholders customers in an honest and candid dialogue is becoming the cornerstone of marketing.
SoftwareMill truly understands this and lives by this mission.
And because they are really passionate about community involvement and Scala (the language embraced by Netflix, Amazon, LinkedIn, Walmart or Coursera) they began organizing the Scalar Conference in Warsaw.
Some of the videos from the conference can be found on their Youtube account.
Next, we’ve got meetups they sponsor or organize, hackathons they attend, conferences they partner with....really really busy guys.
SoftwareMill partnered with students from Politechnika Warszawska to launch in space the 4th Polish artificial satellite! They contributed to this project by developing the PW-Sat2 Ground Station web app to communicate with the satellite!
Now, remember when I said SoftwareMill is turning 10 this year?
They are celebrating big time (they even have a dedicated subdomain to promote the anniversary).
How do they celebrate?
Through sharing knowledge. Yeah, they stand by their mission: webinars and meetups.
Employer Branding and Hiring
Today, people are increasingly mobile, able to easily switch from one job to another. There’s a hunt for talent, especially in the tech landscape.
Finding the magic formula for attracting and retaining employees is daunting. So, employer branding is critical these days, but how does SoftwareMill cope with the challenge?
Using social media, SoftwareMill is portraying a picture where employees have fun, have lots of learning opportunities, and feel like a big happy family.
They’re experimenting also with the transparency and management structure, check this out:
“In fact, a well-organized team, mutual trust and a sense of responsibility, as well as confidence in success, have made SoftwareMill operate as a teal organization from 2013. It introduced a flat management structure, full transparency — both decision making and financial. Oh, and everybody became a CEO overnight!”
They encourage learning a lot, be it technical knowledge or not.
This is why they’re holding reading club meetings and internal keynotes about the newest things someone has just discovered. They take their never-stop-learning-approach outside the company.
You can spot them attending numerous meetups and sharing the things their recently learned in a form of a blog post series: “TMWL - This Month at SoftwareMill We’ve Learned., where team members answer questions about what programming discoveries they made during the past month: see here Aug.
More about their culture on their blog.
Moving on to career opportunities, SoftwareMill is looking to hire developers and engineers.
The salaries and perks are transparent. They’re the only ones, so far, calculating the salary per day, net.
For hiring, SoftwareMill makes use of Facebook video ads:
As SoftwareMill is 100% remote company, they are serious about having a remote-first work environment and helping their newcomers onboard in a distributed workplace smoothly.
Recently they published the SoftwareMill’s Handbook for New Employees which describes 101 on how the work at SoftwareMill looks like and what to expect on your first days. Plus some tips on organizing an effective remote work for yourself.
Also, they have created a Slack channel where they can interact with potential employees, might they have any questions.
The layout of the website is simple and easy to navigate.
The menu is self-explanatory.
How is trust built on the website? Through testimonials.
And the portfolio page.
How can a prospect get in touch with them? A contact form, email, Skype.
In terms of conversion rate tools, according to Similartech, SoftwareMill is using Hotjar for heatmaps and session recordings.
SoftwareMill’s Traffic Acquisition
80%+ of the desktop website traffic comes from direct and search sources (according to Semrush).
In terms of direct traffic, I’m assuming the 27%+ (one of the highest seen so far for software development companies) is due to:
- Community events (meetups, conferences) where they promote their website
- No UTM tracking added to their links
- Sales activities: cold sales emails, events networking (they have at least 3 team members in charge of business development)
The main market is the US, where mobile traffic is also the most significant.
The organic traffic has reached its tipping point at the beginning of 2018 and went all the way to 5800+ visitors in November 2019 - on the US market only.
I’ll analyze the content strategy from the reach and act points of view (see RACE framework)
Organic traffic is a very important traffic source for SoftwareMill. And most of all that traffic comes to the blog. The blog is an important awareness touchpoint for all the tech companies we’ve analyzed so far.
The blog is updated about 2 or 3 times a week. They praise in having 80 blog articles written in 2018.
The topics covered are mostly technical, and some of them also deal with business-related subjects.
80% of the team members get involved in content writing (engineers included)! SoftwareMill’s Tech Blog is updated 2-3 times per week, mostly with blog posts written by developers, for developers.
Blogging on Medium
Medium’s readers skew a lot towards topic categories such as tech, design, marketing, startups, business.
So, it’s an audience these software houses need. And let’s not forget that Medium gets an estimate of 110M+ monthly visits (as per Sermrush). Also, through having a 94 domain authority, Medium content can show up in SERP, on really competitive keywords. The same post on a lower-authority domain would probably get buried.
So, take a look at these interactions:
And take a look at that! They managed to rank one of their articles in the “Popular on Medium” list. Good job! This got them a do-follow backlink (on the short term) from Medium.
One of the most important Medium contributors for SoftwareMill is Adam Warski, one of SoftwareMill's co-founders. He's also really involved in the community they are building around the company. A personal brand is shaping nicely.
Check this out: social media traction for the Medium blog articles: Reddit, Facebook or Twitter, the average engagement being 62/article (higher than what we’ve analyzed so far). It’s all because of the new audiences they got access to.
Regarding the top pages, the blog pages get most of the traffic, as expected.
Organic Traffic Data
The keywords that rank organically on the first page are technical: cassandra, elastic search, scala...
The number of organic keywords began ramping up since spring 2018.
But in order to land on the first page of organic results good original content ain’t enough. Good quality links are one of the most important ranking factors. A combination of the two would create authority in the eyes of Google.
SoftwareMill is receiving some strong do-follow backlinks. They link both to the website and the blog.
Other Types of Content
Moving on from the blog, we have case studies of their IT projects and presentations. All with a mindset of proving knowledge and educating the audience.
People can discover SoftwareMill also on Slideshare, a lot of content gets repurposed there.
At the act (interact) level, we look at content that drives action from the audience, from ebook downloads to newsletter signups and more.
Let’s see what is SoftwareMill up to in order to get leads.
As blockchain is one of their core services and area of expertise and especially in this field there is a need for raising awareness, so the right problem is addressed with the right technology, they published the “Blockchain Adoption Kit eBook” addressed to businesses looking for answers on blockchain adoption. The ebook includes a perspective on a Blockchain future from 8 Blockchain and Crypto experts.
They also curate content in newsletters:
Ok, now I’m considering SoftwareMill as a potential partner, what now? I am not ready yet for a full purchase. There you go: a free trial. Just take us for a 2 weeks ride!
This means we’ve got three touchpoints with a purpose of lead generation: ebook, newsletter, free trial.
So, which are today’s takeaways?
It seems that for SoftwareMill the ingredients of success are about:
- Having excellent software development and project management know-how and sharing it openly
- Innovating with the organizational structure - don’t be afraid to experiment, from 100% remote to bottom-up organizational structure
- Building its own products - this is the new and natural step for IT outsourcing companies. When you build your own product you also achieve a monthly recurring revenue, which can make a company more financially stable
- Building a community around the company: events, events, events, make your voice heard! Pick your weapon: participate, sponsor, organize, speak.
- Be where your audience is, Medium is an opportunity to take advantage of
- Creating content that’s valuable in the community, that comes up with solutions for the pains of your stakeholders (buyer persona, employees, partners...)
Man, so many stories to learn from!
Stories of growth, of opening up to opportunities, of breaking down barriers and stereotypes.
The show must go on in the Central and Eastern European IT outsourcing playgrounds.
And we’re here to watch and learn.
Each month we go live on our blog with a new growth story. But, for those of you who are very eager to spy on the successful tech companies in Poland, then, this is for you: The Growth Marketing Secrets of Top European Software Houses - Poland Edition 2020.