“We were on a hyper-growth trajectory and going through multiple acquisitions a year,” recalls Lacey Ford, former Senior VP of Marketing at insightsoftware, a financial reporting solution provider. After 14 acquisitions in the space of just a couple of years, "what we needed was to build the foundational elements to scale the business as quickly as possible,” Lacey explains.
From a marketing perspective, there were three fundamental areas insightsoftware needed help developing: getting the team structure right, building the data infrastructure, and scaling the demand gen engine.
Read on to hear how Lacey and insightsoftware managed to:
Lacey started looking at various consulting options in search of an organization that could come in and be an extra set of helping hands. As well as needing an expert opinion, Lacey explains, she was looking for "somebody I could trust to run a certain area of the business for me while I was working on other things.”
Most of the consultants Lacey interviewed were too focused on the implementation side to suit insightsoftware's needs. “They wanted to come in and gut everything and rebuild,” she says, “and I didn't have the luxury of that.”
Then, Lacey was introduced to How To SaaS founder and CEO Shiv Narayanan by a board member. In contrast to many other consulting options, she quickly realized that "Shiv and I could work side by side to create and rebuild everything that needed to be done at the same time. He could actually be an extra set of hands in it versus just a high-level consultant who was going to talk to us about systems and have a hefty implementation.”
insightsoftware started working with How To SaaS in the fall of 2019. For their marketing team, the transition to working with an external consultant was a smooth one. “Because Shiv had the background experience of being in my shoes, knowing exactly how to operate and how to answer to the rest of the C-team and the board, he had credibility from day one in my book,” Lacey says. "He was asking questions, I was giving him my ideas, and he was validating that or challenging them. It was just really easy to work together."
As a key marketing leader, Lacey worked closely with the How To SaaS team. “Shiv and I worked great together,” Lacey says. “He's very to the point and very quick. That was helpful because that's my style as well. We would touch base weekly and talk about what needed to be done that week. Then he would run in one direction, I would run in the other, and we would regroup when we needed to."
insightsoftware were looking for ways to optimize demand gen. In particular, they wanted to build the foundation for an inbound engine. Through the engagement, How To SaaS and insightsoftware uncovered opportunities in the digital ads and the way the paid search account was structured to leverage these more effectively.
“What we were trying to do was to increase inbound traffic and inbound lead generation from about 25% to 50% of the marketing funnel,” Lacey says. “That happened over about a six-month period. We had to first build the foundation with Shiv and then let it play out, but it doubled our inbound lead generation.”
insightsoftware's acquisition-driven environment meant that achieving full-funnel data visibility was a challenge. “Because we were bringing together all of these companies, we were really struggling with how to set up the appropriate systems and funnel metrics,” Lacey says. They needed proof of which channels and campaigns were performing in order to make informed decisions about where to focus marketing budget and firepower.
Even with How To SaaS's support, insightsoftware wasn't able to completely solve this challenge — “there were just too many gaps,” Lacey explains, “and there were so many disparate datasets.” However, How To SaaS did help insightsoftware increase visibility into marketing performance. “It did allow us to show where we were potentially over-investing or under-investing,” Lacey recalls. For example, “events are always one of those big things that people want to invest in and you don't necessarily see the return from that, so that was a good one to prove out," Lacey says. "It validated the direction we were going.”
insightsoftware were initially working with a small marketing team, but they knew they needed to grow the team with the appropriate skillsets to achieve growth targets
Shiv and How To SaaS helped insightsoftware develop an appropriate and effective structure for the team. Plus, to assist with choosing the right team members, Lacey asked Shiv to play a role in the interview process. “When I found a good candidate, I validated that with Shiv," Lacey says. "I had him talk to people and say if this would work out or not and if he or she has the skill set that we need to create the scalable engine.”
This hiring process paid off. “Honestly, it ended up being one of the best marketing teams - if not the best marketing team - I've ever worked with,” Lacey says. “It was a high-functioning team with really strong individuals, and Shiv played a big part in that by vetting those people.”
Rather than causing a fundamental shift in insightsoftware's marketing approach, Lacey feels that the engagement benefitted the marketing organization by validating the strategy they were pursuing. “It definitely strengthened it and strengthened the strategic vision," she says.
Lacey explains that the engagement also opened her team's eyes to the need to balance short-term and long-term priorities and targets — particularly in the private equity environment. Aligning with the board on appropriate expectations "was one of the biggest growth areas for me personally," she says. The input of How To SaaS showed Lacey and her team the importance of setting expectations with the board about the long-term nature of some activities. It helped them show early indicators that, although they could validate certain opportunities in the short-term, it might take four to six months before they saw the fruits of their labor.
Lacey is confident that insightsoftware will continue to see the longer-term benefits of their work with How To SaaS. “We saw the growth of the inbound engine, and demand generation became more of the machine we were looking to build," she says. "It was highly, highly successful and I'm sure it's still going that way today.”
Although Lacey has since moved on to a new position, she continues to draw from her experience with the engagement. “I took some of the learnings — particularly about structuring the paid search accounts and how to look for additional opportunities with paid search, for example — I've taken that into my next role,” she says.
For Lacey, the key to getting the most value is to have a dialogue with the How To SaaS team. “Just be open about the challenges,” Lacey advises. “And don't be afraid to challenge How To SaaS: if there's something you agree with or don't agree with, talk through it and get through it. It sounds so cheesy, but lean into the advice and see how it'll play out in the long run.”
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