Mike Lipps, CEO at Intelerad, has been working with private equity-backed companies for years, so he understands what it takes to rapidly scale small, founder-led organizations. “Functions like demand generation and brand building need to become more process-driven instead of individual heroic catches,” Mike explains. So when Mike and private equity investors Hg came to Intelerad in 2020, the demand generation process was one of the areas they looked at first.
Intelerad’s platform was clearly creating value for customers: They had sky-high customer satisfaction ratings, including net promoter scores of 55+. The company was achieving consistent double-digital organic growth based on the quality of the product and word of mouth, but Intelerad wasn't as well-known as its customer success deserved.
Intelerad's demand generation was primarily event-driven, boiling down to one or two key events that drove 85%+ of the pipeline for the year. Relying heavily on a single demand gen channel should be a concern for any business, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and restricted in-person events to almost nothing, Intelerad was forced to rethink this strategy. How could they continue to generate demand and keep the business’s growth trajectory? Intelerad realized they needed to build a more robust, scalable, and consistent pipeline generation and customer engagement process—and fast.
Mike had previously worked with How To SaaS as CEO of Insight Software, so he knew from first-hand experience that the How To SaaS team could support Intelerad through this type of marketing transformation. “What the How to SaaS team has done for us is transform these marketing organizations from individual, inconsistent, people-driven organizations to process-driven ones,” Mike says.
Read on to learn how Intelerad worked with How To SaaS to:
Intelerad needed to rapidly scale marketing. Since they didn't have a fully-staffed marketing organization yet, Mike knew they needed a partner who would come in and operate as part of the marketing organization, and even lead parts of the marketing process.
“Not all consultants have both the capability and the desire to play an operating role,” Mike explains. Most consultants will only provide an execution plan, but Intelerad benefitted from the How To SaaS team's willingness to proactively help them run marketing. “We've been lucky that we're working with a group that has the operational chops," Mike says, "in addition to just the functional experience.”
Intelerad also needed to ensure the consultants they brought in were a good fit for their business model and team. “With any kind of third party or vendor or consultant, what you don't want is an organ rejection,” Mike explains, “when the core organization looks at this new voice coming in and keeps them at arm’s length. They don’t believe they'll create value because they don't think they understand our market and our space.” Without buy-in from the existing team, consultants are likely to meet with resistance that slows the implementation and limits results.
How To SaaS showed the Intelerad team some opportunities and approaches they could take advantage of quickly and inexpensively, giving the team confidence in their suggestions. As a result, “those barriers got broken down very, very quickly," Mike says, "And that obviously leads to a faster return on investment.”
In many organizations, marketing is the proverbial black box and marketers struggle to articulate ROI. When investors question the logic behind the marketing budget and the return it's generating, the marketing team has difficulty answering those questions.
“To me, the outcome of Marketing isn't about leads created, marketing qualified leads, or sales accepted leads,” Mike explains. “All those things are interim milestones. It's got to generate sales with a positive ROI.” As CEO, it's critical for Mike to be able to show the dollar return on every dollar Marketing spends.
Before Intelerad could start expanding into new demand gen channels, they needed to organize their data to see which experiments were worth running. "The science of marketing, in my opinion, is only as good as the underlying data," Mike explains. "Before you can focus on sexier marketing plans like restrategizing content marketing or expanding into account-based marketing, you have to spend time analyzing and understanding the data."
Often, this is easier said than done. "It’s difficult for businesses to find marketing help that doesn’t just teach you the science but who are willing to go and figure out the quality of the data, where the gaps are, and, ultimately, how to transform it to a meaningful format," Mike says.
But from working with How To SaaS in the past, Mike knew that their team would dive into the data and help them pull out the insights that would make a difference. “That's one of the key things we've leveraged the How To SaaS team to be able to do,” he explains. How To SaaS helped create value for Intelerad early on by normalizing and cleaning the data so Marketing could develop the programs based on a strong data foundation.
With How To SaaS, Intelerad looked at what was driving the current demand, how customers think about the brand, and how they compared to other brands in the industry based on the data.
Although Intelerad's demand generation still has a way to go before it's where they'd like it to be, Mike is excited about the “green shoots” that the How To SaaS team helped them identify and his own team is starting to action.
Thanks to the focus on marketing data throughout their engagement, Intelerad was able to make informed decisions about the outcomes they would see from increasing spending in certain programs by 10 or 20%, for example. “It makes it easier for me to go to my board,” Mike explains. The marketing organization could prove that they weren’t asking for increased dollars based on a vague hope of more effective lead generation. Instead, they could run controlled A/B testing based on the expertise they were bringing in by partnering with How To SaaS.
How To SaaS reviewed Intelerad’s existing website and the sources of organic and inorganic traffic. Based on their experience, the How To SaaS team made quick and relatively inexpensive recommendations on some of these “green shoots” that Intelerad could better leverage. “Now we're taking that mentality from the website and some of the online processes and we're applying them to channels like content,” Mike says.
How To SaaS also helped Intelerad explore account-based marketing as a demand gen channel. ABM hadn't historically been part of Intelerad’s playbook and they hadn’t focused on the opportunity to grow the business by scaling individual customers or share of wallet.
Intelerad started exploring some of the specific plays that inform what to market, to whom, and when, and how to take advantage of their existing customer data to position themselves to grow. “This is an entirely new motion for us,” Mike explains, “and it's one we're still in the very early days of. The process of identifying that with the How to SaaS team and sizing the opportunity to justify making some investments was pretty eye-opening.” Now, Intelerad is looking for new marketing hires who can bring that experience and help the business continue growing its account-based marketing activities.
Intelerad's driving force behind this marketing transformation was to build the foundation to scale to a much larger business.
So far, Mike says, “one of the biggest outcomes for me as the CEO is that I have a higher confidence in how to structure and size an appropriate marketing budget for the organization going forward, based on the work that we've done in the past few months.”
Mike can now confidently present to his board on the areas where they’re planning to increase spending, the level of investment they’ll start with, and the return they expect to get. Over the next three or six months, he expects to see which of these bets are worth doubling down on and which ones might not be.
This is a significant outcome for Mike, particularly considering that it has resulted in approval to fund these experiments in the middle of the fiscal year. For most businesses, Marketing might present at this stage and the board might agree that their ideas are worth exploring, but Marketing won’t get the money to action them until the beginning of the next fiscal year. Because Intelerad had the right data to support their proposal, “we were able to take this early work, bring it to the board, show them the way we were going to do it, and get approval to test out some of these bets in-year.”
With the confidence they gained in the categories of marketing spend and the hypotheses they were putting in place, Mike and the Intelerad team were able to start testing initiatives to see their impact on driving pipeline and, ultimately, conversion.
"When you find a firm that can help, the tendency is to throw everything at them all at once," Mike says. It's a tempting idea: Putting points on the board in these kinds of engagements delivers good outcomes for shareholders and gives investors a reason to spend more, as well as winning the hearts and minds of your employee population.
However, this isn't the wisest approach, Mike warns. When it comes to data, the key question shouldn't be 'how can we get more metrics?' but 'what are we going to do with those metrics?'.
“Think about the outcome you want to get first. Lots of organizations have lots of pains and things they want to accomplish. What's most critical to you? What are you really trying to achieve?”
Mike advises clarifying how you’re going to use the data to drive more sales with a better ROI—"otherwise," he points out, "why would you waste the time to measure?"
To make sure the engagement drives results where you need them most, Mike suggests narrowing in on what you really want to achieve: "Prioritize, be disciplined on where you want to drive the needle most, and start there."
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