Most PE-backed businesses aren't getting the full value from Marketing as a growth lever.
To start changing that for your portfolio companies, take a look at Shiv Narayanan's new book, Post-Acquisition Marketing: How to create enterprise value in the first 100 days. Here's what you'll learn:
One of the key areas the book covers is how to effectively shift Marketing's accountability. Below is an excerpt from Post-Acquisition Marketing that reveals:
“I need to know the truth, and I need to know it fast.”
Those were Henry’s first words on his first call with me, shortly after Fleetsync, his fleet-management software company, was acquired by the private equity firm North Star Capital.
Henry was the new...
“One of our biggest challenges was the fact that our entire lead flow was single-channel,” David Setzer, Founder and CEO at Mailprotector explains. “We work in a community environment, so it's a very event-driven lead flow. That was working great, but after raising our series A, we needed to expand the inbound lead channels to more than just relying on one channel. It can be cyclical at times, so being able to have a consistent lead flow and also tap other potential partners that aren't at events or in these communities was just absolutely critical for us.”
With their new funding, Mailprotector was poised to grow. But they had been playing zone defense on marketing, and they knew they needed some support here to help them build their pipeline in a data-driven, scalable way.
David first met Shiv Narayanan, Founder and CEO of How To SaaS, at a private equity entrepreneur event. He soon realized that they completely aligned on their philosophy of the...
If your business already has a mature marketing function that delivers a steady flow of leads, it's tempting to let marketing continue on autopilot while you focus on improving other functions. But, chances are, this approach means you miss out on even higher conversion rates, lower CAC, and more closed-won deals that are easily within reach. As security and automation software company HelpSystems discovered, businesses in this situation are in an ideal position to make low-effort but high-ROI adjustments to existing campaigns and processes.
Although HelpSystems already had an effective marketing engine in place, they wanted to further increase the number of quality leads they were generating. “While we were continuously patting ourselves on the back for all the great things we were doing, we wondered what else we could be doing,” recalls Mike Devine, Vice President of Marketing at HelpSystems.
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...
“Our organization hadn't really spent a lot of focus, time, energy, or money on marketing ourselves,” explains Nick Belenky, EVP Sales at Top of Mind Networks. As the leading mortgage CRM, the team knew this was an ironic situation to be in. Top of Mind had been so focused on giving a great product experience and helping customers market their businesses that they weren’t maximizing the marketing opportunities for their own solution.
This isn’t an unusual position for SaaS companies to find themselves in. Often, marketing to existing customers and supporting Product and Customer Success takes priority while the potential for marketing-led growth takes a back seat.
The Top of Mind team knew they needed to build their web presence and make it easier for new customers to find them. But they didn't want to waste time on haphazard experimentation without knowing what outcomes to expect or which KPIs to track.
Following a recommendation from their...
When you bring on new portfolio companies, defining titles, setting expectations and clearly assigning responsibilities in the company is usually among the first things you do. This should include identifying and optimizing areas of alignment between the leaders in the company. But, too often, this gets pushed to the back burner because there doesn’t seem to be a direct connection to the investment thesis or because investors are cautious of interfering with the company’s internal dynamics.
However, without alignment between function area leaders, the company could be:
You can’t assume the executive team will be aligned just because they’re in the same office. These relationships need to be proactively managed, with clear communication requirements and goals...
Improving sales efficiency is one of the most common growth levers that feature in PE investment theses. There is huge potential for growth here if you improve conversion rates throughout your sales funnel. However, you can’t improve sales efficiency if you don’t have data on how prospects are moving through the pipeline towards closed-won.
In high-touch sales models, getting data on pipeline status is as easy as shooting an email to someone on your sales team. But in companies with low-touch models that have small or nonexistent sales teams, this can be more complex. How do you know if a lead is moving through the pipeline if you don’t have a salesperson to collect that feedback?
In a low-touch, ‘try before you buy’ SaaS model (for example using free trials or freemium plans) you’re likely dealing with small deal sizes and short sales cycles. There are thousands of people who want to try out your product: The challenge is converting these users...
Whether you’re filling gaps in the current marketing strategy, growing the marketing function, or restructuring the team to merge products, hiring new marketing leaders is a common step after an acquisition.
Without the right leaders, Marketing won’t have the management and expertise it needs to scale demand generation, improve nurture, and support Sales. But finding marketing leaders that suit the company, its objectives, and your ideal roadmap can be a challenge.
The right marketing leaders will accelerate your growth; the wrong marketing leaders will keep you stagnating at status quo, or make rash decisions that could damage your brand. If you hire a CMO who isn’t a good fit for your business, the best-case scenario is several months of slow progress on your growth levers, money wasted on initiatives that go nowhere, and the expense and hassle of hiring a replacement within a year.
For PE firms, that kind of outcome is disastrous. With a limited time to...
Portfolio companies often believe that their investors only care about EBITDA and, therefore, that they’ll refuse to invest more into an initiative. If you’re a PE investor, you’ll know that’s far from the truth.
After an acquisition, aligning the management team and the board around core initiatives as quickly and efficiently as possible is the number one priority for both portfolio companies and the PE firm. Scaling Marketing is often at the center of this, and most PE firms are keen to give Marketing budget to grow—if Marketing can prove they’ll deploy that additional budget responsibly.
Too often, Marketing walks into the boardroom and asks for another $1 million to supplement their budget, without data to back up their request and without explaining how these projects support the key investment thesis growth levers.
Do you know where and how Marketing would be using the extra budget, and what their projected growth metrics are?...
When we’re brought in by a private equity firm to help a particular investment, the portfolio company’s immediate expectation is that we will ramp up Marketing priorities like demand gen and content right away.
Our response is always to slam on the brakes.
Scaling is always the goal, but doing so without the right data framework in place is equivalent to setting your marketing budget on fire. Scaling Marketing isn’t like flipping a switch: It’s about building an engine that is predictable so that we can invest more dollars with confidence as time goes on.
This requires data organization. Without data, you’re pursuing complex initiatives in the dark. You don’t know where to invest or how to track success on those investments. You’re playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and maybe you guess right and invest in the right space, but maybe you don’t.
To avoid costly misjudgments, you need to build a marketing data framework that...