Growth Insights for CEOs

Turning an Unknown Company into a Smoking Hot Startup

Posted by The Chief Outsider



How Chief Outsiders helped a technology company grow its quarterly bookings from $2K to $2M in its first year. 

Topline

As a CEO or CMO of a young company with a shoestring budget you have plenty of choices, but not much room for error. This case study will explain how Leadcrunch found their way through strategic tradeoffs and increased their revenue by 1000% in less than a year. The key? Building a sustainable path to growth by balancing speed, quality, and the ability to scale.

About Leadcrunch[ai]

leadcrunch-logo-1Based in San Diego, Leadcrunch[ai] is a sophisticated lead generation company that uses machine learning to more effectively turn B2B targets into customers. Leadcrunch optimizes conversion by using a client’s best customers to create “smart personas.” And then engages look-alike personas with relevant content to deliver permission-based leads. 

Background: Advanced technology but unknown company

Olin Hyde and Sanjit Singh, co-founders of Leadcrunch[ai], had developed an advanced  marketing engine that could identify the right audiences for marketers and know how to best engage those targets with valuable content. While their technology gave Leadcrunch a disctinct competitive advantage, the company and product were new to the lead-generation space. 

Leadcrunch faced a dual hurdle: earlier and less competent competitors had been funded by venture capitalists with more than $500 million, while Leadcrunch had invented technical capbilities that hadn’t even been named, much less become established in the marketplace.

The Problem: No time to lead the company and market the product

Sanjit and Olin had raised $300K of early stage funding and were ready to build out their team. They had a product that was all about generating leads from lookalike audiences. Their company was grounded in deep knowledge about demand generation and sales automation. Yet key questions needed to be answered: 

How do they market advanced technology in the sea of sameness? Should they focus on demand generation or was it more important to get their positioning and market focus correct? Maybe they should focus on brand awareness instead? How should they build their first marketing team as an underfunded startup with a small budget? 

These questions were taking away valuable time from the pair. This was time that Sanjit could have put into business development, and time that Olin could have spent on strategy, investor relations or making the product better. How would they be able to package and communicate their amazing piece of A.I. technology for customers frustrated with the unfilled promises of artificial intelligence? 

The Solution: Marketing leadership on demand

Knowing they would run out of money far faster than they could grow their own marketing expertise, LeadCrunch reached out to more than a dozen Chief Marketing Officers with notable experience bringing new enterprise leadgen technologies to market. They scoured LinkedIn and AngelList to track down executives who had grown companies they admired.

Conversations with other software entrepreneurs and marketers led Leadcrunch to engage Stijn Hendrikse of Chief Outsiders as a fractional Chief Marketing Officer. An experienced software CMO, Stijn allows smaller startups to afford someone with years of marketing leadership experience while companies build their own marketing muscle. 

The Approach: Answer fundamental questions, fine-tune communication

Starting in July 2016, Olin and Sanjit met Stijn every Saturday for two hours for the next six months. Each meeting ended with a homework assignment to complete by the following week. The goal was to answer such fundamentals questions as:

  • What business is Leadcrunch in?
  • Who are their customers?
  • Where do they find them?
  • What are the customers’ goals and why are they important?
  • How does Leadcrunch help customers reach them?

Through content marketing efforts, A/B tests, and revised messaging, Leadcrunch was able to fine-tune the foundation of what they stand for and how to communicate that with their customers. 

For instance, Leadcrunch defined their business as helping CMOs grow a high-quality pipeline that converts into revenue. In respnose to customer feedback, the company was experimenting with adding lead qualification services to the AI engine.

The Learning: Learn from customers, prioritize marketing strategy

Two of the most important questions answered from a marketing point of view were who is Leadcrunch for and what does Leadcrunch do?

Who’s it for? Sales conversations helped clarify their target persona. As Leadcrunch’s group of paying customers rapidly grew, it became easier to confirm who the people were who most benefited from the company’s solution. 

What’s it for? The new marketing team was very good in constantly challenging their own assumptions of the value they were providing to customers. Feedback to marketing content and communications helped Leadcrunch refine their value prop, the actual product, and the messaging.

After answering “Who’s it for?” and “What’s it for?”, Stijn was able to help Leadcrunch strike the balance between short-term marketing tactics with a very quick return—but that are less scalable and inhibit exponential growth—and others that have a far longer return. In defining which marketing strategy to follow, the company learned to prioritize: 

  • Inbound vs. outbound
  • Agency vs. building in-house capacity
  • Advertising vs. Nurturing
  • Wordpress vs. Hubspot
  • Product Marketing vs. Content Marketing
  • A/B Testing vs. Creativity
  • Making Noise vs. Being Relevant
  • Demand Gen today vs. Brand Awareness tomorrow
  • Conversion vs. Engagement 

With Stijn’s guidance, Leadcrunch was able to create its market, improve awareness of a new category of AI-based demand generation, while it still fine-tuning what the best product solution would include.

Results: Revenues skyrocket

Thanks to the combined efforts of Leadcrunch leadership, the company marketing team, and Stijn Hendrikse, the company: 

  • Grew quarterly revenue bookings 1,000% from $2,000 to $2,000,000 in one year.
  • Grew revenues by more than 20% per month for the first 20 months of product launch (at the time of this writing).
  • Attracted more than 200 major B2B brand customers with an astonishing 250% average revenue expansion per account.
  • Raised Series A financing from top-tier Bay Area venture capital firms (details are still confidential).
  • Employs a staff of 40 full-time employees and shows no signs of slowing down.

CEO Olin Hyde summarizes by saying, “We are most proud that LeadCrunch is a tool that gives business marketers an unfair advantage in finding and engaging the right audiences to accelerate growth. Marketers who use our technology are the heroes driving growth.”

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Topics: SaaS, Fractional CMO, Software Marketing, SaaS VP Marketing, SaaS CMO Planning, SaaS CMO

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