“Using Chief Outsiders means we reach our goals faster. With [the CMO], we can solve the problems and create repeatable processes faster. At the end of the day, we grow faster.”
Al Lalani, Chief Strategist, Annex Cloud
Annex Cloud’s integrated customer loyalty, referral marketing and content solutions help leading brands and retailers connect with customers. Seeking to accelerate growth, Chief Strategist, Al Lalani engaged a Chief Outsiders CMO, impressed by his deep SaaS and inbound marketing experience. After advising the company CMO for three months, the CMO led the inbound marketing team to implement repeatable and scalable inbound tactics and metrics, enabling them to manage long-term execution and maintain accountability. The three-month project doubled inbound leads and led to a follow-on engagement.
Annex Cloud (Annex) provides leading brands and retailers, including Hewlett-Packard, Bed Bath & Beyond, G.H. Bass, Olympus and VF Corp., with the ability to engage tens of millions of their customers one-to-one at scale.
Annex Cloud’s customer marketing platform provides fully integrated customer loyalty, referral marketing, and user-generated content solutions. These solutions work together to optimize the customer journey and deliver a unified customer experience.
Lacked Repeatable, Scalable Process
Looking to accelerate growth, Annex Chief Strategist, Al Lalani faced a tough challenge. “We did not have a repeatable and scalable model for our inbound marketing,” he related. “That was the core problem to start our growth process.”
To create an appropriate plan for 2019 and beyond, he didn’t know where he could generate enough inbound leads to produce the desired outcome. “Though we were getting some leads, it was very much pay and play,” Lalani explained.
Lalani also didn’t have a dashboard to inform decisions. He had a good team in place, but they weren't focusing on and tracking the right things day to day. “We were making decisions blind,” he added. “Most importantly, we weren't able to hold people accountable to certain behaviors that we wanted based on the data.”
Found the Right Resume
While doing research on additional marketing help, Lalani came across Chief Outsiders. “The content was from a fractional CMO perspective and very relevant,” he related. “It made sense for me to reach out and have a discussion.”
“We were looking for experience in software, SaaS, and inbound marketing, which was our core goal. And, [the CMO] was introduced to us as someone who had done that for both earlier stage startups, and larger companies at scale. As I met with [the CMO], it was a good fit.”
Having looked at one or two other consultants, Lalani began the process with Chief Outsiders. “I chose Chief Outsiders because they understood what we wanted to do as a core focus. In addition, [the CMO] had the right resume. At the end of the day, it all depends on who you are working with.”
Focus on Inbound
To jumpstart the engagement, the CMO spent one day on-site then worked remotely for six months, collaborating as necessary. “Initially, it was [the CMO] educating and overseeing what we were already doing in the team,” stated Lalani.
Three months of the Chief Outsiders CMO coaching the CMO led Lalani to conclude that inbound marketing needed the most attention. The CMO spent the final three months leading the inbound team.
Paid Tactics, SEO and Content
The CMO set out first to implement a new marketing dashboard with meaningful KPIs to inform decisions and instill weekly discipline. “The core focus was the different paid tactics, SEO and content, specifically making sure the content was written with an end goal in mind to get leads,” related Lalani.
Each tactic had its own set of metrics in addition to leads and cost per lead. “[The CMO] did the first stab at paid search and then he connected us with another expert to help us further optimize it,” Lalani added. “He had the right resource to supplement our team to solve that specific problem.”
Enabled the Team
The CMO worked closely with each team member to make sure they had the right tool and we're tracking the right metrics, confirming that they knew how to effect change. “Instead of giving it to them, The CMO was enabling them to think of why they should be doing something,” reported Lalani.
“What's most important for us, and what Chief Outsiders also understands, is for them to enable us to continue in the long term. [The CMO] is a great enabler in terms of putting the pieces in place to the point where people can keep themselves accountable from a process perspective.”
Annex maintained the same staff while improving processes to get results. “We had a good team in place. And so, moving the tactics in the right direction changed the results.”
Repeatable Process Implemented
Lalani reached his goal of implementing a repeatable process for Q4. “We have a good idea of what we can do for Q1 and beyond,” he related. “Our goal in Q1 is to double the leads from when we started the project. What really matters to us is we had a goal that we had to hit, and we are doing that.”
Throughout the project, the CMO remained engaged and open for feedback while pushing forward. “[The CMO] looks at a problem, analyzes it down to its core and attacks it with a lot of enthusiasm,” explained Lalani. “He understands this is a problem we need to solve, and he focuses on that rather than being a consultant.”
Doubling the Impact
Annex doubled the impact of inbound marketing during the three months of working on tactics with the CMO. The conversion rate is going up and inbound leads have doubled. The team is broadly on board and excited about taking on the follow-up. “The key part is that the team knows how and is enabled to do it,” stated Lalani. “That's the true win.”
“We have a good dashboard in place to track it and the team is enabled to lead themselves, which is most important to me from an executive perspective. Now they have the confidence to scale it, starting Q1 and beyond. Using Chief Outsiders means we reach our goals faster.”
Lalani is now talking with the CMO about doing similar projects with product and partner marketing. “We're going to continue our engagement,” he stated. “We achieved our goal for inbound marketing and he can definitely help us in the next six months.”
The CMO has recommended another Chief Outsiders CMO in addition to himself to lead the product marketing effort. “The client has doubled down on Chief Outsiders,” he remarked.
What would Lalani say to other early stage companies about the value of Chief Outsiders? “We had a VP of Marketing but getting another senior level person extends his capabilities to another very capable professional to solve a key part of growth,” he replied.
“With [the CMO], we can solve the problems and create repeatable processes faster. At the end of the day, we can grow faster. As the CEO and founder, it means less worry for me and less time that I focus on marketing.”
A Great Match
“I'm quite amazed at the quality level of the people,” concluded Lalani. “[The CMO] is great, and the roster of Chief Outsiders is extremely varied. And, they are truly senior people. That’s important because they've seen the game before, and they can prevent mistakes that other companies may not have seen. The background and quality of the people are all very, very good.”
“Al is one of the brightest CEOs I’ve worked for and a very experienced marketer,” added the CMO. “He’s found the balance between doing it himself and getting assistance.”