“With a goal to double the customers and revenue of First Rate, we knew that we needed to consult with experts that knew how to orient our marketing strategies to our strengths. Chief Outsiders took a different approach than other firms we had met with – they wanted to understand our business goals and drivers first and foremost.”
Marshall Smith, General Manager, Service Bureau and Marketing, First Rate Inc.
First Rate, Inc. is a relationship-driven technology company serving institutional, registered investment advisors, brokerage and trust clients in the financial services industry. With a successful history of direct sales, the company seized an opportunity to re-think marketing strategy and expand into new markets. Working closely with executives, Chief Outsider, Rex Bull, combined internal and external research with proven methodologies to develop the strategy and plan to realize 20% annual growth. Management support, increased team confidence and early results characterize a successful and rewarding partnership.
First Rate Financial Services Technology
Increasingly savvy financial investors require in-depth reporting and transparency. Consequently, financial industry CEOs have challenged their organizations to find technologies and solutions that enable wealth managers to provide their clients with relevant plans and timely feedback by translating data into relevant information and insights.
Through the commitment and innovation of First Rate Inc. (First Rate), investment management and reporting solutions historically reserved for the largest financial institutions have been made available to wealth managers, registered investment advisors (RIA), brokers and bank/trusts of all sizes.
“Over the last 24 years, we have expanded our services and leveraged new technologies to meet the dynamic nature of a challenging financial industry,” states Marshall Smith, General Manager, Service Bureau and Marketing, First Rate Inc.
Operations Oriented Company Seeking Growth
For more than 20 years, First Rate had operated with a direct sales model and marketing organized to support the sales team. The departure of the Vice President of Marketing provided the senior management team with an opportunity to take a fresh look at what was already a successful, operations-oriented business.
Smith assumed the marketing responsibilities with the vision of taking the company to the next level, a sustainable 20% year-over-year growth rate. To achieve the aggressive goal, he offered to have no ‘sacred cows’.
Faster with Less Risk
Committed to rethinking the business, First Rate’s President, Craig Weitz, heard about Chief Outsiders at a Vistage Executive Summit in the Dallas, Texas area. The Chief Outsiders business model intrigued him enough to reach out to Clay Spitz, Regional Managing Partner.
Needing a talented and seasoned marketing expert to lead the growth initiative, Smith decided to outsource the CMO function, engaging Chief Outsider, Rex Bull, to head the business growth strategy. The outsourcing decision had the advantage of speed and reduced the risk of a full-time hire.
“We included Rex in every part of the First Rate management team, meetings and strategy that we could, because we wanted him to understand what it meant to be an employee and what ‘relationship’ meant when we’re servicing our customers,” stated Smith.
Internal and External Research
Working closely with First Rate’s leadership, Bull developed and executed the following research activities:
Thorough research yielded a clear understanding of who the company was and where they were headed. It also produced an excellent assessment of First Rate’s channel partners, as well as customer preferences and pain points.
“Rex took a different approach than other firms we had met with – he wanted to understand our business goals and drivers first and foremost,” related Smith. “Not only did we have an outside perspective on why our clients bought us and stayed with us, but we also got the benefits of his entire organization – that we couldn’t get with a single hire.”
Identifying Opportunities for Growth
As the next step to develop First Rate’s growth strategy, a SWOT analysis helped leadership understand the company’s strengths and opportunities for growth. Based on the research, they identified strategies with a higher likelihood of success, leveraging strengths, mitigating weaknesses and capitalizing on opportunities.
“We looked at their need to automate and streamline and identified that segment as a priority,” explained Bull. “Based on size, we selected a couple of sub-segments within both of those markets to reach out and build awareness and interest.”
The approach taken enabled First Rate’s leaders to understand the steps needed to formulate their growth strategy and how to tell their story to the market in a clear, concise and compelling way.
“The SWOT analysis was our bridge between the internal and external insights gained and the opportunities for growth that we identified,” stated Bull.
The Growth Strategy
With customer and company input, First Rate prioritized near and longer-term growth opportunities. “We tied the solutions most concretely to First Rate’s business objectives and goals,” stated Smith.
First Rate developed a detailed marketing strategy, plan and budget to:
Pleased with the strategy, management allocated the necessary resources and personnel to move forward. As acting CMO, Bull drove execution of the growth strategy and marketing plan.
Management Support and Early Results
Although early in the execution of the strategy (the new website was just launched), these significant milestones have been achieved:
Marketing Team Confidence
Early results have given the marketing team confidence. “It is great to have an objective plan with a sound methodology that we can now run with. We are well on our way to achieving our goals,” stated Smith.
A Foundation for Growth
The trust and confidence of the First Rate leadership in the Chief Outsiders approach continues to grow. Bringing in CMO, Rex Bull, proved to be a rewarding experience for both parties.
“We developed a great relationship and a successful partnership working together to implement the company’s aggressive growth strategy. We built a new foundation that will take this company to the next level,” concluded Bull.