This past weekend I got my trade show game on at the Digital Marketing Bootcamp put on by my friends over at the Local Search Association. LSA is in the business of local and the LSA Bootcamps are events that attract a broad range of SMBs that are looking to market online. A seemingly target rich environment for CallRail.
LSA was looking for someone to give a talk on how to hire a digital marketing vendor and given all the work I have done around that topic it seemed a pretty natural for me. The presentation was pretty short and sweet. It is embedded below.
The gist of the presentation is that hiring a marketing vendor is a lot like buying a car and when you compare cars it is good to do what Car & Driver calls a comparo. The meat of the comparo is the spec sheet and driver ratings (here is an example of one with the M3). Using the same methodology that Car & Driver uses to rank cars is a solid approach to select a marketing vender (we used it to select our marketing automation platform at CallRail, more on that at a later date). The framework really seemed to resonate with the participants. During the course of the presentation I provided the participants with three templates that they could use in their vendor selection process.
The first was a marketing technology criteria evaluation template. The marketing technology criteria evaluation template is literally a spreadsheet that can be populated with selection criteria and then have the selection criteria ranked by the people involved in the selection process. In the template the ratings for two people are summarized on the first sheet. You can add or subtract sheets for people depending on the size of your team and roll it all up to the summary sheet. I have used this in the real world. It works very well. It forces you to think about what criteria are important and to rank how well each marketing technology delivers on that criteria.
The second was a marketing technology price comparison template. When you are getting quotes from several different vendors at once it is often times hard to compare them apples to apples. Using this template will help solve that problem. It will also help you to get a better price.
The third template that I provided was an agency brief. Where fairly simplistic the brief template is a good starting point to provide a little direction to marketing services companies when looking to bring one on board to help with a certain aspect of your marketing. I know this because I suggested we start using them at CallRail not too long ago to hire a marketing vendor. Since then the team has adopted it to provide first direction to the vendor when we are are starting a new project. So it is not only good for hiring an agency but can be used to get new projects started.
Hiring a marketing vendor is not hard you just have to be methodical while trusting your instincts, make sure the firm or technology is going to work to grow your business, and hold the provider as accountable as you would an employee.
Turns out, according to Datanyze, CallRail is the market leader by a wide margin. Granted these market share figures are based on the number of web site installations and not on dollar volume. With CallRail’s focus on self service I expected us to have many more customers by count then our competitors that are more focused on the enterprise market and their needs. It’s good to see that assumption verified by a third party.
I joined CallRail about 100 days ago. Pretty dead nuts on when you take into consideration vacation. When joining I set myself two big objectives. Double our revenue in 2015 and then again in 2016. I was given one other, figure out what is going on in the sales funnel. So I set my sites out to do those things. This is a little bit of that journey in my first 100 days.
When I joined I was employee 19. I was the third person in marketing. Mark Sullivan who was doing a lot of byline articles and speaking events, and Erica Hawkins who did everything else. It was pretty obvious that if we were to scale this thing we were going to need more people. About two weeks in I also came to the conclusion that we were going to need to get a marketing automation program and enterprise level CRM in place to reach our goals.
About two weeks after that SignUp4 was acquired by Cvent. It just so happens that I was going to dinner that night with my old friend Melanie Hall who ran marketing at SignUp4. She told me she has the perfect person for me, Ashley Coleman. She was and is. Ashley joined in early June as Demand Generation Manager. Early in Andy Powell asked her when she was going to select the marketing automation platform. Ashley had to remind Andy that it was only her second day on the job. She also committed to making that decision along with me by the end of the month. We ended up with Marketo and are in the process of deploying that and a Salesforce CRM instance by the end of this month.
During this same time we had already put in motion some marketing programs to generate more leads. Leads grew 41% in the second quarter versus the first. Our two sales guys could not really get to them all. Leads were falling on the ground which was driving me nuts. That is when we decided to go down the road of sales specialization and bring on a sales development rep. We brought the first one on a couple of weeks ago, Mónica Mariño whom picked up out of HubLogix, and she is proving that the model will work for CallRail. So we have three people on the sales team and I expect we will be growing this in the future. So if you want to be an inbound SDR (we get about a thousand inbound leads a month right now), it’s not a bad place to be.
Along the way Mark switched from a byline focus to a partnership focus. He is working with companies like Acquisio, HubSpot, Marketo, Optimizely, and TapClicks to build integrations into their products and get increased distribution for CallRail. Good move to focus there and it was his idea to do so.
The last piece to come in place in my short time at CallRail is that we had a marketing coordinator come on board Monday. We have been looking for this person since before I joined CallRail. Essentially someone with three years of marketing experience that could write and knows social. It took two months to find one. Jessica Neal. At one point I was accused of being too picky. Maybe. But we need all A players on this boat.
Maybe we need a bigger boat. I believe Jessica is employee 29 and we have two more starting after her that will bring the total to 31. To totally mix metaphors it seems we are bringing on the power we need to make the growth flywheel spin. With a solid foundational team now in place it is going to be quite interesting to see where we are after the next 100 days.
I disagree a bit with the basic premise of the article. More companies is not necessarily better when it comes to growing a startup ecosystem or measuring its success. It might be more fun for lots of people that are playing house. Fun for what Keith McGreggor refers to non-trepreneurs. But its not success.
A better measure of quantity of a startup ecosystem would be the number of people that are employed by technology companies created within the past five years. That’s an interesting number and one that can really nail down the health of a startup ecosystem. It’s a number that you can actually look at to watch an ecosystem grow and the employees in that ecosystem are the ones that might run off and create a company at some point in the future.
Somewhere in our Twitter conversation Keith stated the following.
@lance@davidcummings someone smart I know once said: “I can’t pick the winners, but I can pick out the losers”
For someone with ten years or so of listening to pitches from startup companies and being a very very early participant in the commercial internet industry some type of outlier 10,000 hour pattern recognition has developed for me creating a rapid cognition skill on selecting startups. I am sure I am not alone in possessing this skill set. It takes someone with it about 30 seconds to identify a startup that is not going to make it. I will stand corrected if someone wants to raise their hand and say “what about this one”, but of the thousands upon thousands of startups that I have seen in business development and startup advisory roles I don’t think I have ever been wrong in identifying a startup that would not make it.
This all goes to say that a technology community should focus on startups that have an opportunity to become a business. When you get down to it the real measure of a startup ecosystem is the customer, revenue, and user growth that the companies within it obtain.
It has been about six weeks or so since I joined the CallRail team. We have made a lot of progress in that short time. Getting our arms around some high level important metrics. Tweaking some of our current marketing efforts to make them a bit more productive. Hiring Ashley Coleman to implement some marketing technologies (we don’t have that many at the moment) and really drill down on what is driving customer growth so that we can make our marketing more effective and kick revenue into hyper growth.
This week we made the biggest decision to date. We decided to organize the sales team using a sales development model. There were a lot of factors that lead to this decision. My experience watching Kyle Porter build the Sales Loft sales development organization, our investor Wain Kellum encouraging us to go down that road, and my general belief in the model. But the big driver of the decision was that our monthly inbound leads have increased 40% since the beginning of the year and our account executives are straining to pay attention to the big accounts that we want them to close and qualify new leads. We pay account executives to close deals. They need to be able to focus their time on doing just that.
So CallRail is going down the road of sales specialization. Right now we are looking for an sales development rep to join the team to respond to the healthy flow of new leads every day, qualify them for our account executives, help us map out a winning SDR sales flow process, and potentially scale into a larger role as a leader of an SDR team. And while this great article “How I Ramped Sales Development in a Month” is focused on outbound one of the first things I am going to do is have the person we hire read it. Great roadmap for a lone SDR.
Once we get inbound humming a suspect we will be ready to specialize a bit more by starting an outbound team. Just like in industrialization, specialization in the sales function is the winning road to be on.
Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic is one busy chart. According to Scott the 2015 version has nearly 1,900 companies across 43 different categories. Finding one’s place in this universe is a bit like looking for Waldo.
CallRail is in the orange Marketing Operations area in the upper right in the Call Analytics/Management category. Blowing it up makes it a bit easier to find.
And when you take a closer look at it call analytics really is not that crowded of a space. Basically six companies vying for a large and fast growing market. Not a bad place to be.
The Local Search Association Conference kicked off on Monday. Part of the program is the Ad to Action Awards which recognizes innovation and helps promote the products that best drive consumer actions (calls, clicks, store visits, etc.) for local businesses. CallRail is a finalist in the attribution and analytics category. This 40 second explainer video which was part of the CallRail submission is a good quick overview of the company’s value proposition.
If you are in local marketing not having call tracking is no longer acceptable. You have to know what makes your phone ring. CallRail does that.
CallRail offers phone call tracking and analytics for online and offline marketing campaigns. Their tagline says it all. Know what makes your phone ring. Something that is becoming increasingly important with the shift to mobile and online advertising. It’s a big wave.
I met Andy Powell, one of the co-founders (Kevin Mann is the other), back when the company was a few people at Atlanta Tech Village and I was working for Half Off Depot. Engineered serendipity. Liked what he was doing and followed them a bit.
Late last year CallRail raised a $2 million Series A from Wain Kellum, Reggie Bradford, Canal Partners and BLH Venture Partners. Shortly thereafter I happened to run into Reggie and his family at the Shake Shack. He couldn’t have been more positive about CallRail so I decided to reconnect with Andy to see if he could see any sales and marketing help.
It happens that he did. We seemed pretty aligned from a values perspective. We decided to work together.
My number one objective in joining the CallRail team is to build a repeatable and scalable customer acquisition process so that we can double CallRail’s business in 2015 and then again in 2016. The CallRail team has created great momentum with a focus on friendliness and simplicity. Momentum so great CallRail could be the fastest growing Series A startup in Atlanta.
I am very excited to be a part of the CallRail team. It’s going to be a fun ride.
On the advice of my friend Dale Kirkland I decided to get my girl some decent seats to the Fleetwood Mac show last week. Never a huge Mac fan but Dale was right, they put on a heck of a show. The highlight to me was a story that Stevie Nicks shared leading into “Gypsy.” It seems that before Fleetwood Mac made it big and Stevie became rich she used to go to a store in San Francisco called the Velvet Underground. According to Nicks the store had a marvelously painted floor. Hence the opening lines of the song.
So I’m back, to the velvet underground Back to the floor, that I love To a room with some lace and paper flowers Back to the gypsy that I was To the gypsy… that I was
She went on to talk about how the big lady rockers of the day, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and the like shopped there, but at the time she could not afford to do so. One day while visiting the store she had a premonition. That she was going to become a star and would be able to afford the clothes that the Velvet Underground carried. Using herself as an example Nicks went on to encourage the audience to follow those feelings when they happen, to devote their lives to things they are passionate about. Which gave a whole new meaning to the next two lines.
And it all comes down to you Well, you know that it does
And while she did not talk about the next line seems to be a bit of carpe diem encouragement.
Well, lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice
Stevie is quite the little motivational speaker when she does not have her witchy freak persona on.
Lighter Capital recently published a guide on how to choose the best funding path for your startup. It is pretty informative and outlines three funding paths that are potentially open for a tech startup. I find the guide particularly useful as less then 1% of all companies attract venture funding and it seems that nearly 100% of entrepreneurs seek out venture capital. Most companies do not raise venture funding and most entrepreneurs should not seek it.
There is a nice graphic in the guide that sums up three funding paths.
I don’t agree that companies generally raise a series A at launch and initial traction or that a series B takes place at $5 million in revenue. They both seem to come later to me.
The important takeaway from this chart is the non VC-backed path and revenue based financing. It is the path that the vast majority of startups will take and one that entrepreneurs should spend more time thinking about than pursuing venture capital.