B2B start-ups: how do you know when it’s the right time to invest in marketing? In sales? In customer success?
There’s no cut and dry answer. In fact, there are a variety of paths you could take to achieve a successful product launch and impactful marketing campaigns.
Manoj Ramnani’s team at SalesIntel.io took a in integrated approach and invested in their growth marketing efforts before their product was even ready! To glean valuable insights and feedback form their ideal consumers, SalesIntel.io released their alpha product to their target audience.
Doing so gave the team a number of things:
- Actionable next steps for getting their product market-ready
- Direct access to their target audience
- A head start on getting their brand name out into the marketplace before the Sales team had to begin their efforts
We love this unique perspective on start-up marketing. Catch the interview now to find out if investing in a growth marketing strategy early on is right for your start-up and how to effectively measure your KPIs in the early stages of your company.
Don’t miss out – tune in now!
CAROLINE: Hello, welcome to Growth Marketing Chat. Today, I'm here with Manoj Ramnani. He is the founder and CEO of Sales Intel. Uh, it's a pleasure having you on Growth Marketing Chat today Manoj.
MANOJ: Yes, thank you so much. And I'm happy to be here, Caroline. Thanks for the opportunity.
CAROLINE: Yeah, so, uh, you have a pretty unusual, unusual growth story. Um, because unlike a lot of companies, you started investing in marketing pretty early on. Uh, so, I'd love to hear more about this whole, like, how far along were you when you started investing in marketing?
MANOJ: We actually started marketing before even the product was out.
MANOJ: You know, um, we were still in alpha phase and, uh, um, we started marketing and the, and the reason was two-fold. One, was to talk to as many, um, of our prospective customers uh, as we can and show them the alpha product, right? And get their feedback while we're moving from alpha to beta and the GA. And the second was, you know, the space that we are in, it is, um, in B2B. It takes a while to get the word out there and get the brand out there. So, we wanted get ahead of it. And we wanted to make sure that at least the prospects know about what we are working on and what's coming, you know, or next 90 days or so. So, we started 90 days before we went live with the product.
CAROLINE: That's awesome. That's awesome. And I love how, you know, integrated your approach seems, right. Because it was just not, it was not like marketing by itself. It was marketing to inform the product roadmap, right?
MANOJ: That is correct. That is correct. We, well, um, yes, that version of the productthat you're releasing, we got lots of great feedback, but, you know, what's next. And what was missing that helped us tremendously.
CAROLINE: Awesome, and so to, for these initial investments, do you hire an internal team or did you find an external partner?
MANOJ: No, we actually, uh, found an external partner. It's hard to build, uh, marketing when you're such a small startup. Um, you need the content person, you need a video person, you need, um, you know, an email marketing person. So, you need couple of people, the managing expert, the PPC expert, and we didn't have, um, anybody. So, we partnered with, uh, a company and we ended up actually acquiring them a year, year and a half later because they were so familiar with our product, our market, uh, that became together and, uh, their team became part of our marketing team.
CAROLINE: That's a fantastic story, uh. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to acquire a marketing agency, but I can see how that worked really well for you. Um, okay, so that was the marketing part of the growth function, but, obviously, um, now there's more than marketing to growing a company, right? So, when did you start investing in other growth functions, such as sales and customer success?
MANOJ: Yeah, great question. So, you know, after marketing we, uh, I was a salesperson, number one. So, you know, doing the demos, um, and having those conversations. So, STR and AE in a box, that was me. Uh, anybody who, who was in my friend circle, my LinkedIn network, you know, my previous client from the last companies. Uh, I just got on the call and then pitch them about Sales Intel. And the beauty of our business, uh, Caroline, is... it's a very simple business. It's a very easy-to-understand value proposition, right?
And the sales professionals, sales leaders, and marketing leaders, revenue leaders, who we sell to, they can see the value proposition very, very quickly, right? Um, so, yeah, I was a sales person number one and the whole idea was to figure out the pitch, right? Can I sell it, if I can't sell it? You know, it's hard for me to, uh, ask somebody else to sell our products, um. So, once I go, you know what else, this, this part can be sold and here's the pitch, here's what the pain points are for the prospects. Um, I then hired my first account executive. Um, and we've had them in marketing legions after that, with the, the BDR functions, and then came the CS and account management later on.
CAROLINE: Yeah, yeah. Um, yeah, and having you be the first salesperson, um, you know, a lot of CEOs do this and all the first salesperson, but it's not always the case. Um, and I think in most cases, it is still very important for the CEO to be on the frontline and be that first salesperson, right?
MANOJ: Otherwise you don't learn from, um, you, can't outsource these things, right, when you're starting out a company. I've always done it in all my companies, being a salesperson, number one. You get appreciation for anybody that you bring on, like, many CEOs, they bring VP of sales and they fire them. They bring a second VP of sales because they just have never gone through the pains themselves.
CAROLINE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, and then you can be a much better product leader, right, by talking to your customers all the time.
CAROLINE: Great, so, um, to come back to your, kind of, sequencing here, how you went with marketing first and then sales, uh, afterwards. Um, you did mention that you wanted to do marketing first because you wanted to get ahead of the market and that helped you get in front of the right people. Um, but a lot of people, like, really go all-in on sales. Uh, first, is that something that you, kind of, learn through your experience creating other companies, or you always did it this way?
MANOJ: Yeah, no, my first company, we were in the consulting business. We did no marketing for, you know, six years. And, uh, sales was so much harder, right. Uh, because nobody knew about who you were. So, you were starting out a conversation and spending first half of the conversation as to who we are. Whereas, here as CS Intel, you know, our marketing team did a phenomenal job in getting the brand out there, getting the value prop out there. So, when we get on a call in 30 minute conversation, they only know who we are, what we do. And it's all about showing them the value prop, showing the product and discussing, you know, the synergies.
CAROLINE: Mm-hmm. Which brings another question. How did you measure marketing, at the very beginning, when you first started?
MANOJ: Uh, budget. Yeah, no, we didn't have a lot of money. So, it was email marketing, um, was, was a big one. We did spend a little bit on PPC just to understand a lot of it was SEO. You know, we optimize our website, uh, you know, as much as we could and, uh, on the keyboards. Um, and then one thing that we did early on that paid off was webinars. We partnered with other companies that have established brand and the, the reach, and we did webinars to date. We do, you know, three to four webinars a month and that pays off.
CAROLINE: Yeah, yeah. Well, webinars are great for people to understand your value proposition and have a good sense of what you do, who are the people in your company and build that credibility, right.
MANOJ: That's correct, that is correct. I knew you were, at that time, being a subject matter expert, right. You are, um, um, providing more of a value to the prospect versus asking them for business. And once they, um, connected, connect with you, once they see that you're here to help them in the buying process becomes that much easier.
CAROLINE: Yeah, yeah. Uh, so, all of this is music to my ears. Um, something that we see a lot with companies that are starting out is that, uh, you know, obviously, when you're starting a company, there's a lot of pressure to bring revenue, right. But marketing sometimes get, can take time to actually produce revenue. And, especially at the beginning, it's really difficult to track everything. Um… So… How long did it take you to see concrete value? Meaning, like, well I know that this need came from here and then became a customer. So, like, that's TROI, right.
And when this happens it's phenomenal, but sometimes, especially in the beginning, there's a lot of, like, what we are using on this content and say, well, what credible or we know it helps us, but there's not a direct sign. So, how do you navigate this as a CEO? Because it's costing you money, right, to invest in this?
MANOJ: Yeah, yeah, you know, it is, it is still not, uh, more of an art than a science. We have matured a lot in the last three years. Um, and we can, uh, attribute a lead or, or lead camera's the opportunity and the deal, ultimately, to a channel, but still letting the 60, 70% there, there are 3% of cases you know, you don't know, and you can't clearly attribute because you have content going out there, your webinars going out, then your BDRs are starting to make the calls. And then you see this deal comes in inbound. What do you attribute to, right?
Because the, the prospect they have sells until top of mind. And they have a, they have a challenge. They have a problem that they want to solve and they go directly to sales Intel they'll hire your website, right. So, you can attribute that to SEO. You can attribute it to just one channel. I think 70% of the times we know, um, maybe you can, you know, do an attribution one-to-one but 30% of times, you know, it just, it just works. We know one of the many things we did have attributed to this.
CAROLINE: Right, alright. Um, I had, I had a marketer that I took to previously tell me that she's saw attribution as directional matrix. Like, okay, so if, if you can attribute 70%, that's a really good number, congratulations. Most people can't do that. Uh, and then, and then maybe you're okay with the 30% and maybe you're, like, you're striving to improve this, but it's not, it's just striving to improve over time, right? Yeah. Really good perspective. Uh, so right. So to, to, kind of, conclude here, uh, I know that you've been through these motions, uh, several times. Do you have any advice for any entrepreneurs out there? Like, what would you do differently if you were to start again today?
MANOJ: Yeah, so, no, we, um, started CS, the customer success pretty late, um, almost after, like, year, year and a half, you know, 12 to 18 months range. If I were to do this thing all over again, I would, uh, uh, start the CS, you know, from day one, your customer, we have a good onboarding experience. We were, kind of, tag teaming it, you know, people taking multiple responsibilities. Or product leads where onboarding a customer. Um, and that, uh, is a big lesson learned. And the advice for any entrepreneur, just think about the CS force well it pays off big time.
CAROLINE: Yeah. Did it, um, not having the CS function, did it prevent you from closing more deals faster? Because you take, you know, you've got this bandwidth on somebody that has another role, right. That should be doing something else. Um, did it do that for you?
MANOJ: Yeah, I think what has hurt us, the fact that we, we, early on, for the first customers, uh, you know, we just were not able to connect. So, when it came time for the renewal, they, kind of, didn't have a relationship with us. Right. We did the thing.
We onboarded them and we, kind of, you know, talk to them after, after almost nine months, 10 months, it was pretty bad. But we've now all invested in an amazing leader, uh, Chelsea Manning. She runs our , our customer success account management, and we have all invested in that function. But if I were to do it all over again, I'll start that from one. So, A, we didn't have a relationship. B, all this while we were not able to upsell them anything because nobody was looking into the account at a deeper level, right.
When you have a solid customer success team, you learn, you know, you're, you're developing a relationship. You're learning from the customer, you're upselling them. Right. And you're getting a feedback that goes to the product organization as to what is it that the customers are looking for next. So, it drives your product roadmap or at least defines your, it gives an input towards your product roadmap.
CAROLINE: Awesome, well, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today. I think it was a pretty phenomenal chat here. So, um… Yeah, thank you so much for joining. Really appreciate it.
MANOJ: My pleasure, happy to be here Caroline. Thanks.