In 2009, I co-founded IntelligenceBank, an online information management platform to help businesses manage files and data according to their processes. With file management, forms and databases, live media feeds and communications tools--essentially, the IntelligenceBank platform could be applied to virtually every business need. Our first three years in business, we attracted a list of large corporate clients but our sales cycle was extremely long compared to the price point. We had a "good business" but we needed to transform it to be a "great, scalable business".

To grow, we needed to analyze data to understand what it meant for our product, marketing and distribution channels. In 2013, I made the decision to productize our offering into niche business apps and to enable customers to buy our services online to achieve rapid growth. We then launched our e-commerce facility to enable people to transact online, therefore giving us a global client base, instead of a local one.

We knew this was the right thing to do to for the business; however, we couldn't rely on just instinct to solve this puzzle. Here are some tips on how data can be used to grow your business.

1. Analyze customer data to tweak product offerings and reduce cost per acquisition.

To determine which offerings should be productized we analyzed our existing customer base. Specifically reviewing the number of customers by product cluster, renewal propensity, cost per user license and profitability.

We also looked at Keyword Planning tools to identify demand for existing and future products by market. As we have a "House of Products" offering, understanding what customers specifically search for, how often and where is essential in helping us pick winning apps that the market demands.

Even though we created very niche products, it was also necessary to hone in on exactly which type of customer would purchase the product. "Everyone in marketing" for our Digital Asset Management tool was too broad, as was "every company with a board of directors" for our Online Board Portal. By drilling down into our analytics reporting, third party research and our customer base, we identified niche customer segments for each product line. This has dramatically reduced our cost per acquisition rate and average sales cycle length and has helped to prioritize product development.

2. Measure both online and offline customer acquisition initiatives.

While we built our ecommerce platform, we also created an analytics-tracking program to measure all online interactions, including web traffic, cost per acquisition, sales funnel and aggregated internal usage of our products.

Our motto is "try, measure, invest"--that is, we try most tactics that make sense for our industry, measure effectiveness and scale up advertising investment when a tactic works.

For example, since we were new at low/no touch sales, we tested a broad range of customer acquisition tactics both online and offline, including display and retargeting retargeting, ppc, seo, offline advertising, social and telemarketing. We did this for one month to determine the most efficient lead generation tactic, per product.

We found that depending on the product, different initiatives worked far better than others. For instance, we nicknamed our telemarketer "BTG" (better than Google) because for the product she was supporting, she achieved an astounding 40% lead to trial rate. For other products, online advertising was the clear winner.

3. Drill into customer renewal rates. 

Our business model gets its scale from renewable revenue. As with every SaaS model, if clients use the product, they will most likely continue to renew. That's why understanding usage behavior of existing customers paramount. As part of our weekly customer acquisition reports, we look at the number of logins by registered users, frequency of login, features used and growth per account. This helps us immediately identify potential churn before it happens. For low usage accounts, we have an account management outreach program to re-engage clients on our offering.

A big part of our scalability strategy is for clients to be able to self-serve with 'light touch' account management as well. This means, the product has to be extremely intuitive to use, without training. To prioritize UX development, we analyze helpdesk queries and clicks to the online knowledge bank to see which aspects of our product need enhanced usability design.

Although we have come a long way thanks to in-depth data analysis, we still have a lot of work ahead, to dig deeper into what really works to trigger new business and customer retention. This is especially true as marketing and product technologies are both evolving at such a fast pace. While data analytics is the cornerstone of every decision we make, we also never lose sight on the importance of creative gut instinct to compliment the data. 


Tessa Court is the CEO of IntelligenceBank, where she leads operations, corporate strategy, strategic partnerships and international expansion. Prior to IntelligenceBank, Tessa was the head of Sales and Marketing at Hitwise online competitive intelligence. Tessa also sits on boards of two other high-growth start ups. Follow Tessa @intellibank


Published on: Jun 6, 2014
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