Nilesh Patel, Co-Founder and CEO of LeadSquared, started marketing automation software company with his co-founder colleagues Sudhakar Gorti and Prashant Singh. Before LeadSquared all three built a successful software product engineering business called Proteans, which was bought over by Symphony Teleca.
Nilesh believes that marketing technology is going to be a very big market. In the initial days of LeadSquared he and his team consulted several dozen companies in building their marketing and inside sales operation. They figured that traditional CRM systems are impossible to use and offer very limited value to a large number of businesses, whereas the existing breed of marketing automation systems are too complex and/or does not meet a lot of marketing and lead generation use cases of a large number of businesses.
With that perspective LeadSquared marketing software came into being and continues to evolve. Getting first few customers is challenge for most startups, however for LeadSquared it was relatively easier as they had captive customers who contributed to shaping the product in its initial days. The team having come from a sales background was able to ramp up the sales engine and started showing demos to a lot of prospects, which is another challenge a lot of startups encounter in acquiring customers beyond the initial few. In the beginning the product was marketed to Indian businesses and product demos were all conducted over the web. Getting customers to sign for deal was taking longer than expected and quickly it was realized that customers prefer face-to-face meeting to web demos. The chances of closing deals increased with in person meeting which in hindsight they believe should have been part of their strategy to begin with.
The founding team’s initial hypothesis was that market for LeadSquared would be all kinds of B2B businesses. However it became apparent very quickly that LeadSquared was getting traction primarily with businesses that were pro-active about marketing and lead generation, which included a lot of B2C businesses and excluded a lot of B2B businesses. This was an important learning for LeadSquared team.
He also adds that if startups focus on 100 prospects in different verticals then feedback is likely to be too wide and not as helpful in shaping the product vs if one focused on 100 prospects in the same vertical. By focusing on a vertical, startups will be able to capture the most important use cases of a vertical and make it immediately useful for the focused vertical resulting in faster sales success.
Nilesh has a few suggestions for startups, which has worked for him.
- He suggests that startups should raise money if they can, cash is lifeline of the business and hoard it as much as you can.
- Reach the stage of product market fit as soon as possible.
- Founders should always be selling – make it a regular routine to reach out to potential customers through email, phone, face to face or any other relevant forum.
- Do not focus on selling through partners; if you cannot sell partners can’t sell either.
Today LeadSquared has over 200 customers globally and have been featured in the Deloitte India Fast 50 companies, Red Herring Asia Top 100, # 1 in Marketing Automation by Nasscom and High Performer in Marketing Automation category in G2Crowd.