Every small company dreams of making it big. However, with huge growth comes huge challenges. All successful technology companies at some point will struggle to create a global marketing strategy.
I sat down with Sam Brenner, the man responsible for managing BoxCast's global marketing strategy, to discuss how the company has achieved such tremendous growth in just four years. Sam was hired in 2015 to build a scalable content marketing machine that would help BoxCast achieve its grand vision: to be the best live video streaming company for organizations around the world.
Since Sam started two years ago, the company has more than doubled its staff and has grown in suit. He says that even though BoxCast is a small tech company in Cleveland, it feels like a global company because there are constantly live streams all around the world.
Let’s dive in to see how he and his team are working to achieve this lofty responsibility.
S.B: BoxCast was launched in 2013 by three Case Western Reserve University graduates. BoxCast is a smarter way to stream—a complete, easy-to-use live-streaming solution for organizations. The BoxCast platform allows colleges, high schools, churches, businesses and municipalities to create stunning, professional live video experiences with minimal effort.
S.B: Our main audiences are sports teams, churches and municipalities. Our market chose us. When churches and sports coaches kept reaching out saying they would love to have BoxCast, we noted the trend and started to talk to those people. Early on, you have to sit face-to-face with your users. Ask them what they like and what they don't like. Ask what would make their experience easier.
BoxCast dedicates a web page to each of its audiences so it can target content to best fit their pain points.
Municipalities are a newer market for us. The municipality space right now reminds us of the church space three years ago. In the beginning, every sales call we made was us telling churches that their members will want to watch when they were sick or traveling. We had to convince them. Now, we are getting bombarded with calls from churches because either the church down the road is live streaming so you are keeping up with them or they already get it. We feel like we will see the same in the municipalities space. We are seeing that while less and less people are going to their City Hall meetings, they still want to know what is going on in their town. BoxCast lets your residents watch at home whenever they feel like it.
The other side of this is knowing when an audience is not right for your company. We have been approached so many times by live-music venues, but what we learned was that it doesn't work from a money model. The venue, the artist, the streamer and the promotions company want to make money. We realized this model doesn't fit from an economic standpoint. Churches work in the streaming world because they have the same event every week. For a recurring revenue model like ours, it makes sense.
S.B: In the beginning, there was not a lot of money, people or time dedicated to marketing. We used to go to a lot of conferences. Our salespeople were road dogs. They were always either on the road, cold calling, looking through their stacks of business cards and personal relationships or waiting for the phone to ring. We were not optimizing the internet to draw in attention or customers.
We have now been able to drastically reduce time and money spent at conferences because there is so much demand coming from inbound marketing. We pivoted from spending all of our time out finding and convincing people to creating enough content where people could find it in a variety of channels and come to us.
Our international growth has come over the past two years thanks, in large part, to our digital marketing strategy.
S.B: Today, video is the thing that crosses all of our markets. About a year and a half ago, we made the decision to dedicate someone who spent half of their time in marketing and half in customer support to do video full time. That was a calculated move for us. As a video company, we are biased to believe that live video is the ultimate type of content, but video in any form is the type of content that people tend to interact with the most. We had to eat our own dog food in that sense. We had to create a lot more videos.
The other side of content creation is the “where.” You have to find out where people are watching videos or reading blogs and how they are finding their information. I tell my team that we have to have a very good idea of where people’s attention is going all the time. I care more about where our target audience’s attention is rather than what the things are that got us that attention in the past. If anyone is talking about live streaming or video production, we want to be the ones trying to drive that conversation. That means instead of being reactive, we must consistently pump out a variety of different pieces of content in order to drive conversation for our leads and to educate our customers. That takes a real shift for everyone in every department.
About a year ago, we started distributing our content through partners that were specifically in our markets. Instead of just trying to leverage our content through our paid or organically grown audiences, there are media companies that are in the church or sports space that have the advantage of years more of audience growth. If they have a newsletter or pages on their websites with lots of traffic, we would go to them and say, “We have the thing that you want. We have the expert content on a subject. You have the audience so let’s figure out a business deal where we will create everything and manage the leads coming in and you will also be compensated for getting us that attention.”
In the church market, we've partnered with one of the largest online media companies that owns several prominent faith-based sites. We deliver them premium content pieces like our Buyer's Guide to Live Video Streaming and The Best Equipment for Live Video Streaming: Spring 2017. We give them an embedded HubSpot form that qualifies leads. Our partner distributes our content across its vast network of people. For every qualified lead that fills out that form and comes into our system, we pay a CPL (cost per lead). This one partner has generated more than 2,300 new church leads and more than $35,000 in ARR (annual recurring revenue) for us in less than a year.
S.B: The two most important KPIs we track are total ARR (annual recurring revenue) and customer acquisition cost ratio. We also track churn religiously. It is very important for a SaaS company to know the percentage of its customers that are leaving each month. For every customer that churns, we feel like we have to sell two to get it back. We also know what the lifetime value of a customer is. So, when we lose one, and it is earlier than that lifetime would be, we are losing out on ARR.
I am a bit of a freak for performance. My agency background taught me that. We have a scorecard that lays out department goals that will help the bigger company goals. Each person on my team has eight to 10 KPIs that they track that help the larger department goals, which in turn, help the company goals. Those are individual based on the activities they concentrate on.
The biggest thing about measuring KPIs is how we communicate those to people at the company. It is one thing for the management members to know where we are headed and the metrics. It is another thing to get the other 20+ employees here to understand it and take it upon themselves to achieve these goals. We have an ARR thermometer and a chart that shows every BoxCaster that is in the field right now globally. That gives you a visual idea of how many customers you have. We listen to our employees and help them visualize the goals and metrics. Getting everyone on board is one of the most important things we can do.
BoxCast office with visually represented KPIs on the wall in the background.
S.B: HubSpot is our main marketing tool. The biggest thing it has helped with is visibility and alignment. HubSpot is our marketing automation, our CRM and where our site is hosted. That is nice because there is not a lot of friction from an integration standpoint.
HubSpot gives us the visibility to be able to make decisions. There aren't a lot of things we suggest here that aren’t backed up by some form of data. Before implementing anything, my team sits down and looks at HubSpot reports to determine what has worked and what has not worked in the past.
HubSpot has also made a huge difference on the contact-level to know these people, what they are doing on our site and how they are interacting with our reps and content. We can target all of our content and communication to the right people at the right time.
S.B: My marketing budget has to align with sales. My buddy is the VP of sales. When she got hired, it was my goal and intention to ensure we would be closely aligned. When I do my budget, I do it with her so we are not on islands. Our money is being spent with the same directives in mind which are also guided by the company directives. Nothing should ever feel like it is being done from a departmental standpoint. It is always part of a bigger group conversation.
Now that I am in my second year, I have a year’s worth of data. I base my marketing budget off of previous data. We now know how many leads and deals came in from our 2016 conferences. We don’t have to say things like, “I think that show will be good for us.” Now we know if a show will generate sales. Conversations with the VP of sales or the CFO are not challenging anymore because I can come at things with a clear and non-emotional head.
I also allot a small part of my budget to testing. If you don't allow for this, you can run into the common trap of doing the same thing over and over again just because. Right now, we are testing Quora ads. They do quite well for us.
Thank you to Sam Brenner for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at how he strategizes and implements a marketing plan for a global tech company. If your company is ready to pivot its plan and head toward a global growth strategy, read these success stories from companies like BoxCast.