It was the summer of 2012 when the LeadSquared story started. LeadSquared was founded by Nilesh Patel, Sudhakar Gorti and Prashant Singh. Before writing the first line of software, the founders spent 15 months working with dozens of B2C and B2B businesses to build their marketing and lead generation engines.
The company generated tens of thousands of leads for its clients running several hundred marketing campaigns through inbound and outbound channels. LeadSquared is their second venture. The earlier startup, Proteans, was acquired by Symphony Teleca Corporation in 2010.
Since then, LeadSquared has justified its mission of simplifying and automating marketing and lead generation for businesses and marketers worldwide.
In this month’s Expert Interview Series, we have Nilesh Patel, the CEO of LeadSquared, who shares with us all about his amazing voyage of Entrepreneurship and how he helped LeadSquared become an Elite name. Here are the excerpts from his Interview with SoftwareSuggest.
Read On !!
Q1) How does LeadSquared help businesses?
LeadSquared helps businesses in the following ways:
- Lead Capture Automation: Seamlessly capture leads from all sources – inbound email, online campaigns, phone calls, website, chat, lead generation websites and more.
- Lead Distribution: Distribute leads based on city, product or any other rules to cut down the response time.
- Marketing Automation: Engage & nurture leads using email & SMS campaigns; Trigger-based emails to make them sales ready.
- Sales Acceleration: Focus on leads, with the highest potential for conversion, with automated lead engagement scoring technology.
- Marketing and Sales Analytics: Access detailed marketing insights about – the Campaigns and Sources driving qualified leads.
- Mobile App: Manage leads on the go.
Q2) How did you hit upon the idea for your Company?
Before developing LeadSquared, we (the Founders) spent 15 months working with dozens of B2C and B2B businesses to build their marketing and lead generation engines. We generated tens of thousands of leads for these clients running several hundred marketing campaigns through inbound and outbound channels.
We found that businesses were using multiple tools to run their marketing, lead generation, and sales operations and struggled to make all this work together. Then, with all the data across multiple tools, it was very hard and tedious to get meaningful and actionable insights. Addressing these challenges was where the inspiration for LeadSquared came in. We wanted to build easy-to-use yet powerful software that can help businesses in the following ways:
- Automate their lead capture
- Nurture their leads seamlessly
- Accelerate their sales
- Provide detailed analytics to constantly make improvements.
Q3) What are the other Software Products you use to increase Productivity?
We use a variety of tools for our sales and marketing. They include WordPress, Moz, Google Analytics, FullContact, Freshdesk, LiveChat, Ozonetel, Exotel, GoToWebinar, Zapier, Zopim, to name a few. We also have strong integrations with most of these tools.
Q4) How have Sales evolved since you first got into the business? What hasn’t changed?
Currently, we have to invest in several key tools to aid our sales cycle like Cloud Telephony and SMS Marketing. Telephone-based lead generation helps us generate targeted leads from market segments of our interest. These investments ensured that our inside sales have enough trial users to convert them into customers.
What hasn’t changed according to me, in terms of generating sales, is the art of cold calling and sending cold emails. Now many might not agree with this practice but it surely can result in a sale most often.
Q5) Think of something you’ve done in the past; what would you have done differently?
I think we all learn from things we have done in the past. In this context, initially, we built the solution to sell it to B2B businesses. However, when we entered the selling phase, we realized that investing in marketing is not a necessity for a lot of B2B companies especially the small to mid-size firms. Our sales traction was slow so we started focusing on companies selling high-value products and services to individuals (we call it high-value B2C). We found good traction in that segment which was not initially our roadmap.
So that gets me thinking sometimes – what if we had done that differently then!
Q6) What are the important features or traits that your customers look for? And how do you fulfill them?
We found that most businesses (customers) had a problem of Lead Leakage, and Slow Response Time, leading to lost opportunities and were looking for solutions to improve that. Plus, there was a lot of ambiguity in the marketing ROI. The lead generation methods are many, and the marketing spend is huge, so you need to know the success rates of your marketing activities to take any informed decision. This was completely missing in the existing CRMs the businesses were using.
This is where LeadSquared comes into the picture as it combines marketing automation with the most-used components of CRM. This approach eliminates the need of a CRM, as both marketing and sales now have a complete context to each lead within one common view. Lead capture automation eliminates lead leakage completely by making it easier for businesses to capture leads from all sources. Businesses don’t need to use multiple systems to run their marketing and sales operations.
Q7) As the CEO, how has your Vision changed from the initial days of your company to the present?
You see, a lot of businesses are not able to grow beyond initial customers, because of under-investment in marketing or broken marketing. Initially, we (the founders) figured marketing and lead generation service will have lot of takers and started the company. That was our vision then. Services Business by its nature has a difficult path when it comes to scaling the business.
Since we had run Services Business in the past, we knew that to build a scalable business model it would be important to invest in technology that would allow them to differentiate and scale. The technology that we built was called LeadSquared. The name literally means increasing (squaring) leads.
As we started to build and roll out LeadSquared, we figured the vast market opportunity in building pure play software that caters to marketing and sales teams. To ensure it gets the due attention, we gradually moved away from providing marketing and lead generation services to just focusing on LeadSquared.
Q8) What do you know is true that many few will agree upon?
The traditional notion that it is hard to make money in Software business in India and the market is small – We don’t agree with this! We have figured out how to make money in this market. We see huge and growing opportunity in India and will continue to invest here.
Q9) What do you expect to see over the next 5 to 10 years in the Marketing and Sales Industry?
Hundreds of new businesses are getting registered in India every day. All of these are SMEs or micro businesses. Even before the business is formally launched, the Gen-Y SMEs are thinking marketing first, and are pro digital. In terms of marketing and sales, most of them will have a website from day one, communicate with customers on WhatsApp and spend on marketing to get discovered on the Internet. Older SMEs had a certain way to do business, but they are gradually embracing the new reality and are willing to adapt systems and technologies to improve their business performance.
LeadSquared’s customers are primarily small and medium businesses. The SMEs that are adopting technology are able to react faster to the customer inquiries, provide better customer experience and increase their win ratio while competing with larger rivals.
We see huge and growing opportunity in India and will continue to invest here in sales and marketing. International markets also offer the opportunity for us and we plan to serve them out of India. We are planning to raise 10 million dollars to expand and build our business.
Q10) What was your journey like to get where you are?
Our journey so far has been just incredible. We have come right up from helping businesses generate leads, to actually plugging the loopholes in their marketing and sales processes. A majority of our customers rely only on LeadSquared as their Central Marketing & Sales System, and we feel great that we are actually able to solve their problems.
Q11) What’s the hardest decision you’ve made so far?
Well, any big decision we take is generally made by all three of us Co-founders. I think the hardest could have been choosing to make LeadSquared a Marketing Automation (MA) tool and also a CRM.
You see, looking at the market we knew that it was definitely required. But we also knew that it was not all that prevalent. There were CRMs yes, MA tools of course, but none that combined it together.
I am glad that we took the decision – for it has definitely carved a unique niche for us in the market!
Lastly, we would be glad to have your valuable suggestions for the new age Entrepreneurs coming up in the industry today.
- 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.
- Startups should raise money if they can. Cash is the lifeline of any business; use it wisely.
- Do not primarily focus on selling through partners; if you cannot sell, your partners can’t sell either.