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News & Insights

News & Insights

Scaling With Soul

Our first customer was an account-based marketing consultant from San Francisco who launched an online information service for senior marketing execs trying to sell into the C-Suite. Sharon Gillenwater’s service, which was one of the first to automate ‘relationship mapping’, went on to great success. Her sale of the firm to another larger business-to-business online information service made her an inspiration to many entrepreneurs and she spent the last couple of years sharing her knowledge on social media before distilling her story into her new memoir, ‘Scaling With Soul’.

We at Information Evolution had a front-row seat to Sharon’s fascinating story of boot-strapped entrepreneurship and we did our best to support her vision. Our customers then and now are a mix of ‘pure’ software start-ups and legacy publishing businesses building out complex b-to-b information services. The two groups are quite complementary with the new firms having the drive to re-invent b-to-b workflows and the traditional firms bringing their immense subject-matter expertise.

So what was the secret to Sharon’s success? Well, I suggest you read her excellent book to find out, but here are a few things I noticed.

  1. She saw the ‘unmet need’ firsthand with major tech marketers. Her consulting experience made it clear as day to her what type of information and tools her clients needed but could not obtain without building them in-house.
  1. Her analysis led her to understand the critical role of “relationship-mapping”, which involves having excellent underlying data that can be used to establish links between seemingly unconnected executives. A salesperson who worked at the same firm or went to the same college as one of his sales prospects, but not at the same time, has a real connection with that person. But to logically establish that connection you need both party’s detailed resumés with start and end dates for each role and each educational experience. That was a labor-intensive task in the days before LinkedIN APIs and artificial intelligence, so it took vision, commitment, and a lot of risk to blaze a trail to develop this important type of tool.
  1. She knew what she didn’t know. As she took her product to market she knew she needed to build an enterprise sales team for subscriptions. She worked her network and found an ideal partner to help build this critical part of her enterprise. Adding this knowledgeable, experienced, and even-keeled professional to her team made a huge impact on the top line and paved the way to her eventual successful exit.

Sharon’s book’s title focuses more on the fact that you don’t need to sacrifice civility and professionalism in pursuit of the American Dream, but her lessons for those of us in the information industry are even more compelling. The focus, hard work, patience, empathy, and creativity don’t matter if you are not truly helping to solve a real world problem.

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