In 2020 alone, the UK tech sector hit a total of $15bn worth of investments—$200m higher than the previous record set in 2019. This figure has now pushed the UK into 3rd place behind the US and China in global investments.
Delving further into the figures though, according to a recent Tech Nation report, around 20% of this figure (approximately $3.5bn), was invested into just ten UK scaleups. So, with ever-increasing international focus on our own homegrown tech start-ups and scaleups, what should marketing leaders focus on when looking to drive significant market growth for their own organisation?
Sarah Whipp, CMO and head of go-to-market (GTM) strategy at CallSign, recently spoke to us as part of our ‘Seeblue Smarts’ podcast series, sharing her professional insight.
From corporate to start-up, to scaleup
CallSign are pioneers in the ‘Authentication Digital Trust’ space and have seen considerable growth due to external investment in just three years. This is Sarah’s first role in a start-up / scaleup business.
With a previous background working with well-known corporate brands such as Symantec, McAfee, also running marketing for S&P Global Ratings, Sarah saw the benefits in moving from the larger ‘behemoths’ to a more nimble, agile scaleup business;
“It was an opportunity to start from scratch as they’d never had marketing before. I got there, the website was one page and there was a one-sided data sheet – that was it.
The more I started talking with the CEO though, the more excited I got about what they were building – how important that would be on a societal front.
I thought to myself, ‘Can I actually do this? Can I build a brand?’. It was a different side of it (than marketing at with corporates). There were a lot of scary moments and I think I challenged myself more than I thought I ever thought was going to be possible – doing okay so far, catastrophic mess ups, but it’s okay because you’re testing and learning that –that that’s how you can make it work.”
With any opportunity to build something from the ground up, the feeling when an idea – or a start-up – finally succeeds, is hugely rewarding. But how does an injection of investment into a business change how you think and operate as a marketing leader?
With such a massive growth of inward investment into the tech sector in the UK, how does that change priorities for a business or marketing leader?
According to Sarah, you’ll first need to focus on the fact that ‘the plan you put in place, is the plan that you’re going to achieve’;
“It’s about not allowing doubt to come into it. You’ve got to know your objectives. At CallSign, we want to be the biggest name in digital trust. We want to be this iconic brand. And if you’re going to do that, you can’t set yourself up as a challenger brand. You can’t set yourself up as being the plucky number two. You’ve got to plot a path to say, ‘We’re going to be the king brand’.”
With any scaleup moving past the development/start-up phase though, the secret to attracting investment is to be noticed by the key influencers – you need to be known to them first, to have them advocating on your behalf.
But how do you build and scale a marketing strategy to achieve this?
Clarity and focus
Referring to building a scaleup strategy, Sarah pointed out;
“As a startup you’re never going to be a king brand at the beginning. So, you have to then define the pool that you’re going to be the king brand in, which is a very small and defined area.”
Any marketing strategy for a scaleup has to start by influencing investors and analysts so they can advocate on your behalf with target portfolio companies. This is particularly pertinent for one that’s already achieved early market penetration. In this case, industry analysts are hugely influential.
In just three years at CallSign, Sarah has tripled the marketing team, focussing her team’s efforts on one specific direction.
“I’m very conscious of the path that I put in place and talked to the investors about. It had to be right to start with, and we weren’t going to deviate. From the beginning we said we’re going to test and we’re going to try things, and we’re going to test and we’re going to learn. We won’t go crazy, but we will build in one big direction and set the team up for that. But make sure you understand you’re also marketing to your investors”
Set the right measures
As a marketing leader, it’s easy to get bogged down in the sales-like metrics. However, when focussing on investment, it’s important to track the right measures that potential investors care about. This is where understanding the industry analysts and those recommendations becomes really important.
Instead of tracking just the numbers, analysts also look to where customers are thinking through customer satisfaction. Key measures here are the longer-term metrics—brand measure and brand health—achievable through a sound marketing strategy.
“They’ve got to see a brand that they want to invest in and whatever aspirational, vision message you are pursuing in the deck.
It’s about the strategy. You’re part of the strategy in a scale up. In some cases, you’re lucky enough to be a core part of the strategy. So, make sure that you’re marketing to that, and don’t belittle marketing.”
To hear the full interview from Sarah Whipp – live on our ‘Seeblue Smarts’ podcast series – click here.