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Monday, August 22, 2016

Lesson #242: Top 50 Content Marketing Strategies

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/22/2016

I have been wanting to write a how-to lesson on how best to optimize your content marketing ...

I have been wanting to write a how-to lesson on how best to optimize your content marketing efforts, and I was fortunate to stumble on a great post from my good colleague Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director at Orbit Media Studios, a content marketing agency who is expert on the topic. So, instead of writing a very similar lesson from scratch, Andy was kind enough to let me repurpose his wisdom as a Red Rocket lesson and guest post.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Stop Cherry Coating Your True Opinion!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/11/2016

Too often in business, people want to be nice, avoid conflict or not upset their boss or co-work...

Too often in business, people want to be nice, avoid conflict or not upset their boss or co-workers by stating their true opinions.  All that does is create problems for all involved.  You get frustrated that the business is not going in the direction you think is most logical.  And, the listener is provided an opinion from you, which they think you are supportive of, that is potentially the wrong direction for the business and not truly what you feel is the right thing to do.  Hence, keeping the listener headed in the wrong direction.   In business, and particularly in startups where you cannot afford to waste time or resources heading down the wrong direction, there is only one mandate to live by:  always call it like you see it, regardless your role or title.

Read the rest of this post in Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sales Not Closing? Know When to Panic!

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/05/2016

Most B2B businesses are sales driven organizations, often with a team of expensive sales people i...

Most B2B businesses are sales driven organizations, often with a team of expensive sales people in the market trying to hunt down and close new clients. This is typically a really stressful process for early-stage startups, as they typically are incurring the costs of the sales team, well ahead of the sales actually closing and funds running through the income statement. The key is learning what the normal sales cycle should be for your specific business, and when the sales slowness is due to the normal cycle versus a weak salesperson or conversion process. It is critical to learn when you have a real problem on your hands, and when you don’t, so you do not unnecessarily panic when sales are slow to materialize.

Read the rest of this post in Entrepreneur, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Lesson #241: Successful Selling Only Begins With the Sale

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/03/2016

Let’s face facts.  Sales people love to close sales, because that is how they are incentivize...

Let’s face facts.  Sales people love to close sales, because that is how they are incentivized, through sales commissions.  Call it the thrill of the hunt.  And, most sales teams, sales managers and sales pipeline reports are all built up around closing the sale.  But, the sad reality is, closing the sale is only the first step in hopefully maintaining a long-term recurring relationship with that customer, which is going to require impressing them time-and-time-again throughout the course of the relationship.  Which means:  you never really end the sales process at all.  Let me further explain.

Getting from Pilot Programs to Long Term Contracts

Most enterprise scale contracts never start at the full level.  Customers typically like to “try before they buy”.  As an example, maybe they will commit to running a $50,000 pilot program with you, before handing over $500,000 for the full cost of the annual license.  So, what does that mean?  Your salesperson most likely got the adrenaline lift from closing the pilot program, and they are on to hunting the next big deal.

But, that is a huge mistake.  This customer needs their hands held more than ever during the pilot program.  It is critical the tests go well.  And, customers don’t feel like their primary sales executive has disappeared.  The sales executive needs to stay all over the fulfillment team to make sure everything goes perfectly “as advertised”.  Because if they don’t, they are risking the customer not pulling the trigger on the bigger ticket multi-year contract, based on dissatisfaction with their first experience with your company.  So, the pilot is not the finish line for the first sale, the long-term contract is.  Especially, since most VC’s won’t give you credit for clients, until they are out of pilot stage and into long-term relationships.

Fending Off Hungry Competitors

And, just because you closed a long-term contract with a customer doesn’t mean you own that relationship in perpetuity.  Your competitors will be continuing to fire bullets in your direction.  Their sales people will be pitching and romancing your customers over and over again, until they ultimately win the business.  Which you need to prevent, as best as you can.

Your sales team needs to “protect your turf” at all times.  Figure out which competitors are sniffing around the accounts.  Learn what they are pitching your customers.  Pitch your similar solutions.  And, if you don’t have similar solutions, tell your product team, so they can add the request into their future product roadmaps.  And, maintain great personal relationships with your customers.  Because, at the end of the day, you are in the “people business”, and the happier you keep the “people”, especially at the personal level, the more they are going to want to keep working with you.

Putting in Required Face Time Throughout the Year

At the time of the sale, you need to put your annual plan of attack in place on what you need to be doing with these customers over the course of the year.  Think about setting up quarterly business reviews with your customers—not to “sell” them anything, but to inform them of key industry trends and to provide updates on how everything is going with the relationship.  Provide suggestions for areas of improvement and be open with them on how things are progressing.  Show that you “have their back”, and are more interested in seeing them succeed with your product, as opposed to simply trying to sell them something.  Of course, you will be intently listening for upsell opportunities, but don’t sell them during those meetings.

For quarterly business reviews, I would vary up the breadth and depth of those meetings based on the relationship’s importance to your business.  So, think $100,000 accounts gets the updates from their sales executive once a quarter.  And, $500,000 accounts, add in key executives from the company, in rotation, to those meetings (to show the company’s cares enough to send them).  And, $1,000,000 accounts, gets a visit from the CEO at least once a year.  That kind of stuff.

Getting Customers to Renew

And, as I have said many times in the past:  closing the first sale is less important than closing the repeat sale.  The repeat sale proves customers like your product and are happy with their experience with your business.  And, it is materially more economical to drive revenue growth through customer retention, than it is to try to drum up new customers in the first place. 

Imagine if you were a $5MM revenue business and you were losing half of your customers each year.  Instead of adding $2.5MM in sales for 50% growth in year two, your sales team is spinning its wheels just to see revenues stay flat.  So, track your customer churn, and keep it to an absolute minimum.

The key message here: never take off your “sales hats”.  Selling is an ongoing process, and needs to be built into your companies DNA throughout the entire customer lifecycle—over and over again!  But, in a way, that the customer doesn’t feel like they are being “sold” anything at all.  So, carefully walk that line.  And, don’t forget, selling responsibilities doesn’t start and stop solely with the sales team.  Make sure you create an “everyone sells culture” throughout your entire employee base, for maximum success here.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chicago Private Equity Firms

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/27/2016

In addition to our list of Chicago Venture Capital Firms and Chicago Family Investment Offices ...

In addition to our list of Chicago Venture Capital Firms and Chicago Family Investment Offices, here is a list of Chicago Private Equity Firms investing in later stage companies. I included a high-level summary of their investment criteria, as communicated on their websites.

Adams Street Partners (tech & healthcare, $27BN managed, $5-$25MM checks)

Aldine Capital Partners (generalist, $2-$15MM checks, $10MM+ revs, $2MM+ EBITDA)

Alpha Capital (mfg. & dist., $135MM managed, $500K-$5MM checks, $15-$100MM revs)

Anderson Pacific (telecom, media & SaaS)

Arbor Investments (food & beverage, $5-$50MM EBITDA, up to $300MM revs)

Baird Capital Partners (healthcare, industrial, tech & services, up to $150MM revs)

Beecken Petty O'Keefe & Company  (healthcare, $1.4BN managed, over $5MM EBITDA)

Benford Capital (CPG, industrial, services & dist., over $1MM EBITDA, over $3MM revs)

Beverly Capital (healthcare & biz services, $2-$8MM EBITDA)

Bounds Equity Partners (bldg mat., biz svs., CPG, dist. & mfg, $100MM mgd, over $1MM EBITDA)

Bridge Investments (biz svs., SaaS, cons., mfg,, health, up to $10MM checks, up to $5MM EBITDA)

Bridge Street Capital (mfg., dist., CPG, health, and biz svs, middle-market size companies)

Chicago Capital Partners (svs., CPG, dist., educ., & mfg., $2-$10MM checks, $1-$5MM EBITDA)

Chicago Growth Partners (educ., health, tech svs. & ind., $15-$150MM revs, $15-75MM checks)

Chicago Venture Partners (tech/comm, media/ent, energy, CPG, biotech/pharma, up to $3MM check)

CHS Capital ($2.9BN managed, $75-$500MM checks)

CIVC Partners (biz svs. & financial svs., $1.5BN managed, $5MM+ EBITDA, $15-$85MM checks)

CM Acquisitions (industrial & transport infrastructure, up to $15MM EBITDA, up to $250MM revs)

Cressey & Company (healthcare, $1BN managed, up to $50MM checks)

Cognitive Capital Partners (mfg, biz svs, data, consumer, $3-$15MM EBITDA, $5-$50MM checks)

Dixon Midland (ecomm, health, energy/agric svs, CPG, biz svs, $4MM+ EBITDA, $25-$100MM valuation)

DN Partners (mfg, dist. & services, $20-$100MM revenues, $20-$100MM valuation)

D'Orazio Capital Partners (mfg., log., supply, svs., & oil, $10-$30MM revs, $1.5-$3MM EBITDA)

Driehaus Private Equity (energy, media, services & mfg., $5MM+ revs, $1-$30MM checks)

Dunrath Capital (infrastructure)

Edgewater Funds ($2.4BN managed, $20-$500MM revs)

Flexpoint Ford (financial svs. & healthcare, up to $200MM checks)

Frontenac Company (food, services, & industrial, $3-$20MM EBITDA, to $250MM valuation)

Fulton Capital (dist., mfg., & biz svs., $10-$100M revs, $2-10MM EBITDA)

Geneva Glen Capital (biz svs., CPG, environment, educ., health, mfg., media, dist., $3-$20MM EBITDA, up to $50MM check, under $100MM valuation)

Glencoe Capital (generalists, $3-$15MM EBITDA, over $7MM checks)

Grand Crossing Capital (CPG & retail, $5-$25MM checks, $2-$10MM EBITDA)

Granite Creek Partners (food/agric., med. devices, transport., $10-$50MM checks, $5MM+ EBITDA, $25-$150MM valuation)

GTCR (fin. svs., tech, media, telecom, health, biz svs., upper middle-market)

Hadley Capital (mfg., dist., & biz svs., $5-$30MM revs, $1-3MM EBITDA)

Hand Capital (financial services & manufacturing, small businesses)

HCP & Company (consumer, education  & healthcare, $10MM+ revs, $5-$30MM checks, profitable)

Heico Companies (mfg., dist., & services, $30MM+ revenues)

Hennessy Capital (ind., mfg., dist., services, $500MM-$1BN valuations)

High Street Capital (biz svs., mfg., dist., & health, up to $100MM revs, up to $15MM EBITDA)

Hughes & Company (healthcare, $2-$20MM checks, up to $10MM EBITDA)

Industrial Innovation Partners (industrial, oil, tech, & health, $1-20MM EBITDA, $5-$100MM valuation)

Industrial Opportunity Partners  (mfg. & dist., $30-$350MM revs, $5-$50MM check, $460MM mgd)

Inoca Capital Partners (biz svs., consumer & mfg., $1-$8MM EBITDA)

JZ Partners (mfg., dist., ind., health, educ., trans., biz svs., up to $200MM valuation, $1BN mgd).

JVA Partners (home decor, industrial storage, IoT technology, $25-$150MM revs, $5-$25MM check)

Keystone Capital (prof./biz svs., industrial tech/mfg. & consumer/food, $4MM+ EBITDA)

Lake Capital (biz svs., cons. svs., fin svs., & health, $50-$75MM checks)

Lake Pacific Partners (food/bev., CPG, cons. svs., dist., & biz svs., $25-$250MM revs)

LaSalle Capital (food/bev. & biz svs., $10-$100MM revs, $2MM+ EBITDA, $5-20MM checks)

Linden Capital Partners (healthcare, $1.3BN managed)

Madison Dearborn Partners (industrial, biz. svs., consumer, fin. svs., health, telecom, media, tech svs., $18BN mgd)

Madison Industries (filtration, medical, & industrial, strong cash flow, global focus, up to $250MM)

Maranon Capital (biz svs., consumer, health, dist., & mfg., $2BN mgd, $5-$50MM EBITDA)

McNally Capital (food/bev, biz svs., logistics, mfg, & health, $5-$25MM EBITDA)

Merit Capital Partners (mfg.., dist, & biz svs., $25MM+ revs, $5MM+ EBITDA, $15MM+ checks, $1.7BN mgd.)

Mesirow Financial (generalist, $4.5BN mgd., co-invest with professional funds)

Mid Oaks Investments (mfg., biz svs., & dist., $25-$250MM revs)

Midwest Mezzanine Funds (generalist, $750MM mgd., $3MM+ EBITDA, $4-$15MM checks)

MVC Capital (CPG, food, dist., mfg. & fin. svs., $10-$150MM revs, $3-$25MM EBITDA, $3-$25MM checks)

New Harbor Capital (health, education & biz svs., $3-15MM EBITDA, $10-$30MM checks)

North American Funds (mfg., food/bev., medical, consumer, dist., biz svs., educ. & fin. svs., $5-$40MM revs, $500K-$5MM EBITDA)

One Eighty Capital (generalist, $5-$50MM valuation, $0-$10MM EBITDA)

One Equity Partners (health, fin. svs., mfg., tech, travel, energy, food, media & consumer, $11BN mgd, $150MM average check)

PAG Capital (CPG, mfg., dist., biz svs. & cons. svs.., up to $75MM revs, $1MM+ EBITDA)

Parallel49 Equity (mfg., biz svs. & dist., $5-$25MM EBITDA, $1BN managed)

Parker Gale (technology, $2-$6MM EBITDA)

Periscope Equity (tech-enabled biz svs., $10-$40MM revs, $2-$5MM EBITDA, $10-$30MM valuation, $5-$15MM checks)

Pfingsten Partners (mfg., dist. & biz svs., $15-$100MM valuation, $20-$150MM revs, $3-12MM EBITDA)

Plenary Partners (health, tech, mfg. & life sciences, $1MM+ EBITDA)

Polestar Capital (technology, smaller companies)

PPM America (consumer, energy, dist., health, educ., tech, mfg. & biz svs., $6BN mgd, $5-$25MM checks, $30-$300MM valuation)

Prairie Capital (biz svs., industrial, CPG, educ., fin. svs. & health, $20-$100MM revs, $4-$12MM EBITDA)

Prism Capital (industrial up to $7MM checks; tech, health, mfg. & biz svs. up to $3MM co-invest checks)

Promus Equity Partners (CPG, food/bev., industrial, special materials, dist. & biz svs., EBITDA up to $15MM)

Prospect Partners (mfg., dist. & services, $10-$75MM revs)

Range Light (active lifestyle, natural foods & tech svs., $1-$20MM check, $1-$30MM revs)

Red Arts Capital (industrial, biz svs., CPG, dist., mfg., food/bev., health & medical devices, up to $75MM revs)

Rock Gate Partners (biz svs., consumer, dist., food & industrial, $3-20MM checks, $10-$75MM valuation, $10-$100MM revs)

Rock Island Capital (mfg., dist., & svs., up to $100MM valuation, $10-$100MM revs)

RoundTable Healthcare Partners (med. devices, pharma & healthcare, $2.75BN managed)

SE Capital (biz svs. & gov. svs., $5-$50MM revenues)

Sheridan Capital Partners (healthcare & consumer, $20-$150MM valuation, $10-$30MM checks)

Shore Capital Partners (healthcare, $5-$50MM revs, $1-$5MM EBITDA)

Shorehill Capital (industrial & distribution, $25-$100MM valuations)

Silver Oak Services Partners (biz svs., cons. svs. & health, $10-$30MM checks, $15-$150MM revs, $3-$20MM EBITDA)

Skyline Global Partners (health, mfg., biz svs., software, CPG, food/bev/agric., & oil/gas, $10-$100M checks, $10-$100MM revs, $2-$15MM EBITDA)

Sterling Partners (biz svs., education & healthcare, $25-$125MM checks, $10-$30MM EBITDA)

Stockwell Capital (generalist, $3-$15MM co-invest checks, middle-market sized companies)

Svoboda Capital Partners (dist., biz svs., cons. svs. & CPG, $25-$100MM valuation, $10-$25MM checks, $10-$100MM revs, $3-$15MM EBITDA)

Synetro Group (B2B tech, biz svs. & mfg., $8-$50MM revs, $0-$3MM EBITDA, $1-$4MM checks, under $50MM valuation)

The Pritzker Group (mfg., services, health, food, cons., industrial, transport, medical and pharma, $100-$750MM valuation)

Thoma Bravo (enterprise, infrastructure tech, security tech and tech-enabled biz svs., $20MM+ EBITDA, $100-$750MM checks)

Thurston Group (healthcare & technology, $3BN managed)

Traverse Pointe Partners (biz svs., bldg. prods., fin. svs., mfg., industrial, media, telecom, packaging, retail, CPG, transport & dist., up to $6MM in EBITDA, $10MM+ revs)

Tyree and D'Angelo Partners (health, cons., agric., biz svs., $1-$5MM EBITDA, under $50MM revs)

Valor Equity Partners (cons., infrastructure, industrial & mfg., $10-30MM checks)

Water Street (healthcare, $50-$500MM checks)

Waterside Capital Partners (ind., CPG, food, mfg. & biz svs., $3-$25MM checks, $25-$150MM revs)

Waud Capital Partners (generalist, $50-$100MM checks)

Waveland Investments (mfg., dist. & services, $10MM+ revs, $1-$8MM EBITDA)

Willis Stein & Partners (infrastructure, mfg. & education, $30-$500MM valuation, $3BN mgd)

Wind Point Partners (industrial, CPG & biz svs., $30-$150MM check, $10MM+ EBITDA)

Winona Capital (CPG, retail & cons. svs., $10-$100MM revs, $1MM+ EBITDA, $10-$30MM check)

Woodlawn Partners (mfg., bldg. svs., tech, fin. svs., food/bev., transport & dist., $5MM+ revs, $1MM+ EBITDA)

Wynnchurch Capital (mfg., transport, biz svs., dist., energy, ind. & metals, $50MM-$1BN revs, $5-$100MM checks)

Be sure to dig deeper on their websites to make sure they invest in your specific industry, revenue stage, geography and desired minority/majority deal structure before reaching out to these investors. Red Rocket can help make introductions to many of these investors, so please leverage our relationships here.

For future posts, please follow us on Twitter at: @RedRocketVC

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

[NEWS] The Red Rocket Blog Passes 750,000 Reads!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/26/2016

We just logged in to write our next blog post and were pleasantly surprised when we got an alert...

We just logged in to write our next blog post and were pleasantly surprised when we got an alert that the Red Rocket Blog just passed the 750,000 reads mark!!  We are so excited our reader base continues to grow and keeps coming back, month after month, for our growing list of lessons in enterpreneurship.  Thank you so much for your continued readership, and helping us spread the word to your entrepreneurial colleagues.

For future posts, please follow us on Twitter at: @RedRocketVC.


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