A great product alone is not enough… especially when your competitors offer more finely tuned customer experiences.

We entered 2021 optimistic that companies would be able to refocus on growth. Through GrowthBits and Virtual Collaborate forums, LLR’s portfolio company leaders and Value Creation Team shared some of their recent experiences and best advice to help others rethink critical growth levers like channel sales, customer success and account-based marketing, and become more strategic in how they manage people, leverage data and prepare for an exit.

We hope some of these insights helped other companies get back on track toward achieving their growth objectives, while continuing to manage the unique challenges that remain from 2020. In case you missed any, here are some of the most actionable insights that may help inform your approach in the rest of 2021.

#Strategy: Shift to a disciplined core market focus or risk thwarting growth

“Beyond a certain maturity point, the opportunistic approach that fed your growth engine starts to choke it, undermining the company’s longer-term goals to achieve scale, become a market leader, go public or achieve a highly profitable exit.”

“Establishing greater clarity around your core market and more control around the way you execute on that vision may feel as though you’re closing the door on viable opportunities. But this discipline will ultimately accelerate your growth by applying finite resources to the places where they can amplify your market identity and generate the greatest return.”

Sarah Long – Senior Director of Strategy, LLR Partners
Read: The World is Not Your Oyster: How to Shift from Opportunistic Growth to Core Market Discipline

#Finance: Spend time analyzing and acting on data, not writing perfect reports 

“For companies where your volume of data could be overwhelming to sift through, and stakeholders in triage mode may have limited time to digest it, it is critical that your CEO or CFO highlight the most important metrics for those stakeholders to focus on and report on them in 10-15 minutes or less on a regular basis.”

“[At the height of the pandemic] we wanted the management team to focus their energies on analyzing and acting on the data, not refining it, so instead of turning it into polished reports, we shared it with the board and investors in its original, raw format. As a bonus, giving stakeholders access to the source data in this way also enhanced the levels of transparency.”

Kevin Becker – CFO, Eye Health America
Read: How CFOs and their Investors Navigated the Financial Impact of the Pandemic

#Talent: Deliver tough news in ways that will resonate, not create fear

“Margins, percentages and EBITDA won’t mean anything to most of the people in your organization, and what people don’t understand scares them. Switching to the mindset of a strategic communicator, I found that using simple, visual metaphors helped me to focus the message on what mattered and tell it in a way that resonated with our employees.”

Dave Murray – CFO, Suvoda
Read: How CFOs Became Strategic Communicators in Response to COVID-19

#Leadership: Know your ultimate responsibilities ahead of an exit

“You can hire the best bankers, but it is the CEO who is responsible for telling your story and ensuring your company’s value is clearly understood and reflected in the sale price.”

“The relationship between what you say and what you do is equally as important as the story you tell. I refer to this as the “Say-Do Ratio”—making sure that your performance always meets or exceeds what you say or project.”

Brian Madocks – Former CEO, eOriginal and Revitas
Read: Peer Advice: 7 Things CEOs Need to Know about Exit Planning Strategies and LLR’s June 2021 CEO Collaborate

CEO CFO Collaborate on Exit Planning
June 2021 CEO Collaborate featuring Brian Madocks (Former CEO, eOriginal and Revitas) and Michael Coluzzi (CFO, PCS Retirement) sharing their experiences and advice on exit planning.

#Sales: Optimize teams, formulas and partner strategies

“[During the pandemic] instead of simply looking at top-line numbers, companies took a hard look under the hood to understand the formulas that drive them, including the relationships and the velocity that drive the stages of the pipeline. The result has been a more visible, accountable, and transparent way to look at the business inputs and outputs.”

Jairo Romero – Managing Director, Go-to-Market Excellence, LLR Partners
Read: The Best Go-to-Market Organizations Did These 10 Things During the Pandemic

“Breaking down the process doesn’t mean you have to break up the customer journey. At YCharts, we replaced a conveyor-belt approach where leads were passed from one function to another, with multifunctional teams that wrap around the customer to provide a consistent, personalized experience… The result is a greater sense of continuity for the customer, more revenue opportunities for the company and closer-knit teams who support each other’s success.”

“When your people are given the resources and accountability they need to make and measure their own impact on company revenue, the result is an optimized sales development team, coordinated customer experience and a consistently healthy pipeline.”

Gene Romero – Director of Inside Sales, YCharts
Read: What an Optimized Sales Development Team and Process Looks Like

“Software companies can use channel partner strategies as a force multiplier for their sales team, creating visibility and building trust in all the places their customers live and do business.”

“We have seen our greatest success by avoiding partners who focus solely on sales volume and prioritizing relationships with those who understand and can articulate our value proposition.”

Steve Gray – Director of Partnerships, Appspace
Read: How Appspace Built a Channel Partner Strategy to Fuel Growth

#Customer Success: Apply your best resources to every stage of the customer lifecycle

“A great product alone is not enough to retain clients in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, especially when your competitors offer more finely tuned customer experiences. Companies that deliver ongoing value and positive experiences at every stage of their customer lifecycle are more likely to retain and upsell their clients.”

Sarah Doughty – Customer Success Champion and LLR Advisor, Crescendo Labs
Read: 3 Ways to Boost ARR by Refining Your Customer Success Function

“Marketing has always been integral to customer acquisition. But for companies with ambitious growth goals, marketers need to bring the same skills to customer retention and expansion.”

“Marketers spend vast amounts of time creating content that engages the market, and most of us work closely with sales to ensure that they can use it to drive new customer acquisition. To drive retention, we should work just as closely with account management to help them use this content—including thought leadership and product updates—to engage customers.”

Eric Masters – Former CMO, IO Education; Former VP of Marketing, Relias Learning
Read: The Role of Marketing in Customer Success: Protect, Grow and Leverage Your Base

#Marketing: Consider ABM to address pain points at scale 

“Account-based marketing is much more than a 1:1 tactic or program – it is a vehicle to address individual prospect pains and, at scale, activate large numbers of prospects into your sales funnel.”

“Well-run ABM programs enable a self-funded marketing budget. Early programs generate returns that increase revenue, and subsequently enable more marketing investment to expand impact.”

Domenic Colasante – CEO of 2X Marketing; Former CMO of WGroup
Read: Best Practices to Scale ABM and Improve Demand Generation and LLR’s February 2021 CMO Collaborate

ABM Measuring Impact
Key ABM metrics to discuss either with sales and management or internal to marketing, as shared in an LLR Virtual Collaborate forum for Sales & Marketing portfolio company leaders. 

#Technology: Recognize the new role of physical office space

“We have entered a new era where the physical way we interact with our buildings will impact employee engagement and NPS scores. All it takes is the CEO being mistakenly barred from their office once or twice for the building owner or manager to rip and replace a security system.”

Lee Odess – CEO and Advisor to LLR Partners, Group337
Read: The Smart Building Has Evolved: Here’s How Technology Vendors Can Gain an Advantage


Here’s the bottom line.

This year came with its fair share of lingering and new challenges. We’re hopeful that by codifying what we’ve seen work for other companies, you feel a little better armed with knowledge and tools to forge ahead with your growth plan. We look forward to sharing more insights this Fall.