Email Marketing-CRM Integration Delivers Quick Results for Midwest Growth Partners

Midwest Growth Partners Overview

Location: West Des Moines, Iowa & Omaha, Nebraska
Investment Stage: Succession, Minority or Majority Growth Equity, Subordinate Debt
Investor Type: Private Equity
Year Implemented: 2019
Employees: 10
Founded: 2013
Implementation: Data Management & Email Marketing
# of users: 9


Midwest Growth Partners Addresses Data and Communication Challenges With “Dynamic” Solution

About Midwest Growth Partners

Midwest Growth Partners’ (“MGP) vision is to be the preeminent alternative asset manager serving overlooked geographies. Today, MGP manages two lower middle market investment funds that make individual equity and debt investments ranging in size from $500,000 to $12,000,000 in the food & agricultural, manufacturing, and distribution sectors. The firm also co-invests in larger opportunities. Its investments included a focus on facilitating orderly business success planning transactions as well as minority or majority growth equity and subordinated debt investments in established and growing businesses. MGP has intentionally positioned itself to offer situationally correct capital structures for each company. 

Its unique flexible capital approach and uniquely qualified investment team with deep food & agricultural networks in underserved rural markets separates it from other traditional private equity funds and allows the firm to be highly entrepreneurial in its investment strategy.

The Challenge

According to Ben Fogle (MGP Partner and Investment Committee member), MGP was similar to many firms, in that MGP struggled with “stale and dispersed” data—information maintained in a variety of spreadsheets, Outlook calendars, and contact records, and other sources. Not surprisingly, it was difficult to keep important information accurate, organized, and accessible by team members. Further, as MGP continued to grow and scale, it needed a better way to share communication and interaction touchpoints across the platform.  

According to Fogle, the firm had grown beyond the existing technology tools it had relied on for the last six years, including the firm’s origination and deal pipeline tracking which was was “spreadsheet-driven, clunky, and time-consuming”. Further, as team members joined and left the firm, MGP was seeking improved retention of, and business continuity gained by a fully centralized and integrated CRM operating system.  

The Solution

MGP came to Altvia looking for an advanced solution for data management and communication. After conversations around challenges and potential solutions, the firm implemented Altvia’s CRM and Email Marketing tool. “Quickly we realized that all of our data needed to be in the CRM and no longer maintained in spreadsheets,” says MGP’s Office Manager Colleen Dougherty. “We accomplished that shift and then integrated Altvia quick hit “refreshers” to introduce or highlight user interface, how-to, and features of the Altvia platform. Before long, everyone in the firm recognized the tangible value and became strong users of the technology.” 

MGP team members each leverage the platform a bit differently, from pulling a calling list in a certain city, to tracking follow-up tasks, to mass communication to our network with “tombstone announcements” regarding the firm’s most recent acquisitions. “We got a dozen new deal referrals from our last deal announcement,” Dougherty adds.

The Altvia platform helps MGP perform a wide variety of functions more efficiently, including report generation. “The system improves operations on the deal side tremendously,” says Fogle. “That includes helping us keep our pipeline organized. With the click of a button, we can generate a dynamic report.”

The seamless sharing of information between solution components also benefits MGP. 

“The integration of the email marketing tool with the CRM increased the speed we deliver relevant, market-focused news to stakeholders,” Fogle explains. “We’re much faster in making deal announcements and team announcements, and those kinds of communications have delivered significant ROI from their generation of proprietary leads.” 

As for Fogle’s advice for industry peers about the implementation of purpose-built private equity technology, he says it’s vital for firms to “walk before they run” with new systems. To that end, it’s important to have an internal platform expert and champion who can facilitate communication and interactions between the firm and the solution provider. He also mentions that attentive customer support is essential. “Having a dedicated support person has been invaluable to us.”

A traditional crm was built for general ‘customer’ scenarios

Software platforms have made the world a better place by making work a better place. Indeed the world is better off when people enjoy their jobs even marginally more, and workplace applications on big CRM platforms like Salesforce.com have done that and much more.

But the potential that platforms like these offer presents diminishing returns: once the platform provider has engineered too many industry specific components into its platform, its usefulness for other industries begins to be threatened, and with that so do the usefulness of the component tools built into the platform.

So it is with the CRM category that Salesforce.com has defined: it is generic enough to work for many industries, and yet still offers the potential for others to round off the edges and nail more vertically-oriented and extremely tailored software solutions.

Private capital markets are actually a great demonstration of this dynamic. Where generic CRM platforms simplify — appropriately so — to assume there’s a business, a customer, a sale, and service of that customer, there are a few industry-specific pieces that are missing.

Take for example, that investors become customers by investing through legal entities the GP raises. It’s a subtle but important nuance that just doesn’t make sense at a platform-as-a-service level (because it’s overly complicated for a simple one-time sale that many industries require), but which can easily be added without 10 years or software engineering. Once provided, the rest of the platform’s components become tremendously powerful again and you’re set to take over the world.

As a traditional CRM in our pillars methodology, these nuances must be present to properly account for investors in these legal entities, potential target companies and which are owned by these entities, the context of all interactions with these parties (as well as the appropriate overlap, ie co-investments), and how you’re arriving at finding these opportunities on both sides of the equation, such that you’re able to piece together what’s effective and what’s not. Not just because we say so, but because these are the very relationships and data that are key to the motivation behind a CRM in any industry.

It’s critical, too, that the valuable publicly-available information that helps to enrich CRM systems and save users painful steps of entering it themselves is fully-integrated at the platform level.

Again, look no further than the 3,000+ pre-built integrations that Salesforce.com — the creator of the CRM platform concept — has at a platform level to do so, and which only exists by way of holding just short of overly-specifying certain industry workflows that would present challenges to properly integrate.

Stakeholder reporting and communication (investor relations) draws on a range of datasets

The traditional “customer service” model of CRM systems once again makes overly-simplified assumptions about the customer relationship when applied to private capital markets.

In fifteen years I personally have yet to hear the terms “warranty” or “service call” in this market because it’s just not the same. But make no mistake, as uncomfortable as it may be to say aloud, customer service is more important now than ever and it’s constantly happening; the industry is, after all, considered to be a financial “service”.

As it turns out, that service is primarily information-based — it’s driven by data and takes the form of reports and analysis that drive decisions, and then end up again in investor-facing reports and analysis.

The foundational elements of a private capital markets CRM must be built such that they accommodate this data (like we discussed above), but so too that it can accommodate additional supporting data that investors (customers!) need in the context of service.

Oftentimes this supporting data — financial metrics and time-based values, for example — is believed not to meet the traditional definition of CRM and the natural thought is “well, better do this in Excel!”.

While I happen to believe Excel is still the greatest software application ever built, its introduction to this value chain we’ve discussed herein actually creates the problem many firms suffer from: key data needed to provide customer service (again: effectively the entirety of a firm’s reports and analysis) is now in disparate systems and detached.

Both of those dynamics are important and distinct: not only is this supplemental data disparate, but when brought together there is no logical association that can be made between the two data sets.

Allow me, then, to make the point very simply: not only can this financial and time-based value data (you may be thinking about is as “portfolio monitoring” or “accounting”) be a part of a CRM, it is arguably the most important part of a CRM because it’s at the core of what providing service to the customer entails — information that comes out of data!

Firms need a digital method to engage stakeholders (ie investor portals)

Investor portals are not new; in fact, for many of us — including myself — they conjure up horrifying nightmares in which we’re aimlessly guessing at folders to find the newest document we need.

So in lies the opportunity: not only have the portals we’ve come to hate not simplified the process of acquiring information, they’ve failed to create an entirely new experience that is “customer service” driven.

To be fair, this is not a B2C market where you’d be long out of business for not having focused on customer service and thus the customer’s technology-driven experience. But don’t expect to be around too much longer if you aren’t thinking about this shift.

Today’s institutional investors increasingly expect this same consumer-like experience, and a massive opportunity is being missed by not providing it. It’s not about providing them the experience they desire; it’s more about the ability to measure engagement that is had in return.

Put simply: what’s keeping the market from providing this experience is the availability of the information that’s required to create the service that provides the experience.

If you’ve hung in this long, you know that by focusing on your CRM, you have the data that’s required to manage the customer relationship and the technology-driven experience through which that information is shared to create a differentiated and opportunistic customer experience.