Featured 2019 Roadshow Speaker:
Get The Marketing And Business Blueprint Sitima Fowler, CEO of Capstone IT (now Iconic), Used To Build Her Small, Struggling MSP Into A Revenue-Generating Machine Netting Over $1 Million In BOTTOM LINE PROFITS
“Revenues Up $1,590,000, Monthly Recurring Revenue Up $63,000, And Profits Up $401,593”
Sitima Fowler, CEO of Capstone IT (now Iconic)
Capstone IT Eclipsed The $1 Million Net Profit Milestone For The First Time Ever In 2018 – Here’s How…
This past year, we set all time company records for revenue, net profit, and average deal size. In 9 years with Technology Marketing Toolkit, Capstone has grown from $5K in MRR to now over $311k. By following the fundamentals, we have gone from being introverted engineers to a high performing marketing and sales focused company.
I immigrated to the United States with my parents in 1979 because my father wanted to create a better life for our family. It wasn’t easy moving to a new country with only $100. We didn’t have much money but one of my fondest memory as a teenager was treating ourselves to a monthly lunch at McDonalds. At one of these lunches, I had seen a man, seated at an adjacent table, eating a large red box of fries. That day changed my entire outlook on life. You see my family would buy one small paper bag of fries and share amongst the four of us. The fact that the man ordered large fries just for himself showed me that there is big, abundant world out there and I wanted to be part of that great world. I set my mind to work hard and one day I was determined to become a large fry.
Fast forward to 2018, I am excited to report that Capstone IT has reached new milestone revenue, profitability, and employment goals. Capstone IT has been recognized as a Top 100 Rochester company in terms of revenue and a Top Workplace in Rochester based on employee ratings. The business success along with my community work has garnered me awards such as Businessperson of the Year, Athena Finalist, and the winner of the HTG Shark Tank contest. The intentional steps to become a mini celebrity in Rochester has landed me many high-profile speaking opportunities notably the keynote speaker at the Top Workplace Celebration where 1000+ attendees representing local businesses were in attendance. I also have the privilege of giving back by being on the board of several nonprofits as well as the Small Business Council of Rochester where I mentor entrepreneurs. By serving as the Chairperson of DIAL (Development of Indo-American Leaders), I now get to mentor first generation immigrants to the US how they can achieve their dreams in this country just like I did.
We Credit TMT With Our Success
Since joining TMT in 2009, we have developed a proven lead generation system through various marketing campaigns. Our focused concentration on marketing has resulted in our company’s ability to grow in an otherwise stagnant Rochester market. We have grown our Managed Services MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) from $5K/mo to $311K/mo in 9 years through organic growth. The results are largely due to mining our oil wells, systematizing our processes, and more importantly, not chasing shiny pennies. We know what works and we keep working on the fundamentals. Many members in the TMT community ask me why I stay in Producers Club even after so many years. And my answer is simple. I don’t need to jump from consultant to consultant trying the new flavor of the month. Over the years we have improved many of our processes and automated areas to make things more efficient…but the fundamentals haven’t changed. We grew our top line revenue by 34% in 2018 and we did so by aggressively prospecting with marketing campaigns and by selling more to exiting clients through regular technology reviews.
Capstone has been in business for 15 years, but we really didn’t see any growth until about 9 years ago when we became a student of Robin Robins. My husband and partner, Mike Fowler, had quit his job with a crooked employer to start Capstone. In a few years, I quit my six-figure salary job as an engineer at General Motors in the hopes of growing Capstone. The first few years were depressing as we had no clue how to get new customers. No one called us to say they wanted our services and often they would just hang up when we cold called. At that point, we realized that there had to be another way.
In 2009, I was reading a tech blog and Robin’s photo ad popped up on my screen. I was intrigued by the headline, so I went to her website and was completely blown away by the testimonials. I wanted to be one of those featured business owners who was enjoying success. However, I had no knowledge about marketing and therefore I was skeptical. I didn’t purchase anything at that time until several months later I got an email from TMT about an implementation seminar. This seminar was free, and it was being held in DC which is where my parents live…so we decided to attend since we needed to visit my parents anyway. Little did we know, that day was going to be a turning point for our business and for our personal lives.
We ran to the back of the room to purchase the Toolkit and the Managed Services Blueprint after hearing Robin speak. (We even got the free iPod for being one of the first five people to buy.) Several months later, we signed up for the Producer’s Club. We implemented fast and furiously from all the marketing campaigns she made available. We started to see success and I was hooked! Not only did we get marketing coaching from Robin but we got coaching on many aspects of our business like how to measure tech utilization, delivering a Raving Fan customer service, how to become a celebrity in our market to grow sales, business planning, time management, employee compensation, goal setting, and so much more.
We Started To Implement Marketing Campaigns And They Started To Work!
Companies were finding and calling us! The next step was then figuring out how to convey the value of managed services, so we can close some of these opportunities. I am an introverted engineer who had no knowledge of sales and I honestly thought I was the worst salesperson because no one was buying. It wasn’t easy but after many losses, we started to win. With the help of Robin’s Slippery Slope Sales Process, we developed our sales process. The next challenge was figuring out how to take the owner out from the selling process and teach salespeople to sell Managed Services, so we can scale. This has been a tough initiative, but I am confident we will master this as well.
2018 Actual Lead And Win Sources
Most of our leads and wins came from marketing campaigns. While it’s important to track where your leads are coming from, Robin has taught us an even better metric. Track which lead sources are producing the most win rates (# of closes/# of leads generated by the campaign). Since time and dollars are limited, it’s important to invest in campaigns where the win to lead ratios are the highest. This determines the lead quality. Our #1 highest quality lead source is, “Sitima’s Hot Leads”. These are the leads that were generated from my relationships and these relationships were formed from speaking engagements, board positions, RochesterRockstars.com interviews, press releases, columns in newspapers, etc. We feel that by being more visible in the community, I was able to form strong relationships with other business owners who eventually sought me out when they needed a new IT company, One of my main speaking engagements was the keynote speech I gave to a crowd of over 1000+ local businesses who were finalist for a Top Workplace award. I incorporated the Dr. Nido Qubein Hershey Kisses vs. the Godiva chocolate analogy in my speech which is so powerful and its one of the many skills I have added to my belt because of exposure to great speakers at Robin’s events.
Although top line revenue growth is important, it shouldn’t be at the expense of profitability. So, how did we grow profitability to over $1 Million?
Know your numbers. With the help of tools like Connectwise, Labtech, IT Glue, BrightGuage, Mindmatrix, and the EOS Traction process to name a few, we are able to track our key performance indicators and know quickly if our business is off track. Every department follows a L10 meeting agenda where key issues are resolved, and action items assigned. Numbers like tech utilization tells us when it’s time to hire. We let the numbers guide our decisions. Mindmatrix and Google Analytics tells us website visitor trend and email open rates. These numbers are analyzed closely to determine effectiveness of campaigns. All leads are tracked in Connectwise and we know our top lead sources as well as where are all our closed deals coming from. We track ROI for each campaign which also helps us decide which campaigns to continue and which ones to drop.
Bring In New Clients And Mine Existing Ones
We became a growth focused company when we joined TMT and we made sure that was reflected in every company and department goal. Employees know that their livelihood depends on Capstone meeting its growth goals. In addition to aggressive marketing to acquire new MRR clients, we also set up a Technology Business Review process to mine existing client for new projects and services. By having a focused process for these important client meetings led by our Account Managers, we were able to maximize revenue per client.
Say NO to shiny pennies. I have learned that it’s important to stay focused on the fundamentals especially when things get tough. As soon as people hit roadblocks, they tend to look for new things. Every time you abandon a campaign and go after a new one, you are starting over and there is an expense to that. My advice is to be hyper focused on the important initiatives in your business and avoid shiny pennies.
No matter how many books you read, consultants you engage, or speakers you listen to, nothing ultimately moves you forward unless you act. I am a master implementor. I don’t stop taking action and I don’t let distractions slow me down. We are not the smartest in the bunch, but we are determined to out implement the competition.
Join an accountability peer group. Sharing best practices and discussing business challenges with like-minded people has been a game changer for us. There is no need to figure everything out yourself when someone who has been through the same struggle can share their experience. Lean on these relationships and leverage the breakthroughs that come from being vulnerable in front of trusted colleagues.
Based on 2018 marketing results, the top lead sources were our SEO driven website, Sitima’s celebrity status, referrals (client, local vendor partners, staff), email blasts, networking events, seminars and webinars, and mailers.
As you can see from the attached data and reference materials, we have a great grasp on our marketing efforts, and we have a proven marketing system. We understand what works, how to execute, and how to measure success. Year over year revenue growth was 34%, Net Profit growth was 64% and MRR growth was 25%.
We now have 3 office locations – Rochester, Buffalo, and West Palm Beach. We have new MRR in cities where we had zero brand recognition to start. We are building brand new markets organically with the power of marketing. For instance, since RochesterRockstars.com video interview series had worked so well in Rochester that we have started TreasureCoastTop100.com in Florida in addition to Sitting Duck and Aspirin letters, cybersecurity seminars, email tech tips, and print newsletters.
But the most important reason we should be considered for the Better Your Best Finalist is because I have a chance to impact many people with not just hope but actual results to validate how they can achieve success too…not just top line growth but profitability! We started with 2 employees and $5K in MRR before Robin and now we are at 40 employees and over $311K in MRR and we can share with others how they can do it too. I look forward to going on the road with Robin. We have a great story to inspire and educate members of the TMT community and give back to the community that has been an integral part of our journey.
Reflection And Looking Forward
I am thrilled to be entering this year’s Better Your Best Contest, again. I entered the contest in 2011 and even though I didn’t win, we benefitted in many ways from the process. That process created permanent changes to the way we do marketing and sales which has resulted in steady year over year growth with 2018 being our best year to date.
Increased revenue growth and profits have brought financial freedom. We have a daughter who is about to graduate from Penn State University debt free. We have a son who is starting to apply at colleges. We won’t have any debt. We just opened a new office in Florida and purchased a condo there as well. We were able to give back to many local charities and help many of our employees see opportunities they haven’t seen before. When my parents had a near fatal accident in a remote part of India, I was able to write some HUGE checks for their care and return to the US without difficulty. For the last 3 years, we have paid for international vacations with our extended family, so we can remain close. All this was made possible because we have the financial freedom that Capstone has offered us which we owe so much to Robin.
Our expectation is to keep doing more of the same fundamentals. Aggressive marketing of oil wells along with close client relationships are the drivers. We will focus more aggressively on growing our new markets in Buffalo and West Palm Beach.
The main consideration we are thinking about adding to our efforts is mergers and acquisitions. In 7 years, we plan to be an $80M company and have a valuation that is worthy of the attention of many buyers.
The biggest contributor in this journey has been the change in our MINDSET. Now we believe growth is achievable and within our capabilities and its accomplished through marketing, sales and hard work.
Producers Club Involvement
2011 Better Your Best Finalist 2011 Accountability Group of the Year Winner Numerous Golden Cone presentations Guest on multiple “How to” calls Genius Client Club for Sitima Fowler and Maureen O’Neil Attends all Producer’s Club Meetings Attends all Accountability Group Calls Led multiple Accountability Groups Capstone Marketing Manager continues to lead accountability groups Regularly mentor and advice TMT clients via phone
To help my accountability group member with a security presentation in Chicago, we collaborated and co-presented an in-person cybersecurity presentation aimed specifically for women at the Women’s Business Development Center (wbdc). We took a general presentation and turned it into a targeted presentation for women.
2018 Marketing Campaigns and Strategies Implemented
Client Referrals – In Q2 of 2018, we ran a mailer and email blast campaign, “Refer Your Engineer”, that specifically targeted our own clients. We customized the mailer for each client with their lead engineers face and name and drove them to a website that was customized in the same way. The purpose was to have each client “vote” for their lead engineer with a referral to a business they thought could use Capstone’s services. The engineer with the most votes received a $200 to a fancy restaurant, as did any client whose referral became a new client. This campaign won a golden cone in 2018 and was our biggest WIN generator; 12 leads and over 12K/month of new MRR. The mailer, the email blasts, and the webpage designs originate from a slew of Robin’s templates and ongoing guidance for such marketing materials.
Email Blasts – These were a combination of IT security tips, event invitations, and blog teasers. Although there was a 40% decline in leads this year from email blasts, they still generated 10 of our leads and $2400/month of new MRR
Joining Committees, Boards/Relationship Building – This takes time and dedication; giving OTHER organizations the attention that might otherwise be spent on traditional sales and marketing acts. What’s gained is the trust and friendship from decision makers for prospect companies, and when they’re ready to buy they are buying from Capstone. Combined these campaigns brought us 17 leads and over $20K/month in MRR.
Partner/Staff Referrals – Our $200 Club referral program was rebranded in 2017 and continued its promotion in 2018. The logo and offer were shared on Capstone mousepads, posters, email blasts, email signatures and event giveaways. Combined, we gained 16 leads and $14K/month of new MRR.
Website – The leads that come in through our website are a combination of organic and direct traffic brought about through SEO, ad words, word of mouth, and about 10,000 other activities that help prospects find us online. Here we have to give some credit to our website design team, our blog writers, and our SEO report generator – Pronto. Robin connected us with them and for over a decade now they’ve made our website come alive with robin-inspired page designs and offers. Anyone who receives our mailers, email blasts, event invitations, rubber ducks and other branded items are driven to our website. It’s the home of our blogs, our eBooks, our culture and employee pages, and our service offerings. As our consistent #1 lead generator for years, it yielded Capstone 34 leads and $8500/month in new MRR last year.
Other Campaigns: Newsletters, Aspirin Mailers, Stupid or Irresponsible Mailers, Webinars, In-House seminars, event sponsorships, chamber email blasts, joint ventures, speaking engagements, tradeshows offering free dark web scans and network security offers, intro letters with lumpy items like koozies and event invites, shock and awes (physical and online), social media posts/eBook offers.
Although no direct leads can be assigned to some campaigns, two noteworthy campaigns to mention are Speaking Engagements and RochesterRockstars.com. We focused on partnering with other entities to deliver keynote speeches to business owners. We wanted the partnering entity to drive attendance while we delivered the content. This strategy worked very well, and we believe had a significant impact on overall leads. The other is the RochesterRockstars.com and TreasureCoastTop100.com initiative to become slightly famous in our local markets.”