• Raveen Kuhadas

Fivegrid - Making Digital Marketing Automation Accessible

Fivegrid is a digital marketing automation SaaS product for small businesses. It allows small businesses to manage digital marketing campaigns across multiple channels (e.g. Google, Facebook, Yahoo etc.) via a single log-in.


Fivegrid’s unique approach is the simplicity of its product and pricing, thereby making integrated marketing accessible to small businesses. Its API connectivity and simple fixed pricing should allow Fivegrid to scale quickly.


Co-founders Suryabala Shenbagamurthy (Surya) and Gokul Chandrasekaran founded Fivegrid in late 2020. They have complementary skillsets in digital marketing and software engineering, respectively.


It is an exciting time for marketing software automation. The increasing use of social media by businesses to build their brands is driving growth in this market. This growth, along with the fragmented nature of the market, has drawn strong investor interest.


I am grateful to Surya and Gokul for helping me learn more about the space and for sharing their journey.


Index


1) Digital Marketing (link here)

2) Marketing Automation Software (link here)

3) Fivegrid’s Journey (link here)

4) Fivegrid (link here)


Fivegrid co-founders Gokul Chandrasekaran (left) and Suryabala Shenbagamurthy (Surya)


Digital Marketing


Segment Key Points

  • Digital marketing is an important activity for any business, given that most of their customers are online.

  • With a stronger understanding of their customers, smaller businesses can use digital marketing to compete with larger brands. This is due to the ability to specifically target the marketing message to their audience and the agility to shift the marketing focus to areas showing better returns.

  • Engaging customers across multiple marketing channels (e.g. Google, Facebook, blogs etc.) can lead to higher returns but can be a time-consuming process that could benefit from marketing software automation.


Internet and Social Media penetration in Australia is circa 90% and 70%, respectively. Globally, these stand at circa 60% and 50% respectively.


As most customers are online, digital marketing or advertising online via social media, search engines, email, websites etc., is important for any business.


To do this, a business will undertake a digital marketing campaign. The key steps are as follows:


  1. Define the brand Understanding the brand’s unique selling points, mission etc. which the campaign’s messaging should highlight.

  2. Define the target audienceA crucial step involving creating buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional people that represent the characteristics of the people the brand is trying to target, e.g. age range, income, customer goals and challenges etc.

  3. Define the goals – Setting specific, measurable goals to be achieved within a particular time frame, e.g. gain 100 new subscribers this month.

  4. Select the channels and budget – Channels include social media, content marketing, search engines etc. A budget is set for each channel and for the overall campaign.

  5. Create marketing content Involves creating engaging content (called the ‘creative’ or design of the advertisements) for the channels selected in the step above.

  6. Measure results and optimise Use analytics and key performance indicators to measure results. Based on the results, optimise or reallocate the marketing budget to the most effective marketing channels.


Targeting and transparency are important benefits of digital marketing over traditional advertising.


Targeting and transparency are important benefits of digital marketing over traditional advertising.


  1. Targeting - Based on the selected buyer personas, digital marketers can target specific audiences on social media or focus on specific keywords (e.g. ‘men’s sports shoes’ rather than ‘shoes’) on search engines.

  2. Transparency – Digital markers can measure metrics such as site visits, time on site, social media views etc. A campaign can be tracked daily, allowing the digital marketer to continuously reallocate marketing budget to the channel demonstrating the highest return, e.g. reallocating more spend to Facebook rather than Google.


These attributes of targeting and transparency are especially important for smaller businesses.


Having a more targeted, customer-focused campaign will allow these businesses to compete with larger brands that have a broader marketing message.


A key part of this customer focus is engaging potential customers across multiple platforms (e.g. Google, Facebook, Yahoo etc.) where they spend their time.



According to marketing research firm Analytics Partners, such integrated marketing campaigns can achieve a 20% higher return on investment compared to single-channel campaigns.


However, it can be a time-consuming process to create and measure advertising across numerous platforms. This is where marketing automation software comes in.


Marketing Automation Software


Segment Key Points

  • Marketing automation software automates repetitive tasks and allows a business to coordinate a customer-focused digital marketing campaign across multiple channels.

  • The increasing use of social media by businesses to build their brands is driving strong growth in this market. The growth and fragmented nature of the market are resulting in strong investor interest in the space.

  • Marketing automation software can be complex and expensive to adopt by small businesses with limited internal marketing resources. This is where Fivegrid co-founders Surya and Gokul see an opportunity.


Marketing automation software automates repetitive tasks such as scheduling, segmentation and tracking of marketing campaigns. It allows the business to set up a workflow of steps for the software to execute, such as social media scheduling and posting.


This allows a business to coordinate customer-focused digital marketing activities across multiple marketing channels.


While estimates vary (growth estimates of circa 10-20% pa), it is a fast-growing market.


This growth is being driven by the increasing use of social media by businesses to build their brands. Most brands have yet to adopt marketing automation and experience its benefits. Increasing adoption will help support the growth estimates above.


It is a fragmented market, with Hubspot having the largest share, as shown below:


Datanyze market share estimates based on customer website numbers.


The growth and fragmented nature of the market have resulted in strong investor interest in the space, including:


  1. ActiveCampaign – A customer experience automation platform for small and medium-sized businesses which grew customer numbers by 60% in 16 months. It raised a $240 million Series C round at a $3 billion valuation in April 2021. Tiger Global led the round.

  2. Mailchimp – An email marketing automation platform. It was acquired for $12 billion by Intuit in September 2021.

  3. Iterable – A cross-channel marketing automation platform. It raised a $200 million Series E round at a $2 billion valuation in June 2021.


While there are numerous benefits to marketing automation software, they can be complex and expensive. Smaller businesses may have a limited internal marketing team and capability.


Even incumbent Hubspot’s key focus is on organisations with over 20 employees and is developing more enterprise-grade features.


It is in this market for small businesses where Fivegrid co-founders Surya and Gokul see an opportunity.


Fivegrid’s Journey


Segment Key Points

  • Surya and Gokul have highly complementary skillsets in digital marketing and software engineering, respectively. They founded Fivegrid after being best friends and partners for over 10 years.

  • Gokul’s worked with different startups as an engineer across India and Australia, including Siteminder, a high growth Australian technology company which is about to list at a valuation of over $1 billion.

  • Surya has a strong appetite for entrepreneurship. After trying a few startup initiatives, she teamed up with Gokul on Fivegrid, an idea she conceived while trying to help her father’s 20-year-old business advertise online. Fivegrid would therefore be designed with simplicity at its core.


Surya and Gokul founded Fivegrid in late 2020. They met in university in India 10 years ago and have been partners and best friends since.


After a stint in Goldman Sachs in India, Surya took a bold step to move to New York to discover her passion.


She developed her interest in digital marketing while doing a Digital Media and Communications Fellowship for the United Nations Development Program and participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge.


She enjoyed how she could use digital marketing to promote her client’s passions and missions. She spent the next 5 years in digital marketing and in-house roles. In 2020, she joined WooliesX as a Digital Media Product Manager, where she works on marketing automation.


Gokul has a background in software engineering. He did consulting and software engineering roles for technology companies and startups in India.


He moved to Australia in 2018 as a Senior Software Engineer for Siteminder, a leading open hotel commerce platform. Siteminder is about to list on the Australian Stock Exchange with a circa A$1.4 billion market capitalisation.


Siteminder allows the online booking of a hotel’s rooms by connecting the hotel’s backend systems to booking websites for a flat fee. It does this using APIs (Application Program Interface).


APIs enable an exciting new era of software development which I will explore further in the next section and in subsequent articles.


Gokul is currently working as a software engineer in Tyro, a fast-growing Australian technology company.


Surya conceived the idea for Fivegrid while helping her father with his digital marketing.


Surya’s father and his kitchenware retail store.


Her father is a self-made entrepreneur who has been running his kitchenware retail business amongst other businesses in India for 20 years.


The pandemic encouraged a greater focus on online sales and, therefore, digital marketing. He found the process complex and expensive. As a result, Surya founded Fivegrid with simplicity at its core.


Fivegrid


Segment Key Points

  • Fivegrid’s unique approach is its simplicity. It combines ease-of-use with affordable fixed pricing, thereby making integrated marketing accessible to small businesses with limited internal marketing expertise.

  • Early customer results from their MVP have been positive. The product roadmap includes more seamless, self-service onboarding and additional marketing channels.

  • The connectivity and simplicity of Fivegrid’s business model could allow the startup to scale quickly. There is a significant local market and the potential for international expansion in the longer term.


Fivegrid is a SaaS product that provides digital marketing automation of multiple channels via a simple log-in.


Fivegrid’s unique approach is its focus on simplicity.


The target customer is a small business with a limited digital marketing team of fewer than 3 people. These customers will struggle to run a multi-channel integrated marketing campaign in-house.


Marketing channels supported by Fivegrid.


I found the product demonstration straightforward with an easy-to-use interface, as shown below.


Setting up an advertisement on Yahoo.


Setting up a campaign across 3 channels (Native, Social Media and Search).


The marketer has good transparency on how the campaign is performing. This includes the automatic adjustments Fivegrid makes to optimise the adverting budget across the channels.


Dashboard, which allows the campaign to be monitored in real-time.


Fivegrid automatically optimises the advertising spend across the channels.


Fivegrid integrates these channels using APIs. APIs essentially work as messengers between software systems.


An API translates the message from one system into data that another system can use.


This allows each software system to work together and share functionality without having to know how the other system operates.




As the above diagram shows, a client can simply integrate with Fivegrid and manage a campaign across multiple marketing channels rather than connecting and managing each marketing channel separately.


The founders opted for a simple, fixed pricing structure. Pricing is currently fixed at $150 per month, the same amount a digital marketing freelancer would charge a small business per hour. This also compares to over $1,000 per month charged by Hubspot.


They believe Fivegrid’s multi-channel offer is unique due to its ease of use and pricing.


Early client feedback on their MVP (minimum viable product) has been positive. UnLtd, a not-for-profit organisation, found an 80% cost efficiency on advertising spend from using Fivegrid.


Fivegrid’s product roadmap includes a more seamless, self-service onboarding experience. A full launch into Australia will follow.


They then plan to include additional marketing channels to the platform.


Surya and Gokul believe there is a significant $2.5 billion total serviceable market (businesses with 15 or fewer employees) in Australia. They also see scope for international expansion to countries like the US in the longer term.


Surya and Gokul are attempting to democratise digital marketing to small businesses, which is a commendable mission to have.

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