When there are many bolt-on solutions for an industry, create a one-stop platform and win with a “land and expand” strategy – an interview with CadmiumCD

Every entrepreneur dreams of the moment they’ll make it to the Inc5000, a signal of success and industry recognition. We’re interviewing B2B Inc5000 companies to crack the code of HOW to get on the list (and ideally stay on!). This series will hopefully become the playbook to your success too. Today, we’re interviewing Michelle Wyatt, CEO of CadmiumCD.

NXT: What is CadmiumCD?

CadmiumCD is three things:

  1. A company that understands event industry needs and builds solutions for those needs.
  2. A collection of talented individuals passionate about helping planners of educational events achieve success.
  3. A suite of feature-rich software products on one event management platform, all brought together by a dashboard we call myCadmium.

NXT: Why did you start your own business?

I used to be in chemical sales and would naturally go to a lot of tradeshows. I thought the whole tradeshow process was extremely long and arduous for everybody involved and figured there had to be a better way.

NXT: What was it like, in the beginning?

Initially, my husband and I did the work out of a bedroom in our town-home while working full time at our “real jobs” (yes we boot-strapped the business).

In 2004, I quit my full-time job to focus on CadmiumCD and my husband followed after in 2009.

To make it even more official, we finally moved out of our basement and into a real office with our then 7 employees.

NXT: What was the tipping point for you business?

I would say the year 2009. When my husband quit his full time job and we realized the “safety net” was gone. We had about $500,000 in sales so it was a make-or-break moment.

The timing was on our side though, because events still needed a lot of help with automating processes. We leveraged that momentum and grew by expanding our product line from 4 products to the 12 we have now.

NXT: How are you differentiating yourself? What is your value proposition?

We have 12 products, and each product has its own set of competitors. But we are one of the few in the industry that can combine different capabilities under ONE umbrella system.

This is critical because it streamlines the process and reduces our clients’ vendors. It’s a huge selling point, because clients can view their data in one system instead of transferring it back and forth.

NXT: How do you go about getting clients to sign up for your software?

It’s actually a multi-channel process. We exhibit at tradeshows, educate potential clients (and the industry) through our blog, newsletter and speaking engagements, and we give demos online and in-person to our prospects.

What it comes down to is building relationships, understanding industry needs, and demonstrating value to prospective clients.

Our current clients also shout “CadmiumCD” from the rooftops, so that helps provide social proof.

NXT: How do you win your clients over? Is it typically through an RFP process?

Fortunately, our first client was the tradeshow that I used to exhibit at when I was in chemical sales. I talked to them about the process and helped them smooth out the kinks by offering them a solution. I’m very happy to say they have been with us ever since!

After getting the first client, word spread about our service and we grew organically. Today, it’s a combination of outbound, referrals, tradeshows, precision marketing and all that good stuff.

NXT: Following that thought… who are your ideal clients?

90% of our clients are associations that host events where there is a lot of professional development, for example American Dental Association, American Institute of Architects, etc.

Events that have a lot of educational content are our sweet spot, because our software is mainly geared towards that vertical.

NXT: What’s more important to you: client retention or new client acquisition?

I use the term “Land and expand” for the sales team. Once a client starts to use ONE product, we’re fairly successful in getting them to use our full product suite.

New client acquisition is more important because we can expand that client – it’s just a matter of timing.

NXT: On Inc5000, you grew 200% in the past 3 years… what drove that growth?

I think a key part is listening to our clients and focusing on their core needs, and making sure the software works the way that it’s intended to.

Currently, we support 324 clients so we have specific product teams that support these clients. We have been hiring a lot of people to handle the volume – up to 56 employees at this point. It’s crazy when my monthly payroll is higher than what I used to pay for my house!

NXT: Have you always been growing at this pace, is everyone in the industry growing that fast?

New competitors come and go at a similar pace, but there are few individual companies in the industry that are seeing the growth we’re seeing.

Many of the companies that are growing are doing it with a lot of outside funding. We’re unique because we’re still self-funded.

Our employees generally stick around and so do our clients. All of this aligns to help us achieve continued success year after year.

NXT: You quickly went from 4 to 12 products… how do you know what products to build?

We do monthly webinars called “user group meeting” and we get feedback from current clients on how to better implement different things based on their needs and our capabilities.

NXT: How long does it take to create each product?

Initial development may take a few months, but it could be a multi-year process once it goes into the field for testing and implementing feedback from clients.

For example, we’re working on a new logistics module (aimed to be released in the 4th quarter of 2017), and it’s been in development for over a year.

We developed it specifically for ALA (American Library Association). They manage about 600 different rooms for one of their conferences, and they need to know which rooms are available for meetings, storage, etc.

NXT: Do you think you hit the jackpot with these big associations, like ALA?

I would never say associations have a ton of money because most of them are non-profit. But what makes our technology ideal for them is the ability to manage large events.

When I say large events, I’m talking about tens of thousands of people. ALA has 2 annual meetings: the first meeting tracks close to 30,000 attendees and the other is 15,000!

When you have 15,000 people in a city, you need to make sure things are crystal clear – where people are going to be and when.

ALA manages over 600 rooms on-site across multiple hotel properties and convention centers. With our software, they can manage their communications effectively with their attendees. Imagine messing up a 15,000-person event!

NXT: What do you wish you knew earlier?

The good thing about being an entrepreneur today is the sheer wealth of information out there compared to 17 years ago. (A lot of this is due to the popularity of shows like “Shark Tank”)

The Small Business Development Centre is severely underutilized by entrepreneurs! They have helped us tremendously in ironing out the kinks of running a business – I have my MBA but the information from the SBDC has been very practical in terms of day-to-day operations.

We only started going to them in 2009, and had I known about them earlier I think it would’ve been very helpful. Their resources are very cheap and the staff there will definitely be able to point business owners in the right direction.

NXT: What are you struggling with right now?

Managing growth is always a challenge, because growth consumes cash. Making sure we can invest in our future growth but still have a profit at the end of the day is a challenge. Another challenge is making sure we hire the right people, because sometimes policies can be abused.

NXT: How do you make sure you hire the right people? What do you look for?

We don’t look for a technical skill set, seeing as most of our employees aren’t familiar with event technology. We look for a history where candidates have worked hard.

For example, for new college graduates we look at their GPA, but beyond that we look for work experience while they were in college because I think it’s a good indication of a hard worker.

NXT: How did being on the Inc5000 help your business?

It gave us credibility when we were trying to raise a loan from the bank. People frequently talk about angel investors and venture capitalists, but those avenues are only available to you if you’re willing to give up ownership of your business.

That’s not really on our radar, so we look for loans in the traditional way, and being on the Inc5000 has made the process easier.

NXT: How do you plan on staying on the Inc5000?

By focusing on adding more features to our products. We believe that we have less than 1% of potential market share. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of events going on every week in the United States! The average consumer doesn’t understand how big the events industry is within the overall US economy.

Our systems are good at managing complicated needs from complicated requests, but some of our products literally have over 1500 settings, so understanding which settings to turn on/off can be quite painful. We are figuring out a way to make it more simplified for our clients because the software is most powerful when modules are combined – all with an on/off switch!

We have also expanded significantly on our sales and marketing side by adding 4 additional sales people to our team compared to the 2.5 we had last year (I was the 0.5). We have support here in Maryland, Dallas, LA, and a sales consultant over in the UK to help us expand overseas into Europe.

NXT: Do you have any favorite business books that you turn to?

I’m a huge fan of Verne Harnish! He also has a weekly eNewsletter that’s a 3 min read and it’s full of interesting tidbits for business owners. His book, “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” is a must read, because it teaches you how to focus on business goals and what you need to do to achieve them.

 

A huge thanks to Michelle Wyatt at CadmiumCD for her time! CadmiumCD continues to grow steadily by employing top talent with a focus on creating online services that save time and are easy to use for event planners and attendees. You can read more about their thoughts on the events industry on their blog here.

CadmiumCD

Tessa BoardStudios.com

Tess is a Business Development Associate at Board Studios Inc, an animation production agency that helps B2B companies simplify and communicate more effectively. She's passionate about B2B business models & marketing, and spends a lot of time working on partnership development, content marketing, and scouring for the best business books for BookVideoClub.com. Her blood type is an authentic caffè macchiato.

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