Franco Caporale: The Messy World of Lead Generation


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Lead generation is the bane of many SaaS businesses. With the perfect product, plenty of funding and a gung-ho attitude, many SaaS companies still fail when it comes to acquiring ideal customers.  

Franco Caporale is an entrepreneur who knows a thing or two about lead generation. SaaS Mag spoke to him about his entrepreneurial journey and what many SaaS businesses are getting wrong.  

The Path to Silicon Valley 

Caporale began his career in a unique environment, the Research Department of The University of California. The university developed technologies in areas as diverse as drug delivery, cancer research, materials and software, and Caporale helped promote these – sometimes Nobel Prize-winning – innovations to potential investors, startups and potential licensees. This exposure to the startup scene led him to Silicon Valley where he was hired by Couchbase as a lead generator. This soon evolved into a string of jobs in SaaS companies where he honed his lead generation craft and oversaw massive growth in high-profile businesses. Several VPs of Marketing of SaaS companies began circling, asking him to build predictable, lead generation engines for them. But he couldn’t work for them all. Just as his career was catching fire, his busy schedule was holding him back.  

There was something missing in Silicon Valley, and in the SaaS world at large, he concluded. These heavily funded companies were struggling to find marketing talent, and their funnels weren’t predictable and scalable. “That’s when I started seeing an opportunity to create a new kind of system,” he said. Before long he had resolved to help these companies with a new SaaS solution – one that could drive leads and opportunities in a predictable, scalable way.  

He called it SaaSMQL

Focused Lead Generation 

“You have to be very focused,” Caporale explains during our phone call. “Startups don’t have the budget, so you have to really spend time selecting which companies you want to target, and who you want to spend money on. At the beginning of the year, [for our own outreach], I selected 500 SaaS companies that matched our criteria. We’re very specific on what type of companies we target, not only size and location, but funding, the person’s role in the company, whether they have a head of demand generation or not. Are they using Marketo or HubSpot? We gather as many details as possible. Then create a very strong list of target accounts.” Once he has this list, he segments it by different personas and maps those accounts with the right decision-makers. He then focuses all the marketing spend and outreach efforts on that list of companies. “You’re going to need a target such as ‘by the end of the year, I want to engage at least 40% of the list.'” 

Caporale’s model is to target companies across multiple channels at the same time. He uses email sequences, LinkedIn ads, Facebook ads, display ads and direct mail. 

“It’s no secret, but direct mail was our key weapon because we found that it works extremely well. We send nice, branded gift boxes with different creative things, different items to give away. We sent poker cards and poker chips that said, ‘don’t gamble with your demand generation.'” 

These tactics have paid off. A senior figure at Footlocker once got in touch to request a demo, saying they’d never heard of SaaSMQL ‘but started seeing them everywhere.’ They then received their care package and knew they had to get in touch.  

The Key to Scaling Is Paid Acquisition 

Many companies that Caporale spoke with had the same problem when it came to lead generation. They were relying on organic lead sources. “They’re just not used to spending on paid acquisition. When I ask, what’s your customer acquisition costs? They say, ‘Oh, we spend zero.’ Maybe because they got a lot of customers from referral traffic, they think this is the way to keep growing, but the key to scaling is to figure out paid acquisition. Free stuff isn’t scalable. When you figure out paid, and once you can spend $1 and get $5 back, that’s when you can scale up.” 

Caporale spends a lot of time helping CEOs, Founders and even VPs of Marketing understand how much they should be investing and how much they should expect back. With this understanding in place, and a firm grip on the businesses lead generation goals, they are able to work backwards and figure out the funnel they need to target a curated list of target customers. To help collate this information and visualize his projections, he created a tool called FunnelTap.  

“So as an example, if I spend $356,000 with one model, it might show that I will generate $1.5 million in revenue. So now I can stop that and play around with the tool and say ‘what if I don’t hit my 20% target here? If I only have 16%. How will my model change?’ Or ‘what if I spend more than $80 here? Is that something we can do?'”  

The FunnelTap tool has helped companies predict ROI on marketing investment, allowing them to move forward with campaigns where their competitors may be more hesitant. Caporale says the next step will be to create connections to tools like Salesforce, HubSpot and Marketo, and potentially Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Ads so that they can feed in data automatically and compare it to the projections. 

There Are No ‘One Size Fits All’ Solutions to Lead Generation 

Caporale is keenly aware of the different needs of companies in different industries and different stages of growth. There are tools out there that might market themselves as one-size-fits-all solutions to marketing and lead gen, but real lead gen funnels will always need to be tailored to their clients.  

“I tried a lot of things that didn’t work and I spent a lot of money on things that ended up giving me zero in return. Ultimately, companies that have a $200,000 deal size are different from companies that drive leads for $50 a month. You know, there’s a completely different system that is required. We have to create something that matches the business.”  

By carefully considering his customer’s needs and working backwards to create a tailored solution with an orchestrated, omni-channel marketing funnel, Caporale thinks he’s tapped into true marketing success. He focuses on repeating and scaling successful campaigns where many marketers try a campaign once and fail to capitalize on what they’ve learned. “Everything that is one-off is not going to move the needle,” he says at the end of our call. “To work, you have to make it into a system.” 

For now, his SaaSMQL system seems to be paying off. 

Don’t forget you can subscribe for free to read the full SaaS Mag including interviews with Asana COO Chris Farinacci, SaaStock Founder Alex Thuema, Tomasz Tunguz, and more…

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