Startup Lately Demystifies and Dehassels Marketing Organization
How many different tools does your business use to organize its marketing? If you’re like many companies the answer is too many. Maybe you have a task list on this platform, a calendar on another, a shared folder over here, and then there’s that ginormous, headache-inducing spreadsheet. Now, tech startup Lately is revolutionizing that muddled process with its one-stop marketing organization solution.
The New York-based company has engineered the first self-service platform that empowers professionals to organize their marketing efforts by harnessing tools, processes, and people within a single solution. Users collaborate with teams through an integrated workspace that combines calendars, content creation, budgets, files, analytics, approvals, task lists, and more.
“We make it really simple to understand the processes of marketing so that anyone, from CMOs to nonprofits to startups to my mom, can understand, plan, execute, and analyze all their marketing in one place.”
CEO Kate Bradley Chernis, who co-founded Lately with COO Steve Blood and CPO Jason DeBacco, says, “We make it really simple to understand the processes of marketing so that anyone, from CMOs to nonprofits to startups to my mom, can understand, plan, execute, and analyze all their marketing in one place.”
Over the years, enterprising companies have built solutions to streamline and simplify critical business functions like accounting, sales, and human resources. Chernis says, “When QuickBooks created QuickBooks, they made it for accountants, but what they also did was pull back the black curtain of accounting so that anybody could use it and could understand the mysteries of accounting…Salesforce did the same thing.”
Yet the marketing function has largely been left to slog toward its goal using a hodgepodge of tools. Chernis, who owned a marketing agency, describes using a “painstakingly comprehensive” spreadsheet to manage a multimillion dollar campaign several years ago for a retail giant. She used it to organize everything from team members and social content to budgets and files.
Chernis says the “Frankenstack” — the not-so-affectionate term that describes the use of multiple tools to organize a campaign — means marketers end up juggling information “instead of doing what we do best, which is marketing.”
That bouncing around comes at a cost. The co-founder refers to an IBM survey that revealed businesses bleed $83 billion annually in the U.S. due to disorganized marketing that can’t meet customer expectations.
While the super-spreadsheet Chernis had built helped her team manage a campaign that garnered 130 percent ROI annually over its three years, it was cumbersome and time-consuming. Yet the retail client, along with her other marketing clients, clamored to use it because it pulled entire campaigns together in a single spot.
That realization sparked the creation of Lately. “If I’m doing this for everyone, then everyone needs this. Let’s build it,” the CEO says.
“Everyone’s a marketer nowadays. It’s not just professional marketers or PR firms. It’s global brands, nonprofits, politicians, Kickstarter campaign starters, bloggers, and so on.”
Current marketing resource management (MRM) solutions are enterprise-level and cost tens of thousands to implement and maintain. What’s more, those solutions tend to be complicated, requiring in-house training and convoluted manuals. Chernis notes that marketing firms struggle to use them efficiently in-house and sometimes find it impossible to utilize them for client or contractor collaboration.
Those factors create a huge accessibility barrier, one that leaves many businesses, including SMBs, without a usable, efficient marketing solution. “Everyone’s a marketer nowadays. It’s not just professional marketers or PR firms. It’s global brands, nonprofits, politicians, Kickstarter campaign starters, bloggers, and so on. And that’s a big market all sharing that $83 billion pain point of disorganization.”
That’s precisely what’s driven the Lately team to develop an easy-to-use solution that eliminates the “Frankenstack” and replaces it with one accessible, all-in-one marketing tool.
Powering a Revolution with Powerful Technology
Lately leverages several Microsoft products, including Razor View Engine, ASP.NET, OneDrive, and App Service. The startup also took advantage of significant credits through Microsoft’s BizSpark program. Those cost savings allowed the tech company to host and prototype some of its features on Azure. Chernis says, “We want to spend as much money on our development team and engineers so we can build a product as fast as possible and continue to learn from our customers to improve the product. Any dollars we can save to put towards that is huge.”
Her team also used Azure to host white-label versions of its more popular features for third-party use. In one situation, Lately was able to quickly and efficiently create a version of its marketing scanner tool for a partner to integrate into its own toolset.
Tapping Expert Knowledge
Lately, which recently joined accelerator Grand Central Tech, has graduated from Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA). Chernis says accelerators like these offer incredible resources for startups. She and her team have had access to experienced business professionals as well as founders who have already graduated from the programs. “It’s like camp for startups. It’s crazy and really intense,” the entrepreneur says.
Chernis envisions a big market for Lately’s technology. Marketing, she notes, is a team-based function. Each of Lately’s current users, which largely consist of agencies, often works with outside professionals, such as designers, content writers, social media consultants, or PR firms. The co-founder says, “It’s a built-in waterfall. For us, one agency sale equals 100 subscribers.”
As a result, she says, “Lately is a have-to share, not a want-to share.” The startup will continue to refine its product to meet its ultimate long-term goal: pull back the black curtain of marketing so anyone can understand and execute campaigns efficiently and profitably.