Software innovation helps companies follow the money

Allocadia delves into black hole of marketing to help CMOs track spending

Kristine Steuart [left] and Katherine Berry, co-founders of Allocadia: finding and curing a pain point in marketing | Richard Lam

Kristine Steuart remembers running down a hallway urgently trying to deal with corrupted files. The marketing expert was managing multimillion-dollar portfolios but was still at the whim of unreliable, hard to understand spreadsheets.

“I thought, ‘What are we even looking at here? Our spend? Our forecast? What are we even trying to accomplish?’”

Today, Steuart and twin sister Katherine Berry seem to have found a solution to the age-old dilemna raised more than 100 years ago by department store retailer John Wannamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Steuart and Berry are co-founders, and CEO and CPO respectively, of Allocadia marketing performance management, business software that hits a key marketing pain point – campaign spending being swallowed up by a black hole.

“When we started working with clients, we realized they all had the same problem – inability to plan, measure and demonstrate accountability to their executive team on their marketing spend,” says Steuart. “We thought, there’s got to be a better way.”

So they got to work on a prototype.

“I remember we sketched the first mockup on the napkin in a coffee shop,” says Katherine. “We’ve been solving the same problem since the beginning. We just keep innovating as we go.”

Together, the sisters needed to outsource little in the beginning. Steuart took care of marketing and Berry, a web designer, took care of front-end coding. They put it all together and started pitching at trade shows. The first customer they found in 2010 is still with them.

Eventually, they hired programmers and other staff to start building out the business. It wasn’t long before they realized they had really hit on a need.

Steuart credits the success of their product on the trend of businesses going digital in their marketing, with more responsibility falling on the shoulders of chief marketing officers.

“CMOs are getting more of a seat at the executive table,” says Steuart. “Because of that, it’s not OK for them to show up and say, ‘I don’t know how we’re aligning our spend.’ They have to have a handle on their core operational data.” 

The need for Allocadia’s service was so strong out of the gate, the company was supporting itself financially within a year and a half. From working out of a garage, Berry and Steuart have just under 100 employees and have raised $30 million in financing.

Allocadia is ranked No. 2 for B.C. information and communications technology (ICT)  companes in Rocket Builders’ Ready to Rocket list for 2016.

The company’s growth has meant adding 15 to 20 people each year in marketing, implementation, sales and post-sales. They’ve just recently expanded their downtown Vancouver office space, adding 4,000 square feet.

But they are cautious to maintain a slow and steady growth rate.

“We’ve always done responsible growth,” says Berry. “A lot of high-tech companies [believe in] growth at all costs – really aggressive growth rates. [They] are making that shift to be fiscally responsible. For us, we’ve always been that, so it’s not a shift we have to make.”

One of Allocadia’s newest clients is Vision Critical, which develops software to collect and analyze customer feedback.

Thao Ngo, vice-president of marketing for Vision Critical, says  the value of what Allocadia was doing was clear just from seeing a demo.

“We are a data-driven marketing team,” says Ngo. “We always look at a ton of analytics to make our decisions. We wanted to have good data on how our programs were running, based on the spend; not only how many leads, revenue, etc.”

Allocadia allows various people in the organization to have different access levels for budgets, she says.“It streamlines the process and makes things quicker, as well.”

“In the past, people had their own way of managing things, so now we all have the view looking at the same numbers; we only have strategic conversations about how we’re going to do marketing spend.”

The system also makes training new hires a simple task.

“I can train anybody on Allocadia in two minutes and they get going right away,” says Ngo. “It’s easy to use and intuitive.”

This was one of Allocadia’s goals from the beginning, Berry explains.

“Marketers really want to spend time being creative and building great campaigns, but they also have to run the business and manage their budget,” says Berry. “So we try to make that more fun and interesting, easy to do and efficient so they can focus on the creative side of marketing.”

With marketing performance management becoming more of an expectation, it would seem the sky’s the limit for where the product can go.

“Every single marketer in the world manages, plans and measures their marketing spend,” says Berry. “So the market opportunity is massive.”