Be the Big Fish in Many Small Ponds

Guest: Ian Howells Vice President and Head of Marketing, Sage Intacct

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Be the Big Fish in Many Small Ponds

You’ve heard it said, “be the big fish in a small pond.” But have you ever considered being the big fish in many small ponds? Sage Intacct, a provider of cloud financial management, is doing just that. To pull this off, Sage Intacct first defines different “micro-verticals” by breaking down larger marketplaces, like manufacturing, into more granular categories, like toys, planes, and cars. Following that, they become experts in the field, and begin producing valuable, category-specific sales materials and insights.

Vice President and Head of Marketing, Ian Howells, chats with Drew on this episode about how his employees get to know these different markets—or ponds if you will—and the rigorous process of becoming the biggest fish in each.

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What You’ll Learn

1% penetration to a desired goal – how to get started in micro-targeting

Ian shares the process of penetrating a new market. Sage Intacct works hard to reach out to multiple companies to conduct interviews and research. It is Sage’s job to understand this customer and understand what is going on. What are the pains of the customer? Are there similarities between this company and others Sage Intacct work with? Ian’s interviewers must gain understanding and draw correlations between companies in the same micro-target. This interview process gives understanding into a micro-vertical. The more companies you interview, the more you know about this subset of the market: associations, key influences, key applications… All of this information affects positioning and messaging for that micro-vertical.

How to know you have achieved success in a micro-vertical

Many times companies believe they have achieved success in a micro-vertical too soon. Ian explains that you have achieved success in a current micro-vertical, and should add another when you have at least 20 clients with the same pattern and pains, and you can predict what the client will say. This shows you understand the current micro-vertical, and you are in a position to begin learning about a new one.

The importance of website content and collecting data

Sage Intacct’s website overtly lists its competition. It compares what it offers to various companies.  Ian explains that you must over communicate what your company does and why it is the best. By comparing Sage Intacct’s products to others, clients can quickly see why Sage is different and the best for them.

On several demo videos, Sage Intacct stops the video to collect viewer information. This is important for several different reasons. Collecting information allows Sage to know what industry this person is from. When the video resumes, the viewer gets personalized content. If you’re from a nonprofit, you get specific messaging. By pausing the demo, Sage is also able to collect data from potential clients and know how interested the viewer really is.


  • [2:04] What Sage Intacct does
  • [4:30] Ian’s Renegade Rapid Fire segment
  • [13:16] How Ian got started in microtargeting
  • [16:40] The process from 1% market penetration to your goal
  • [19:45] How to get interviews, who conducts them, and where they’re shared
  • [25:49] When to add another micro-vertical
  • [29:00] Telling customers stories
  • [30:17] Over communication on website content
  • [34:51] When to move on from a micro-target

Connect With Ian Howells:

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Drew

Meet the Guest

Ian Howells has more than twenty years of marketing experience at startups and major software companies. As Sage Intacct’s VP and Head of Marketing, Ian oversees the company’s demand generation, product marketing, partner marketing, and marketing communications strategy. Ian previously served as the company’s VP of Market Development, managing the company’s vertical market strategy.Before joining Sage Intacct, Ian led marketing at Argyle Data, transitioning the company to a leading machine learning Hadoop application vendor, used by the world’s largest mobile carriers to perform fraud and revenue threat analytics. Before that, Ian led marketing at StorSimple (prior to their acquisition by Microsoft) and SeeBeyond (prior to their acquisition by Sun). Ian also worked in market development at Documentum, where he led their entry into financial services, which became the company’s largest vertical. Ian has a Ph.D. in Distributed Database Systems and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computing and Statistics from Cardiff University.

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