Salesforce Business Builders to Know: Dean Yellets’ Journey to Success
by Rebeccah Yeadon, Content Specialist for the Salesforce AppExchange Marketing team EMEA/APAC
When Dean Yellets, CEO and Founder of marGo, spotted a gap in the market for a CRM and marketing solution that supports independent direct sellers, he knew he had to act fast.
Drawing on his business development expertise and personal drive to help solve this unmet need, the major challenge was how to get marGo’s offering to market as quickly as possible and communicate its message of transformation to the industry.
We caught up with the entrepreneur to discuss how he successfully took marGo from innovative idea to an enterprise that supports direct sellers across the globe, and why he chose to build on the Salesforce platform to help him achieve his vision.
What was your inspiration for founding marGo?
The genesis of marGo was a family matter. I wanted to help my wife Kathy change her direct-selling business and, therefore, change her life. The direct-selling industry is based on the B2B2C business model, where the “middle B” represents micro-business owners like Kathy, who, as independent contractors, sell on behalf of direct-selling companies. Micro-business owners have traditionally lacked the time and tools to effectively market to existing and new customers.
Although there are more than 120M direct sellers globally, approximately half of new direct sellers exit the business within their first year, an abysmal retention rate for any industry’s collective sales force. At less than $5,000 in annual sales performance, the relatively low average revenue-per-salesperson in the direct-selling industry prohibited wide-spread adoption of historically available, yet expensive, modern productivity tools.
How did you bring your vision to life?
I launched marGo in 2013 with the goal of making it easy, fast, and affordable for direct sellers to market their micro-businesses with branded content. Until this point, no purpose-built, price-sensitive systems focused on optimizing the direct-selling micro-business world existed.
As I examined Kathy’s go-to-market workflows, I identified myriad opportunities for productivity gains through process improvements and automation. I then addressed the most obvious areas for contribution.
Our first platform was developed prior to the advent of Multichannel Marketing Hubs (MMH). The initial solution delivered increased revenue-per-salesperson, as well as the collection of new customer buying data that enabled precision marketing. Yet it became apparent that marGo’s “dream” roadmap could be fulfilled by reimagining our system to one built on top of a world-class MMH, such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
What made you choose the Salesforce platform to develop your solution and grow your business?
We felt strongly that Salesforce was the best technology partner to serve with us in our commitment to transform direct selling across the globe. True to its name and history, Salesforce offered an MMH built to modernize not only marketing, but sales itself. The partnership allowed us to focus on the needs of the direct-selling industry, while leveraging Salesforce’s continuous investment in its technology and seasonal release of new features.
The new marGo services unleash the power of Salesforce to the benefit of direct-selling companies and their micro-business owners, who never had the time, skill, or money to leverage the world’s best technologies to market their businesses. Now, with marGo, direct sellers can compete with top retailers by professionally marketing their businesses, which requires less than one hour per month of their time.
How has the Salesforce Business Builder program enabled you to overcome challenges and innovate?
It is an honor to be the first partner company embraced by the Business Builder program in AMER. Collaboration with internal Salesforce teams has been particularly powerful, accelerating awareness of our dedicated vertical solution among the Salesforce Account Executives (AEs) that call on the direct-selling industry. Each AE can now offer a fit-for-purpose “quick win” to their direct-selling customers as those companies contemplate their own roadmaps for corporate transformation.
By partnering with Salesforce, we have been able to leverage a best-in-breed marketing automation tool with a complete roadmap that is invested in ongoing platform innovation. This has enabled us to shift our focus away from MMH development and spend more time solving the currently unmet needs of direct selling and MLM companies.
Innovation has also been sped up as a result of leveraging the collective value of the wider platform and ecosystem which serves all the key business motions, enabling us to focus on industry-specific requirements.
Can you expand on how the partner ecosystem has been a source of support to you along this journey?
World-class technology alone cannot guarantee the required time-to-market for entrepreneurs who have staked their companies on technology partnerships. Salesforce’s partner ecosystem provides the professional heft necessary for marGo to get to market quickly and communicate our message of transformation across the direct-selling industry.
When we were evaluating the alternative underlying MMH platforms for our service offering, speaking to existing Salesforce partners assured us that Salesforce would be both a provider of world-class technologies and a superior go-to-market partner. In addition, Salesforce recommended a systems integrator, who has been exceptional in assisting in the design and development of our platform. The Salesforce partner ecosystem emboldens us as we anticipate implementing marGo across the world.
As a founder, what do you think the key to success is?
First, identify an unmet need that you sense you can meet before others spot it, and move on it. David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett Packard Company, once inspired his people with a simple call to action, “Make a contribution, and the profits will follow.” Many great ideas come from entrepreneurs who first spot potential clients in need of breakthrough help. Then, those entrepreneurs often think outside the box to offer novel solutions that meet the needs of those clients.
Second, listen to your people and your partners, just as you listen to the marketplace. In the counsel of many you will find great wisdom. Finally, nurture your own tenacity to persevere where others might fade from the required course. Remind yourself that you are making a broader contribution than simply building a company.
What has been your biggest learning curve from founding your own business?
It takes far more time than one might think to envision, build, and deliver a market-changing contribution. By far, the go-to-market challenges can present the highest hurdles for any entrepreneur. I had to adjust my expectations to the reality of how difficult it is to stimulate early adoption in a previously unaddressed market, which has been collectively skeptical that any technology provider will meet their unique needs, including the inherent cost constraints of direct-selling companies. I’ve learned to celebrate small victories, which indicate that our vision is correct and that the marketplace will embrace and take full advantage of the contributions we deliver.
marGo is an innovator in digital marketing and CRM technology for the direct selling industry, helping to create an intelligent, interconnected network between direct sales organizations, their sellers and customers. Rebeccah Yeadon, Content Specialist for the Salesforce AppExchange Marketing team EMEA/APAC
As marGo’s Chief Executive Officer, Dean Yellets is responsible for the overall company strategy and execution. In addition to his own successful career at HP and Convergys, Dean has spent more than 25 years supporting his wife Kathy, a top 1% direct seller (micro business owner) and the thousands of sellers in her downline organization. He spent that time listening to the voice of the customer, and experienced first-hand the challenges faced by sellers, caused by the lack of data and software specifically designed for a unique business model (B2B2C).
From inception, marGo’s mission has been to deliver an enterprise SaaS solution, leveraging world-class technology, which unifies the marketing efforts of the enterprise and the micro-business owner to the consumer, unlocking data and business intelligence never before possible in a complex distributed business model.
Board of Directors
Tim McLoughlin grew up in the The Research Triangle area and has been very active in the North Carolina start-up ecosystem. After graduating from Harvard, he co-founded PTH Southeast where he served as President for seven years before earning a Master of Business Administration degree from The University of North Carolina. McLoughlin has been an adviser and board member for several early-stage software companies. He serves on the board of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and is a member of the N.C. Idea Grant Selection Committee. He was an Entrepreneur in Residence for Idea Fund Partners before joining Cofounders Capital in 2016 where he became a partner in 2018.
Ed Rapp retired from Caterpillar Inc. in July 2016 after 37 years with the company, where during his time in the Executive Office he held the roles of CFO and Group President of Resource Industries and Construction Industries. Rapp’s expertise extends to finance, marketing, dealer development, manufacturing and product development. In 2018, he founded Edinburgh Development, a commercial real estate development company focused on residential and commercial development, and Rapp Ventures, a firm that invests in start-up companies. Rapp is also a member of the AbbVie Board of Directors and serves on the Strategic Development Board for the University of Missouri Business School.
Michael Rose enjoyed a successful career in high technology as Chief Information Officer for both Hewlett Packard and Royal Dutch Shell and in various executive positions for Juniper Networks. He has been a non-executive director for three global public companies headquartered in the US. Since marGo’s inception, Rose has been involved as an investor, member of the Management Board, and as an advisor to Founder and CEO Yellets.