How Corporate Advisory Solutions is defining itself as a digital-first investment and merchant banking firm with Affinity
Corporate Advisory Solutions (CAS) is a boutique investment and merchant banking firm that specializes in tech-enabled, outsourced business services companies. They offer support in M&A, valuation, and market research services. Their clientele includes privately-owned companies in the debt collection industry, healthcare revenue cycle management companies, and contact center/call center/BPO clients with annual revenue ranging from $10 million to $300 million.
CAS was in need of a CRM, a more automated data entry solution, and a system their entire team could rely on. They also needed these tools up and running quickly without a need for extensive training or onboarding. They were already paying for more than they felt like they needed to for data entry and other tools, and they didn’t want to adopt yet another system that didn’t serve their needs.
"We were spending so much time, effort, and money on manual data entry. We were spending money to put this information into our system without leveraging it for a real return on investment. Figuring out a way to make that workflow process easier and more functional was something I cared a lot about." - Michael Lamm, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at CAS
Servicing a range of hyper-specialized industries–and clients at varying sizes within these spaces–requires careful attention and a detailed system of record. Unfortunately, the manual work that came with a massive platform like Salesforce was not meeting those needs. A lack of adoption and support from their existing platform combined with an increasing volume of data in a virtual environment became overwhelming.
Michael Lamm, one of CAS’ co-founders and managing partners said, “We were spending so much time, effort, and money on manual data entry. We were spending money to put this information into our system without leveraging it for a real return on investment. Figuring out a way to make that workflow process easier and more functional was something I cared a lot about.”
Working with industries where a sales cycle can last an average of three to five years, maintaining a clearly organized system of record becomes a firm’s greatest asset. Whether meeting a client face to face or over a Zoom call, being able to reference your last call or email–that could have taken place well over a year ago or have come from another associate–differentiates you as a firm that cares for its clients.
For CAS, a lack of automation and lack of product adoption for their previous CRM made it difficult to keep their team on the same page, and they started to look for alternatives that better met their needs. They explored other options in the investment banking software market, but could not find a product that was optimal for them. “We wanted to change our CRM because we weren’t using Salesforce the way they wanted us to. What we really needed was a marketing tool, especially in a primarily virtual space, that worked with our existing systems.”
CAS wanted to create a standout service offering for their clients and needed to market themselves as a firm that had a holistic understanding of their network. “In a lot of ways, Affinity is a marketing tool. It’s made the entire process easier for us and our clients.”
Since adopting Affinity Lamm and his team have become more efficient and are now able to offer a more tech-forward solution for their clients. “Because Affinity is more intuitive [than our old system], you don’t have to go through a big training program. If we wanted to properly scale our old system, it would have taken up to twenty hours of onboarding training for new team members. Now, everyone is able to use Affinity immediately.”
Even on the first day, Affinity helped CAS more than double their available network after they had leaned on their manually recorded Salesforce data for nearly eight years. “Our database in Salesforce had seven or eight thousand emails in it. When we moved over to Affinity, on day one–after our seamless integration process–our active contacts inventory grew to 17,000.”
This wealth of otherwise lost contact information proved invaluable, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic. “In the pandemic, we only have so many ways to engage prospects digitally. We had to shift to doing more research and due diligence for higher quality deals, and having access to more contacts made all the difference.” This, combined with a series of integrations with platforms like MailChimp, has transformed CAS' approach to marketing and sales into a digital-first solution.
This also means that they can showcase their seamless digital work as a primary value offering for their potential team members as well as buyers and sellers. “We’re going after privately-owned, family-owned businesses. Most of our competitors from an M&A perspective are at a different point in their lifecycle, and a lot of them are working off of manual, legacy technology. Now we can tap these talented M&A dealmakers, who already have great networks and capabilities, and bring them onto our system, where we can expand our reach into new markets.”
Affinity helped CAS by:
- More than doubling their contacts database–from 8,000 to 17,000–by automatically consolidating relationship information from communication streams like email and calendar data
- Eliminating 15-20 hours of technical training per new hire
- Saving $8,000 - $10,000 worth of employee hours spent on manual data entry
Corporate Advisory Solutions is continuing to scale their digital footprint and plans to leverage Affinity as a source of truth and hub for future applications they bring on board. Developing a key network of family offices, private equity firms, strategic buyers, and owners is essential to growing their business, and now they have a specialized software solution that meets the needs of a boutique investment bank.