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Marketing as a Service: Perri Marketing Agency Lured to Gig City by Growing Tech Scene

This article originally appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, January 1, 2019 by Dave Flessner Copyright © 2021

In the growth of nearly all small businesses — and especially independent software vendors — there comes a point when the founder needs to reach out beyond his or her network connections or personal referrals to attract more customers. But hiring a full-time marketing director that both fits the culture and the budget of a startup is often too costly, risky or difficult for a small business.

Tony Perri, a veteran marketing executive and entrepreneur himself in the software industry, offers a solution very similar to the Software as a Service or “on-demand software.” Perri’s clients often offer their customers. Instead of hosting the software services for other companies as SaaS providers do, Perri hosts marketing services for clients. For a monthly fee, Perri and his 10 contract employees offer a variety of marketing, web design, copy writing, PR and trade show expertise along with teaching clients how to effectively employ CRM (customer relationship management) software and other services.

“We function like an outsourced software marketing department for technology companies,” Perri says. “For my clients, I am their chief marketing officer, working directly for the CEO or chief revenue officer. We can deliver a team of marketing and PR assets for a fraction of the cost of hiring and training even just two marketing people, who may or may not stick around. It’s like procuring a marketing department as a service, instead of building an entire department, which takes months, sometimes years.”

Perri says most software companies are started by either a developer or a salesperson who lack the marketing skills to scale up the company beyond their own contacts and connections. “At some point, they need to develop the marketing solutions to sustain the growth of their businesses,” Perri says. “That’s where we can help.”

Perri worked as a business journalist, strategic marketer and CRM (customer relationship management) specialist before becoming the marketing director of the global software company Allen Systems Group (ASG) Inc. in Naples, Florida. When that job ended 10 years ago, Perri decided to take his two decades of experience and create his own firm, Perri Marketing.

Perri’s first customer, CorreLog Inc., founded by another former ASG manager in Naples, quickly grew with Perri’s help into a leading security information and event management software or SIEM company that was acquired by BMC, a major IT management firm in 2018,

After a brief stint in Naples, Perri moved his company to Chattanooga when his daughter got a college athletics scholarship at Brevard College near Asheville, North Carolina, and Perri was looking for a way to be closer to where she played her games. Since Perri is from Mobile, Alabama, and his wife is from Monticello, Illinois, Perri saw Chattanooga as an attractive city midway between all three of those locations. With high-speed Gigabit-per-second internet links and a lower cost of living than bigger Southeastern cities, Perri quickly found a home in “Gig city.”

“Chattanooga’s Gig service is bringing more tech companies here and it’s a nice size, affordable city that seems really interested in helping small businesses grow and thrive,” Perri says. He has only one client so far in Chattanooga, although he is looking for and expects more.

Perri, who recently moved his company into the Hamilton County INCubator, devotes a few hours per week as mentor to local entrepreneurs engaged with The Company Lab’s GIGTANK, a 12-week accelerator program for startups. Most of Chattanooga’s startups he works with are still below the size needed to hire Perri Marketing, which so far has got most of its business from clients across the country. He even has one from France, the coding and quality control company Infotel, which is expanding in the United States.

“A typical PR agency can write an interesting story, but they can’t translate technology into business language that drives prospects’ calls to action,” Perri says. “We start with understanding the business objectives as related to the technology, build a strategic vision of marketing, then provide targeted content and marketing automation with analytics to measure effectiveness.”

Perri has expertise in cyber security, and good percentage of his clients make security software. Perri is an occasional speaker and recently led a seminar at the CyberSecurity Atlanta conference about the effect on North American companies of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. This regulation, which went into effect in May 2018, is creating a domino effect in the U.S., with state legislation leaving American company executives, particularly chief marketing officers, trying to figure out how to navigate these new laws.  He has also presented at an American Marketing Association Atlanta event about how marketers collect consumer data while guarding privacy. Perri has also served as co-founder for three software start-ups — AR Advocates (analyst relations consulting for software vendors), Vallum Software (a network management software vendor), and his latest venture, Santa Rosa Software (a software vendor focused on mobile apps for the mainframe).