From Sales to SaaS: Diana Lee, CEO of Constellation Agency, Discusses Building and Licensing a Hyper-Local Ad Tool

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

It’s not every day that a car salesperson becomes a founder and CEO of a SaaS company that is revolutionizing the way companies do local advertising. But that’s the path that Diana Lee, CEO of Constellation Agency, followed, and it actually began with a pretty tough conversation with her parents when she explained she wasn’t going to do what they had planned out for her.

“My entire life, my parents have always said, ‘Shame on you if you do something that basically ruins our name, shame on you if you don’t actually marry the right person, shame on you if you don’t actually become a doctor or a lawyer,’” Lee remembers. “So all these years of being trained as, you must be something, not even for yourself, but for all of your ancestors and all of us out there, it’s a lot of pressure.”

Lee found success in auto sales and eventually became a finance manager and got involved in the marketing side of the business when she was an automotive consultant. She was tasked with bringing in clients and saw that the best way to do that was the way very few brands were actually leaning into hyper-local advertising. But there was a reason that most brands, and the agencies they worked with eschewed that strategy.

“If you look at social and how socials usually run, people run three to five ads on social,” Lee explains. “They don’t do what’s called hyper-localized advertising. They don’t go and actually really try to fine-tune the advertising. They make it very broad awareness-like. And what we felt like is the only way that customers can actually convert and have ROI is to make it hyper-localized based on the audiences and the targets that you’re actually approaching. But in order to do that, you need to make a lot more ads. But when you try to scale that model, Mark Zuckerberg is a really smart guy, but he made it for the user experience. You can’t do it on the backend.”

Creating hyper-local ads was hard and time consuming, but it was also effective. So Lee and her team tried to develop a way to make it easier.

“The reason we invented it was not because we decided to ever license anything,” Lee says. “What happened was we would have our campaign team and they would physically cry. We laugh about it right now. And because we’ll do trainings for our new people that actually join our organization. And we’ll say, ‘Look, we made this technology, we made these buttons because it made our campaign managers cry.’ And our campaign managers that are still here will start laughing hysterically. And they’re like, ‘She’s not lying. It made us cry that we had to duplicate all the ads. It made us cry because we had to actually do hyper-local and couldn’t do it. It made us cry because we stay up until 1:00 in the morning trying to actually make all the assets.’”

Companies flocked to get their hands on the technology, and Lee obliged, while also continuing to keep her team focused on being the best in the business at what they were doing.

“If you can stay true to the core of what you’re good at, you can be the best at just that,” Lee says. “And so that’s what we try to do is at the end, people want all different types of marketing, but I don’t want to do all pieces of marketing because at the end, it becomes so watered down in terms of your skillsets that you don’t perform well at anything. So people used to say, I want to be a one-stop shop for everything. Then you’re not good at anything. You’re a one-stop shop for everything. And you never become the subject matter expert of one thing. And that’s something that we want to say is we are the best at what we do, which is creative content based on paid advertising. That’s what we do. And we can show ROI on this because most of our brands will fire us as well as any other agency if their products don’t sell. And at the end, our job is to sell the product. It needs to sell, it needs to create ROI and they need to analytically look at it and then say, oh, Constellation Agency brought in 15.5 million of our revenue last year because they sold direct to consumer sales. That’s what the brands are looking for.”

To hear more from Lee, tune into Up Next in Commerce.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

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