015 | What’s Hidden in Your Marketing Data with Sean Byrnes | Studio CMO
Sean Byrnes founded and now serves as CEO of Outlier.AI, a five-year-old company that is reinventing business intelligence. Outlier was named a 2018 Cool Vendor in Analytics by Gartner and was the 2017 Strata Audience Choice Award Winner at Strata. Prior to Outlier, he was the founder of Flurry, the leader in advertising and analytics services for mobile applications. Flurry was acquired by Yahoo back in 2014.
In his free time, he advises some early stage technology companies and invests in many others. He is passionate about building great products, beautiful interfaces, and new technologies.
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If your initial marketing premise is not good, if you don’t really understand your buyer, all the growth hacks in the world won’t get you anywhere. – Sean Byrnes
There are some problems with A/B testing. A/B testing is a way to examine our preconceptions or our hunches, but they don’t go deep enough. If all you’re doing is looking for, say, a customer’s preference of color, you’re going to miss the most important thing: the customer’s intent.
At the end of the day, all business is marketing. Because if you can’t reach your customer, then what are you selling? – Sean Byrnes
Do you fully understand your buyer’s problems? It’s foundational to any successful marketing movement. Golden Spiral has developed a proprietary methodology called The Buyer MatrixTM.
Content marketing has become so successful. It’s a guided tour through your product. – Sean Byrnes
I’m a firm believer that the best marketing strategies come from really unexpected observations. You don’t just run the same things everybody else does. – Sean Byrnes
You really prove you have a customer when they renew your product. – Sean Byrnes
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*Mark Whitlock (00:00)* What’s your definition of marketing. Here’s Sean Byrnes from Outlier.ai.
*Sean Byrnes: (00:05)* I think in recent years, too often, the rise of growth hacking makes marketing seem like it’s just customer acquisition, just demand generation, just get leads. Let’s convert them with conversion rates. And I think at its core, that’s a very poor definition of marketing. I mean, marketing started out as really the understanding of the market, right? Understanding of who is the customer, what are their needs? What do they look for? What is the competitive landscape? How do we position ourselves? And those parts of marketing, I think, in a lot of ways, are still more important, but those are the ones that got that diluted it away. And if you think about starting companies and building businesses, those aspects are so much more important than conversion rates. Because if you really master the market, you’re going after, you master who your buyer is and what they want. The conversion rates will come later.
*Mark Whitlock: (00:52)* We’re going to take a look at the data you collect the questions you need to ask and how AI can show you the things about marketing that you expect it that’s today on Studio CMO.
*Mark Whitlock: (01:04)* Welcome to Studio CMO. I’m Mark Whitlock. You’re listening to the podcast that gets up close and personal with the marketing executives and the B2B tech space and breaks down marketing successes so we can know better how to reach our customers with clarity and with answers for what they need today. I want to welcome our host John Farkas. He’s with us today from home.
*John Farkas: (01:44)* Hello, everybody!
*Mark Whitlock: (01:44)* And Angus Nelson, my cohost is in the upper right hand corner of our Zoom window today.
*Angus Nelson: (01:49)* Woo hoo!
*Mark Whitlock: (01:49)* He’s happy because his camera started working before we, uh, we rolled tape today. So we’re grateful for that. And we’ve got an exciting conversation today to talk about a company and talk to a founder and some of the marketing journeys he’s been on.
*Angus Nelson: (02:05)* He’s the CEO of Outlier, AKA Outlier.ai, a new company that is reinventing business intelligence. Prior to Outlier, he was the founder of Flurry. The leader in advertising and analytics services for mobile applications acquired by Yahoo back in 2014, which seems like eternity ago. Please welcome to the show. Sean Byrnes. Great to have you here.
*Sean Byrnes: (02:29)* Thanks for having me. Although to be honest, three months ago seems like 30 years ago. So I can’t even remember 2014 anymore.
*(02:34)*Yeah, no kidding. Good point. Crazy.
*John Farkas: (02:37)* So Sean, tell us about outlier. What are you guys all about? What do you do?
*Sean Byrnes: (02:42)* Yeah, so Outlier is a five year old company. I spent my whole career in the world of data and I got frustrated that if you’re a leader in a business today, you have a lot of great tools, dashboards, charts, but they’re only really good at answering the questions, you know, to ask. And frankly, a lot of what we need in businesses to know those questions, those questions are the opportunities and the problems that we want to take advantage of. And there was no way to find them unless you either stumbled upon them or spent every waking hour sifting through the data. And so ally is a new kind of business that focuses not on charts, not on dashboards, not on answers, to questions that you know, to ask —the tools out there are very good at that. Outlier is a a new kind of tool called automated business analysis, which looks for questions and brings them to you. So if you’re the CMO of a large business, you may have millions of different kinds of customer segments. If you think about users by age and gender location products, how do you identify those kinds of emerging changes in behavior, changes in buying habits? And that’s what Outlier does for you. So it connects to your data wherever it is in minutes. And it doesn’t wait for you to tell it what to look for. It automatically finds those questions. It brings them to you. So as a leader, you don’t worry about what you’re missing. You’re armed with kind of a more information and better questions to make better decisions.
*John Farkas: (03:53)* Very cool. So tell us about the road that led you there. How did you come about that problem? How’d you find that problem?
*Sean Byrnes: (04:02)* So my last company, as you mentioned, was a company called Flurry, which we were very lucky to have started in the dark days of mobile in 2005, which was three years or two years before the iPhone and three years before the app store and Flurry eventually grew, uh, after thankfully the iPhone launched and Android to be the largest provider of analytics and advertising services to mobile apps. So any app on iOS or Android between 2009 and 2015, 2016 was probably using Flurry as one of its tools. We had a massive, very high market penetration of something like 93, 94% of the market. And so we were the definitive source for analytics, for companies as mobile became their business. And we had about 500,000 customers around the world, companies using our platform when we were acquired. And I got, I tried to talk to as many of them as I could. And they were across the world in different countries, different kinds of companies, different sizes.
*Sean Byrnes: (04:56)* And wherever I go, whoever I talked to about Flurry, they asked me the same thing and they said, listen, Sean, I love the data, but how do I know what to look for? How do I know what defined in all this data you’re giving me? And I got that same observation from Fortune 500 customers and two-person companies in the US and Europe and Asia. And eventually what I realized was that we just read a hit an inflection point where up till then getting access to the data was the hard part. And we had hit a point where that was no longer, the hard part anymore. The hard part was that it overwhelmed us. Our business didn’t fit in a spreadsheet anymore. It didn’t fit on a dashboard. I met one company who had four dozen dashboards and the executive team spent three hours every Monday looking through them, trying to figure out what was going on.
*Sean Byrnes: (05:41)* And so it just became clear. We needed instead of just improving what we had, we needed a completely new approach. And I started thinking about it that if the dashboards we had were like the paper maps we all used to have in our cars to get around, we all remember it. Well, I’m old enough to remember that I realized there’s some people that will never know that experience, but like, yeah, you think about it. Like when GPS came along and our phones tell us where to go and how to get there, uh, I hadn’t been lost in over a decade and we needed that kind of change in business. And that’s what outlier became. But as a funny side note, this will go to marketing later when we got started. I didn’t know if you could solve it. I didn’t know if it was possible software to do this.
*Sean Byrnes: (06:18)* I mean, it’s a crazy idea, right? To write software that will look through data and find questions for you. But we started with that problem and we just started working on it, working on it and it turns out you can do it luckily, which is why our business has grown so fast. But you know, when you do it, it actually is magical watching how it changed how these companies operate. So it takes something that used to be impossible, like looking at that mountain of data and trying to figure out where to start and turn it into, you know, an empowering feeling for people.
*Mark Whitlock: (06:46)* Sean, you’re running a powerful AI company now here in 2020, and yet years ago, when you were in college, you actually studied AI. Is that right?
*Sean Byrnes: (06:57)* Oh yeah. We used to joke in the, in the graduate research lab that the things we were studying would never be relevant in our lifetimes, that the work we were doing was foundational for the next generation. And now 20 years later, I look like a genius and I’m like, that’s all it takes is you just sit on something long enough in the old becomes new again. And it’s, it’s all relevant. I think the crazy thing is if you were to take a textbook from back then all the same algorithms we use in machine learning are the same today. None of them have changed, but what’s changed is the computers are so much more powerful things that back then we couldn’t even dream of doing, you can do in seconds on modern computers. And that change has just unlocked this new wave of AI. And it’s exciting. It’s really exciting. It’s it. If you imagine sitting there and dreaming about what the future could look like, I’m just lucky it arrived in my lifetime because often doesn’t work that way.
*John Farkas: (07:47)* That’s really true. It’s rare we get the chance to, or the opportunity just to sit in on a change like that. I mean, when you think about what’s happened even in the last five years, it’s pretty remarkable. As you look at the world of marketing and how it’s played into your career, how have you approached your business? Knowing that you’ve seen a lot of early stage company movement.
*Sean Byrnes: (08:11)* So, I think the first thing, and this is a common mistake is like, what is the definition of marketing? I think in recent years too often, the rise of growth hacking makes marketing seem like it’s just customer acquisition, just demand generation, just get leads, let’s convert them with conversion rates. And I think at its core, that’s a very poor definition of marketing. I mean, marketing started out as really the understanding of the market, right? Understanding of who is the customer, what are their needs? What do they look for? What is the competitive landscape? How do we position ourselves? And those parts of marketing, I think in a lot of ways are still more important, but those are the ones that got diluted away. And if you think about starting companies and building businesses, those aspects are so much more important than conversion rates. If you really master the market, you’re going after, if you’ve mastered who your buyer is and what they want, the conversion rates will come later, right? You can, you can build a healthy demand gen system on top of really sound marketing. But man, if your, if your initial premise is not good, if you don’t really understand your buyer, all the growth hacks in the world won’t get you anywhere. And that was why when I started Outlier, we started with a problem, right? We just started with this problem. Can you help people understand what questions to ask, not having any idea if you could, because we knew if you started with that, which people would self you find any executive, any company, and you say, listen, have you missed anything recently? And they’ll get this look on their face where they’re like, Oh yeah. And then you’ll be like, what would it be worth to you to never have that happen again?
*Sean Byrnes: (09:38)* And their eyes light up. Like that’s a real understanding of your market. That’s a real understanding of an opportunity. And if you build on that, everything else will follow from it. And so I think that aspect is really critical. So you imagine like, as a founder, let’s say you want to raise money, in those first investor meetings, what do they want to know about? They don’t want to know out my budget for Facebook ads. They don’t want to know about, you know, these are the things they want to know about who you selling to, what are you selling? Why are they buying it, all those things that go back to the origins of marketing and what really means to do effective marketing. And so I think that it permeates everything now it’s of course I know this is crazy coming from a data guy and data’s important, um, as part of marketing, because there’s a point where as your business grows, you can’t sit down and talk to all your buyers anymore.
*Sean Byrnes: (10:23)* You can’t sit down and talk to your personas. The data has to be how your customers speak to you. But there’s a question about what are you listening for? Are you listening for like, you know, the tweak of this button from red to blue because it improves our click rates or are you listening for the customer’s intent? The customer’s desire. You’re listening for who they are and what they want. And data can tell you all those different things. But if you listen for the right things and you have that sound foundation, I mean, that’s what business is built on at the end of the day, all business is marketing. Because if you can’t reach a customer, then what are you selling?
*Angus Nelson: (10:52)* I want to tag off that, you know, and on one end, you have so much data, but as you know, with marketing, like so much of it as emotional as well, what are some of the points that you can measure in terms of, like you said, buyer intent and some of the emotion that is involved that helps take the data and create a soul and send some humanity to it.
*Sean Byrnes: (11:12)* Part of it comes down to what you’re measuring. Are you measuring what the customer does? Who they are a combination of those or where they’re going? One of the things about data is it’s always looking backwards, is telling you what’s already happened. They won’t tell you what’s going to happen next. You can either have an intuition of what’s gonna happen next or predictive models that will predict will happen next. But data itself only tell you what’s already happened. So the question is, what are you measuring to try to tell you that story? I’ll give you an example from the early days of outlier, you know, most business intelligence companies, if you look at their marketing, they’re very much centered around teaching you, right? They’re trying to teach you how to use dashboards, how to use charts. And one of my initial ideas, thoughts around the space was part of the problem is that kind of pedantic nature that companies were speaking down to the customer.
*Sean Byrnes: (11:59)* They were like, listen, you need me to teach you how to use this, to be able to do it effectively. What would happen if you changed the voice? What if you spoke to someone as if you were just their friend, helping them with their homework, not the professor teaching a class, would that matter? And then the second thing you do. So from that observation, from that idea, then you do things and then you measure them. So for example, we launched a newsletter called the Data-Driven Daily, which is still out there today. It’s a daily tip on using data to run your business, to improve marketing, those sorts of things. And we wrote that newsletter. We write that newsletter in that voice and that voice of somebody helping with the homework where it’s not, you know, so over your head, so complicated, but it’s also easy to adjust, easy to pick up.
*Sean Byrnes: (12:40)* You know, there’s some humor in there as well. And we watched to see what would happen and it caught fire. It became far more successful than I ever thought it would be. And so the data told the story that people really did thirst for that kind of voice. They thirsted for a different approach to it. But that data only came about because of that observation that we wanted to make. And it’s different than A/B testing. I think A/B testing is an idea that I have a hunch that this will do better than that. And I can measure between them. This is much more, I think, strategic where you have an idea of where you’re going. The question is, what can you do to measure if it’s real at scale? Because if I had said, I’m going to write this newsletter. And I go to three of my friends, of course my friends will be like, Oh, that sounds like a great newsletter. I definitely want to sign up, but if I can actually, you know, put it together, launch it, and watch the data and see for myself that people who are strangers are recommending to other strangers who recommend other strangers, then you start to realize, okay, now the data’s telling me what I need. And at a scale that I would never be able to reach my on my own.
*Angus Nelson: (13:39)* And for Outlier, you guys have a multitude of different kind of clientele. It’s not like you’re in one industry. You guys are in pharmaceutical, you’re in retail. And you’re being able to measure all these different components with that data. We’ve heard oftentimes in some of the verbiage and science is showing us that the old concept of a B2B is converging more of the B2C type of engagement, where now there’s a human involved where people are doing their research on the other ends in the funnel is getting smaller and smaller before it goes out to the sales cycle. Like, what are some of the things that you’re observing that are changing? And do you know anything real time in context of just even the last few months?
*Sean Byrnes: (14:18)* So I think your customers are much better educated than they’ve ever been. Part of that is to your point, the information is more available than it’s ever been. But I also think that you’ve seen you think about just marketing tools, the kinds of tools a CMO might buy. There are just so many of them. And so many false promises that have been made and products that said they would do one thing and didn’t do it effectively. That you’ve created a market of buyers who have been burned and realized they have to do that research, but who can do that research? You can use the tools that are out there. It used to be a little bit like movies, right? If you had a bad, they could spend enough money on ads to drive enough people to the movie on opening weekend to make their money back before word got out that the movie was horrible right? Now that doesn’t work anymore.
*Sean Byrnes: (15:00)* You can’t do it anymore because word spreads too quickly. Or a few people will see it. It’ll get better reviews. Doesn’t matter how much you spend. You know, nobody will come back the next day or the day after that. And I think that’s true. A lot of products these days is that cause that customers become more educated. And what that means is that you don’t get to drive the buyer journey as much anymore. You don’t get to tell the buyer how they’re going to buy. Your job now is to be their concierge along the path that they choose to help make sure they got there. And so that’s why I think content marketing has become so successful is that it’s a way to have a kind of a guided tour through, this is my product. This is my value proposition. This is where, you know, you can go, if you continue on this with me, this is why you’ve seen the rise of, of trials and the ability to try it out.
*Sean Byrnes: (15:45)* I think when people talk about the consumerization of enterprise, what I really think they mean is two things. One is everybody woke up one day and realized they didn’t have to settle for the horrible old interface anymore. Like we can have really good user experiences in enterprise software. So that was part of it bringing, you know, design designers work at enterprise companies now, which let me tell you that was a great innovation. Let’s stick with that and not let that one go. But the second was, what if you can try it before you buy it, right? What if you don’t have to invest? And I don’t even mean money. I mean, what if you can, you use products that don’t require six months of setup before you see if they work for you? Cause forget about the money you invest in the product. That time is probably more expensive.
*Sean Byrnes: (16:22)* Like Outlier is a good example. We have a normalcy complicated platform, but you integrate it in minutes. You know, your time to value is a day or two and you get to see the insights. Um, and it, I know that sounds crazy, but there’s a point where that’s really what people need, especially with tools like AI, which are so sophisticated where I want you to show me that it works. I want you to prove to me that it does what you say it’ll do. And the customer needs to be able to try it quickly before they buy it and really have that experience as welcoming to them. And so it’s definitely changed quite significantly. And I think that there’s nothing that’s more clear than that in the data. So what do marketers measure today? They’re measuring not just clicks and leads and conversion rates. They’re measuring, you know, time.
*Sean Byrnes: (17:06)* How long do you spend researching my product? How long do you spend watching my webinar, who stayed for the whole thing who left after two minutes? And the fact that time has become such an interesting dimension of the marketing analytics toolkit shows you how much this kind of educated buyer has changed the world. It’s like, I’m not in charge of moving you through. I’m watching you move and I’m hoping you’re going the way that I want. If you don’t go there, frankly, it’s probably my fault. And I need to think about how to improve those paths.
*John Farkas: (17:34)* Yeah. I mean, what we’re talking about here is what we commonly refer to as the self service sale. And it’s super important to acknowledge and move into. I still marvel at how many company leaders ignore the fact that marketing plays such a critical role in that conversation. Because if you’re not resourcing those people the right way and their self-guided journeys, then you’re giving up opportunities. And the data is where we learn about that, what that movement looks like, right? I mean, we have seen that and we understand it and we have to track it and we have to respond to it in order to make sure we’re putting ourselves in the path of people that we want to find us when they’re ready to find this.
*Sean Byrnes: (18:15)* Absolutely. I think it’s absolutely the case. It’s, it’s amazing how much it’s changed. Um, over time and especially, you know, in a world of more complicated products where it gets more intimidating for the buyer. Um, if you’re not willing to let them find their own path and navigate that journey on their own, then what are you doing? Like what are you, are you going to convince them to invest in something they don’t understand? That’s going to be difficult but worse yet? What if it’s amazing how many marketing funnels that are measured in the world today end when it becomes a sales qualified lead, at least an enterprise B to B sales, like when the person that you’re trying to sell to agrees to take a meeting and talks to a sales person, marketing the marketing funnel ends. If you look at the marketing dashboard measurement, it’s like, that’s where it’s done.
*Speaker 1: (18:59)* And really, you know, how do you know that the people you’re bringing in are the right ones? How do you know about their experience after that? I mean, what we found with Outlier is it’s amazing when you make it so easy to analyze data as our platform, does people start analyzing data that they never would have analyzed before? And the number of marketing teams that we work with that have learned more from their customer support data than they did from the marketing data is amazing. Cause you know, they, a lot of these organizations haven’t ever thought of customer support as a source of marketing insight and marketing data. But if you make it so easy, people will start to experiment. And all of a sudden they’ll realize, you know, Oh, you know why that marketing campaign wasn’t working. It had nothing to do with the campaign.
*Sean Byrnes: (19:39)* People just didn’t understand how to take advantage of that promotion. And so people loved it. They wanted to use it. It didn’t fail because the value proposition was bad. It failed because we didn’t do it in a way that they figured out. And they’re all contacting customer support and giving up after a two minute phone call. So there’s amazing how much is hiding that once you start to remove all those limiting factors, it kind of unleashes a lot more creativity, a lot more insight because the crazy thing you think about are we talking about marketing and then we talk about sales and product as if these are different things. Because in a company you have a head of marketing and a head of product, head of sales and the customer is like, I’m just a customer. Like I’m just me. That’s who I am. I don’t, I don’t have five mes. There’s just one me. It’s not like I changed when I moved to the marketing funnel, the sales funnel, I’m like, Oh no, I’m sales, Sean, sorry, let me take that hat off, put a different hat on. There we go. And so if the customer doesn’t have different personas, then you know, it makes sense that unifying the whole data of the business, the whole view of the customer has a lot of dividends that it can pay for us.
*Angus Nelson: (20:40)* Related to that is a, the context of marketing, what it looks like for a company and its trajectory and raising capital. And there’s so much involved in how the company uses marketing to position itself. And I know since you’ve already, you know, raise capital, you’ve also exited a company and now you’re in another company and you’re raising as well. Like what has been the role of marketing in helping, you know, develop that mystique and that element of, um, advantage that helps you raise capital easier.
*Sean Byrnes: (21:12)* Sure. Well, I’ll start off by saying, if you have a lot of mystique, that’s actually bad. Cause because you’ve let them know what you do. See one of those little mystique as possible. If you go back to my definition of marketing, thinking about understanding the market, understanding the buyer in the early stages of a company, especially that’s what matters. Like if you’re an early stage founder and you want to raise money investors, the very first money you raise, they probably care more about you and who you are and your experience. But very soon thereafter, they care about what is your market? Who are you selling to? How well do you understand them? All those kinds of real fundamentals of marketing are what people invest in. And so it used to be the case many years ago that people would joke that the CEO raises the first round and the CMO raised the second round.
*Sean Byrnes: (21:56)* And then the CFO raises all the rounds after that because it just becomes financial engineering. And that’s not really true anymore as the boundaries between fundraising rounds are beginning to blur. And the world’s gotten a little less clear, but what is true is that in the early stages, the fundamentals of marketing are also the fundamentals of fundraising. Is that the things that you need to answer and know to effectively market your product or your company are what investors care about and want to know. The irony of course, is investors want to know them before you’ve had a chance to figure them out. So if you start a company tomorrow, you know, one of the first things investors will ask you is like, you know, who are you? Why are you going to start this company? But very soon, they’ll have to say, okay, great. Who are you selling to?
*Sean Byrnes: (22:36)* How are you going to reach them? What’s the go-to-market strategy? And your initial reaction is like, well, I just got started yesterday. I haven’t really gotten there yet. But the reality is that’s what the people want to know. That’s what investors are investing in. If you want to start a company from scratch, you have no resources, no customers, no product. So if you don’t have a unique go-to-market strategy, if you don’t have unique insight on the market or the personas, there’s probably very little chance you can be successful, frankly, because existing players have too many resources and too many advantages. If you don’t have that kind of unique insight. And so marketing is really fundamental to the whole process. And even later when it becomes again, more of a financial exercise, know what do investors care about in the very late stages of the business?
*Sean Byrnes: (23:20)* They care about things like marketing efficiency, you know, can you reach the right customer cost effectively to bring them on board? And it turns out, as I said before, that whether or not you can make that happen, all goes back to your initial insight, your initial foundation. Because if you have a really strong understanding the customer, if you understand the problem they want you to solve, I can guarantee your marketing efficiency later will be a lot better because a lot of marketing efficiency that goes down where it comes really expensive to acquire customers is because you’re spending a lot of money, convincing them they have a problem or convincing them. They need your solution. But if they already know that they do, your economics will be better later on. So it all comes back to marketing. It turns out the world is just revolving around marketing every day
*Speaker 3: (24:06)* Have said it better, Sean. We absolutely agree. Mic drop moment.
*Sean Byrnes: (24:10)* No, no, these mics are expensive. We can’t drop them. I don’t have that kind of money.
*Angus Nelson: (24:15)* Careful. Now careful,
*John Farkas: (24:17)* What I’m saying is you’re really preaching our message. I mean, at the end of the day, the fundamentals are so critical. And so often overlooked in light of hype-y tactics. So many companies want to chase after the quick click and get the quick response. But if you don’t understand your buyer’s problems and if you’re not solving an actual problem that people actually have, then Houston, we have a problem. I think that’s a really critical underscore. And I’m really glad to hear you say that because it is so often lost in our world, especially when you layer on top of that, the nature of technology companies who are typically so enamored with their tech, that they want to talk about that before they talk about the problem that the tech is solving. That’s another layer of the issue. So safe to say, we get it, we see it all the time and we want to help our clients overcome it. So how do you guard against that in your own world? I mean, you’re an AI company. You’ve got some cool stuff going on. How do you guard against not creeping into the frontline too far. So that obscures how you communicate your understanding of your, of your customer’s problems.
*Sean Byrnes: (25:29)* Well, I think it comes down to what, what do you consider a success, right? What do you measure your success by? So very early on life of Outlier, we, we wanted to measure success and we still do today by customer satisfied action, right? How happy are customers? How active are they on their platform? How engaged are they? How fast they grow, because I’m a firm believer. If you focus on lead generation volume, you’ll get really good at lead generation volume, but they probably, there’s no incentive to have them go anywhere. There’s no incentive to have them, you know, fulfill, if you focus on revenue, there’s so many games you can play to make revenue look higher than it is. But if you focus on customer, you can’t make a customer be satisfied. There’s nothing you can do to be like, “Be more satisfied. Customer!” Definitely do it other than executing really well and solving a problem.
*Sean Byrnes: (26:16)* So if you measure yourself by those sorts of things, at least my belief is if you can build a platform that has fanatically, happy customers who want to go, you know, shout from the rooftops about how useful your product is and how much it helps them, on that foundation, you know what you can do. You can build rapid revenue growth, you can build rapidly generation volumes. You can build sound funding, a sound business on top of it. And so that’s partly the way I think about it is that, you know, we are an AI company, it’s there in the name of Outlier.ai. There’s literally at the end of our domain is, is AI. But our customers don’t buy AI. They’re not buying us because we’re sophisticated. They’re buying us because we solve a problem for them. And to be honest with you, I don’t think they would care if I was using trained monkeys or machine learning as long as the outcome was what they wanted.
*Sean Byrnes: (27:03)* And if the outcome is exactly what they want, then that’s what matters in the end. And that kind of customer centric view is really important. I mean, at Outlier, I hired a customer success team before I had a sales team. That’s how important it was for me that, you know, you want to make sure that you have people that are just really happy before you have lots and lots of people. And if you look at companies that have raised a lot of money, spend a lot of money, and ultimately not gotten very far, a lot of it is falling in love with scaling and following metrics that don’t follow good fundamentals, where you can paper over. You can paper over so many different things with a lot of capital. There’s things you can’t paper over it. If you focus on those things that you can’t paper over, then you’re, you have no choice.
*Sean Byrnes: (27:49)* You have to execute well, you have to build something people want. And regardless of what numbers you have, um, and it’s funny too, but you mentioned that at outlet, we use our own products. We have probably more sophisticated analytics than most enterprise companies, but it’s still secondary to the customer experience. We care. We still care a lot more about those customers. So what do we have that huge analytics engine pointed at it’s customer engagement? How are people using the platform? How active are they? How fast are they growing, where what’s driving that growth, those sorts of things. And so, you know, even if you have a powerful spotlight, you know, where you shine, it says a lot about your company as well.
*Mark Whitlock: (28:26)* One of the things that you mentioned was that outlier helps people ask better questions, helps them decipher more about, uh, their marketing efforts and what they’re doing. What are some of the questions that you’ve been surprised by as you’ve looked at the data, not only of Outlier, but if your customers, what are some things that have popped up that you went, wow, I don’t know if I would have asked that without, uh, without our software.
*Sean Byrnes: (28:52)* The good news is almost all of them. I mean, that’s what the platform is designed well, and it sounds like it It’s really a glib answer, but the reality is, you know, your dashboards look at the top level metrics, your dashboards, tell you what your revenue is and those sorts of things. So R is not looking there. It’s always looking a level deeper, the things you’re not looking for. So it’s fines things. These are going to be things that aren’t obvious, but I think the most encouraging part for me, let’s just talk about the current pandemic that we’re all in. I mean, it’s the kind of thing that’s changed the face of business for everyone everywhere. All of a sudden. Yeah. And you know, you’d hope with a product whose promise is to help business leaders stay ahead of the unexpected, that it would shine during that period. And that’s what we’re seeing. And the kind of insights that have been found have been really interesting. So let me give you a few examples.
*Sean Byrnes: (29:37)* You know, the world’s changed a lot. A lot of business leaders are saying, is there any way could have been better prepared? Is there any way I could have seen this coming to get in front of it? Instead of having happened to me and we have a great case study of a customer, that’s a very large, um, retailer of many products where one of the stories Outlier sent them, um, in early March, long before Shelter in Place was, uh, widely deployed in the U S a was an uptake in sales of office furniture, right? There were a lot of companies that knew that they were going to move there and invested in office furniture for their home offices, for working from home to get ready for that kind of training. This is a company that saw that early indication in the data, the kind of thing that can help them get ahead of it.
*Sean Byrnes: (30:21)* That’s one example. The second is, you know, if you are, you know, uh, a business today, you’re probably selling, especially a consumer business, you’re selling a lot of products, right? You have a diversified portfolio strategy. We have seen consumer behavior changed so fast and the pandemic that people are asking, well, how’s it changing what’s going on? What’s happening? And the great thing about outliers is looking through all those products. These customer companies are seeing products that used to be in the rounding error of their revenue on the long tail jumping to be one of the top five revenue producers. There’s one company we work with that was true of candles. Candles had always been an add on item. The kind of thing you just toss in the cart extra went to become one of their top five revenue producers. Cause people were at home. They wanted to feel a little bit more peaceful.
*Sean Byrnes: (31:05)* They just started buying a lot of candles. So those kinds of insights are crazy. I’ll tell you my favorite story though, of all time for LR was this is before the pandemic happened, we were working with one of the largest fast food restaurant chains in the world. So these kinds of stores have tens of thousands of locations. And your average fast food restaurant will sell hundreds of products per store. So lots of data, right? Lots of data about drinks and food and different places. And one of the insights Outlier, it was processing all their point of sale terminal data. So all the purchases at the register everywhere, tons of data and one outside Outlier found for them was like, listen, in this one, store one out of tens of thousands of stores, the number of found drinks that they were selling had doubled over the course.
*Sean Byrnes: (31:49)* In fact, actually more complicated that it had been pretty steady for awhile. It went to zero for a few weeks and after it came back from zero is almost doubled going on here. Now, I didn’t know this cause I don’t know this industry very well. I found out later that fountain drinks have the highest margin and they sell. So this, the, the business leader using outlier was excited. Cause there all of a sudden doubled sales, their highest margin item, that’s a big deal. And he called the store managers is what’s going on? What happened? And the store manager told them, listen, we had to close the store because there was water damage. We had to do some renovations when they reopened the store, they didn’t set it back to the original corporate defined layout. Right? All these fast food restaurants have corporate defined layouts of their stores had inadvertently experimented the whole new layout that turns out by the way, sells twice as many fountain drinks.
*Sean Byrnes: (32:33)* Wow. And so that’s the kind of insight that’s hiding in the data that now you can roll that out to all your restaurants. Cause if you’re running tens of thousands of restaurants, that’s essentially tens of thousands of experiments running every day about things that could boost the bottom line. So are just a few examples of what’s hiding in there, which are really, I like to think about them as, as, as opportunities, right? If you think about marketing, I’m a firm believer that the best marketing strategies come from really unexpected observations. It’s not like a playbook. You don’t just run into the same things everybody else does.
*John Farkas: (33:04)* Sean, can you dive into some outlier examples in the B2B context? How have you seen some really strong value add and opportunities that companies have uncovered in our realm?
*Sean Byrnes: (33:14)* Oh, absolutely. So, um, let’s go into that. So one of the things this goes actually really well into my point about the unexpected is that even if you do everything we’ve talked about, if you think you know who your buyer is, if you think you know who your market is, it’s very possible. Your market will tell you, Oh, by the way, listen, that may be not actually how it is. And so one example, um, that’s great is this observation that let’s say your buyer even thinks like Outlier as an example, you know, initially I thought our buyer would be, you know, the merchandising team at a large eCommerce site. We thought that our customer would be somebody who’s managing one of these marketplaces with lots of products. And what we started to see early on was a lot of demand, a lot of interest and drive from marketers.
*Sean Byrnes: (34:00)* And you know, I could sit down and this goes back to, we said, before I could sit down and talk to marketers, interview them and say, why, why do you want it? What’s your problem? Or what I could do is watch them use the product, right? Watch what they integrate, watch how they use the product, watch what they’re engaged with. And the interesting thing about watching was what we learned was not that they needed us to be another dashboard. They didn’t need more tools. They have so many tools. What they really needed to know is what was working. Right? And they needed to know what was working, not again to the end of that funnel, but downstream from their funnel. Right? So I’m driving all of these users to my product. I’m driving all these leads to my website. What does that turn in to, right?
*Sean Byrnes: (34:41)* Is it eventually reaching the outcomes that I want? And one of the things that was true, all the MarTech solutions is they, they just stop, right? They promised to bring all your customer data together in one place. And sometimes they do. And sometimes they don’t. But even then they’re telling you about marketing and marketing performance from marketing tools. And people were like, Hey, listen, Outlier is telling me about how this marketing campaign relates to customer support requests and how this, the inventory problems we’re having in this, this, uh, this place over here is affecting these things. And what we learned was marketing had a really acute version of this problem of what questions to ask because so much of marketing is looking for those insights to drive the next strategy. And so we definitely didn’t set out to build a tool for marketers. In fact, I was very surprised that marketers were some of the first and most avid engaged customers of us.
*Sean Byrnes: (35:29)* And in fact, I remember sitting with the VP of marketing at one customer and showing them the product. Um, and they were like this going to change how we run marketing at our company. And this is a, this is a Fortune 500 business. And it ended up being true. It changed how they did marketing because they went from being reactionary where something would eventually become so big you couldn’t ignore it to a point where they could be proactive and anybody who’s done marketing will tell you that the difference between being able to be proactive and get ahead of something versus trying to react to it as night day. Um, so that’s one example of really letting the customer speak to you through the data and being able to learn from them quickly, that I think is, is really important. I think the second is, is being able to learn from them.
*Sean Byrnes: (36:12)* So just because somebody buys your product, right, I don’t necessarily think it’s okay to be like, well, they’re a customer of ours. I think you really prove that you have a customer when they renew your, your beat. Let’s save the subscription product when they renew your product. Cause because somebody may buy something for reasons that are completely invisible to you. Like they are buying your product because they think it does act. Even though you’ve never talked about X, you don’t do X never came up, but they’re buying it because all this will help me with X, which is some secret initiative inside their company. You’ve never heard of before. But if you can prove that they, if they renew, if they come back and say, Oh, this was worth it. And especially if they renew and expand, cause they’re spending more with you, then you’ve really earned a customer.
*Speaker 1: (36:53)* You really have a customer. And the question is like, you know, you can’t sit there next to them with a note pad everyday watching these a product to show that journey. The data is what has to tell you that that’s working and not working. And you know, in the early days of Outlier, for example, um, my hypothesis, which was wrong was that the best buyers of our product would be small companies. Cause I was like, listen, small companies, can’t hire analysts. And so who’s going to be a great buyer of our product. It’s small companies who can’t hire an analyst and they’ll buy Outlier instead. It will be their analysts, right? It’s a product. It’s great. It makes total sense. If you can, you can sit there waxy philosophic over a beer and be like, Oh, that makes total sense. It’s brilliant. It’s great marketing.
*Sean Byrnes: (37:31)* And then in practice, what you find is that like, not that doesn’t work because all companies, they may jump on board initially. And what you find out very early is they don’t really care about the unknown because they’re overwhelmed by the known, right? Like if you’re a small business, you probably are just trying to keep up with what’s in front of you. But what you see as the bigger companies, the unknown is almost all that matters, right? Because they are looking for that alpha. They’re looking for that, that next gear. And so the data tells you that listen to something that may sound perfectly logical. You’re at a 10-page report with all the charts and graphs and citations. It’s like, this is a very well structured business school strategy. The data will tell you if it falls over, especially in that post-sale engagement process. And then what you’ll actually learn is what you probably should have known all along, which is what actually works.
*John Farkas: (38:19)* Super interesting. Powerful. Tell us kind of sum up, what would you want to B2B marketing leader to know about what’s hidden in their data?
*Sean Byrnes: (38:27)* I think that it would be the simple is that your customer are speaking to you every day in some cases screaming at, in the data, But they’re not all saying the same things. How, how things that seem little can actually be quite big and how even just the voice that you use to speak to customers can be most important, competitive advantage that you get out of the gate.
*Mark Whitlock: (38:48)* Sean, thanks so much for being on studio CMO. Hey, would it be okay if we pointed our listeners to what is it? The Data-Driven Daily, that newsletter of emailed nuggets?
*Sean Byrnes: (39:01)* Sounds good.
*Mark Whitlock: (39:01)* Great. So when you come to our website, not only can you click through and sign up for the email from Outlier.ai, but you can search their archives. There’s tons of great stuff there. So come to studiocmo.com/015 that’s studiocmo.com/015. You’ll find a link to the Data-Driven Daily in our show notes. And while you’re there signing up for stuff, you know, might as well subscribe to Studio CMO. Just click on the subscribe button, find your favorite podcast app, and register so that you can receive this content delivered directly to your device every time we publish a new episode every week. So studiocmo.com/015. So what are you thinking? What guests do we need to have on the show, got comments or questions for us. Leave a voice message for us at the website while you’re there too. So you can scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll find a way to leave us a message. And who knows? We might use it on an upcoming podcast. So next week on episode 16, Ken Rutsky, I would call him like a cyber security marketing whisperer. He’s been in the industry for a long time and he’s the type of guy that John would go toe to toe with on opinions and ideas related to marketing strategy. Don’t miss Ken Rutsky on Studio CMO. Until then seek to deeply understand your buyer’s problems, lead your marketing efforts with that empathetic understanding, and always, always, always make your buyer the hero. We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.