By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
If you’re not already subscribed to Sales Pipeline Radio, or listening live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific you can find the transcription and recording here on the blog every Monday morning. The show is less than 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities. You can subscribe right at Sales Pipeline Radio and/or listen to full recordings of past shows everywhere you listen to podcasts! Spotify, iTunes, Blubrry, Google Play, iHeartRADIO, or Stitcher
This time I talk with Kevin Cunninham, in an episode called, “Can You Predict Your Next Customer? Exploring the Intersection Between AI & ABM”
We discuss the results that an enterprise-class account-based marketing platform can bring a company’s pipeline and revenue as well as, how to leverage predictive analytics (PA) and AI to help companies better understand their target markets, why PA and AI have allowed marketing to scale an entire target market, the value of AI which can look at a lot more data than has been possible in the past, and much more.
Paul: Welcome aboard. It’s time for another episode of Sales Pipeline. Grab your board, we’re going to swim out into the sea of activity and see if we can’t find us a nice, sweet pipeline starting to curl up over the horizon with the one man who can spot them all, Matt Heinz.
Matt: What show is this, Paul? What show’s this?
Paul: Well, it begins with an S, that’s what I remember. And it becomes with S and it stands for sports. And I know that you of everybody else… Most of us are kind of depressed. The Masters is over, hockey’s had their championships, the Stanley Cups, the NBA finals are over. It’s kind of a doldrum for many people. But only Matt Heinz knows that the really the biggest is yet to come and of course that is, the World Wife Carrying Championship coming up in Finland in a couple weeks here on July 5th. The World Wife Carrying Championship yet to be held. Don’t give up.
Matt: What I love is that you clearly done your homework knowing that most of the major sports are now in their off season. I will tell you though as a lifelong Cub’s fan usually by this time of the season the Cub’s are way out of it and it’s just watching for fun and beer. Cubs are now contenders every year so there’s meaningful baseball on every day.
But I will also tell you Paul, in addition to the Wife Carrying Championship, which I’m looking forward to-
Paul: I know you’re going to carry your bride over the Championship this year.
Matt: I got some money on a couple underdogs, that’ll be fun. But I will also tell you we’re doing this show live from Reno, Nevada. Yesterday and today I drove from Seattle down to Reno. Long story short, got some family business to take care down here so myself, my truck and my dog we drove down. And even though it is the end of June, I am fired up for college football season. We’re still like 90 days away from kick off. And let me tell you why.
Matt: Basically driving down, I listen to a podcast. If any of you are listening to this like college football, I highly recommend a podcast called The Solid Verbal. Don’t ask why it’s called that. It’s another long story. But they do two episodes a week during the season. They’ll do like a recap of the games and then later in the week, they’ll do a preview of the upcoming week.
During the off season, they do once a week shows but I kind of fall behind because I’m like, “Well, it’s not… I’ve got other stuff going on.” 12 hour drive from Seattle to Reno over a couple days, I got caught up on an awful lot of episodes of Solid Verbal. I’m fired up.
Paul: You’re fired up.
Matt: I’m always fired up for today’s Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks everyone for joining us today. Really appreciate those of you joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network. We are here every Thursday live at 11:30 Pacific/2:30 Eastern. So thank you for joining us in the middle of your work day. For those of you listening on the podcast, thanks so much for joining. Our numbers continue to grow. It’s pretty exciting to see the hard work pay off, Paul. We’ve been doing this almost four years now. So it’s pretty exciting and humbling to see what’s going on in every episode. If you’ve missed past episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio, you can always cast past, present, and future episodes of the program at salespipelineradio.com. We are featuring every week some of the best and brightest minds in sales and marketing, and today is absolutely no different. Very excited to have with us today Kevin Cunningham. He’s the CEO of a very exciting predictive analytics company.
Kevin, thank you very much for joining us.
Kevin: Hey, Matt. Great to be here. Appreciate it.
Matt: So I’m looking at the description of your business. I think when you get into predictive analytics and sort of identifying target customers, it gets pretty wonky pretty quickly. So talk a little bit about what you guys do in sort of plain, every day lunch pail sales and marketing language if you would.
Kevin: Absolutely. Well, before we get into the everyday language, MRP Prelytix is an enterprise class predictive account based marketing platform. So ultimately what that means is we’re leveraging predictive analytics and AI to help our clients better understand the target market, prioritize the accounts that are looking to buy solutions similar to theirs, and then help them execute the tactics that are going to turn those accounts into pipeline and revenue.
Matt: I’ve seen you guys in this space for a number of years. I feel like you’re at every conference I attend. You guys have clearly positioned yourself as a leader in this space, and I feel like we’ve been talking about AI in B2B for quite a while. Like a lot of emerging industries, I think the technology sometimes out paces what people understand it can do. But if you think about like identifying customers that are like your existing customers. If you think about taking your ideal customer from going out into the wild and using a ton of data to identify customers that are more likely to respond to your sales calls, more likely to respond to your marketing because they have a need you can fill. That I think is the promise that we’re seeing AI fulfill more and more so today. Did I get that right? How would you characterize that?
Kevin: Absolutely. And I think it’s a great application in the ABM space, and when you think about companies marketing, it’s really just good B2B marketing. But in the early days of ABM, it was really about leveraging those personalized messages to the top handful of accounts, say 25 or 100 accounts that you can deliver something personalized too and have it be meaningful and effective and convert. And I think what AI and predictive has allowed us to do is scale ABM to the entire target market. So instead of just your top 25 accounts, it can be the top 10,000 because ultimately with AI, you’re understanding what are those prospects, what are they consuming, what are they interested in, where are they in the process, and then be able to customize the messaging through those ABM tactics that are going to really drive conversion.
Matt: Well, I think there’s if we get down to what predictive is doing in B2B sales and marketing, it isn’t solving a new problem. The idea of finding prospects that are ideal for your solution has been around for a long time. I think the challenge has been we are either imprecise in how we try to identify those prospects, or we’re using data that doesn’t give us a complete picture. So I think the value of using artificial intelligence in my mind to look at a lot more data than has been available to companies before to make more accurate decisions, I mean, not only are you more precise in how you’re identifying prospects, but I think there usually is also a greater efficiency in velocity in the sales and marketing process because you have a better match as well. Is it not?
Kevin: 100%. So you’re able to shorten the whole process of getting a prospect in the pipeline by using predictive in the right way, and you’re exactly right in terms of the data that’s out there. And I think there’s a lot of confusion around that where there’s intent data sources and there’s some talk of intent is really better than predictive, and really it’s an ingredient in the predictive process, right? It’s one of those data sources that’s going to help you drive and understand where a customer is in the buyer journey. But there’s other ways to uncover that as well. Whether the visits to your website, what you already know about them in your CRM and marketing automation systems, and just the responses you’re getting from the marketing tactics that you’re leveraging.
Matt: Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Kevin Cunningham. He’s the CEO of MRP. And, Kevin, you guys have been doing this for a while. I think the platform has really sort of been built from the ground up and has existed well before I think people in marketing and B2B really thought of AI as something that I think what has become kind of table stakes as part of the martech stack. Can you talk a little bit about what it takes to create a category when you’ve got something that you know has a future, that you know has a place in most if not all B2B marketing technology stacks, but is just not yet understood very well. What does it take to build that category like that?
Kevin: Well, I think a lot of it is just time and results, right? We’ve been in business for 17 years, and in that time, 17 years ago, AI and predictive wasn’t really talked about a lot in B2B marketing. But we’ve always been a data driven marketing organization. We’ve always looked at trying to provide results to our customers, but also learn from those results and where we didn’t have success to make the next program better. So we’ve been evolving this and iterating over the past 17 years, and instead of just making improvements quarter over quarter as we launch new programs with our clients. We’re able to do that dynamically in real time through our platform. So just being able to scale that and leverage this information that we’ve built over the last 17 years and get it down to that real time engagement where we find that opportunity, we find somebody who’s in market. We can react a lot quicker than some of our competitors.
Matt: So well, give me an example of what that looks like because I think there’s those that understand immediately what you described, what you have the application of it, and there’s those that maybe aren’t thinking about the problem in the way that you are. So if you’ve got a prospect, and I know the market has clearly opened up over, just over the last 12-18 months for predictive and AI in B2B marketing tech stacks. But if you’ve got a prospect that doesn’t see it immediately, what are some of the ways that you can kind of challenge or loosen the status quo? And I’m thinking also using that as in the language from a serious decisions buying journey framework, but what are the insights or the refrains of a problem that you can share with a prospect that sort of is about their situation and about their objectives that can really open their eyes to the impact that AI and predictive can have.
Kevin: When we show them the analytics that come from our platform, I think it really drives it home. So there’s two main things. One, we’re able to show them their target market in terms of the serious decisions, the main waterfall. So we can show them who’s active, who’s engaged, all the way down the prioritize and qualify demand. And that’s customizable based on their specific needs. The other area is really looking at over time where their prospects are engaging with their content both the content that’s coming from their marketing efforts or just consumption that’s going on the internet and other sources. So being able to show how these things interact with each other. When you see that consumption and place a display ad, how does that increase engagement? How does an email increase engagement? And all the way through to an inside sales touch, trying to get all those tactics together and show how that increases pipeline.
Matt: You mentioned that this has particular applicability with account-based marketing efforts, which I would expect that it would. Talk a little bit about what that looks like and maybe, you don’t have to name names, but give us some examples of how some of your customers have benefited from AI on the ADM front.
Kevin: For us, predictive and ABM have always gone hand in hand. So ABM is all about targeting the best prospects in your market with the right message at the right time, really personalizing what you’re delivering to that prospect in the way that they engage. Predictive is just a great way to automate that process, to dynamically prioritize your target market, dynamically personalize the messaging that you’re leveraging with those prospects to something that they’re going to react to what they’re specifically in market for. And we’ve always since we’ve launched Prelytix five years ago, we’ve always talked about leveraging that predictive platform in conjunction with account based marketing. And we’ve seen great results with a lot of our clients. Some of the biggest names in technology, like Dell, SAP, IBM, and HP.
Matt: I think the benefit there is even bigger because I think when you think about ABM, account based marketing, we’re identifying accounts that are most important to us that we think we have the best likelihood to sell to, and our limit on who’s involved in that program maybe tied to the economics of what it takes to bring them on board, right? It’s not just how much does marketing cost, it’s what does the acquisition work, and part of the function of that equation is looking at what conversion rate do I think I’m going to get on people I’m talking to, to get engaged in a conversation. What conversation rate do I think I’m going to get people willing to talk to those that are truly qualified? What I’m seeing, and I’m curious to get your perspective on this as well. What I’m seeing is that predictive analytics is the improving the effectiveness of target-ability. So those conversion rates end up getting better. So when your conversion rates get better, your acquisition costs get lower, and therefore you can apply predictive analytics, you can apply ABM to ‘smaller’ organizations, sort of smaller enterprise mid-market, and improve acquisition rates and velocity there.
Matt: Have you seen customers doing that as well?
Kevin: 100%. Our main thing is helping our customers improve that conversion rate, improve that conversation rate to pipeline, but in addition to that conversion, trying to increase the pipeline per account. And not only converting more prospects but converting them for a higher dollar value, trying to really understand the whole scope of what they’re in market for, and making sure that when we do engage, we’re cross selling as much as we can to capture as much share of wallet as possible.
Matt: Love it. Well, we’re going to have to take a quick break here, pay some bills. We’ll be back with more from Kevin Cunningham. He’s the Chief Executive Officer, CEO of MRP. We’re going to be talking about predictive analytics, the overall space, and not only what it’s like to create a category but then when other people decide that’s a category worth playing as well, how do you differentiate in a crowded market, and much more. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: All right. Let’s pick it back up with Matt and his guest, the only two people who can predict your next customer.
Matt: Speaking of predicting, Paul, earlier I have to apologize to our audience because I was completely faking my familiarity with the Wife Carrying Competition. Can you just real quick, where is this? Is this like an Olympic level sport, or where did you find this?
Paul: They’re going to have teams send on Finland. The object is to carry your wife over a series of obstacle courses and see who can do it the fastest, and it’s actually a huge sport in Finland. It’s been going on forever, and been a follower and fan for many years. Just the idea of carrying my wife anywhere just seems appealing to me here.
Matt: I’m not going to touch that followup question. We will put it in the show notes. If they are broadcasting this, if there are any YouTube live streams, if there are even recap videos, I want to know more about wife carrying as a sport.
Paul: Go to radseason.com. R-A-D season.com, and you can read all about the upcoming World Wife Carrying Championship in 2019 in Finland.
Matt: Speaking of upcoming, Paul. We have some great guests in the next couple weeks on Sales Pipeline Radio. Next week, the last week of June 2019, we have Lindsey Peterson. She is a B2B brand strategist, one of the smartest I know. You name a company that’s big in B2B, and she’s advised them on their brand strategy. She has a brand new book out, and we’ll be talking about that next week. Speaking of new books, we also have coming up Mike Weinberg, one of my favorite people in B2B sales. He’s an author. He’s a speaker. He’s a coach. He just published his third book called Sales Truth. He is one of the plainest, most direct speakers in the sales space that I know. Excited to have him coming up and much more.
We will be dark doing a rerun on July 4th, which is here in a couple weeks. Hopefully you’re out shooting off bottle rockets or something. But a few more minutes here on today’s episode with Kevin Cunningham. He’s the CEO of MRP. They are one of the leading predictive analytics and AI solutions in the B2B sales and marketing space. And what comes with leadership, Kevin, of course is competition. I think competition is a good thing. I think I’ve always felt like if someone says we don’t have any competition, you don’t really have a market. So if you attract heavy competition, that means you’re on to something and you’ve got first mover advantage.
Matt: What does it mean to have first mover advantage, because I think you guys have been doing this longer than almost anyone else? But this is now a crowded space where there are a lot of companies doing very different things, and it’s easy for buyers to group everybody into just like a literally like a two level category. How do you continue to differentiate and lead?
Kevin: I think we’ve been really fortunate to have some large enterprise customers that serve as the base of a lot of what we do. So we’re able to really I guess innovate with those clients and make sure that what we’re doing is cutting edge, and if it’s successful for them, we’re able to leverage that success with other companies, even other industries, but then down into the mid-market. But I think having those large global players and be able to prove out what we can do, have the performance where we’re showing ROI, that we’re showing the scale. It gives us repeat business with those large customers, and helps us, like I said, grow into the mid-market too.
Matt: Yeah. Enormous validation obviously having some of those big guys that believe in you and continue to work with you. In a category that some people say AI means a lot of things to a lot of people, what are some of the tactics that you’ve used to really sort of define your place in the market? I mean, I think the answer to this would be interesting to a lot of people that themselves in the market space are involved in some categories looking at traditional tools like PR analysts but also looking at other means of creating not just awareness but also real clarity and definition. What’s worked for you guys? What are the things you might be able to share with others?
Kevin: Well, I think for us it’s really being able to apply what we’re selling to ourselves. So MRP leverages for its own internal marketing everything that we sell as part of our customer one initiative. But I think where we’re different with predictive and AI is our application of our models through the tactics that we execute for our clients as well. So that’s really where we see the proof. We’re able to prove it out in the display programs that we deliver. The contents of indication, the inside sales, qualification that we do, we’re able to show, “Hey, when you leverage MPR Prelytix as part of your inside sales, we’re able to show lift. We’re able to show that higher conversion rate and then also the higher pipeline amount per opportunity.” And I think by having that real time loop of showing where it worked and where it didn’t work, it helps make our models smarter. And I think that’s a real differentiator being able to marry both the predictive engine with the ABM execution that we do for our clients.
Matt: What’s surprised you about growing and running this business? I think you’ve got a long history in your career of being a successful consultant with the number of different organizations. And you’ve now been running MRP or been… 17 plus years. What’s something that’s surprised you about that journey that you think might be advice or caution or inspiration for others doing the same thing?
Kevin: I think it’s just amazing how much the business has evolved in those 17 years. From day one, Matt, we were always focused on driving opportunities that convert in the pipeline for our clients, but the way that we do that now is a lot different than it was 17 years ago. I mean, the tools and the technology that are available have just changed so much, and the ability to leverage multiple tactics and leverage huge mix to show that conversion attribution, it’s just incredible. So I think the main thing is just really paying attention to your clients, paying attention to what they need, and how their needs are changing. And I think if we keep evolving with those changing needs, we’ll continue to grow into the next 17 years of business.
Matt: And you’re not just leading sort of a successful growing organization. You’ve invested in the community as well and become a part of the community as a long term member of the Chamber of Commerce in Philadelphia, as the board of trustees for multiple organizations. Why is that important to you? Why is it important to sort of diversify where you spend your time and to give back in some of those areas?
Kevin: Yeah. I think it’s important to really be part of the community, right? So our office is based in downtown Philadelphia. Our headquarters. There’s a lot of things, lot of great things happening in this city. But there’s a lot of challenges as well, and it’s great to be able to volunteer to help with some of those challenges and just improve the community that we’re all a part of.
Matt: No, that’s great. We just got a couple more minutes here to wrap up with Kevin Cunningham. I appreciate him joining us today, the CEO of MRP. Doing some amazing things in the predictive and AI space. Where do you see this going? I’ve talked to a number of vendors and people both that are customers of AI solutions and vendors, and some have expressed frustration in the slow adoption from beyond early adopters of this market. I mean, this is one of those… Quite frankly, it’s kind of like ABM. I think the ABM technology space has seen a little bit of a slow, maybe a bit of a sort tropic dissolutionment. But the frothiness from customers, the need for the solution has shown no shine of slowing down. Is it blocking and tackling and doing more of the right things in the organization? Is it continued evolution of the product? How do you continue to lead and innovate from this point moving forward?
Kevin: So for us, it is some of those boring, blocking and tackling, right? Some of it is data management, making sure that you have the right structure in place. You can ingest all these different sources of intelligence from a variety of places. Making sure that if Coca Cola’s your prospects, you have on version of the truth for Coca Cola in your database. From there, making sure that your models are really able to ingest all this information and score and leverage it effectively. And then from an execution standpoint, making sure that you’re leveraging the right tactics that are going to drawn conversion. And just making sure the whole thing is a closed loop. That it’s constantly getting better and working in real time. We got to engage with our customers at the speed in which they’re buying. If you’re not doing it in real time, you could be missing out.
Matt: Last question for you before I think we’re going to have to wrap up here. As you think through your career and sort of your growth as a profession, who are some of the people who have been most influential for you that could be professors, authors, speakers, past managers or mentors? Who are some people that you might want to recognize and even point other people to check out, to learn from, and be inspired from as well?
Kevin: Yeah. I mean, for me I’ve had some great mentors in my family. My brother, my dad, uncles. I would say professionally I started my career at Price Waterhouse. Good friend of my Len Combs, who’s now on the board there. He’s come a long way in his career. He really trained me how to work hard and be a professional and stick through things and get beyond some of the challenges you have in your career, and to always work a little bit outside of your comfort zone, right? Not to get too complacent because you start getting complacent, that’s when things get stale. And you’re like, “Nah.”
Matt: Well, I feel like we could spend a whole nother 30 minutes talking about getting outside your comfort zone. That is a good one. But we unfortunately need to wrap up here. Kevin, thank you so much for your time and insights. It’s a pleasure. And where can people learn more about MRP if they want to learn more about what you guys are doing?
Matt: All right. MRPfd.com. We’ll put that in the notes for the podcast as well, and thanks so much for joining us. Before we wrap up, Paul, a reminder in addition to diverse sporting interests in the summer, boy, living in the Northwest, this is an amazing time of the year. The sun comes up before five. It gets dark after 10. It’s really easy just to stay heads down on the laptop and just continue to work. But we live in a great time, in a beautiful country, in a great place, and I think put your head up, get outside, enjoy what’s around you. This is an amazing time to do it.
All right, buddy. I’m off my soap box now. Thank very much everyone for joining us for another episode. Join us next week for what I would expect to be a really, really insightful conversation about B2B branding with Lindsey Peterson. For my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another week of Sales Pipeline Radio.