Behind the Software Q&A with Genoo President Kim Albee
In the modern marketing space, a great software platform is no longer enough to build a successful strategy – marketers also require training to learn how to best utilize the application to better navigate the marketplace. Marketing automation software vendor Genoo helps eliminate weak links in business marketing techniques with an all-in-one platform, personalized support and a wealth of helpful resources. For this edition of Behind the Software, we performed a Q&A with Genoo’s President Kim Albee, and talked about the company’s decision to cater to small and midsize business needs, the qualities that make a marketing solution successful and the story behind the company’s namesake.
First of all, I’d love to hear more about how the idea behind Genoo was conceived and how you would describe your mission behind building the company.
LOCATION: Minneapolis, MN
CUSTOMERS: Service Quality Institute, HSD Institute, Palace Resorts, Voice & Data Networks
Coming up with the idea for Genoo was a kind of a long road in the making. I started out in the software architecture and software engineering space, and I did a lot of work building infrastructures for internet sites in the early and mid 90s. Back in the day I was really clear that the most underserved market was the small and midsized business space. Everybody wants to go after the Fortune-1,000, the Fortune-500 [companies]; but there’s not a lot of people going after the Fortune-5 million, and yet those are people who could really utilize tools that make it easier to understand who they’re working with online, what people are doing online and what’s working and what’s not.
In 2000 I started my first company called Einsof, and we served mid to large businesses because we couldn’t figure out a price point and an economy of scale that would allow us to sustain a company [targeting a smaller-business audience]. Then in 2007 I had a brainstorm about how we could actually do this as a software as a service and bring it out to a small and mid-market space, and that’s exactly what we did. We started it as a whole different company because it was such a different product offering from what we had [at Einsof]. We started in 2008 and we’ve spent a lot of time in beta testing and working closely with customers to understand what their needs are, what the issues are and how to deliver really good customer service.
One of the things that we strive to do is provide not only a technology platform that you can leverage to understand what you’re doing, but to also have better processes that can be used appropriately. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach; it’s about asking what’s your company, what’s your goal and what’s the best way for you to reach that goal? We’re trying to marry both practice and tools together to benefit the small and mid-sized business marketer.
How did you draw on your previous business experience with Einsof and your other ventures to address the needs of your customers or your future customers?
I think everything that somebody does in their career adds to and is utilized in whatever they move forward to do. Out of school I was really lucky to get on some leading-edge projects that were at the forefront of technology and the forefront of how systems are architected. It’s [all about] the art of software engineering and the way to build a good system that stands the test of time. I treat Genoo the same way; it’s a system that’s always in progress, always being refined.
I delved into online marketing headlong about 6 years ago and have learned an infinite amount about it that informs our software, informs our own marketing, informs what we need to do. Now I get to speak at conferences and I’ve got a 7-course digital marketing certificate program offered by the Online Marketing Institute; I never thought I would do that, but we’ve learned so much and we’ve learned how to apply techniques so other people can be more effective with their marketing.
It seems that a lot of founders and company executives have acquired a surplus of knowledge from growing their company but fail to share that information. It’s great that you’re being so active about taking the information you’ve gleaned from your experiences and giving it to your customers.
Genoo is more than just a business, it’s about enabling the small and mid-sized marketing departments that are out there to really get their arms around what they can do with online marketing. There’s this whole vision of how do you reach those 6 million small and mid-sized businesses where marketing automation penetration is maybe one percent. It’s not like the bigger companies where maybe 25 percent are using marketing automation, so you’ve got to look at what really serves small businesses and how you’re going to capture that part of the market.
It’s an exciting time for and small and mid-sized businesses particularly, because even in the mid-market you’ve got small marketing departments. They’re sales-driven organizations and they understand that sales fundamentally has shifted now. If you’re not in the content game, if you’re not in the inbound marketing game, if you don’t know how to leverage these tactics across your sales force, then you’re going to suffer in your sales efforts. It is a fundamentally different sales game today.
Speaking of small businesses, it seems in the past 10 years or so (if that) SMBs have really become the target audience for software companies. Why do you think we’ve moved from the target of the Fortune-500 companies to more vendors noticing the needs of small businesses?
Because there’s only 500 in the Fortune-500 – 500 doesn’t sustain an industry. You might get some really great annual renewal, but does it help you hit your valuation that you’ve targeted?
We go after a huge market of folks who haven’t even put their toes in the water yet but know they need to do something. What I want to do is spread the word about what needs to happen with marketing and say, look, there is a better way and you can do this. We can work with you on that, we’ll be your partners and you actually have somebody to talk to.
One of the niches that we service well is the continuing education space. We actually have a bulk of customers that are continuing education organizations and it is so fun to work with them. We’ve got a partner in that space and we’re going after that market because we can uniquely add value there.
It’s great to hear that you are so well attuned to the needs of your customers. I think any successful software company now is one that does exactly that, that is making their product based on what their customer wants and needs are. If you’re not, how are you going to be able to sustain yourself?
Right. And you’ve got to be able to go beyond what they say to what you know they need. That’s very different than implementing what they want. They may think they want something, but it’s your job to understand the need behind that want and how you can deliver it in a scalable way that really does answer the issue they’re pointing at. That’s just one of the puzzles of software development and how you build out functionality well. It’s all a fun game for me, I love all the aspects of it.
As we’ve touched on, a lot of companies are catering more to smaller and midsized businesses by building more versatile products and offering more flexible pricing options. Why do you think that this model makes more sense for the software vendor as well as its customers?
I think this is the challenge in the small business space. We’ve always had an overarching vision, so we’ve always known that as a small business you don’t have a lot of resources but still need to know what’s happening easily. If I’ve got my email on one service, surveys going out of another service and my website and all my traffic in yet one more system – where are all of my metrics? Where is my view of the customer, my holistic view of my leads: who’s most interested, who’s most responsive, who are the people that I should elevate up? The fact is that when I’ve got all these different point solutions, which are now propagating like rabbits, now I’ve got a challenge as a small business owner. I have no idea who my most responsive leads are, and I don’t even know necessarily what’s really working and what isn’t. I’ve got to look in all these different systems, but I can’t even see correlations because I don’t have a comprehensive view.
I talked to someone just the other day who’s using a much larger competitor than us, and they spent their whole budget buying the technology [with] no budget to actually develop the content or the marketing material. The technology only gets you so far; if you don’t have a good marketing strategy to implement, then you’re nowhere. You have some great technology, great – it’ll be a glorified email provider for you. It’s like buying a golden toaster – there’s a reason why they don’t make them, because you can get one for 20 bucks that does the job.
How do you see Genoo fitting into this redesigned marketing landscape?
Genoo has always been comprehensive – it’s one of those things that comes to me from being a software architect and why I was good at that, because I look at things from a more systemic view. If you’re small and you want to really be competitive, then you’ve got to maximize every single resource that you’ve got. The way you do that is to take advantage of things like comprehensive lead information and tracking. But I don’t want to just know that somebody received an email, opened it and clicked. I want to know what they did after the click. Email service providers can’t tell you that, so now where do you go? Do you try and marry up Google Analytics to that? Now you’ve got anonymous metrics.
I can tell you that a customer using an email service provider didn’t know who to target for a lunch-and-learn invite, and in their first 3 months starting with us they instantly knew who the right people to target were. They created a dynamic list, sent out invites, had 25 people attend and spent $600 buying them lunch. This company had 12 people register in a 6-month program (at $1,200 per person), which equals a 2,500 percent return. This happened in their first 3 months of being a customer. They paid for their Genoo account for 5 years.
Comprehensive metrics are how the small business is really going to excel, and small businesses who figure that out are going to be able to compete with much more heavily funded competitors, much bigger competitors, because they’ll be nimble. That’s the thing that small business doesn’t see when they get all these little point solutions that’ll create landing pages or a survey for them but don’t provide any integrated holistic comprehensive measurement.
I think the next step [in the marketing space] is for small businesses to start saying, I need to have it all in one solution. I would pay more to get the comprehensive tools and tracking and intelligence, but I’ll be doing so much less time-managing and I’ll have much better information. That’s the big shift, and when that shift occurs those 6 million businesses will tip, and that will be a whole different market. That’s where Genoo is positioning ourselves, and we’re set up technically to scale easily as we grow because we’ve thought that aspect through from the beginning. If we can remain tuned-in to the true needs of the SMB marketplace and continue to listen to our customers, we will continue to gain market share.
Before we finish up, I can’t resist asking – how did you come up with the name Genoo?
Everybody asks me that question. It means generating new possibilities, Genoo. Now how we got there is a long and sordid tale of 2 days of getting punchy with every dot-com domain name we could think of. We started to just get crazy and weird and made all kinds of jokes that are now only funny to us. Finally somebody just said Genoo, and we were like that’s it, it’s brilliant. Then I went to buy it and [eventually] found out that it was for sale and [had to bid for it] and ended up getting it for $524 dollars.
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