Interview with Gavin Finn, President and CEO, Kaon Interactive
Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of Kaon Interactive?
I’m honored to be the President and CEO of Kaon. Several years ago, I was asked by the early investors to come in to lead the company, which had created great technology but had not deployed a successful go-to-market strategy. My enthusiasm for the incredible people, the significant value we can bring to major corporations, and the world-class technology has inspired me from day one.
How is Kaon different from its contemporary martech visualization platforms?
By focusing on solving important marketing and sales problems, we have developed both a software platform and a customer service mindset that centers around interactive customer engagement.
Following the ancient Chinese proverb, “If you tell me, I will forget; If you show me, I will remember; If you involve me, I will understand,” we believe in the power of interactivity to help buyers really understand the unique value that our customers deliver. What’s different about Kaon’s platform is that it delivers highly effective, personalized customer experiences on any device, anywhere, online or offline, resulting in reduced sales cycles and improved sales and marketing effectiveness/efficiency.
Visualizing a digital solution is one thing – interacting with it to show how it helps each person solve their actual business or technical problem is something different entirely.
How would CMOs benefit from paying more attention to their interactive content and sales velocity tools in 2018?
In the recent past, digital tools have focused on ‘content marketing‘ and delivery systems to get people the best content. With interactivity, the content is no longer “one size fits all” – it becomes specific to that customer – on the device, that they’re utilizing at that moment. For example, when navigating in a personalized, non-linear fashion, the end user does not have to step through a pre-determined sequence of visuals or messages (as they would with a video or slide presentation.) This means that each person focuses on that part of the content that is relevant and interesting to them, and they can take a deep dive into the important value stories for their individual circumstance.
The same interactive application will deliver an entirely different user journey to someone else, because they may have different needs at that moment. In this way, CMO’s can create one set of value messages that are consistent in the articulation of unique differentiators, but that are experienced in the most relevant and effective way by a wide variety of global buyers. This not only saves a great deal of money by eliminating the need to create buyer-specific content pieces or applications, but it also makes their investment that much more valuable. If executed well, these interactive applications will have the effect of increasing sales velocity by compressing the amount of time that it takes to deliver relevant value messages to every constituent in the buying process.
How do you see AR/VR technologies making a bigger impact on marketing and sales processes by 2020?
Right now, we are in the early stages of real-world use-cases for AR and VR. Early adopters are seeing some very encouraging results from how these immersive technologies can be more effective in some situations, for delivering complex value stories or technical information to buyers. As time goes on, and certainly by 2020, we are going to see an increased adoption of innovations in integrating AR and VR into standard digital devices, without requiring some special hardware in order for customers to experience it. We are already seeing this trend, with tablets and phones, and how Apple and Google are integrating the base AR functionality into standard mobile devices.
In fact, Google is also integrating VR capability into many of these same mobile devices. Ultimately, this will facilitate the use of AR and VR as an integral part of (and no longer a separate experience from) the digital customer toolset. We are already delivering on part of this vision by integrating AR experiences into all of Kaon’s applications, so whenever the use-case warrants, the customer can experience a product or 3D scene in Augmented Reality. AR and VR will soon be features of interactive applications, not separate experiences.
What startups in the B2B technology space are you watching/keen on right now?
We are always looking at companies that are making technological advances in difficult technical (or business) domains. So, for example, companies that are making strides in Human-Computer Interfaces (voice, biometrics, etc.) will play a large role in changing how the digital world and the real world converge. We also see great opportunities for improving the way that technology platforms integrate with each other, without requiring tons of manual software development. This involves a variety of domains, including AI, and big data analytics.
What tools does your marketing and advertising stack consist of in 2018?
We use Salesforce.com for CRM, and the Marketing Automation component of our stack is Pardot. We use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and ZoomInfo for lead generation/qualification. We use Pardot and Salesforce-IQ for email, and Google Docs for our internal document sharing.
Would you tell us about your standout customer success/digital transformation story at Kaon Interactive?
We were asked by a large, global life sciences company to help them implement a digital transformation strategy across all of their marketing and sales teams and processes. We understood that, yes there were many individual applications that needed to be developed and integrated, but more importantly, they need a digital platform that would allow them to start small and scale over time, allowing them to show real successes at every stage along the way. Success in these kinds of initiatives depends on a combination of technical innovations and organizational collaboration. Teams included representatives from Marketing, Product Management, Sales, and IT.
The initial set of applications focused on helping to differentiate their complex solutions in a highly competitive marketplace and delivering these pilot engagements in three different venues: sales meetings, trade shows, and customer briefing centers. The applications were delivered incrementally, showing a limited set of products, and providing an opportunity to obtain feedback from each constituent user community.
While the initial feedback was overwhelmingly positive, it included a serious set of suggestions and requirements that would be essential in order to scale beyond the initial small pilot user community. Because of an agile process, and the scalable technology platform, the product, and solution demonstration applications were rapidly enhanced and updated, and the new versions fielded within a short period thereafter. This iterative process has continued ever since. Sales teams have reported a dramatic reduction in sales cycles and an increase in win rates across the board.
Marketing teams have shown a significant improvement in ROI and marketing effectiveness, delivering consistency of message and elevated customer engagement in every geography and customer markets. Marketers have access to analytics that provides insights into how the teams are doing, how the applications are being used, and how effective they are. Integration with CRM systems provides sales process analytics, helping managers and individual contributors to understand how best to help customers solve their problems.
Today, our ever-growing suite of applications includes interactive product demonstrations, software solutions overviews, lab configurators, augmented reality and virtual reality solutions, and calculators that show how the company’s solutions provide specific and relevant value to their customers. The value of the platform been transformational for the company – eliminating a “point-solution” mentality, integrating sales and marketing objectives and initiatives, and delivering a sustainable results-oriented digital strategy over the long-term.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader? How do you leverage AI capabilities at Kaon Interactive?
The inevitable evolution of AI requires that we all think about several categories of transformation: (a) how to envision tasks that are augmented and changed by software (not just routine tasks, but all the things we do) and so how work will change as a result, (b) what work will be replaced by AI tools (essentially making workers in those contexts obsolete or redundant) and (c) what new work will be created as a result of AI.
So, I think about how things will look over a continuum, not just at the end state, and that gives us the ability to play a role in how all of this actually comes to pass. Some of our customers are using our solutions to help them with their go-to-market for their AI-based tools. Internally, we are using AI and Machine Learning to advance how our tools are working and what they will be doing in the future. That has given us an additional dimension for our data analytics and technology roadmap as well.
How do you get tech and people to converge at one place?
We have to be careful that we don’t become so enamored with, and dependent on tech that we lose our sense of humanity, so even in a tech-focused world (and company), it is always the relationships between people that matter the most. When we create great technology together, and when it is deployed in such a manner as to yield remarkable results, the consequential sense of accomplishment has a transformative effect on how we view each other and our creative possibilities.
I like to blend creative design thinking with technology innovation to achieve interesting and meaningful outcomes; it is this combination of creative and technical thinkers that makes our work so enjoyable and stimulating.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I must admit to becoming dependent on Waze to avoid traffic delays, even on my familiar routes. I use MapMyRun religiously to keep track of my exercise patterns, and I put everything (even social plans) into my calendar (synched on my pc and mobile phone) so that I don’t let anything slip through the cracks.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I don’t read emails or check my work calendar before bed at night. That way I am not thinking about too many things instead of getting to sleep, so I can get up early and work out after a good night’s rest.
What are you currently reading?
My favorite genre is historical biography, but I like most non-fiction, including science, history, politics, philosophy, and business. I also enjoy the occasional fiction thriller and am currently reading Dan Brown’s new book, Origins, which is fantastic. I read books the old-fashioned way, but I read articles online. I get most of my news online, from a variety of news sources (but not social media.)
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I especially appreciate Shakespeare’s words (written as advice given by Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet) “This above all: to thine own self be true” which encapsulates so many of the cliché’s that we hear today about “giving your all” and “be authentic” but in the most profound way. Actually, that entire speech is filled with truly universal advice, from keeping friends dear (grappling them to your soul with hoops of steel, in fact) to listening more than speaking, and not being judgmental.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Thank you, Gavin! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Gavin is an executive leader who has consistently built value through innovation, creative strategy, operational excellence, and leadership development.
He believes in corporate financial success results from a relentless (obsessive) focus on customers and their business (and personal) success. Leadership starts with serving people: customers, employees, and everyone else, and then setting a culture of technology leadership, sales and marketing execution, and service excellence.
Kaon is a B2B software company. Our interactive sales & marketing applications simplify our clients’ complex product and solution stories in a visually engaging way. These companies achieve greater sales and marketing success by effectively differentiating their value at every customer touch-point Kaon’s advanced technology platform creates and deploys interactive applications in real-time to any device, anywhere (offline and online) and supports each customer’s evolving portfolio of products and stories thereby maximizing marketing efficiency.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.