Interview with Kyle Tkachuk, President, CEO and Founder, Clickback
Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to start a B2B lead-gen software company?
I’d first like to start off by telling you what Clickback does. We are a B2B Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company located in St. Catharines, Canada. Since we launched in 2010, we’ve helped thousands of marketing and sales teams solve their lead growth problem by using our cloud-based B2B lead generation software solutions which are uniquely designed to accelerate a business’ lead growth. Now as someone who has been an entrepreneur since their 20’s, the start to Clickback becoming a B2B lead-gen software company began in University. A classmate came up with a business idea which he referred to as “Internet Solutions Centre.” The premise was to offer services such as Internet access, website design and Internet training to the public. It was for a school project but I thought it could be so much more. I wanted to turn it into an actual business. My classmate had no interest in starting a business, so with his permission, I began to pursue the idea independently. After graduating with a BBA in entrepreneurship in 1996, I started my very first company taking a simple idea and turning it into a profitable business venture. Along the way, we started to shift our focus from business services to software development and building out SaaS products. One of the SaaS products we offered was for email marketing, called Clickback MAIL. But seeing where the market was heading in the mid-2000s, we recognized that many of our clients were using our Clickback MAIL product for targeted B2B lead generation. The main problem our clients faced at the time was finding a solution that allowed them to send emails to a list that was not 100% opted-in. After collecting more data and customer insight, we made the decision in late 2010 that our focus should be on B2B email lead generation for marketers. We wanted to help them accelerate their lead growth as this was a huge challenge for them. We saw this as an opportunity and realizing there was really no solution out there at the time, we shifted our business model. Having always maintained a customer-first focus, it seemed natural to change from business services to a B2B lead-gen company in an effort to help our clients solve their biggest challenge – lead growth.
How do you differentiate your lead gen products in 2018?
Good question. The business landscape is constantly changing so you too have to adapt along with it in an effort to remain relevant. We do this by finding opportunities in untapped markets. For example, we came to realize that companies were not fully maximizing the potential of their website. They are missing out on leads and potential revenues. In fact, on average, 98% of traffic that comes to a site will never fill out a form. That’s a lot of potential dollars being left on the table. So as a way to help companies recoup some of these lost leads (and revenues) we launched a second B2B lead generation software product called Clickback WEB in late 2016. This new product gives users the ability to identify companies who visit their website but don’t inquire, so their sales team can follow up and connect with new leads to help them grow their business. In fact, we feel this product has even bigger growth potential than our first product (Clickback MAIL).
What are your predictions for B2B technologies? How should CMOs plan the inclusion of lead-generation software in 2018?
We seem to be moving more and more into the world of machine learning and predictive intelligence. We have ML built into our own software but it’s definitely something that is becoming second nature now. In fact, we recently attended the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month in Las Vegas, Nevada and you can see the shift is moving more and more into the Artificial Intelligence realm with Smart home assistants and wearables. In fact, Google even took over Sin City with billboards highlighting their Google Assistant which is a rare public presence for them at CES. From a marketing viewpoint, CMO’s should look to include software in their tech stack that has behavioral learning built in as it will allow them to gain a better understanding of who their persona is because as the software learns, so too can marketers.
How can lead-gen companies leverage programmatic and predictive technologies to achieve better sales ROI?
We, at Clickback, know how valuable Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are as we use it in our own B2B software solutions – Clickback MAIL and Clickback WEB, leveraging it to determine patterns in existing data so our platform automatically pivots if certain variables are detected. Predictive intelligence and technologies are also a way to eliminate human error. In fact, a study by Unbounce, a SaaS landing page provider, demonstrated how AI can be used in B2B marketing applications. It issued a challenge at a conference to digital marketers to compete against an AI-based technology called “The Machine”. The challenge was to analyze landing page copy. Contestants were asked to predict whether the landing page would deliver an above or below average conversion rate. “The Machine” won the contest. Why? It conducted its evaluation with a non-bias point of view. The human marketers on the flip side though had an opinion rooted in subjectivity such as how the design looked and other variables. The result: the algorithm was 80% more accurate versus 50% by the human contestants. So, what can this teach us? Leveraging predictive technologies to gather more accurate data points or patterns, or find missing information or even auto-populating through algorithms can help marketers increase their accuracy and reduce manual aspects of different tasks. When you have more time and better-extracted data, you can make better decisions which, in turn, can lead to a higher return on an investment.
With the maturity of B2B selling, how do you see multi-channel marketing and sales automation integrations evolving by 2020?
Multi-channel marketing is an interesting concept as customers no longer interact with just one channel. They’re on several. And if you want to sell to them, you must be where they are. In fact, customers spend three to four times more than single-channel customers do. We’re already starting to see the large increase in AI and ML technologies, and this will only grow over the next few years. By 2020, marketers will have a much better grasp of who their target audiences are because we’ll have the technology in place to provide us with the behavioral data and insight needed to understand our personas. We’ll then be able to automatically orchestrate and develop more sophisticated marketing campaigns that will fluidly span across multiple channels. This will allow brands to seamlessly interact with potential buyers touching them at different points in their buying cycle. These touches will be highly choreographed campaigns but will likely appear genuine, truthful and meaningful leading to more sales…you just have to ensure the messaging is on-point.
What startups in the martech/ sales intelligence industries are you watching/keen on right now?
With the recent launch of our new Clickback WEB offering, my primary focus is currently on the website visitor identification industry at this time.
What tools does your marketing and advertising stack consist of in 2018?
Our marketing team currently uses Hubspot as their marketing automation platform. It allows us to nurture our top of funnel leads more effectively through to the bottom of the funnel. We also have an internal CRM we built, which we have neatly integrated into our marketing automation solution. Like most companies, our primary focus is lead growth so we use our own internal software – Clickback MAIL, to fill our funnel. It’s an email lead generation software, which allows you to send emails to a cold list of contacts turning them into warm opted-in leads. Additionally, part of our tech stack is our Clickback WEB solution which identifies the companies who have visited a website but didn’t convert. The data you get from Clickback WEB is invaluable. It provides you with the name of the company who visited your website, the key decision makers at the companies who visited your site, their phone number, and email addresses. You also get email notifications to know when they return so you can segment warm prospects from the cold ones. This allows us to reach out to opportunities we would have otherwise lost leading to more leads, more sales and more revenue.
Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign at Clickback?
As mentioned, one of our products – Clickback MAIL – is an email lead generation software uniquely designed to turn cold contacts into warm leads. Before we kicked off our 2016 campaign, we put a large focus on knowing who our ideal customer is and ensure our list is clean with enough contacts on it to generate an ROI. We also had a strong strategy in place and – most importantly – experimented like crazy in order to determine what worked and what didn’t. After running more than 60+ experiments we found the sweet spot of our campaign. We recognized that sending one email a week to our marketing and sales audience allowed us to increase our lead velocity significantly year-over-year. This campaign generated 143% more customers than the previous year. It also saw an increase of 377% in new monthly recurring revenues. Email was also responsible for helping us generate the first few customers for our second software product, Clickback WEB. As a result, these early customers were able to give us feedback which we used to improve features. Takeaway: Experimentation for any channel is your key to optimizing its full potential. Because chances are if you’re not improving open rates by A/B testing subject lines or not increasing click-through rates by analyzing messages then chances are you’re not utilizing this channel to its full capacity.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader? How do you leverage AI capabilities at Clickback?
AI and ML have been around for several years. It’s nothing new. In fact, we’ve been utilizing the power of AI ourselves in our Clickback MAIL and Clickback WEB products for several years now. It’s only just now becoming more prevalent and taking a firm position in B2B marketing and the martech landscape.
How do you get tech and people to converge at one place?
I believe people and technology have already converged. The challenge is finding the happy balance between human and tech interaction vs. human to human interaction. It’s why when we recently moved to a 6-storey building in downtown St. Catharines, in the early design stages we made an effort to focus on putting in an open-concept layout to promote team performance and it’s a prime example of cross-generational workplace design. This approach has not only allowed us to attract top talent from around the area but it’s broken down walls (literally) where we’ve focused more on people-to-people interaction while we continue to build innovative and advanced software products that help our clients generate more leads.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
There are two currently that I just can’t live without:
- Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking which is a speech recognition software. It turns your talk into text so you can get more done.
- WorkTalk is a text reader for Microsoft Word documents.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Again, I’d have to say the Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It’s a huge time saver because I can talk much faster than I can type so I’m able to push more emails and documentation out, increasing my bandwidth and productivity.
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
Make Big Happen by Mark Moses
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve been given a lot of good advice over the years. The best advice I’ve ever received though would be twofold:
- You are only as good as your team.
- Always surround yourself with a network of people who you trust and can bounce ideas off.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Thank you Kyle! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Kyle Tkachuk is the Founder and CEO of Clickback, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company located in St. Catharines, Ontario. Through his leadership, Clickback has grown 689% over the last 5 years, which led to the company being ranked #106 on the 29th Annual PROFIT 500 List of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies and ranked #32 in the software category by Canadian Business in 2017.
Kyle founded the parent company in 1996, then founded Clickback in 2000 and quickly grew its software offerings into sought-after B2B lead generation solutions that materially benefit his clients and, in turn, help them aggressively grow their business. He’s actively focused on helping B2B businesses achieve their sales and marketing goals by accelerating their lead and revenue growth. It is through Kyle’s leadership that he has grown Clickback from a 5 person team to over 30. He leads mainly by example, always doing his best and encouraging others to do the same.
Kyle is an entrepreneur with breadth (and depth) of business and technical experience and know-how combined with a love of building quality software for B2B companies. Staying true to his passion, and entrepreneurial roots, Kyle aims his focus on keeping lead generation simple, as the marketing landscape becomes more complex.
Founded in 1996, Clickback Inc. is a software as a service (SaaS) company that helps thousands of marketing and sales professionals accelerate their lead growth using cloud-based B2B lead generation products. Clickback is one of the world’s first SaaS companies to offer an email lead generation product (Clickback MAIL) that provides a safe and proven method of securing profitable B2B leads to mid-market and enterprise companies. In late 2016, the company launched their second B2B lead generation product (Clickback WEB), which is software that can identify the companies who came to a website but didn’t make contact with the business (like having caller display for your website). Since launching, Clickback WEB has recovered 743,680 leads for its users. Clickback was ranked #106 on the 29th annual PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies by Canadian Business (2017). For more information on Clickback or its software products visit http://www.clickback.com.
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.