Interview with Samuel Gerace, CEO, Convey

Samuel Gerace

“Instead of just the product or service being the main purchase-driver, customer decisions are being driven by customer service and brand loyalty.”

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Tell us about your role at Convey and how you got here. What inspired you to join Convey after leading a ticketing platform for long?

After the last company sold, I decided to do things a bit different to get Convey started. Before I even knew what product or service we were going to build or create, I decided to put my team together first. I gathered the people, we created a culture that we aligned with and thought would be most productive going forward, and then together as a team, we decided to address a business pain that we had observed in the world and directly experienced.

Tell us more about your entrepreneurial mentoring programs at Jumpstart, Inc., Flash Starts, and in the Studies program at Hawken School?

I had the great fortune of taking public, merging, or selling four successful companies, and it has been especially important to me to pass along all those big and small lessons that I learned all the way. That has manifested in many forms, including mentoring new startups, serving on the board of companies entering the growth stage, or working with high school students with a passion for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial communities are so key to the economic development of a region – they are built by people taking the time to invest in others and building those tight connections necessary for innovation.

For Convey, what does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? How do you build your customer segments?

Not as much our “ideal customer”  – we love all our customers – but we are especially targeting those customers we think would best benefit from Convey. These are the people who are constantly meeting, connecting, and building relationships with others on a consistent basis. Whether that’s in retail, B2B sales, customer experience, account managers, event managers – anyone who is in a customer-centric position is likely to benefit most from Convey. We build our customer segments by observing data on how people use our product and who they are.

Given the changing dynamic of marketing technology landscape, where do you see Convey fitting in a modern CMO’s stack?

We see Convey being that much-needed connection point between an individual employee’s network collection point – whether that’s a cell phone, database, or business card Rolodex – and the company’s contact management system like a CRM or Email/Marketing platform. We’re not looking to replace any one product that a CMO currently uses, we want to make the process of customer interactions easier and more effective.

The current reality is that over 85% of CRM users admit to entering incomplete data into a CRM, and even when that data is entered, those records decay at a rate of 23% a year. We want to help companies lessen those missed opportunities through better and stronger connections.

What data points do you work on to ensure that Convey’s products can optimize results from a CRM?

One of the initial driving stats that we came across is that 88% of business cards are thrown away within a week. Being a $780 million industry, that’s a lot of financial waste. Once we started digging into the current economic state including the data decay due to the rapidly changing job market, we knew this was a growing problem that was going to need to be addressed quickly.

What is the state of ‘Relationship Management’ in 2018? What technologies are ideal for identifying and winning the customer’s choice?

Relationship management should be one of the highest priorities for a company in 2018. We have shifted into a relationship-driven economy which means that instead of just the product or service being the main purchase-driver, customer decisions are being driven by customer service and brand loyalty. Customers are looking for brands that they can trust and that deeply understand them and their needs. This is across all industries; Retail, B2B, Service, etc. To thrive in the new relationship economy, companies need to focus on building better connections with their consumers. Authentic personal and organizational relationships are a strategic advantage, so technology that can help facilitate these interactions will be the most successful.

How can organizations overcome biases to increase customer-centricity?

I think in general, organizations need to realize that their customers are not them – meaning companies need to put a lot of effort into figuring out who their customers actually are, what they want, and what will make their lives better or easier. Sometimes organizations get stuck in their own bubble and make moves to benefit themselves without keeping their customer in mind. Relating to the customer and serving them should be an organization’s main priority.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

We’re watching the companies in the industry that are embracing the “Relationship Economy” – companies that are putting customers and their needs first and are working to build those connections over time rather than just concentrate on the immediate revenue. We are seeing this shift in every industry, and the companies that are doing it well are seeing huge successes.

What marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you use?

Currently, our team uses HubSpot for both our marketing automation and our CRM. We thought it was important to have everyone using the same tool so that we could work together and be on the same page.

Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign at Convey? 

As a small and nimble team, we have the luxury of being able to move quickly and experiment with many different things to see if they stick. We’ve especially had some success with Facebook Messenger campaigns when we were focusing on building a pre-launch cohort of Android users. The research is saying that messaging apps are the next frontier, and we saw that first hand when we saw a high conversion from those who signed up pre-launch to those who downloaded the app when we launched Android earlier this month. We’re very excited to keep exploring how we can make messaging and bot automation work for us and create better experiences for our customers.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

I personally stay on top of the trends to see what’s coming down the pipeline that can help us become better at serving our customers and more importantly, I have a team that is always ready and excited to experiment with new tech and they are flexible enough try the latest new trends if we see fit.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
One of our core values is: “We work with purpose!” When everyone comes to work knowing that the work is meaningful and has value in the world, they are inspired to continue working and to use whatever tools that allow them to work effectively and efficiently, including supporting technology.  That said, it is critical that we select technologies that have an exceptional user-experience so they represent a clear net benefit for everyone. But that is common sense, too. People are our most important resource, and tools that have bad user-experiences waste that resource.

One word that best describes how you work.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Organizationally: Convey (!), HubSpot, Slack.  Personally: OmniFocus

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Do the hardest/least pleasant things first.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I read continuously – my backlog sits at about 20 books (e-books). Right now, I am reading Misbehaving by Richard Thaler. I listen to podcasts on my daily commute: especially Hidden Brain (NPR).

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Great things are accomplished by great teams  – Priority #1 is building a great team.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Creating teams that can innovate and then validate in fast cycles.

Tag the one person from the industry, whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Bob Gilbreath, Co-Founder & CEO at Ahalogy

Thank you Samuel! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Samuel is a five-time tech entrepreneur – the founding CEO of Convey™, Veritix®, Be Free®, PCXIS, and PCX Consulting Inc. Veritix is a sports and live-entertainment SaaS platform company processing over $1 billion in commerce transactions annually; Befree is a digital marketing platform company processing over $2 billion in commerce transactions annually; PCXIS®, Inc. produced public utility marketing software; and PCX Consulting, Inc., offered plant and executive information systems for heavy industry. (Veritix was acquired by AEG/AXS, Be Free was acquired by Conversant.) Samuel has raised over $2M in angel capital, $76M in venture capital/private equity, and over $200M in the public markets for these companies. He is also a Director at Boxcast, and a former Director of ValueClick and Be Free.

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ConveyTM is an Identity-Connection Platform that transforms static “contacts” into dynamic and actionable “connections” for individuals and organizations.

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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.

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