How do you build demand for your products and services? Rajiv Parikh is co-founder and CEO of Position2, a marketing company that specializes in the demand creation process. In this week’s interview, Rajiv explains the current purchasing psychology of people today and what role content marketing has in this process.
Alan: Welcome back I'm here today with Rajiv Parikh he's a co-founder of Position2, Rajiv welcome to today's show.
Rajiv: Well thanks Alan
Alan: So Rajiv for the listeners here can you give the background of you know how you came up to be where you are today.
Rajiv: Sure. You know this actually started from a long time ago. Interestingly enough my dream was always to be an entrepreneur and to start my own company, even as early as middle school I remember writing a paper where they asked what are you going to do later in life and I charted out this course where I said I'm going to become an electrical engineer, I'm going to then go to Harvard Business School and then one day start a company. And a lot of this was fueled by I grew up in New Hampshire my father was working at a manufacturing plant and he would bring home articles of Fortune magazine and Wall Street Journal and Business Week and I would just- as a person who loved to read I would just tear them up and I just really got into the notion of starting a company someday and building it into something great. Sri t started from there.
Alan: So you got your undergraduate in-
Rajiv: I got my undergraduate actually in electrical engineering okay and I think I picked it because I thought, ok that's a technical thing, by learning a lot about technology you can do interesting things later, but while I was in it- and I did fine in it- I always had more the desire to be on the business side. And my father actually encouraged me- because he was more in operations to go into marketing and sales and even some of my summer internships were that way. I first did something in computer science but then after that got was fortunate enough to find opportunities in marketing and I just fell in love with it- the notion of taking a market looking at it breaking it down understanding who the customer was, who the buyer was, building the collateral for them and getting the message to them so even while I was finishing my electrical a degree I had my eye in that field and so my first job actually ended up in technical sales for NCR, the cash register company that was in the computer field at the time. This was in the early 90's and from there learned how to take my technology skills and learned how to sell to large accounts. And at the time I first started off with Fortune 500 companies like GE at GT and then eventually became insurance companies. And I learned all about this field that was a little less familiar with but did pretty well at it. And at a certain point I felt like it was- and I had always had my mind as I mentioned to you about going to Harvard Business School- it was just a dream of mine- I don't know why, maybe it was because of what I read in these magazines and I just looked at the application over the years and finally figured that I had enough experiences to apply and about four and a half years in I applied and I would think I was one of the lucky few to get in. For me it was the thrill of my life, to get into a place like that. I thought I could get there but when I actually look at the data, maybe it was not a hope that got me there.
Alan: Well what a combination, electrical engineering degree and actually if I understood you correctly at NCR you were in sales?
Rajiv: I was in sales, field sales for NCR in the Connecticut
Alan: A very unique skill set, an engineer in sales and so it completely makes sense to then jump and get the MBA-
Rajiv: Jump and get the MBA and then after that I joined Sun Microsystems, and the reason I joined them was I had gone on a trip- I had always taken classes related to entrepreneurialism and product development, I felt that was a great feature of becoming that eventual entrepreneur and so we took a trip out of west as part of a business school trip in 1997 and I just fell in love with the Bay Area. I was an east coaster all my life, grew up in New Hampshire and worked in New England and just totally fell in love with what I saw here. Companies were open there was a lot of energy there was this openness to ideas and trying crazy outlandish sorts of things, there were people who are willing to fund it there was great infrastructure around it and I was blown away that in January I could wear a short sleeve shirt and still not freeze right it was just a new- the weather was fantastic and the people were amazing.
Alan: How did Position2come about?
Rajiv: Well after that I went to companies like after Sun, went to a company called Alta Vista, that was in the search field, one of the first actually the first search company that would index content and make it available to people in a non in a programmatic fashion and after that stint- that was what I felt would be a good stint to do because you're going from biggest company to big company to now a company that's up to a thousand people and after that recession that came along, the 2001 recession I felt- you know why hold back any longer it's time to go. So I went out and started my first company, with my co-founder and that was in the area of medical devices and that was to transform asthma and after I started it and raised some money from venture capital folks I realized that maybe I wasn't necessarily cut out for medical devices but I did love the entrepreneurial spirit and I love the notion of changing the world, so after some consulting stints and some EIR stints, fell upon search again. I was helping a company to build their user audience, it was a mobile search company and when I was doing work for them, one of the things I dealt with it Alta Vista was when I ran the marketing group it took me millions of dollars or my team millions of dollars and a lot of iterations to get an answer. It took over a year to understand if your messaging was correct and your segments were correct if the messages were resonating the salespeople would make able to make it effective and so I was reintroduced to search because at that time Google had just come out with Adwords around 2003-2004 when they came out with it and that's when I started experimenting with it for this company and I fell in love with what you could do with AdWords because it allowed you to get answers really fast. You could look for what- you could understand what people are searching for which is expressing their intent to buy in a very direct fashion you could place bids on it and you could construct a cycle of iteration or a cycle or a conversion cycle where a person would search, they would come to a page, they would see an ad, they would come to a page and from there you get them to sign up and you could measure every single segment. And that really appealed to the engineer in me because we could tweak so many things and test so many things and so that was sort of the genesis of Position2.
Alan: Okay so Rajiv, I need to take a quick break. I'm visiting here today with Rajiv Parikh and he is a co-founder of Position2 and we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back and visiting here today with Rajiv Parikh he is a co-founder of Position2 and Rajiv in the first segment we had set the platform for how you began to move into Position2 with looking at Adwords searches and why don't you continue on from there.
Rajiv: Yeah I got really excited by it so I kind of put some pieces together saying I want to start a company that could make a big difference for people, to help them more effectively buy or more effectively help them connect with their customers and so kind of put the pieces together saying I could create a company like this in my favorite area which is business and marketing, combine that with analytics and engineering and at the same time I read that book, The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman and said wow there's all these things going on in Asia maybe we put all those together. So I called up some investors and sort of put the whole thing together with the ability to offer marketing services to companies ranging from startups to large companies but having a delivery team that was based in the US as well as in Bangalore.
Alan: So how does Position2 differ from other marketing companies?
Rajiv: The way we differ is that we look at the entire capability of what we call demand acceleration which is, how do I build that demand. In today's market, instead of being sold to, people like to buy. About 70% of people, according to various surveys, like to learn about you before you learn about them. You like to research those things. So it's up to you as a company to put your content in places where they might consume it and that may be in blog articles and videos and various media sites and you want to help them understand that entire buying cycle and that's what Position2 does. We look at demand acceleration as combining the overall strategy, the whole buying cycle, the whole what we call buyers journey and bring together the content for you by taking your assets and turning them into videos infographics eBooks, we then promote it for you across paid advertising- Google, Facebook, various media sites and then manage the infrastructure. Your website, what we call your digital presence, your mobile sites as well as the marketing infrastructure of your marketing automation system and sales automation system so we bring that together as a whole solution for all sorts of clients that range from post series A to series B types of companies in Silicon Valley that have scaled up to unicorns, to divisions of large companies.
Alan: So when you're looking at your [demand] acceleration platform, walk me through the process of what a new customer would go through with you.
Rajiv: Right so that's a great question and customers vary. Some work with you on a piece of things or holistically. The whole idea is to help these companies connect with their customer- their prospect, so we map the buyers journey, we look at who that buyer is, the economic buyer in many cases there's a person that writes the check, there's a person that uses whatever capability you have, there's the person that recommends it. In many cases especially if it's a large sort of business to business deal, and we map what we want, they map what the competitors are doing and come up with the right messages and work with the client to develop a content calendar for them, and then how to promote that across the objectives that they've established. So we work back, if there's a certain level of sales they are trying to generate through these types of marketing efforts we then work back to understand how much content we need to deliver and across what networks we need to deliver for them.
Alan: So what are some of the common mistakes made in content marketing?
Rajiv: I think what we find a lot- especially with a lot of the BTB tech firms here in the valley, they put out white papers and so a lot of people develop products and they put out a lot of these very technical white papers and then they expect people after they got this white paper to become a lead, and they're going to send their sales people after them. And those sales people will chase them through emails and calls- when in fact that person has just simply consumed a bit of content that looked interesting. First of all, they may have missed targeted them because it's a very technical paper, they didn't lead them gently download down the process by offering maybe a 30-second video or one-minute or three-minute video to some infographics and then, when you're looking at that whole process, you want them to consume content, really raise interest- [be] qualified and then have your sales people reach out to them. And that's that whole notion of scoring them through the process.
Alan: So Rajiv I need to take a quick break, I'm visiting here today with Rajiv Parikh he is the CEO and co-founder of Position2, and we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back I'm visiting here today with Rajiv Parikh, he is the co-founder of Position2 and we've been talking about content marketing and the digital platforms and I want to move back to common mistakes that businesses make when it comes to marketing.
Rajiv: They're so many of them, but I think the easiest way to look at it is, is that it's really understanding what your buyer does. And how they go through that entire process, so as we talked about a common content mistake is putting out something technical and expecting someone to buy when they after they download something. Another major issue on the side of how you measure what they do, you want to measure where people are coming from and where people are today. A lot of people focus on their website on the physical website the 13-inch screen that people have on their laptop when more than 50% of the audience has gone to mobile. And when you're constructing content for mobile, people want to create these beautiful rich pages and the issue with mobile is that if the mobile user is much more directed in what they're doing and they have much less patience so you want to make sure your content comes in, in less than three seconds, otherwise for every second greater, that person is likely to bounce or move away from your content. You want to make sure those load-times are fast. You want to do a lot of test in iteration and there's some great platforms like OptimizeMe or within email platforms- it's the ability to test- try different messages and try your main message that works 50 or 60 percent of the time and then try new messages for that other 50 percent of the time. That's a major issue.
Alan: I imagine Rajiv, in this industry, you have a lot of do-it-yourselfers saying, well hey I can do it all myself and why do I need a content marketing firm. Walk me through the process of how do you get that do-it-yourselfer to really understand the value of using people with higher expertise and processes.
Rajiv: Frankly Alan we wait for them to make mistakes. And so, it's when after you get burned a few times, we like people who've tried something a few times, they've realized they're having an issue, and then they need help because then they are more likely to understand what value you're going to be offering to them. So we walk them through a process typically where we sit them down over a 45-minute interview, understand their business, understand what's working and what's not so that we can help recommend a solution, so we look across content, we look across their advertising efforts, their AdTech efforts and then their MarTech efforts and see, are they invested in the right platforms, do they have the right skills, where can we potentially or someone else, complement them in terms of what they're doing. Because if they're great in a particular area, we don't want to reinvent the wheel. Frankly we want them to be good at their product in the market and how and understand how things are working in terms of where their business is going and then we can fill in all the other pieces with them.
Alan: So should a company trying to be utilizing every social media marketing effort through Facebook or LinkedIn? How do you walk a person through, 'okay this is what you should you as social marketing in it you know the best value for you?'
Rajiv: That's a really good question because different social networks work for different people. If you're a b2b firm, LinkedIn is a great place to go. If you're a consumer firm, Facebook is. That doesn't mean each one is exactly each thing so it's great to try a bunch of them, have a test period, set aside a budget to test- usually you want to set aside about twenty to thirty percent of your budget to test different things and make it work. Now the first thing that most businesses should always be on is on Google and Bing search. Because that's when people- when they have intent, that's the first place they're going to go and that's probably the easiest low-hanging fruit. After that, yes try Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks to see what works and then make them work across each other- what they call retargeting, so if somebody does a LinkedIn search, you can retarget them on Google search, or if something works really well on Facebook, make them work back and forth so that you can get them to the right point. I've noticed on the social media realm that a lot of them want to pay to play, but then there's also some other venues like- I don't think LinkedIn allows the video to come in on their site, how do you work with these social media platforms because they're constantly changing algorithms?
Rajiv: And that's the hardest part, they're always changing what they allow you to see, what they allow you to advertise, how they allow you to advertise, either you have to be on top of it, or you ask experts or read up on it, and that's usually the fastest and easiest way. There's so much happening in all those places that that's why we have a full-time 200-person staff all over this.
Alan: How often should a person design their user interface?
Rajiv: That's been increasing dramatically, this used to be once every three years, now I see folks right after they finished the first finish a new website redesign they're already on to the next one and because there's so many different ways in which someone can touch you- your website your mobile site, with tablets with different pages on Facebook and LinkedIn and through multiple social networks you're always doing something, it's really amazing.
Alan: In this ever-changing world too, it seems like the whole venues for how people are finding you are constantly in motion.
Rajiv: That's right who ever knew that a hot thing to do now would be to take a picture of yourself, put a funny filter on it and send it to someone and that's what our kids do every day on snapchat-
Alan: It's a different world isn't it with this the younger generation, the older ones are still learning how to work a mobile phone, the younger ones are-
Rajiv: I thought it was important to be connections my kids on Facebook, but half the time - they're on Instagram, so who knows. But the cool part is there's so many ways of reaching people, and these networks have made it very easy to try them and get on to them and then try different things and see what works. So it's really about making sure that you're open to all these metrics and tying it all together with the right technology.
Alan: So Rajiv, if a person wants to contact Position2, for more information how would they do that?
Rajiv: They can simply go to our website position2.com, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and that's an easy way to get in touch with us.
Alan: I've been visiting here today with Rajiv Parikh, he a co-founder and the CEO of Position2 thanks for being on today's show
Rajiv: Thank You Alan for having me
Alan: We'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back, so we've been visiting with Rajiv Parikh, and the last segment over the break, Rajiv and I got talking about the constant change in the industry today and how a startup faces all the choices on digital marketing content. I asked Rajiv if he could just stay over and maybe we could talk about this. So, Rajiv, in this world of constant choices and decisions, how should a startup be facing the the decisions of the right marketing content?
Rajiv: I'm blown away that just a few years ago to 140 MarTech tools and now there's five thousand. So how do you make sense of it all? And I think a way to look at that is that today there are tools that are as easy to use as your iPhone and if you're an earlier stage company, many of those tools are free. So when folks tell me, hey what should I use for my sales force automation platform, my CRM platform, what can I try to start with? A great one is something like HubSpot, it's free. So is pipe drive, it's free. Maybe you want to try that before you jump into Salesforce which is great for companies that have a dedicated sales team that want to grow from there. A lot of folks, when they talk about, how do i email folks or us marketing automation? Well HubSpot also has a marketing automation system which is great for early companies- inexpensive. There's a MailChimp for email, that's also free and really inexpensive to play with as are others, and then you can get into things as your company gets bigger like a Marketo or an Eloqua where you get your funding round now you're building out your team. And you really want to scale it, similarly for analytics- google analytics is a great place to start, but there are also other analytics programs and most of them offer a free or low-cost method of getting in. Something I love for contact management is Full Contact. Also, it starts free but it's like $10 a month and it basically allows you to take five different contact managers and put them all together and it proactively looks up things on social networks and brings them to you so that you and your team can be up-to-date on who to reach out to. There's some really cool technologies out there, just take it step by step and free to call various marketing service providers to ask for- hey I want to try this, how should I do it. I'm similarly for web platforms right a lot of people use WordPress it's also free or fairly inexpensive Drupal is a great way to go when you're building a more enterprise system it also starts with an open source system a lot of folks early stage startups if they just have a designer can use Wix, Wix.com as a great way to throw up some images- get a site up and then as you get more sophisticated go to these other platforms.
Alan: That's why the value of using somebody like your organization is because you have the experience and let's try this and then walk people through the processes- in fact, a lot of what you're doing is developing the processes for digital marketing.
Rajiv: That's right, I mean the most important thing of what we have to do is be on top of all these technologies and then we productize all of them. So, the value of this 200 person team is that we've created workflows and processes of how to use these different technologies for clients of different sizes.
Alan: And so the menu will be across the board depending on picking and choosing of what you do need?
Rajiv: Exactly it's all about making sure that it's really customized to what type of company you are and what kind of people you have and where you're trying to go.
Alan: It must be difficult at least being a content marketer when you see such constant change in the industry, looking at a menu of now 5,000 different tools to use.
Rajiv: It could be overwhelming, but it's actually a lot of fun. I mean it's what keeps you excited about the job every day because there's always something new and exciting to get involved with. The hardest part as you say Alan is to make that choice, that we're going to go in this way versus that, and the fun part is that it's really easy or there's so many open ways of trying it and you can then put them together and leverage them for clients.
Alan: So here we are like Silicon Valley, would you say the majority of your clientele are concentrated here in the valley?
Rajiv: I'd say we have a pretty significant number here in the valley but we also have folks in Seattle, on the East Coast, New York, Boston, Atlanta as well as in Asia.
Alan: Any particular industry that you focus in more than another?
Rajiv: I'd say most of our clients are b2b technology firms where software cloud networking tend to be the strongest concentration. We also have some of these really interesting internet unicorn types of clients as well and some consumer firms. So, we learn from one place and apply to the other and that's really what's fun. You learn a lot of things in the consumer side that you can apply to the business of business side and vice versa.
Alan: Very good I've been visiting here today with Rajiv Parikh, he is the co-founder and the CEO of Position2 and Rajiv thanks again for being on today's show.
Rajiv: Well thanks a lot Alan I really appreciate it. You've been listening to American Dreams and thanks for being with us today and join us next week right here on this station.