SmartBrief is talking directly with small and medium-sized businesses to discover their journeys, challenges and lessons. Today’s post is a Q-and-A with Erik Severinghaus of SimpleRelevance, which works with companies to “pull in and normalize your current data, then use predictive analytics to recommend the best email marketing approach for each customer. ”
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What does SimpleRelevance do, and what led you in 2011 to say, “I need to start this”?
SimpleRelevance is the first true machine-learning platform for digital marketers. We take in tremendous amounts of data and leverage predictive analytics to significantly improve the efficacy of digital marketing campaigns. For instance, if we’re optimizing a company’s e-mail program, we will automatically ensure that e-mail is sent with the best subject line, content, and at the right time of day to each individual customer.
As is the case with everyone, I’m the recipient of all sorts of digital marketing campaigns. It was (and is) so obvious to me just how little companies use their data to improve their customer experience. Having a background in digital marketing (iContact) and predictive analytics (IBM), I thought I had a unique perspective on how to solve it.
You had built other companies before this one, but also spent years at IBM. How did that experience change, or at least inform, your efforts when launching SimpleRelevance?
IBM has produced some of the most storied founders of enterprise software companies — and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. You learn so much working for Big Blue. For me, I learned a ton of technical lessons but especially learned how to work with and create value for large enterprises.
Your company helps other companies with e-mail marketing, so I wonder, how did you go about marketing SimpleRelevance itself? Were there any surprises?
To be honest, we’re still in the nascent stages of truly learning how to market ourselves; as the old saying goes, “the cobbler’s kids have no shoes.” We are increasingly leveraging our engine to get the right content to our customers.
As a company expands, founders have to inevitably step back from some duties. What are those for you, and what has been the most difficult to delegate?
Honestly, that’s probably one of the biggest challenges with being an entrepreneur … I don’t get to spend nearly as much time as I’d like on certain things. The biggest frustration for me is not having time to get deep on the technical side. We have such a talented team — they could code circles around me. So I get involved on product strategy and architecture, but stay away from the actual implementation because I don’t want to mess anything up!
What would you say to someone who came to you and said, “I’m starting a small business. What’s one thing you wish you’d known before you got started?”
Honestly, I know I should have an original answer, but why re-invent the wheel? I point people to this phenomenal post:
How will you define success at SimpleRelevance? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?
For us, it’s pretty easy. Do our clients love us? For each of our clients, we want to be their favorite partner. Peter Drucker said, “The goal of business is to create a customer” — we would only add “who absolutely loves us” to that sentence.