In this podcast episode, we interview Riaz Kanani Founder and CEO at Radiate B2B, an Account-Based Advertising and Marketing platform.

Riaz shares his career journey, from initially starting in marketing at the age of 18, through to identifying a need in the market and launching Radiate B2B.

He discusses how Radiate B2B helps companies cut through the noise and deliver a better buying experience, as well as sharing the tactics and techniques he finds are the most successful in ABM campaigns.

Transcript: Interview with Riaz Kanani – Radiate B2B

Mike: Thanks for listening to marketing b2b tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in b2b marketing today. Welcome to the latest edition of marketing today. Welcome to the latest edition of marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today, I have Rios kanani. He’s the founder of radiate b2b. Hi, Rios, welcome to the podcast.

Riaz: Thanks, Mike. Really good to be here.

Mike: Great. I mean, the first thing I want to say is I looked at your LinkedIn, and you’ve had an amazing career, building different businesses. I mean, can you talk us through this journey and some of the things you’ve done?

Riaz: Yeah, sure, sure. It’s been, it’s been fun, I am the first to say that I’ve been very lucky, I think, to get involved in or do some of the things that I’ve done. I mean, I, I started, I thought, when I was 16, really, I didn’t really know why I was running a startup. But I was, and I didn’t even know as a marketing company, actually, for that matter. I was consulting with companies on how to go onto the internet and making money that way and pay my way through university doing it. And, and it was only really, as I learn more about the sort of, you know, what you take today as the fundamentals of business, really, you start to understand all the the acronyms in the language that you start to realise, actually, what I’m winning as a marketing business. Which may sound silly, in hindsight, but it’s just the way I came at it and actually doing that through university, you know, I was part of the team that set up the, the radio station there. So I got into audio video through that, and actually was that that really got me started on the path to running my own technology business rather than continuing to do consultancy. Because we, we discovered, and the naive idea of an 18 year old, I discovered that we could use Java technology to put audio and video onto every single computer out there 99% of computers would play back this content was for those that were around in the the early 2000s. You know, the best you could get was about 30% using either Windows Media Player or QuickTime. So I looked at it was like, well, surely every company under the planet that creates video is just going to automatically pick us with three times better.

And I remember, you know, jumping on a plane, the day after my last exam, a university across the Dublin was on Ryanair, we were delayed by about two hours, I landed at about 1130 at night, to meet the CEO of this company, who quite kindly had stayed up and waited for me, given I was two hours late, you know, in hindsight, I had no real understanding of you know, what was normal. And actually, in hindsight, that wasn’t normal. And, you know, we had a chat. And then I walked up in the morning and gave a presentation to this company. And it was a few 100 people or something in the auditorium about this technology and what we could do. And I came out all on a high and thinking this is brilliant, and then landed back into London. And for the next 11 months, or 11 months and three weeks, not a single person returned our call, nobody was interested, they all found it too technical or too, too difficult. And so we ended up pivoting that business, to be a video advertising network. And the minute we did that the phone never stopped ringing. And it was an amazing, that amazing hockey curve, journey of, you know, doing campaign after campaign, jumping on a plane to the states and all the rest of it, right. And you know, we were all still very naive, we were all in early 20s, there wasn’t as much like to do a startup in those days was still not really the sexy thing to do. And we follow best practice advice and actually screwed it up a little bit, really.

So I learned a whole lot about shares and options and equity and all these sorts of legal stuff that I again, hadn’t known at the time. And we ended up splitting that business. And eventually the business that we split out, sold to silverpop. We then myself and my co founders then helped to build silverpop internationally. And of course, that was really where you know silverpop became one of the one of the best ESP is as I call email service providers. And then launched they bought a company called v two ns and launch b2b marketing automation platform right alongside Marketo and Eloqua. And so, so we built that up and actually you know, that was brilliant cuz we were setting best practice. We were talking about the best way to do b2b marketing. And, and really, it was, you know, a heady time. And again, you don’t realise it at the time. And and then eventually, of course that exited to IBM and actually was around that point that I said that I would get out of doing startups I’ve done for startups where that point in various guises we count the pivots.

And as I was going to get out of doing that, I was going to stop travelling quite so much I was travelling a lot back then. And I was going to not focus on marketing so much, which, because I was just, I’d seen so many new marketing startups, and they were all basically Big Data plus, whatever we done before, and they were the most dull things to look at. And so I decided I was gonna get out of all that. And so and in hindsight, it felt like a decade, right? But it was only four years. Four years later, I’m back doing another startup, I’d managed to at least, at least not do a marketing startup, we did a startup all about AI and knowledge. And basically putting the right content in front of like quality content in front of business people, nobody were interested, was interested in paying for it.

So we shut it down. And I gave in and said, Look, I was talking to a whole bunch of marketing directors, and I realised how much acquisition costs have risen in the last five, seven years, and was looking at basically watching marketing directors basically, every year turn around and go, well, we’re gonna go going to invest more content, more events that are smaller on average than the year before they’re more micro. And we’re going to have to increase reach, and whatever that whatever happens, that means your marketing budget is going to have to go up just to stay the same, really. And that’s not a great place to be. And so I thought, well, there must be a better way of doing things. And so we started to look at data, again, I built my career, really, throughout all of it, the common thread is taking data and tried to do something valuable with it. And, and we started to look at what we could do. And basically, eventually that brings us to four years ago with the style of ad b2b.

Mike: I mean, it’s an amazing journey, you know, and going from, you know, literally startup at university, all the way to start up. That’s now part of IBM, and then back to start up again. Yeah, yeah, I couldn’t, I couldn’t stay away. Awesome. So I mean, tell me a little bit about radiate b2b. I mean, what, what problem were you trying to solve when you started the company?

Riaz: Yeah. So the underlying the underlying thing that we saw quite early on, we obviously had these rising acquisition costs, and the sort of drive for marketing directors to to continuously increase the amount of output, just so they could get, you know, share of share of mind in terms of the market in terms of content, and they push it out. And we looked at that, and we were like, well, if you are a buyer, and you’re, you know, you don’t care about a problem, until until that problem is something you care about why if that makes sense. You know, it’s not on your radar. So the minute you are thinking about that problem, you sort of dip your toe in. And you know, we did some research a couple months ago on this, and still today, most people will do a Google search to look and find out about a problem we’re trying to solve word of mouth comes into it as well. That was second. And you know, when you do that today, an awful lot of the time the front page is crowded with vendor content.

And most of the time, sadly, that vendor content is not very high quality. And so as a buyer, you tend to we figure we hypothesised anyway, at that time that buyers would increasingly go back to analysts and independent websites and third parties rather than vendors to do a lot of very early research, and only start to come to vendor sites later. And if that’s the case, that takes us back to really the sort of environment we were in 10 years ago, when marketing automation platforms were first starting to come on the scene, where basically, by the time the lead had self identified, they will probably already talking or in talks with a couple of other vendors already. And so you’re on the backfoot. So we wanted to figure out a way we could use data to basically understand your marketplace better, to therefore help sales development teams have better quality conversations, and more of them fundamentally, and that’s that’s what we sought to build. Now I will say I’ll say one thing which which I I think you’ll laugh at in hindsight, me being me, I built this brand spanking wireframe that was brilliantly called, showed everything when I showed all my contacts that I had about. And they all laughed at me and said, we as there’s no way, we’re going to be in our main marketing automation platform and put that in. And so I had to scale back my desire if you like to build this entirely new, fancy marketing, automation 2.0 platform, and build basically one of the early modules of it, and then expand from there sort of thing. So that’s, that’s basically, what we ended up doing.

Mike: Is interesting. You’ve mentioned a couple of times that the cost of acquisition has gone up in b2b. Yeah. Which is fascinating time when we’ve got all these new digital technologies that should, in theory, make it easier to reach our customers. So what do you attribute that increased in acquisition cost to?

Riaz: Quite literally, as it is competition? I mean, I mean, if you go back, I mean, obviously COVID has accelerated this. I mean, the the costs of advertising on LinkedIn have rocketed in the last 12 months. But at the end of the day, there’s only so many finite spots that you can, you can buy. And we did some analysis, actually, you know, we’re playing in the in the enterprise space, or we’re playing in the in the selling to enterprise space, that’s supposed to be more precise. And I’m sure you aren’t surprised by how similar the lists of companies that that companies go after are. And and so, you know, that is the reality is that it is a competitive marketplace. And we’re all going after, largely, not entirely, but the same types of customers. And, of course, we’re all putting content online. And there’s only so much content you can see. In one go at the end of the day, that’s the one thing that all of us as humans have equal is the amount of time we have in a day.

Mike: Interesting. So I mean, your solution is focus effectively through account based marketing is that that’s what her summary.

Riaz: Yeah, the deal. These are contracts that you typically are nurturing and building relationships with over time. And so we’re one of the tools in that toolkit to help you do that.

Mike: You talk a lot about awareness and reputation with with customers, that seems to be a slightly different take on what you’re trying to achieve with ABM too, while other vendors are saying where other vendors are kind of saying, you know, try our solution, it will get you more sales. Whereas you seem to be saying this is only from from my point of view, it seems to be this is the first part of the journey of getting more sales, it’s only part of ABM is that, is that a fair reputation? representation of what you’re saying?

Riaz: Yeah, that is absolutely true. I, you know, our clients do get more sales. In fact, the average contract values are higher. And sometimes, astonishingly, say, I’m one of our clients got a 7x increase in average contract value from the programme, but not for a second, would I say that? That’s because they did an advertising programme. And magically, at the end of it, you got these massive increases? You know, it’s it’s a channel, it’s one part of the toolkit, you’ve got to tie that in with other channels in all channels, working in coordination with each other, to drive higher value and more clients.

Mike: And so, I mean, are you selling radiate to to marketing teams? Or are you selling them to sales teams?

Riaz: That’s a really good question. We primarily sell to marketing teams. But we work very, very closely with sales teams. So it may well be that the advertising campaign is is implemented by marketing. But there’s a feedback loop from the sales enablement, sales development teams, that comes back to us, we typically engage with that sales team early on in the campaign. And then of course, the data that we produce from the campaign as well as our the intent data feeds that we create. They all go directly to sales and get followed up on there. And again, come back to us. There’s a feedback loop afterwards, plays to that idea of ABM programmes being sales and marketing. joined at the hip.

Mike: Yeah, that that’s really interesting, because presumably, then, the data you’re generating you pushing that to it to other platforms, is integration. An important Yeah, you’re offering?

Riaz: Yeah, yeah. So we’ll push data directly into marketing, automation, CRM systems, but sometimes just email. You know, it’s always it’s, I think, once you’ve been in the industry, as long as as long as we have, you know, it’s never a surprise, is it? That companies aren’t always quite ready for the the feeds into the systems themselves? An email just works.

Mike: Interesting. So the simplest technologies the most effective, yeah, yeah. So I’m interested, I mean, who typically buys radio? Is there a typical customer in terms of industry or size or something that would benefit the most?

Riaz: I mean, obviously, fundamentally, the first requirement is that you sell to enterprise, right, if you know what, when we have conversations with companies that aren’t selling to enterprise, and they’re selling products that are 1000s of dollars in a low 1000s of dollars in value, I’m not sure why I’m using dollars in the UK, but, you know, clearly that’s not a good fit for us, but but yes, if you’re selling to enterprise, I typically say that you are probably, you know, for, for where we are today, more likely as a technology business, they they’re typically early adopters, it could be manufacturing, it could be professional services, but most of our clients are technology businesses. We have some marketing agencies that we work with, and some it consultancies that we work with, as well. But primarily, it’s that and then and then to be honest, who they sell to. I think it’s always really interesting for most Over time, it’s been pretty even an even mix between targeting retailers and travel companies to finance companies to, you know, from targeting HR people to marketing people or, again, finance people. Interestingly over locked down, we saw a surge in companies targeting HR people. That was an outsize shift in our client base for a period of time, we seem to be coming back to what I would call normality a little bit now, where we’re, we’re back, targeting pretty much all the verticals and various personas within it.

Mike: And was that moved to HR was that because COVID became to a large extent HR problem in different Yeah,

Riaz: I think so. I think so. I mean, the conversations we used to, we used to see what were basically that, you know, HR doesn’t have time, we can save them time, but to get hold of them is really difficult. And obviously, one of the things that we’re able to do is to plant a message in somebody and it’s like a TV ad, right. So one of my big disappointments with the digital world is we got so hung up on data and click foods, that we’ve forgotten the impact to brand. And, and you know, a display ad is very similar to a TV ad and that it just nudges you, it’s there in the side of you, I you will walk into your whether consciously. And so we’re eight, we were able to go in front of these HR people who were not browsing very much because they were so busy. But when they were browsing, we were able to see them, put advertising in front of them. And, you know, make them aware of what’s possible to save them time in a period when they didn’t have time. And they were looking for ways to be more efficient in their time.

Mike: And in terms of targeting those people, I mean, I’m interested to know what you’ve seen working, you know, if you want to target HR people, typically, I mean, normally, what you have to do is target the whole company by IP and then filter out the people who engage with the ads, is that how radio operates? Or is there a different technology?

Riaz: We I mean, we use a range of things? It depends, it depends a little bit on the project, but we do all of that. Behind the Scenes predominantly though, what we’re doing is using NLP natural language processing, where we’ll you know, we’ll look at the pages that are being browsed and we will make a decision as to whether that page is being viewed by the type of person we want to reach or not. So that’s typically how it works.

Mike: Well, okay. So you’re categorising the content to define who’s likely to watch it? Yeah. Yep. Interesting. So, I mean, treats. No, I mean, a lot of companies have tried ABM and not been successful. I’m really interested to know, what approaches you think work What’s good, what, you know, what you’ve seen being successful.

Riaz: Yeah, there’s, there’s, I mean, it’s it’s been an interesting four years in that regard, because we don’t see quite so many ABM pilots. I mean, numbers wise, I guess, I guess they’re more but percentage wise, it’s less than it was two or three years ago, almost every, every conversation we had was an APM pilot. And if I look, look across those pilots, there’s a range of things I don’t think there’s, there’s a single thing you can say that was always the cause of failure. It’s a whole bunch of things. So So, you know, sales and marketing not working together. I mean, I remember one client, who, you know, we sat in a room with, with sales and marketing. And, and basically, we had a great conversation. And then we weren’t going to share certain content with the other team. And, you know, that was a guarantee that that project was going to fail. If we let that happen. We didn’t let it happen. We, you know, we said, Look, if you do this, the project will fail. And thankfully, they didn’t.

But we have seen stuff like that happen. Where it has failed data, honestly, probably the thing that is the hardest thing to solve me something like sales, a marketing moment, in theory, it’s, you know, if you can get the two people to be at a table with each other and have a conversation. Yeah. You know, you at least got the opposite opportunity to make that work. But data often is a much harder piece. You know, figuring out who to go after is actually I think one of the hardest things because especially when you’re starting out and you need to show return on your on your pilot. Far too often we would see companies come up with a list that may well have made sense but invariably, you don’t have the processes and structures in place because you haven’t been doing ABM to be able to scale an ABM programme quickly and so either. And so you fall into this weird middle ground where you’ve got a couple of 100 companies, let’s say, but you don’t yet have the processes in place to manage those couple of 100 companies effectively and worse, if you go for to smaller number like, say 10 or 50 companies, there’s a pretty high likelihood that those companies aren’t in a haunted market.

And so you get three months in and you realise that actually, you’re left with such a small number of companies that could be in market, that your projects never going to do a deliverable return. And so what we’ve seen work has been a couple of different methods. Either you go after enough companies, that you can be sure that you’re going to find some traction. And typically in that case, we really simplify the ABM programme. So it’s an advertising programme with the sales, follow up the sales development follow up type things I really simple, not very complicated ABM programme at all. And usually, when we do that, we’ll see an uplift in performance from the sales development team in that uplift alone will probably pay for the programme in itself. The other way to do it, and I know an awful lot of APM practitioners who recommend this way, which is to go after customers that you want to expand.

And that’s a good way to start to understand the processes you need to put in place internally to to actually have a successful ABM programme. And then from there expand on that new business. Now, that’s obviously a slower way to create an ABM programme that’s driving new revenue. So, again, it depends on your priorities inside your business. But the beauty of doing the customer upsell approach, as you typically I hope, know, an awful lot about those customers, much more than you would do about new prospects that you haven’t yet engaged with.

Mike: Interesting. So, I mean, obviously, there’s like a whole range of levels of complexity from targeting or existing customers at one end, which should be fairly easy. I mean, hopefully, you know who they are. Yeah, way through to building these these lists of a few 100. targets. Yeah. But But in terms of actually deploying the technology, I mean, how, how complicated is it to deploy something like radiate b2b that does, you know, the advertising and tracks people on the website and brings you these? It seems like it’s doing an awful lot? Is it that difficult to use?

Riaz: No, we are, we are full service. So we take all the pain away. That makes it easier for our clients. But it’s not exactly difficult from our side, in terms of getting things set up, it takes us 48 hours to get set up. You know, we create a tag which which our clients put on their website, that’s often the thing that takes the longest time in reality. And so then, you know, we we load up the system, we manage all the optimization of all the advertising, we make the recommendations around what our clients should do so so often when clients are starting, you know, they they get to be handheld by us right away from the programme.

Mike: So somebody could be up and running within a week. It sounds like yeah,

Riaz: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we’ve had clients come in. They’ve called us on the Monday, and by the following Monday, the campaign was live.

Mike: Wow. Okay. I mean, I hate to say it, but this level of support and the speed and the functionality, it sounds quite expensive. I mean, is it? Is it something that only the largest enterprises can afford?

Riaz: We set our target, if you like it, you know, our goal is to make this available for mid market to mid market companies selling to enterprise. So to give you an idea, spend wise you’re probably going to have to spend on the advertising side from 20 25k annually. So not so not not anywhere near the levels that you would normally need to get to to do an advertising campaign online. Annually anyway.

Mike: Yeah, so only a couple of 1000 pounds a month. Yeah. Wow. Okay. And then is there a fee to use the platform? Or is that covered by the app for that?

Riaz: So yeah, so I’ve, I’ve, I’ve simplified it all completely from a pricing standpoint. So that includes everything.

Mike: Wow, Okay. So, so definitely mid market companies, you know, if they’re selling something that’s worth a few 1000 pounds or dollars, then then clearly you can see the return coming very quickly. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Interesting. I’m very aware of time. I just interested. I mean, there seems to be so much we could talk about with the platform. Is there anything else you’d like to highlight or pick out in terms of what it does, that the listeners might be interested in?

Riaz: I think I think the really interesting thing for me, alongside the advertising is the amount of what’s being terms now intent data that sort of sits around all of this, it really interests me, we obviously we do website intent data they’re looking at on your website and identifying which companies are not converting but showing buying behaviour. But we also have the ability to identify who’s off your website and showing buying behaviour. And then you combine that with the advertising. And what’s really interesting to me is, is actually and again, this goes back to what we talked about earlier about this being all about multiple tools that you put together to allow you to have conversations with those enterprise companies and build those relationships is with the ability to identify topics, for example, or, you know, the advertising campaigns to be able to put different types of messages in front of a company, and then to start to see which types of content are causing that engagement, if you like that interaction, means that you start to be able to not just tell your sales development team who they should pick up the phone to, you know, which is in reality, one of the difficult most difficult things for self development teams, I think today is you can spend so much time going after companies and actually then going nowhere. And so if we can just move the needle so that they’re more likely to connect more likely to have a conversation. That’s great. But then when you get on the phone and have a conversation with them, if you’re doing it cold, knowing the angle by which you want to start that conversation, you know which topic which of the various USBs that you have as a business? Do you focus the conversation on? If you get that right, it means that you have a much better quality conversation with that person. And that obviously, is a really good step towards building a higher quality relationship over the course of what could be months.

Mike: That’s really interesting. I mean, the fact that intent data is not only useful for targeting but also determining topics and then and then helping the SDR when they’re on the phone. I mean, that I can see how you’ve built this platform around, kind of driving the advertising, working out what to say and who to say it to and also seeing whether it works by tracking on the website. That’s great. Yeah, and we are nowhere near finished. Now, I have a roadmap for many years. So if somebody was was interested, either in terms of what they’ve heard today, or you know, they’d like to talk to you about all these other exciting new developments in the future. And what would be the best way to get in contact with you rails. This?

Riaz: I mean, there’s the easy way via our website, there’s obviously a form there, but you can you’re more than welcome to come connect with me on LinkedIn, send me a message there. Or just send an email to Hello at Radio b2b dot com.

Mike: As Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time on the podcast rails has been fascinating. I wish we had more time we could have talked about a lot more. Thank you very much.

Riaz: Thank you, Mike. Lovely to talk to you as well.