Stefan Debois is the CEO and Co-Founder of Pointerpro, an assessment software that allows users to produce surveys and highly personalised automated reports. Stefan joins the Marketing B2B Technology podcast for a discussion on how the software works and how it can be leveraged for marketing and lead generation.

About Pointerpro

Pointerpro is an all-in-one assessment software platform where users can create online questionnaires and surveys that auto-generate personalised advice and reports into PDF.

About Stefan

Stefan Debois has a background in engineering and has over 15 years’ experience in Enterprise Software. Stefan’s experiences are foundational to Pointerpro, which he co-founded in 2012.

Time Stamps

[00:50.2] – Stefan shares what led him to co-founding Pointerpro and what the software does.

[08:41.2] – Stefan explains how Pointerpro can be used for lead generation.

[11:42.5] – What is the future of Pointerpro?

[17:43.4] – Stefan shares what marketing tactics are used to promote Pointerpro.

[22:50.2] – What is the best piece of marketing advice you’ve been given?

[24:45.3] – Where to go for more information and Stefan’s contact details.


“Double down on what works instead of trying to experiment with new things all the time. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do experimentation…but don’t fall into the shiny new object syndrome… double down on what works.” Stefan Debois, CEO and Co-Founder at Pointerpro.

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Transcript: Interview with Stefan Debois – Pointerpro

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Stefan Debois

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 Marketing B2B Technology, the podcast from Napier. Today, I’m joined by Stephen Debois. Stephen is the CEO of PointerPro. Welcome to the podcast, Stephen.

Stefan: Thank you for having me, Mike.

Mike: It’s great to have you on. And we’re talking a little bit about this later. But actually, it’s really interesting. You’re actually the CEO point Pro, we’ve recently signed up as a customer appointed Pro, like the product so much, we wanted to get you on to talk about the product. But before we dig into point Pro, perhaps we can just find out a little bit more about your background, Stephen. So can you tell me a little bit about your career?

Stefan: Yeah, sure. My educational background is engineering. I started immediately after my studies in consulting, and that’s where I stayed for about 15 years. I think I started with Price Waterhouse, in 98. That’s a long time ago, and then became Price Waterhouse Coopers. And then I switched to CSC, a computer science Corporation, which is now called the exceed or I mean, in that industry does quite a lot of mergers, and so on. Yeah, in consulting, I was mainly involved in large scale ERP implementations, like ERP, like management systems for companies like SAP and the like. And we did implement those systems with large multinationals like Nestle, or Atlas, Copco, and similar kind of company. But then I always had the feeling, or the wish to do something myself to start a company as an engineer to create a product and also create a company around that product. And then, of course, as I was, like, professionally involved with software, enterprise software, and that became the most logical choice also, back then, a lot of the barriers that you used to have to start a software company were becoming less important, like you didn’t have to buy your own servers, everything goes via the cloud cloud, and no expensive software, because a lot of development software was available open source.

Mike: And that’s interesting. And you’ve decided to start a company in Belgium and obviously, because you live there, but how is the startup culture in Belgium? I mean, it’s not necessarily as renowned as somewhere like Berlin, is it for startups?

Stefan: No, that’s true. But it’s not that bad. Sometimes complain a lot. But there’s a lot of initiatives to support startups, sometimes you have to find which initiative fits you the best. But even back then, talking about 14 years ago, we participated in an incubator programme from KBC. That’s a large Belgian bank. And I mean, it’s a huge, huge benefit for us, like boats, network, talking to people that have done certain things before, in different areas, legal, commercial, everything. But also just having the office space having, if you go to the coffee machine, that you have someone to talk to, it can sound maybe a small thing, but I think it’s important, versus before we were just at home, and the two of us, me and my co founder, and then yeah, we didn’t have these kinds of interactions. So I’m gonna say this. Since then the startup culture in Belgium has evolved to has become more like, more professional for the people who consider to start and would not, I would say that this should not be a barrier to start in Belgium.

Mike: That’s nice to hear. It’s good that Belgium is putting effort to supporting startups. So let’s move on to talk about PointerPro, you mentioned you wanted to start a company based around software development. What led you to decide to found point a problem in what drove you to look at research and surveys?

Stefan: Yeah, so first, I wanted to start something in the area of CRM, customer relationship management, because it was close to my experience as a consultant. And then I started doing some research about that. And then I saw like that it were like, a lot of competition in that area. So I gave up on that ID. But in the meanwhile, I started something else just to, like, get used to the state of the art technologies again, because I’m an engineer, but technology as of course, you’ve often so I started like a quiz app, just as I’ll be project to get used to the new programming languages and everything. And that was to call tablet quiz. It was also like the start of the iPad. So quizzes for iPad with like a nice visual, making use of all the possibilities of the iPad, I launched as Yaffe free products and that’s got some traction, not only from people who want to make a queries about her grandmother or so but also from professional companies, for example, us that used it for HR events and all the things after a while, and after also talking to these people, we decided to launch it as like a formal company. And then we called it survey anyplace that was the name before. PointerPro, of course, because it was like, besides quizzes, we want also to focus on surveys, and combination of quizzes and surveys. So then that was when the company started.

Mike: And so now, I mean, PointerPro does a lot more, doesn’t it, it does a lot more than just do surveys and quizzes.

Stefan: Yeah, exactly. So with the surveys, we, I think we had a good start, because we want to make the surveys more interactive, and more like, we want to improve the experience from the respondents. And then also, as a result, get better and more data. For the ones that organise the survey. And beginning we had some traction went well. But then after a while, we have seen that there was a lot of competition on that market. It’s kind of a commodity survey or survey software. So we knew, according to the startup logic, that we had to find a niche that we had to find product market fit, so not just surveys of everybody, sometimes you try, like a certain thing that you want to do, and that you only see that it’s not working, then you have really invested some that some time and effort in it. That’s why it took from 2012 to 2019. So seven years, that’s a long time. I mean, of course, we had customers as well, but the Dakotas, not really spectacular 2019 VM, we have editor, he bought a functionality so that you don’t have like only questionnaire. But that’s after having completed the questionnaire, that respondent gets a customised report like a personalised report depending on the answers that he or she has given in the questionnaire. And those that was really the killer functionality, or the combination of those two, the questionnaire and report that we needed to find that product market fit.

Mike: That’s fantastic. And I mean, just to explain to people what the report does, can you give us some examples of how your customers are using this reporting function? What are they actually doing with it?

Stefan: Yeah, yeah, for example, the common goal is always to automate it twice. Before we deserve it was more like data collection. But now it’s to collect the data, that’s a first step. But then the data is used to get some, or to extract some customised advice. Like, for example, financial advice, we have a customer of ours, where’s the website, free financial It’s worth looking at it, it’s us customer. And there’s financial assessment, you enter your data, like your income assets and other details. Now you get the personalised financial advice plan, which can say like, you have to go for this kind of investment, or that kind of investment ends on that quite details. And of course, in that plan, there’s also links to other third party vendors who can help you and to implement that advice. So that’s one example. Although examples are like cybersecurity, maturity assessments, but also HR. Some assessments have often asked year to date HR, but HR is a minority, but still an important use case like wellbeing assessments, psychological assessments, and so on.

Mike: And I think one thing a lot of companies are doing in the B2B sector is they’re using these on my reports or diagnostics, to actually generate leads, it’s all about lead generation, isn’t it?

Stefan: Yeah, in fact, we have both lead generation for I mean, our main focus for customers is professional services, it’s still quite bold, and professional service companies can use it for lead generation Yeah, before to give it to a prospect before someone is becoming a customer, then you can also use it during project delivery, to automate the advice delivery. But the degeneration is an interesting use case, in marketing, I think we have two trends, you have a trend towards a content marketing, like give more educational content to your customers. And then in that way, you educate them and you are seen as, as an authority. That’s one trend. And the second trend is personalization. I think, like thanks to data and all the information that you have about your audience, like to try to personalise the message as much as possible. So the assessments are really at the crossroads of those two trends, I think, because you give content. So when, for example, a cybersecurity assessment is on the website of of a consultant that is specialised in that area. People can also the question to invest some time, but they get some useful content in return, which is valuable and which also builds trust. So if your content and secondly I’ve also the personalization because you don’t have That’s the advantage against like, a generic white paper about cybersecurity. If I if as a business owner to read the white paper, but like 20 pages about cyber security, I’m not that interested in comparison to when I have like a one pager that says, okay, based on your answer, these are the three things that you have to focus on cybersecurity, and that’s exactly what we want to do with our tool.

Mike: I think that’s a great point, Stefan, I think that hugely personalised advice. I mean, traditionally, people would have done that by getting a survey, and then having somebody you know, manually go through, make the recommendations, maybe even meet with the client, now it’s automated. And it’s a really good way, I think, from my point of view, of helping people move along that customer journey a little bit quicker, by automating some of the stages that would have slowed down. So you know, when somebody is in that mindset about talking about their problems, then getting almost immediately some answers. So I really love that I think it’s a great feature points Pro.

Stefan:  Yeah, thank you. Yeah, we call it sometimes like, it’s fast onboarding, but also like in bits consulting, talk, time to business value, reduced time to business value, what you hear a lot about consultants from from customers is that it takes too long to get results really. And then like this initial face, like the collection of the SS situation, as we used to call it like the current situation, collection about data like and then also giving the first most straightforward advice. That can be of course, shortened thanks to a technology thanks to our tool.

Mike: Absolutely. And what about the future? I mean, is this the direction you see point a pro going in are some features that you know, you’re planning to add to enhance the performance?

Stefan: Yes, of course. So when our product vision is that every professional service company that in the future, will offer services to its customers, of course, but besides the services, we also offer a digital tool to their customers, like a kind of portal that a customer can use to log in, and that they can use to do three things, basically do self assessments, to get a personalised advice, and to monitor their performance. So that’s easy to say. But we are far from that. If you look at reality, where the consultants are, I mean, we are also customers, from various consultants in various areas. And those except for Deloitte, there is nobody that really has a bottle with like this kind of information that I can use to follow up these things to get advice, and so on. So there’s still a lot of work to do. So we want to help to reach that vision for the consultants More concretely, in our product, I think, especially for the performance monitoring, we still have some work to do. So we are going to work on the dashboarding, where the content of the dashboards will not only contain information from the assessments, but also from third party sources, because we see that sometimes the information has to be combined, the assessment is not the only source. So that can be done via professional services also by the customer. That’s important. And that’s the second important thing is integration, like integrations with other systems. We can do we already do it now. But we want to do it more. Yeah, easier. No coach, so that you can do it without an IT guy or girl. I mean, not that we don’t like it. But mostly it’s it, it slows down the process so that anybody can integrate our point of sale system will be their internal systems. That’s the second thing that we are working on. And then the third thing is also AI. Of course, we think that this will be part of every software tool in the future, including ours to increase productivity from the users. And we see it especially in kind of an assistant, when you’re making the assessment and also the report that it can assist in not only the content, but also design. For example, it could look at the design of your website, and you say like, Okay, I’m going to apply the design to the report. And then maybe it’s it’s 8% Ready, and then the 20 remaining pulsant has to be done by a human, but then still you have huge time gain, of course, thanks to AI. So that’s what we’re also looking into.

Mike: I love those features, I think like they’re, you know, really interesting. And the idea of being able to recreate these diagnostics and reports even more quickly, I think would be super useful. I mean, one thing I’m interested in is, you know, you’ve mentioned that a lot of your businesses in the consultancy sector, what we’re seeing with clients is a lot of product companies are actually trying to really grow their consultancy business. And so that they’re they’re moving away from being you know, purely driven by selling things and much more about you know, selling their knowledge and expertise. Are you seeing this and are you seeing this also drive more interest from you know, what might be seen as engineering or manufacturing industries? Yeah.

Stefan: What I see I mean in software Companies like like ours, like product companies. And these are not manufacturing companies because we don’t make physical things. Of course, what I see is that customers are more and more asking, like for combination of software and services, because I’m convinced the software on itself will not generate any business results as a standalone thing. I mean, you have to activate it, you have to make sure that your users are using it in the correct way. And I mean, of course, you can automate, but you still have to do often some, some services. And then like traditional companies, and then I was in consulting those big companies like SAP and other software companies, but you see now with Salesforce and even in tufts, but also, they do it with partners. So they say, okay, partner, and as a service, and we do the software. And it’s been you usually beneficial for those companies, because it allows them to scale. If you have the partner network, you don’t have to worry about or services, the partners can do it. And you can focus on as often are we as small company, I mean, we cannot yet afford like such a Partner Network. Also for partners, our software is too small to earn, like a lot of money. So then we tried to do the services ourselves. But these are only the services that are directly related to our software, we are not going to advise on content like on cybersecurity assessment, which questions to ask. So because we are not specialists, our customers are specialists, or we don’t want to take over the job of our customers. Of course, I’d like more technical things or design or so we do it also for them. And to have it all in one, that offering has been beneficial for us. Maybe there’s also like competitors who are not self funded. Or more under pressure of VCs. VCs don’t like services, or they only like, like 10% or so services. And those VC looking over our shoulder so we can do as much service as we want or I mean, we can do it independently.

Mike: That’s really interesting, actually, because you’re absolutely right. I mean, with startups, VCs are very reluctant to fund startups that are service driven, because they said it’s not being scalable. But when you get large, established enterprises, you know, multibillion dollar corporations, they’re all moving into the service industry. So it seems to be an interesting time where large companies want to get out of products and small companies want to get into them. I mean, thank you for talking a lot about pointer price stuff. And I’m interested in some other things as well. So I mean, one of the things that fascinates me is when we talk to guests on the podcast, is how they approach marketing. And I’m really interested from your point of view, what are the most effective tactics for promoting point a pro

Stefan: Traditionally, when we started, we have always focused on inbound marketing. So meaning that people find you online, and then come on your website and then see your offering and are interested and get in touch with you and then you can convert them into customer. So in my marketing, more specifically, search boats, organic search, when you just started, just like in the beginning, then it was more like personal network. That is what I would advise also to, to other starters. So personal network to add some large logos, hopefully you have some then in your network, and you can convert them. So we had, for example, big Belgian bank here as a customer in the early days. Now you use that to go beyond your network, because it’s important to go beyond your network pretty quickly. Because that proves that you can really make a business on top of it. And then yeah, we started as I said to be content marketing, slash SEO, search engine optimization. Back then it was maybe easier than now I mean, comes more difficult, of course, but we get some traction organically. And then afterwards, when we started the assessments in 2019, the value of our licence or high school became higher, then became worthwhile to do and paid advertising also, especially Google AdWords, some, some other other channels, also, Captiva for software vendors creating interesting, but then the combination of the two organic search, then paid search and then also like the third one is online presence, like for example, on Capitol Hill on G to this review site, and also on all the publications that you are like, literally everywhere, if you type like assessment software that you’re in the page results in organic results, and also on third party sites, like tryptophan and Jeetu. That’s where we want to be but then of course also other channels that you’re looking into now. We already doing those because we are quite dependent on inbound and there is also like it’s not infinitely scalable, because there’s only so many searches per month on on those keywords which are interesting for us. So now we are trying to do two additional channels like top of funnel more brand awareness and making sure that people know us before they need us. It’s easier said than done. So that’s the first one. And the second thing is on our existing customers trying to expand. For example, if we have Deloitte, Netherlands, as a customer tried to sell it also in the other countries for Deloitte presents, it would be a pity not to do that if you have these kind of customers, it’s easier to get business in existing customer than always having to acquire new customers.

Mike: I love the way you know, obviously, as an engineer, you structure that approach to marketing. And I think it’s great that it’s a very structured sequential approach and very interesting, really useful lesson for people.

Stefan: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, we try to also measure everything. That’s the advantage of course of digital marketing. We try to measure everything like the funnel, the conversions, and so on, depending on the source. That being said, we will also try to do some non digital things like I don’t know if you have heard of Jason Lemkin, in one of his podcasts, he talks about 10 marketing tactics that you should apply. And, to our surprise, we almost did none of them. The tour that we are going to do now is one that he said like is do weekly webinar. And do it about you’re not only about your product, I mean, sometimes about your product, sometimes about something like which is related to your product, but not immediately about your product. But do it weekly, we do it not bi weekly because of capacity constraints. And does matter if there’s only five attendees or so just do it consistently. Okay, for us it of course, we put it on YouTube, and we can do content, repurposing it all the types of content. So that’s one thing that we are doing now. And the second thing that we want to do, and that is a non digital thing is what he says is organising steak dinners. It doesn’t have to be steak. If you have some customers who are vegetarian. It can also be other kinds of dentists. But face to face, dentists, just small scale restaurants, up to three prospects and three customers together on a table together with of course, someone have a point of poor and no formal presentation, you can give some more informal presentation about the whole map. And that always works. And I also know it from my previous company from a consultant when you put prospects together with customers, it always works. Of course, you have to take happy customers, but otherwise it will not come and you invite them to stick them. So if you if your candidate we can we can have next. Can you on the next stage? Denisha

Mike: Oh, I love that. That’s, that’s great. I really appreciate you giving us your time. Stephen, there’s just a couple of questions, we’d like to ask everybody at the end of the podcast. And the first one is what’s the best bit of marketing advice you’ve ever been given?

Stefan: Probably need to double down on what works instead of trying to experiment with new things all the time. And that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do experimentation, I think we also do it. But yeah, don’t fall into the shiny new object syndrome. And most of the effort should go to double down on what works I think I

Mike: thought you were gonna say that it’s more nice restaurants. But so that’s great advice. I love that double down on what works. I remember the last question is, if you’re talking to a young person that was thinking about a career in marketing, what would your advice be,

Stefan: probably get some knowledge about technology, and even programming. But programming also, I mean, also didn’t didn’t know, quote, tools to design your own application, before getting into marketing and to create something yourself, maybe solving a personal problem or something else, and then go into marketing that will give you an additional advantage, I think so gets a little bit familiar with technology first. And then you go into marketing doesn’t of course mean that the basic principles of marketing, like with digital marketing, the basic principles of like knowing your customer, and also this move towards content marketing and try instead of trying to sell your product. Those principles are still very important. But I would Yeah, if you have the chance to get familiar with technology before, I would recommend.

Mike: That is great advice. And I’m also previously was an engineer, so anything to do with technology is a good thing. Stefan, I really appreciate it’s been fascinating. We’re really excited at Napier. We’re fairly early on in our journey with PointerPro and trying out some projects but you know, things that great if anyone listening to the podcast would like to try point Pro or find out more would be the best place to go. Yeah,

Stefan: for PointerPro is the website, point You can, of course, try it out. You can get a demo. You can also find information about modern underlying principles about how to automate your consulting. We have blog, articles, testimonials, and so on, that you can explore. And when you want to find out about me or get in touch, then you can also use LinkedIn and just find it through my name Stefan Debois. I will be happy to get in touch with listeners to help or to exchange experiences.

Mike: Stephen, I really appreciate it’s been a fascinating conversation. Thank you very much.

Stefan: Thank you for having me, Mike.

Mike: Thanks so much for listening to Marketing B2B Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier B2B dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.