Technically Speaking: An Interview with Martin Wise, CEO and Founder, RelPro
RelPro is a software as a service (SaaS) solution that delivers a unique combination of smart prospecting, quality leads and targeted intelligence for sales, marketing and business development professionals. The service analyzes data on more than 150 million business decision-makers and 7 million companies globally from trusted sources, social networks and the web. Through SaaS and Data Services solutions, RelPro enables organizations to find leads and generate actionable intelligence on executive-level relationships efficiently and systematically. RelPro is a trusted partner to leading companies, non-profits and universities. The company was recently ranked as a top 3 sales intelligence product for mid-market companies by G2 Crowd.
Congratulations on being named a top 3 sales intelligence platform! This is a competitive market, so how have you designed RelPro to deliver such great results for customers?
We are thrilled to be recognized, especially by our customers because, at the end of the day, that’s who we work for. We’ve always been extremely customer-focused – when we started RelPro in 2009 (before it was called RelPro), we built the business by doing data and analytics projects with customers as a way of discovering the real-world problems that they were facing in applying data and analytics to business development. We built RelPro’s technology to meet those specific needs.
Since we launched RelPro, many of our customers will tell you that we are very focused on providing them with great service through our Customer Success team, and also on hearing their feedback on the product. I would say 75 percent of the product enhancements we’ve made are because of customer suggestions.
What market gap did you find that lead you to found RelPro?
I’ve been in relationship management and business development for almost 20 years – what I’ve learned over that time is that when it comes to people data about business decision-makers there’s no one “nirvana” data source out there. Our customers have a need to reach multiple levels of management in different roles, functional areas and geographies (at both large public companies and SMEs). However, the executives they are most interested in targeting change as their business priorities evolve, which means they need a system that can keep up with this evolution and give them the information they want when they need it.
We built RelPro around four main objectives. First, we want to provide our customers with the best coverage of business decision-makers, so we partner with multiple data partners to offer the most complete demographics available. Second, we want to provide the market with the best quality of intelligence around those business decision-makers and so we only partner with firms that we know through experience provide the highest quality people data in the industry. Third, we want to save our customers time because the sales and account management process is extremely inefficient and time-consuming. We want RelPro to be so efficient and easy to use that our customers get “time back” because they can so quickly find the data they need for lead generation and prospect research. And finally, we want to provide great service – giving great service helps our customers succeed, and gives us great access to honest feedback on how we can improve RelPro and help them even more.
Going back to your early data and analytics research with customers – what are some of the patterns you observed over those four years of projects?
As we were doing the four years of data analysis engagements with customers we were building RelPro technology in the background. After my previous business experience building technology at Merrill Lynch to systematically “connect the dots” in the rarified air of Board and C-Level relationships, I quickly saw that in the B2B business development space there are requirements for much broader and deeper intelligence on business decision-makers. That’s when we started to see that there was just no single service that offered comprehensive quality data coverage of B2B targeted persona, and that finding intelligence on smaller company executives was so time-consuming. In year five, we pivoted from a service-based business to build-out our technology into a SaaS-based platform to address this need.
It’s coming up on one year since you started working with HG Insights. At the time, you announced that HG Insights’ detailed technology datasets would become the foundation for the RelPro Tech Search prospecting engine. The promise of the partnership is that RelPro customers would be able to find prospect companies by filtering on the technology they use. With nearly a year under your belt, how has it worked out?
The reason that we ended-up building Tech Search is because one of our clients expressed how much they loved RelPro, but wanted help to understand the companies they should be approaching based on technology currently being used. The next day, by sheer dumb luck, I had a meeting with Don Wynns, an old friend who had recently joined HG Insights, who was telling me about HG Insights and its technographics. So, that’s how Tech Search and our partnership with HG Insights was born.
We couldn’t be happier – we came to HG Insights based on our conversations with Don that proved HG Insights was delivering the highest quality technographic data and continuing to improve and expand coverage. Now a year into the partnership there’s no question that clients find it valuable – they refer to the ease of use with which they can build targeted lists and campaigns for companies using a particular technology and quickly identify key decision-makers at the organizations they’re targeting.
HG Insights is responsive to change in terms of any feedback we’ve had from our clients and are always very open and honest so that we can maintain our level of open communications with our customers as well. I think it’s fair to say that the coverage of companies in HG Insights’ product has grown by well over 50 percent over the last year.
In choosing vendors, given the fact that your company is so customer focused, are you able to find vendors that match that or is that a challenge and is it refreshing to find HG Insights, which matches your commitment to customer service?
When we’re selecting vendors, the most important thing is the quality of the data and the coverage of the data. Customer service from our vendors is not an absolute requirement, because we can compensate for it ourselves, but in the field we’re in, having a very good customer service relationship makes it all the more rewarding for both partners in being able to add more value to customers.
You personally give a lot of your time to charitable and non-profit activities including Family Promise, a national non-profit organization helping homeless families, CDP North America, which drives sustainable economies, and the American Friends of London Business School. What drives you to be so generous?
It’s important to me as a human being to give back and to share with others, or equally to support and recognize organizations that have been helpful to me during my career. My philosophy is that if you’re going to engage in giving back, it’s better to give back to a few organizations in a meaningful way rather than to spread yourself too thin. I’ve been involved with these organizations anywhere between eight to 15 years and it gives me great satisfaction to be able to help them all. Working with Family Promise has been life-changing for me as well as for the 60,000 homeless families we serve across the country each year – to hear so many stories of regular people who were caught by family homelessness where Family Promise helped get them get on their feet again is very inspiring.
What is your advice to others that maybe want to start on philanthropic path, but have so much going on in their lives and wonder how can they fit it in?
I would say that if you make the time to do something like this, then it pays you back in so many ways. The reality – in all honesty – is I get more back from doing this than I put in. On a human level, it’s so fulfilling to know you’re helping other people in such a directly meaningful way. On top of that, what all three organizations I work with have done is they’ve enabled me to meet people outside of my normal routine and that is so valuable particularly as a CEO and founder. You can’t know it all, you can’t do it all, and as you’re addressing new challenges it’s so helpful to be able to turn to other people for advice.
OK, RelPro is number 3 now, what new features and services are you working on to take you to number 1?
Having crafted the solution that we have – which is clearly resonating with people – our next step is to build out our enterprise platform. My whole career before RelPro was working in large enterprises – I know the difficulty of delivering and ensuring adoption of any large solution in an enterprise. RelPro is already successful in an enterprise setting, but we want to grow out our solutions for enterprise customers. We’re also adding another data and analytics layer that will save additional time for our users and make it easier for them to access the full potential of RelPro. Finally, we’re adding further workflow integration hooks with CRM and other productivity tools that customers are using on a daily basis.
Thanks, Martin, for taking the time to speak with us. More information on RelPro is available at relpro.com.