Small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) have a huge marketing problem. They need to grow, but often lack the budget, time or expertise to execute effective marketing campaigns.
eRelevance Corporation (@erelevancecorp), founded by legendary Austin entrepreneur Bob Fabbio (@bfabbio), has the solution. The company’s customer marketing automation service uses intelligent automation and predictive data to profile a business’ customers, launch targeted campaigns across online channels, and generate more sales.
The best part? This all-in-one marketing solution is affordable, running about a tenth of the labor costs that would otherwise be required for the campaigns eRelevance runs.
The solution is unique in that it focuses solely on “customer marketing automation,” or maximizing sales from existing customers. In this extended profile, we talk with eRelevance CMO Adam Weinroth (@aweinroth) about how the company generates an average 5X ROI for its customers—and how AI could play a large role in eRelevance’s future.
In a single sentence, describe eRelevance.
eRelevance is a multi-channel customer marketing automation service that gets SMBs more repeat business from their existing customers.
What is customer marketing automation?
Customer marketing is essentially marketing to your existing clients or customers. It’s different from typical acquisition marketing in that it’s focused on maximizing repeat business.
There are so many powerful, sophisticated marketing technologies out there right now—5,000+ according to Scott Brinker. But those tools are primarily designed and built for marketers. So when you want to bring marketing sophistication to a small business or even a local business, most of them don’t have expert marketers who know how to utilize the technology.
So the concept of customer marketing automation as a service—and subsequently our business—is premised on the idea that the “S” of the SMB segment needs not just the tools, but also the expertise and execution to make use of them, at a price point that a small business can afford.
Why the decision to ignore customer acquisition entirely?
What we’ve found in talking to literally thousands of small business owners is that there’s a misperception that you just need more customers in order to grow. While of course you’d want more customers, what you really make money from is sales.
In many verticals within the SMB segment, you can ring the register more often with the people who already know you, trust you and have bought from you previously. We’ve proven that out with our customers: the ROI on customer marketing is generally orders of magnitude greater than what they see on their acquisition marketing efforts, which in many cases are going completely unmeasured.
What verticals do you target now? Which ones will you target in the future?
We’re currently focused on the elective healthcare space, which has about $6 billion of addressable market annually for us. We’re also exploring other verticals that exhibit similar characteristics. Our intention is to be fully attacking a second vertical by next year.
How much do you charge per month? What is included in that?
Our monthly fee depends on the size of the customer’s database but ranges between $800 to thousands per month. Included in that service are data import and appending, continuous customer profiling for campaign optimization, templates customized for the brand, creation and execution of targeted campaigns across text, web, Facebook, Instagram, email and our unique conversational app, a private dashboard with campaign results, contact/response management, campaign insights and access to our dedicated team of marketing experts.
We actually tallied up what this would all cost a typical business if they were to pay an outside agency or consultant to do all of this on their behalf, and it comes out to nearly $10,000 per month in labor costs alone in many cases.
Walk us through how eRelevance works for customers.
The first step is sending us your customer database. We then clean it up and append it to get it ready.
Next, our team conducts a brief orientation session with the customer’s staff to get them familiar with what to expect and take them on a tour of their results dashboard.
Then we begin creating campaigns based on best practices, with review and input from the customer. We execute the campaigns on the customer’s behalf. The customer is able to login to the dashboard at any time to check in on campaign progress, overall results and, most importantly, handle the responses that come in.
In addition, our Customer Success team members have access to a very sophisticated analytics and insights dashboard that enable them to be prescriptive and, at some level, predictive about what campaign the customer should consider running next.
Those are all the steps that happen, but once we’re up and running the day-to-day experience for the customer is periodically checking in on results, following up on campaign responses from their customers and occasional collaboration with our in-house experts.
What results do customers see?
Our customers are focused on seeing campaign responses, and most of our customers see an immediate return on investment by the first campaign we run for them. On average, customers are seeing a 5X return every month.
Tell us some more about the solution's conversational app.
Our conversational app is very valuable to our customers because most small businesses can’t afford to develop their own mobile app. But it goes beyond just checking the box on having a mobile app. The app includes a chatbot that lets the end consumer learn and ask questions about topics of interest. The chatbot also asks questions to learn more about the consumer’s interests, which we can then use to better target campaigns.
The app is also a campaign channel for us—consumers can get notifications of new offers and promotions, and this performs extremely well. Because consumers have to download the app we also provide our customers with both online and offline promotional tools to steer their customers to the download.
What is eRelevance doing with AI right now?
Our intention is to deliver sophisticated marketing to small businesses that is ultimately predictive. There are two main areas of AI innovation we’re focused on right now.
The first mostly relates to the chatbot which I discussed.
The second is evolving our campaign creation process to one that is more predictive and ultimately even more automated than it already is. Up until recently, our client success teams have relied on data-driven insights to then make recommendations for the next campaign to our customers. But now we’re starting to leverage our own AI to not just identify likely high-impact campaign opportunities, but also predict how many responses a recommended campaign is likely to yield. We even have an opportunity to take that one step further and predict a dollar-level outcome. We’re still testing out these capabilities, but the results and simulations we’ve run so far are very encouraging.
By further automating the definition and creation of campaigns and being able to predict economic outcomes, we’ll be delivering a capability to small businesses that they’d never be able to get their hands on otherwise.
How many customers do you currently have?
We’ve closed nearly 900 customers.
Tell us about your CEO.
Our CEO and co-founder, Bob Fabbio, is a legendary Austin entrepreneur who has founded and built multiple industry-leading healthcare and technology companies. He’s been a CEO, board member and VC for almost 30 years. Bob’s experience with his previous startup, White Glove Health, gave him a closer look at both the SMB segment as well as the healthcare sector. That experience planted a few important seeds for Bob in discovering how underserved many businesses are when it comes to customer marketing, especially in healthcare.
Since Bob is a technologist, a CEO, an investor and a perpetual student of how industries work, building a company that’s focused on solving such a gigantic problem was pretty irresistible for him—and he’s attacking it with the same gusto as he did with his first startup.
What's your current projection for 2017 recurring revenue?
We’re projecting reaching somewhere in the $10 million neighborhood this year. There’s a lot of excitement here about reaching that tremendous milestone in less than three years of selling.
Company Spotlight: eRelevance
Paul Roetzer is founder and CEO of Marketing AI Institute. He is the author of Marketing Artificial Intelligence (Matt Holt Books, 2022) The Marketing Performance Blueprint (Wiley, 2014) and The Marketing Agency Blueprint (Wiley, 2012); and creator of the Marketing AI Conference (MAICON).