Ed Barrow is the co-founder and CEO of Idio. Here we learn about how Idio started, the problem that it solves and why B2B organizations use the Demand Orchestration platform to deliver 1:1 relevance at global scale.
Jonny Rose: Ed, tell us about Idio and a little bit about yourself and why you were inspired to start it.
Ed Barrow: Idio was started several years ago to essentially “power the perfect conversation”. I’ve spent half my life in the world of predictive analytics, in fact, I’m a third generation data scientist: My grandfather was an innovator in radar technology and my father founded a data analytics startup so I quite literally grew up with the concept of trying to identify signal from noise. In early 2010, I saw a huge opportunity and that’s why we founded Idio.
Rose: What was the opportunity?
Barrow: There has been a dramatic change in how people make decisions; we as individual consumers have completely changed the way we purchase goods and services – a huge amount of our research or decision-making process is now done online.
As a result of this complete change in buyer behavior, I saw an opportunity to improve two things: one, the customer insight that you can derive by actually understanding what people are researching, instead of relying on someone’s age, you understand what might be going in their life from the content they’re consuming and using to research online.
The second opportunity was then to actually improve that customer experience; instead of focusing on products, we use content to actually help people make a decision and ultimately provide a more relevant and more profitable customer experience.
“I quite literally grew up with the concept of trying to identify signal from noise.”
Rose: Idio often speaks of something called “content intelligence”; it describes itself as a Content Intelligence platform. What does that mean?
Barrow: We think content is incredibly important as part of a customer experience. What content intelligence is there to do is to leverage that content to help you understand and influence the customer relationship.
There’s two ways of thinking about “content intelligence”: the first is allowing you to derive intelligence from the content your customers read. By being able to track what content individuals are consuming, Idio builds up intelligence such as what a person is actually interested in, the topics which are driving their current decision-making, and what are they actually thinking about as a result of choosing to read that content.
Then the second element is an intelligent using of that content to help them make that decision and then ultimately deliver a more relevant customer experience by making sure we’re intelligently putting the right is content in front of the right person at the right time. Bringing those two elements together is what we call content intelligence.
Rose: Who in the modern enterprise can benefit from the sort of intelligence that Idio is returning?
Barrow: We’ve built Idio to be applicable across the entire customer journey. A lot of technologies really focus around one, perhaps two, departments within an organization, but from a customer’s perspective they don’t ‘experience’ three or four departments – they’re there to engage one joined-up organization. Idio can deliver value across every single customer touch point.
Firstly, we enable marketers and content producers to understand what content they need to produce. All marketing is really focused around delivering content to prospects and customers, so knowing actually what content to publish is incredibly important. Our technology is able to predict what you should produce for maximum commercial return.
Secondly, for digital customer experience teams, we enable them at an individual customer level to deliver that right content to the right person and, incredibly importantly, we do that in a fully automated way. There’s no need for categorization, decision logic or business rules – we automate the end-to-end process of delivering the right content to each individual, whether it’s a visitor, prospect, or customer, and as a result make that relevant personalized customer experience scalable to hundreds or thousands or millions of customers.
Finally, Idio delivers that same intelligence to your sales reps, advisors and customer service reps so that as the customer moves from digital and marketing environments over to person-to-person environments like sales and service, you can still continue that conversation.
It’s really important to be able to gel all three of these parts of the customer journey together so that what we learn about a customer within marketing and digital, can help inform and provide the context to have a really relevant sales conversation to deliver a better customer experience and ultimately close more business. The intelligence we build up about what a person is interested in and what to offer next in terms of content and product, can be used in marketing, sales and service.
Rose: So, you’ve spoken about how content intelligence can be used by three very distinct departments, but are there particular sectors or industries which are better placed to make use of content intelligence?
Barrow: We focus on industries and helping clients where content is intrinsic in the customer relationship and to the decision-making process. Typically, that’s where there’s really a high-value, long-term customer relationship where content has become the vehicle for an organization to demonstrate their expertise in the market, their understanding of the decisions that need to be made, and they’re using content across the entire customer experience to help influence that decision.
“The intelligence Idio builds up about what a person is interested in and what content and product should be offered next, can be used in marketing, sales and service.”
These are places where big significant purchases and a long-term commitments are being made, and because of that, the relationship really is built around trust and expertise and content is an incredible vehicle for helping organizations to develop that robustly and demonstrate their expertise. Specifically, we have found that Content Intelligence is an incredibly valuable technology in financial services – particularly asset management and wealth management, in enterprise technology such as software and telecom markets, and also in business media and financial research where content has always been fundamentally core to their product.
Rose: It’s quite interesting that when you’re speaking about the different sort of sectors that are using content intelligence – you spoke of enterprise technology on one hand, and then on the other you’re citing asset management. Two very different industries: are you able to drill down a bit more and actually say how these industries are using content intelligence?
Barrow: Enterprise technology is all about growth at almost all cost, and so as a result content is part of the core strategy to drive prospects down the marketing and sales funnel, and being able to efficiently and effectively create more leads with higher quality is the name of the game.
Content intelligence helps these companies drive conversion down the marketing and sales funnel, drive more anonymous businesses to become known prospects by delivering the right gated content like white papers to visitors to the website, and accelerating the process by getting known prospects into marketing-qualified highly contextualized sales leads, and then finally by enabling inside sales team development team or the account executive team to follow up on those leads and have the right conversation to quickly close business. So in an environment which is all about growth, that content intelligence becomes incredibly important to help optimize that marketing sales funnel.
Over in financial services, it is a completely different situation. Their market is a defined size and scale, and as a result is much, much more competitive. There’s not much green space in terms of new opportunities, so content in this market is much more about driving thought leadership and demonstrating expertise, by cutting through the noise with content such as market analysis, market news, investment research. What content intelligence does is help asset managers understand exactly what content to produce based on both what customers are interested in, but also Idio can actually track and analyze what their competitors are talking about. In a hugely competitive market, there’s a lot of noise and a lot of content being delivered; we often hear asset managers talk about ‘the content marketing arms race’, where everybody’s trying to out-compete each other on the production and delivery of content, therefore it’s incredibly important to know what topics to focus on, what topics are really resonating with the audience, and then making sure you get that content to those people in the most relevant and timely way possible.
Rose: Could you expand a bit more on that term “content marketing arms race” – and what it’s implications are in the financial services world?
Barrow: Asset management and wealth management is a market undergoing a huge change at the moment, not just from these fintech disruptors that everybody likes to talk about but actually a very sizable shift in the transfer of wealth going between different generations. As a result, they’re all going through a process of transforming their digital experience and customer experience, and they are investing heavily in content production such as traditional fund data PDFs and really really in-depth economic financial research. But they are now also producing a lot more market news than analysis, so a huge number of people have been talking about Brexit, and the latest goings-on in any personal finance and economics and wider economic markets.
“We’ve built Idio to be applicable across the entire customer journey.”
At the same time, smaller organizations are starting to look at creating financially goal-driven content to help people make financial decisions about investment choices and risk allocation. Therefore, there’s been an explosion in the types, varieties and formats of content being produced that are still ultimately going to the same-sized market. The result is a real inbox overload on the client’s side where they’re being constantly bombarded with the latest research everyday.
It’s just an overwhelming information overload in this market and therefore for a client to really make that decision, any asset manager has to be very versatile about what they choose to write about, what they choose to focus on and how they get the right message into the inbox of their important clients as they’re making a decision. This is why Idio is a great fit for these firms.
Rose: I know that has Idio has got an interesting way of enabling clients to “beat the competition”. How exactly are financial services firms using content intelligence to monitor competitors, what are they monitoring and what sort of things are they learning – what insights or intelligence are they getting from what they monitor?
Barrow: Absolutely. The ability to monitor competitors is something we developed directly in partnership with a number of our financial services clients.
Traditionally, our technology has been directed at tracking individual prospects customers and how they interact with our clients’ own content. What we started to realize was that there’s a lot of value in being able to use that data in conjunction with a better understanding about what others are talking about and publishing in the market. So, a lot of our clients are using content intelligence to track the content production of all of their significant competitors.
They can use that insight to judge what content areas to focus on. They can then decide whether to go out there and pick a battle with competitors around a specific subject matter, or find an angle to differentiate themselves or identify a huge greenfield opportunity where their customers are incredibly interested in but few other competitors are talking about it. As a result using Idio gives our clients a huge competitive advantage for them to capitalize on and cut through the noise.
Rose: Your company have developed this thing called content intelligence and you are spanning several sectors; enterprise technology and financial services, B2B media. What are the lessons that have surfaced in this time of developing this very interesting technology?
Barrow: I’d say a few important things that have come out of the years we’ve been doing this.
First of all, it is amazing to me now just how important content has become to how we all make decisions. If you go back a decade or so, content was a small part of the marketing strategy toolkit, now it’s become really core to a lot of businesses; from the very first touch, from the very first page that someone lands on your website, through to a content-enriched enabled sales conversation to providing support and service material. It’s also amazing to see how far content has pervaded the customer journey.
Secondly, with people continuously producing content, it’s more important than ever therefore, with the information overload that’s out there, to be able to understand what each individual customer needs and produce and then deliver content to the right person.
Thirdly, the reward for the client is a very relevant useful experience and for the organization a much more profitable customer engagement, and because it’s so important to understand and deliver that relevant experience, it is fantastic to have platform like content intelligence that can deliver on that and that’s why what we’re doing is so powerful in the market.