Monday, October 1, 2007
Interview with Olivier Chaine, SalesBuilder
One of the results of the success of local companies in the online advertising and lead generation business (ie. LowerMyBills, Pricegrabber, and others) is a crop of new companies coming from people who have taken that experience and started their own firms. One of those people is Olivier Chaine, CEO of SalesBuilder (www.salesbuilderonline.com), which is developing behavioral target marketing engines for online web sites, including Intuit and Citrix Systems. Ben Kuo spoke with Olivier about his firm.
What is the idea behind Salesbuilder?
Olivier Chaine: The core of Salesbuilder is a personalization engine, where we're taking it to a whole other level. We're using content and the power of behavioral marketing and tracking to provider personalization of the whole experience. It's the next revolution on the web. We provide the ability to create personal conversations with users, and engage them in an experience which requires personalization--not based on form fields and questionnaires--but based on behavioral patterns. My background is, prior to doing this, I was on the original team at LowerMyBills.com. What we found that was the only way to survive in the era of 2000-2001 was focusing on conversion rate. It was a matter of creating the right experience, for the right people. I also worked at Ticketmaster and Fox Sports--everyone has the same problem, which is how do I target an entire experience around each individual person? It's a problem everyone is wishing they could solve. People don't know how to tackle it, much less invest in technology to do that. Our platform is a turnkey system to do that personalization and conversion optimization.
What's your background, and how did you decide to start SalesBuilder?
Olivier Chaine: It was interesting. I had spent two to three years at LowerMyBills. We built the team, and we had gotten to the point of $30M a year, pretty close to break even, but I was ready to take a break. I started talking to companies like Ticketmaster, and found that they were experiencing the same thing I had experience as VP of Web Operations at LowerMyBills, which is you have to target the entire experience of who someone is, and what their interests are, not just targeting an individual offer. It was a huge problem at Ticketmaster, which was how to optimize that experience. I have also worked at Fox Sports, and at other startups, and it didn't matter what size of company and technology team, it was always a very painful process. I saw a great market opportunity here, and said I don't want to keep developing this for individual companies.
Who is using your products?
Olivier Chaine: Really, the focus of our company early on was lead generation. We were focused on lead generation, because of the challenging, complex problems to help marketers around there. There are lots of e-commerce tools, but no tools that bring a level of targeting and optimization for lead generation. The range of companies we work with include lots of technology companies, hardware and software companies, and lots of financial services companies such as banks, mortgage companies, and insurance companies. We also work with other industries, in real estate and automotive. The value of the incremental lead, a personal relationship is critical. If you can begin implementing personalization, your conversion rates go through the roof. For example, if your site has a two percent conversion rate, which is roughly the industry average--even if you have a 10% conversion rate, 90% of the people coming to your site are not converting. They're falling right through the sieves. By understand and profiling those people, targeting people and your message, and letting the platform optimize those profiles, we're able to take your conversion rate to 20 to 40%. We've had clients who've had a 200 to 300% increase in lead captures. It's really amazing. We didn't expect that when we started the company.
What's technology behind it - how are you doing the tracking, especially with concerns about privacy?
Olivier Chaine: A lot of companies have tried to figure this out in respect to privacy. We're tracking over 400 data points -- where a user is coming from, how they are navigating through a web site, what kind of information they are looking at, and what calls for action they are responding to. By looking at and synthesizing this information, we get a very accurate picture of who this person is--even after only two to three clicks. You can then target the experience, and provide the highest likelihood to convert individuals into a lead, and into a sale. Our technology is focused on capturing information on client and network sites--we are not spidering the web, or watching a user's activity across the web. What is most important, and relevant to a marketer, is how to personalize the experience for an individual. That means attitudes on the company, and its product mix. On-site profiling is really the picture of who that person is, and how to optimize that experience.
How long has the company been around, and how are you backed?
Olivier Chaine: We started the company in 2004, we had our first client by Thanksgiving of 2004. We're privately held and funded at this point.
It's interesting to see the number of lead generation related firms in Los Angeles, it seems like there are quite a few...
Olivier Chaine: I grew up in the Bay Area, and moved here almost 20 years ago. I've worked evenly up there and down here, and I'm up there one or twice a month. When you look at lead generation companies, the culture here is amazing for building a lead generation firm, and also for building the technology around lead generation. People are really focused on what is effective and useful from a marketing perspective, and are interested in driving revenue and conversion rate. There's a number of people here with experience in that area. Up in the Bay Area, there's a difference in how companies, clients, and venture capitalists seem to look at the opportunity.