Recently, the ForesightOne Team had a great opportunity to sit down with Greg Segall, CEO of Alyce. Headquartered in Boston Massachusetts, Alyce is looking to innovate how marketers employ gifting via their AI-backed SaaS platform. For the Alyce team, gifting represents a unique opportunity for marketers: the chance to concretely invest in individuals on a personal level. As such, it’s a dynamic and malleable means to build trust and lay the foundation for long-lasting customer relationships.
But as Greg explained to us, that opportunity is largely being squandered by businesses that leverage gifting, due to a lack of personalization, an over-reliance on automation, and a refusal to understand what messages different gifts send to different customers at different stages in their journey.
ForesightOne: How would you describe Alyce, what you’re looking to accomplish, and what needs the company meets?
Greg Segall: If you look at the overall mission here, it’s: how can we humanize B2B relationships.
We want B2B sales reps to view Alyce as their shortcut to knowing what each prospect is interested in and how to put a smile on that person’s face through gifting.
Companies use us to generate and accelerate pipeline and think of us as sales-executed direct mail and swag. We’re using the world of physical goods to create a “surprise and delight” experience that leaves prospects thinking “Wow, this rep is so thoughtful!”
ForesightOne: What are your primary industries?
Greg Segall: We’re focused on mid-large tech companies currently but can also be used in other industries because we have compliance capabilities that are necessary for more regulated industries (like gift cost limits and audit capabilities).
ForesightOne: Was there a moment at the beginning when you recognized that this need was underserved, or a moment down the line when you realized “this can definitely work”?
Greg Segall: We did a lot of market research as we launched the company and learned that so many people hated being spammed by vendors, yet that’s the exact way they were themselves doing their prospecting. People were spending a ton of money on random swag items and yet people throw 90% of it away. We thought—“This whole direct mail and swag thing is totally broken, and we can build the engine to fix it!”
The responses that people have to getting gifts that are based on their own personal interests—it’s incredible. Words like, “I love this…this is the most thoughtful outreach I’ve ever received…wow.” We’re helping companies create the quality experiences that they’ve wanted to but haven’t been able to scale.
ForesightOne: Do you think there’s a different way that B2B gifting needs to be personalized in comparison to recommended products/deals on a retail site or recommended content from a company blog?
Greg Segall: I think that the experience that we all have when using products like Amazon and Netflix has shaped a new expectation—it’s all about my interests. Yet that’s not what is happening today in the B2B world—it’s a lot of swag (aka Stuff We All Get) and direct mail that’s plastered with the company’s theme, not a theme that’s actually about the interests of the recipient. Alyce is part of the B2B marketing trend toward “about them” approaches to personalization that we see through B2C interactions.
ForesightOne: If I was a marketer and I was going to deploy Alyce, what does that look like on my end?
Greg Segall: We’re seeing a lot of ABM-focused marketing programs that rely on a tighter alignment between sales and marketing than ever before. In the case of Alyce, we’re a program sponsored and administered by marketing and executed by the sales team. After all, it’s the sales relationships that we’re trying to help foster!
Onboarding at Alyce is a lightweight, 2-4 week installation/configuration ending in a training session with the sales team—we typically hear reps giving their marketing teams awesome feedback about helping them get into previously silent accounts within the first two months of signing on with Alyce.
As with any successful program, we have dashboard views that allow marketing teams to report up to the CMO and out to the sales organization about how well the program is performing. We also have views that help reps see how their gifting efforts match up compared to others in their organization, which helps drive performance.
ForesightOne: What do you think are the most common misconceptions about gifting as a marketing solution?
Greg Segall: One of the most common misconceptions is that gifting can’t scale. Many reps have done one-off gifts before and had success. Most people know that gifting at the right time in the selling interaction, which we call Pivotal Moments™, can make someone be open to a meeting or advancing a conversation.
How to take that approach from one account to 2,000 accounts hasn’t been possible before Alyce. So marketers think, “we need to get physical goods into the sales interaction and the only way to do it is to buy 1,000 of an item and send it out because we can’t do 1:1 at scale.”
We love talking to marketers who have that very understandable misconception because when they see how to actual deliver that level of 1:1 personalization of their physical sends in a scalable way, they kind of freak out with excitement.
ForesightOne: Can you describe some of the more prominent examples of bad behaviors when it comes to marketing and gifting?
Greg Segall: The most typical behavior we see is that people do direct mail campaigns to be too much of an advertising channel rather than a sales performance tool. It starts with what you are measuring—are you looking for this to be generating dollars of pipeline, or are you thinking of this as a low-cost per impression channel?
If you care about pipeline, you’re investing into highly emotive forms of physical goods that resonate with the individual’s interests. If it’s about brand impressions, it’s cheap pens with your logo or swag bags for people that don’t really have an affinity for your brand (hence the 90% of swag that gets thrown away).
As marketing has been asked to be involved further into the buyer’s journey, it’s more important that the deeper funnel metrics of pipeline dollars determine a program’s success rather than brand impression metrics.
ForesightOne: If you have a long-standing or ongoing customer relationship, and you’re looking to use gifting, how would you advise marketers on varying your gifting strategy at different Pivotal Moments™ so that it doesn’t seem like over-saturation?
Greg Segall: People want to feel like you’re interested in them and that you took the time to get them something that they find valuable. If they are in an early interaction with your brand, and therefore not yet a die-hard fan, gifting should be solely about their interests and not include your own branded swag. As a buyer becomes a fan, swag then becomes part of the mix. Our platform helps facilitate this good gifting etiquette.
I think of it similar to being a fan of a band. If I don’t know the band, am I going to wear their shirt or put their sticker on my laptop? No way! Marketers should think of their own prospects and customers similarly. The power of swag is when it gets worn and used so that other people see it. You can’t get that behavior if people aren’t raving fans.
ForesightOne: So, if you’re a marketer who has an MQL that you want to make an SQL, could you use Alyce to reward or thank that customer for added engagement--such as a 15-30 minute phone call?
Greg Segall: Absolutely! The door opener Pivotal Moment™ is the most popular use case for Alyce. Whether it’s a cold lead or an MQL, the problem many companies have is how to engage with this person to tip them over to a qualification call.
ForesightOne: Compared to other marketing strategies, how does gifting look spend-wise?
Greg Segall: We’re normally working out of marketing team’s direct mail and swag budgets, which can be large, especially when they have an ABM strategy in place (because their own customers are high value and have purchasing committees).
Because Alyce doesn’t have the large up-front inventory cost of the way these programs are traditionally run, we’re able to have an impact on a broader set of accounts than those programs impacted previously with the same budget.
ForesightOne: Where do you see other vendors failing to innovate and keep up with evolving needs?
Greg Segall: I think that many companies struggle to build sustainable relationships with their prospects. They intuitively know that taking a “one size fits all” blast approach to any of their outreach, whether it’s emails, calls or direct mail doesn’t yield that well, but they don’t how else to play the game. Many vendors right now are exasperating the existing behavior that has resulted in people tuning out and program yields being really poor. Blast more generic emails. Call more people with the same script. Send people something that allows us to check the box off to say we’re doing the direct mail channel. It’s quantity over quality.
The innovation is in leveraging tech to create quality rather than quantity in the prospecting interactions. That’s why our customers are using Alyce.
ForesightOne: Do you think there are any MarTech trends that are being overestimated in their usefulness? Is there something that you believe is being underestimated, that deserves a place in this pantheon?
Greg Segall: I do think AI has become such an overused buzzword. So much of the time “AI,” just isn’t AI, no matter who says it. There are many companies who will say that they have “true” artificial intelligence, but we’re five or ten years away from the point where that’s actually the case. When that does happen, that’ll be an interesting moment for marketing.
I think that an understanding of the psychology of human interaction is underestimated and will become increasingly important as companies realize that the way to build customers is through trust, reciprocity and likeability—not just brand impressions or other “vanity metrics” that have taken over marketing in the digital age.
ForesightOne: What is the most frustrating gift that you’ve received from an organization, and how would you tell that gift-giver to change their strategy?
Greg Segall: You have to understand who I am first, because this is the human side. I’m a health nut. I’m also a gym nut, and I like to wear between a small and a medium sized shirt.
At my previous company, one of the partners sent us expensive Patagonia jackets with their logo on it. But they sent it as a large, because they didn’t ask my size. They also packed the entire box with chocolates.
Now, the package came while I was on vacation, and when I got back the chocolates had completely melted through and ruined the jacket. This means they wasted something around $300. I’d been delivering them probably one million dollars in revenue, and that just made me feel crappy about our partnership.
If they would have instead learned about my preferences, or better yet given me the power to choose what I could get for myself, that would have been a much more thoughtful and useful gift for me—and I would have even touted their logo because I was a fan!
Conclusion: For Marketers Looking to Optimize Gifting, Alyce is Wonderland!
As Greg carefully laid out to us, gifting--while a powerful marketing strategy--is largely misused. For enterprises that fail to adequately personalize and humanize their gifting, the resource becomes a black hole for ROI--using up funding without producing meaningful results. Marketers must drop the "corporate" from "corporate gifting." That humanization must be front and center.
With Alyce, marketers have a new solution to ensure that their gifting is accurate, focused, and dynamic. Understanding the nuances of a relationship at different points in time--as well as understanding the specific wants of the target--are vital to delivering relevant gifts that build bonds. Alyce's interface, and AI-backed platform ensure that executing based on these principles is easy for every department of your business.
While Greg covered a lot of ground, there are several takeaways that can't be ignored:
1) More Isn't Always Better: Over-saturation of marketing channels leads to annoyed clients, not rich relationships.
2) Personalization Must Be Personal: Businesses that over-rely on automation when it comes to gifting will make potential customers feel under-valued.
3) It's Not About You: Marketers employing corporate gifting cannot think about what they would want. They must take the time to learn what their target will legitimately enjoy.
Learn More About Alyce and the Art of Effective Gifting!