Epi 18: Generate Repeat Buyers for Your Business Using AI – Jerry Abiog, CMO of Standard Insights

JC: Well, welcome everyone to another episode of the Future of BizTech. I am your host, JC Granger. I have the pleasure of having with me, Jerry Abiog who is the co-founder and CMO of Standard Insights. Jerry, thank you so much for coming on this show. Tell everyone a little bit about yourself and the company.

Jerry: Yeah, JC. Thanks for having me on and giving me the opportunity to tell my story. So for your listeners out there, my name is Jerry Abiog and I am one of the four co-founders of Standard Insights. And how I got here, how I arrived to this moment, was I’ve got 25 years of sales and marketing experience and roughly 10 years ago, I left the corporate world. And at that time I went out on my own and started my own consultancy, helping software companies with sales and marketing initiatives. And along the way, I’ve had some great clients that have had successful exits and then not-so-great clients who are bust. And as I say in life, you learn from failure.

Jerry: And one of those clients, one of my big failures was I was working for a startup, helping them with sales and marketing. It was my first experience with an AI and machine learning startup. And like I mentioned before, it was another bust. But what I learned, two key lessons I learned back then is number one, it doesn’t matter what software you have, or you could have the best software on the planet; it has to be easy to use and solve your potential customer’s business problem. And number two, there was something bubbling beneath the surface with regards to AI-driven applications. So much so there was a study put out by Grand View Research a few years ago that the AI and machine learning industry is predicted to grow to roughly $500 billion in five years.

Jerry: So during this time, as my client was imploding, I was wondering what to do next. And then through serendipitous events, through mutual friends, I met my future co-founder. He was visiting from Chennai, India, visiting Atlanta. He used to live here in Atlanta and he pitched me this idea that he had, this prototype he had of this AI software that could help businesses drive repeat buyers. Mind you this gentleman’s experience was heavy-handed. He used to work here in Atlanta as a technological architect for General Electric and knowing what I learned from my past failure, I liked the guy, we got along well and thought his idea had enough merit to take it to the next step.

Jerry: So I took his idea, flew from Atlanta to Denver, to the outdoor retail show. When I returned back to Atlanta a week later, he’d secured two data clients. So that was how Standard Insights was born, and knock on wood, we’re off to the races.

JC: That’s awesome. Well, so tell the audience a little bit about what are the main one or two problems and pain points that you guys solve and for which is there any specific industry that it helps more than others? Things like that.

Jerry: So, number one, what do we solve? We help businesses drive repeat buyers using artificial intelligence and number two-

JC: That’s a great one liner by the way. I love that. Repeat buyers using artificial intelligence-

Jerry: It says so on the business card. And number two it’s industry agnostic. So as long as you have data, we can help you. Now we started off in the e-commerce realm because it was the easiest to get a foot in the door.

JC: A lot of data there.

Jerry: A lot of data there, and e-commerce companies were the early adopters of AI. But now, as we’ve seen, because of what’s happened with COVID and the idea of digital transformation, now the concept’s really taking off.

JC: I imagine a lot of SAS companies would be big for you too, because they have, like software companies, because they have a lot of data coming in and out from customers.

Jerry: Yeah, absolutely, but what we’re seeing a lot now with everything that’s going out there that needs help or the restaurants and brick and mortar stores.

JC: Let me ask a question. What about financial or regulated industries, like legal or financial, because I’ve always been curious where AI maybe overlaps or conflicts with a regulated industry, what kind of experience do you have in that? That’s just for me curious.

Jerry: Yeah, so funny you say that. So one of our other co-founders, he was talking to a potential maybe channel partner of ours that has worked in the financial industry. So I’ll let you know because the idea is there. They’ve got customers, they’ve got data that needs to be segmented, but you’re right. There’s a whole another level of regulations that you have to abide by. So I’ll shoot you an email once I find them.

JC: I really am curious because we’ve had some clients from those industries and they’re more challenging than others because of the regulations. You have to jump through so many hoops. I mean, I remember we had one financial client we did really well for, but I mean, the process of even just getting, let’s say an article submitted for them was insane. They had to go through a whole regulator who had to read every single thing. And they’d say, you can’t use that word or whatnot. So it was just frustrating. And that’s from a human standpoint where we can easily quickly change it. When you have AI, there’s a little more automation there and there’s a lot… It’s a scalable solution or a problem, right? So I always just thought that was interesting to see how AI and finance or legal came into that.

Jerry: Yeah. Now, I don’t know, just because with this whole COVID thing, and if you take finance out of it, just other verticals, this AI and digital transformation, it was part of their process, but it was going to be three to four years out. But because of COVID, it helped shrink that down. So now we can’t do this stuff way, way out. I mean, this is something we’ve got to consider now. So I don’t know if the financial industry, maybe the legal industry maybe have an aha moment. Like, Hey, I understand we were in this box before, but because of COVID and because our customers expect something different that we’ve got to act now, now, now, or maybe lose them to other folks.

JC: So it sounds like really your biggest market so far. You’ve got the e-commerce side, a lot of data that retail and restaurants, obviously because of the traffic flow of people. So there was something else on your site that I saw, iOrder menu. What was that about? I wanted to ask about that.

Jerry: Yeah. So I mentioned before we started off in the e-commerce realm nearly three years ago, so this is just 2021. So back in 2019, McDonald’s had purchased one of our competitors and it was an AI… It was a company similar to ours using artificial intelligence to help drive growth. So it was 2019 summer, 2019. We thought to ourselves, Hey, this could be a good idea to delve into restaurant hospitality verticals. So number one, our competitors got bought by McDonald’s big, big dollars, right? That’s number one. And number two, one of our other co-founders in Fort Myers, Florida actually owns a restaurant. So we developed a prototype, the other co-founder, tech co-founders developed a prototype in 2019, but it just kind of bombed. It failed.

Jerry: So we went to other verticals, we put it in the garage, but then COVID hits the whole planet early. Gosh, we’re coming up a year now, early 2020, we pulled out of the garage because we saw that, hey, everything was going curbside online, more so than it was prior to COVID. So at that time, this was March, April, last year. We decided to spin it off and call it its own product, if you will. iOrder menu to give that action-oriented feel to it.

JC: And how’s that been doing so far? I mean-

Jerry: It’s good. Just like with anything, there were some bumps and bruises, but just like in anything even with vaccines, right, the first folks that go out to the market, okay yeah they’re the first ones, but there’s a lot of mistakes there, right? So how many vaccines are out right now? I think in us there are two. So there’s more coming down the pipe. They’re obviously going to be improved. But if you pull up any article, the current digital menus are out there right now like Uber eats, they’re taking all your data. Grab hub is getting sued because they’re taking restaurant menus and putting them on their site and without the restaurant owner knowing it. A lot of data manipulation, just similar to what’s going on and the mess with Twitter and Facebook.

Jerry: I mean, these companies like it or not, I mean, they got your data. I’m not going to go as far as saying stealing it, but they’re using it for their benefit and not yours. And so we want to make our application data-driven, personalized recommendations and we want to develop it with four key factors that helped separate us from the other folks. So, yeah, so it was a little bit rough in the beginning, but now it’s going gangbusters.

JC: Who would you see in a company being the individuals that are using your software? So you’ve got your CEOs, your CMOs, your VPs, your directors, who’s actually going to be engaging with this software? What would their experience and day-to-day interaction with your software look like? Who is it and what would their interaction be?

Jerry: So typically we’ll reach out to them… so we work with mid-tier companies. So typically we’ll get access to the CEO and then once we’ve embedded in there, we’ll work with their head marketing person.

JC: Okay. Yeah. So you try to get into that CMO or VP of marketing.

Jerry: Yeah. The owner mode. Yeah. Right then and there just go straight to the top because we don’t want to waste time.

JC: Yeah, for sure. So let me ask you another thing here too is… Well actually let me make a comment. I think it’s really great that you talk a lot about the failures first. I’ve owned my agency for 10 years and people are like, well, how’d you get so good at marketing? I’m like, I’m not a genius. I just stepped on every single landmine in the field. I’m war-torn, right? That’s it. It’s the pure experience of it all. And I think a lot of people forget that the only way you get to these really great ideas and really great systems and software is like, what you have, the only way you get to that is because you’ve either gone through mistakes or mistakes happen to you. Maybe you were a victim of a mistake. You’re like, I’m going to save other companies from ever going through that.

JC: So I’m going to make this new company. It always comes from some sort of problem or series of issues and then you just keep dialing in and I have the marketing brain. So I look at it like that. Even campaigns start off with our best-educated guesses and really it’s the data and the experiences, the wins and the losses that are going to tell us how to navigate and get better and better. So at the end, it looks like we’re geniuses, but really we’re going back and forth a little bit here.

Jerry: JC, you’re absolutely right. I’m 50 years old. I don’t know a lot, but I do know that if someone comes to me and maybe pitching me an idea or whatever that may be like, I’ve never failed in life or what have you probably like, yeah, get out of here.

JC: Yeah, I don’t trust someone who’s never failed.

Jerry: I don’t trust you.

JC: Even if they’re not lying because I can’t trust how they’ll react when they do fail, right? Because they won’t know how to deal with it, right? I need to know that someone’s failed a ton. And even then I don’t mind if they fail on me, as long as they have the integrity of how to make up for it, right? Mistakes happen. Not every idea that you have is going to work out. But if you say, listen, I’m not going to give up until we get it right, then I’m okay. As a customer, I feel better.

Jerry: Yeah, absolutely.

JC: Yeah. So real quick here, I do have a question though. You have four co-founders. So what’s that like? I feel like it’s like a boarding school of CEOs. How do you guys get along well with four people? And how has that been? And I’m asking you this because a lot of people listening to this podcast are people in business like you, and I’m sure some of them have had, or are considering having other partners. So how did you get to four and then how has that worked out?

Jerry: Yeah. So it’s basically open and honest communication. So it started with two. The guy used to live here in Atlanta, right? So as we got momentum, we met another person in Florida because I’m here in Atlanta who had real life experience with dealing with negotiations, with venture capitalists. And this gentleman is actually an angel investor for Standard Cognition. So the planner named Standard Cognition, Standard Insights, their logos is capital S smaller C. Ours is capital S small letter I. He’s an angel investor for that company. And if you Google that company, they’re one of the projected unicorns. I think their valuation is 500 million on them. So you’re doing the artificial intelligence with the overhead cameras. So you go in the store and leave without paying because it records what you’re doing-

JC: Oh like those Amazon stores that they’re talking about.

Jerry: Just like with Amazon, again, we do a personalized recommendation like Amazon, but Amazon, people are angry with them right now. They’re a monopoly or whatever they’re called right now. But again, they have your data, right? You don’t get to own it. You don’t get to use it. You don’t get to use it for your benefit.

JC: But you guys would create this for a supermarket.

Jerry: Yeah. You control your data. So that was the other guy. And then to round out, so we’re more of the business end here on in the U.S., right? All sales and marketing and negotiations are done here. But on the tech side, I mentioned the gentleman that used to work for General Electric used to live here. And then we rounded out the team with the last co-founder has a Master’s in computer science. And he went to what amounts to the MIT of India. So you got the tech side, background statistics, worked for a Fortune 50 company when General Electric and another guy with a Master’s in computer science from the MIT of India.

Jerry: And then myself, I’ve worked for another startup. And then the other fourth co-founder, who’s got experience as an angel investor for high-value startup in artificial intelligence. But honestly, it’s just, we all have our different personalities, but it’s just working together towards a common goal and open and honest communication.

JC: I’m glad you guys are making it work. I know some haven’t, right? It doesn’t always go that way. So it’s good you guys have that going? I am curious though. So I’ve had a couple of different AI companies on the podcast before I’ve worked with AI companies, where do you see your industry going in five years? I mean, with the exponential curve of advancement that it’s on, this podcast is The Future of BizTech, tell me what you see as the future of your biz tech and not your company. I mean, just, but the industry in general.

Jerry: Well, so I mentioned before Grand View Research, $500 billion in four or five, six years, I think COVID helped accelerate that. So if you Google AI or just digital transformation, all these articles from people smarter than me, McKinsey, Deloitte, and that’s what they talk about digital transformation and that… So what’s the meaning of digital transformation? So it’s using digital technologies to fundamentally change number one, the way your business operates and number two, how it provides value to your customer. So it involves basically thinking outside the box, getting uncomfortable. And our favorite thing is possibly learning from failure because it’s not going to be perfect. So, but I think there’s going to be tremendous, tremendous growth with regards to artificial intelligence and the idea behind digital transformation.

JC: What about the integration of these checkout systems that you’re seeing, how you can use this for those cameras where you can check out without having to do anything. How fast do you think that’ll come? I mean, right now there’s little spot locations and a couple of cities here and there but when do you see like a full integration of-

Jerry: I think it’s going to be accelerated like in a snap of a finger. So they say that take my example, with digital transformation in the restaurant industry. All this stuff was cool to have maybe three, four, or five years out. But now in order to survive, you’ve got to do it today, even if COVID ended today. But people have gotten used to curbside pickup, doing things on their phones. That stuff is not going away. I mean, look at what we’re recording on zoom. I mean, who really used zoom last year, right?

Jerry: 10 years ago when I was in the corporate world, when we would do something like this, it was a big, giant elaborate setup. Now I’m doing this on my phone, right? Or even renting movies, it was Blockbuster, now everyone’s it’s all digital, right? You’ve got Netflix, you’ve got Hulu and a bunch of other companies doing that. I think it’s going to accelerate definitely. And COVID helped out with that.

JC: Where do you see your company-

Jerry: As bad as COVID’s been.

JC: Yeah. Where do you see your company in five years? So again, I like to be able to give the audience a couple of teasers about what maybe is coming down the pipeline for you guys specifically. What are you guys working on right now that people can look forward to in the next six months to a year?

Jerry: So we always try to expand our technology base and we want to make things sticky. So if you’re a customer of ours, we want to make it so hard that you can’t leave us basically, right? So we’re a tech stack upon tech stack upon a tech stack, like instead of you got one tool like a hammer screwdriver; it’s going to be a multipurpose pocket tool. Or if you’re just not a boxer, you’re an MMA fighter that knows boxing, Muay Thai wrestling, him lifts. So we want to be that well rounded tech company that once you’re our client, you’re not going to want to leave. And we do things-

JC: What are a few those specific features though, that maybe you don’t have out right now that you’re working on?

Jerry: Oh, that’s kind of the secret, but whatever we do with regards to software, right? You’re a CEO and I pitch you and I do the song and dance and you’re mesmerized and sign on the dotted line for a check. But if you don’t log in or your staff doesn’t log in, you’re not going to renew. So how do we combat that? Well, we’re there every step of the way. We offer managed services to help you with the software.

JC: It’s not just software. You actually have people who will be good account managers and actually help walk people through it and hold their hands, so to speak.

Jerry: Yeah. Hey, JC, here’s your login. Bye. Thanks for a check. And then when it comes time to renew, “Hey, JC, your renewal is up.” And you go, well, I never logged in. Yeah. You put a good presentation, but you never logged in or never used the software.

JC: No, that’s good. I like to hear that. There’s a customer service side then beyond just here’s the software. And again, repeat customers using AI. I mean, that’s the one-liner, right? So I mean, if a prospect is listening, if you’re having an issue with repeat business, then obviously something like Standard Insights would be something to go check out.

Jerry: So, one thing that we’re doing I’ll share with you is we’re integrating our platform into a store’s point of sale system, right? So you know, what a point of sale system is. So ours will be there, it’ll be on the point of sale desktop. Once it’s there and once you get your worker and you’re getting use, and you’re seeing our AI-driven recommendations in that screen, once that’s set up, they’re not going to want to leave because once those recommended… So we want to make it sticky as they say in the industry that you’re not going to want to leave.

JC: It always cost less money and takes less time to get a repeat customer than it does to go get a new one. So there’s a huge benefit there too.

Jerry: Yeah. Bang put out a study that said a 5% increase in repeat business can generate north of 25 to 90% in profitability. Because you’re right, it caught yeah.

JC: Yeah. What would be the best piece of advice, even just business-wise or generically that you’ve ever had that you can give the audience? Like just that one golden nugget. If you could give everyone here one piece of advice, what would it be?

Jerry: Well, you know what Winston Churchill said, right? Never let a good crisis go to waste. So COVID yeah, I know it sucks for a lot of people, not only here, but around the globe. But to take it a step further, learn to be uncomfortable, right? Because that’s the only way you grow and whether it’s at work or you what you do in your career, but also outside of work, do stuff that makes you uncomfortable. Like if you want to lose weight, you’ve never run, maybe walk around the block or just get up and do a 5k. Anything that challenges yourself, right?

Jerry: Maybe instead of spending all your time with what’s going on nowadays fighting with people on social media, that’s not going to help anyone out, right? So just be open to improving yourself on a daily basis and how do you improve yourself is being uncomfortable and challenging yourself.

JC: Oh, that’s awesome advice. I appreciate it. Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you want to tell the audience before we go?

Jerry: That’s about it. If they want to get a hold of me, they can find me on LinkedIn, Jerry Abiog, Standard Insights. They can go to our website standardinsights.io or shoot me an email, [email protected] and be happy to chat.

JC: That’s awesome. Well, listen, Jerry, thank you so much for being on the show. Love your software, love the company. and really like you as a person too, especially with your thoughts and advice. Thanks for coming on.

Jerry: Hey, thanks, JC. Thanks for having me.

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