Rajesh Bhatia, CTO of Keap, joins Small Biz Buzz to talk about the relationship between AI and automation and how they make entrepreneurs’ lives easier.
While conquering the chaos of a small business, entrepreneurs have so many things to worry about, mainly, their sales and marketing, which can be easily automated. For example, if somebody comes to your website and they populate a “contact me” form, the goal is to automate the communication by collecting and transferring the data to a lead capture spreadsheet. That's the kind of high-level AI and automation Keap is presenting to the small business arena.
“All we're doing here is providing [small business owners] the necessary applications, tools and capabilities to make their lives easier–either by being able to help manage their contact lists, their sales and marketing automation, their appointments, their pipelines, etc.,” said Rajesh. “We’re building the software so we can help our small business customers because we recognized how difficult their job is, how difficult their work is. And all we want to do is empower them because ultimately, we are fueled by small businesses. And their growth is important to us as a community, as a country. And more importantly, us here at Keap because that's our mission to help small businesses.”
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Hello everybody. This is Dusey Van Dusen and I am stepping in for Crystal, I guess, or maybe Laura is stepping in for Crystal. Laura, how's it going?
It's going very well. How are you?
Pretty good. Pretty good. So our beloved Crystal is taking a much deserved break, so myself and Laura are picking up the slack for-
She's so lucky.
... the Small Biz Buzz. Yeah. I don't know what she's doing, hopefully, having a good time, hanging out away from other people.
She mentioned she was going to a drive-thru baby shower in San Diego.
Oh, that's right.
Which sounds interesting. So I can't wait to hear all about that when she gets back.
Well, we have on the line with us, someone who I'm going to guess has never been through a drive-thru baby shower, because I don't know of anybody that has been other than Crystal now, Rajesh-
That's a 2020 trend for sure.
That is. We have our CTO from Keap. Rajesh, how's it going?
Good. How are you guys doing? I always wonder, who's taking breaks right now, where are people going on vacations right now?
That's a great question.
I know, right?
Yeah, it's like when my engineers say, "Hey, I want to take a wind for time." I was like, "Where are you going to go?" [inaudible 00:02:33]
You know, I have become a fan, especially... I've got four kids and after I had kids, I've become a fan of the staycation. And sometimes that means things somewhere local, but I have on more than one occasion, just taken time off and stayed at home, and we went into museums, we went and did stuff locally, but it was nice to just... Also did a few productive things, but I limited myself. I said one or two days where I can be productive around the house, but then I need to actually take a vacation after that.
You need that balance. You need that mental health balance. And then you want to feel that you are being productive around the house and doing projects here and there. That's what my husband and I have been doing. So yeah, just take it day-to-day.
Well, we thought that something great to talk with you about, Rajesh, would be AI because we know that AI and automation is a bit of a passion of yours. But the automation working for Keap is not a surprise, that it's something that you're interested in here. But before we dive into that, I would love if you could just tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, some of your history, some of your background.
Sure. Well, first of all, I'm excited to talk to you, Dusey and Laura. So, just from a background perspective, I joined Keap summer of last year, right in the middle of a 116° temperature. It was really exciting. I relocated my family from Connecticut to join Keap. I used to work at Oracle before this as vice president in one of our enterprise financial performance management teams. I was there for about 10 years. I relocated myself and the family there from the Silicon Valley where I had worked at a few startups as well. So I've had a background in engineering, in management, in executive management for the past 25 to 30 years.
Really, really excited to be part of the team here at Keap. I feel passionate about the small business community and the growth of that community and the mission of the company. I feel fortunate to work with an amazing product development organization who have great empathy for our customers, who are innovative, who focused on the right things for the customers and making our solutions just amazing to use. I'm fortunate to work with great colleagues of mine, obviously some of you guys are on the call with me and even our executive team. So it's just been a great ride so far and I'm very, very optimistic about what the future holds here at Keap.
That's awesome. You mentioned serving our small business owners and if we know anything about them, is that they have a lot on their plate and that's... A lot of one of the things that we try to help with at Keap is, taking some of that stuff off the plate and getting it into automation, automated for them. And as I imagine, like any of them listening to this podcast, it's unlikely that they're just sitting down and listening and just kind of soaking it in. I'm imagining them doing a million other things while they're trying to learn some stuff about running small businesses as well.
So I would like to start with, what is AI and automation, even in general and why should small businesses be interested in it? When I think of AI, the first thing that comes to mind, there's some YouTube videos that I watch where this guy writes some programs that try to play video games and beat other people online, and that's how he uses AI and machine learning to do that, and he explains how he does it. That is not the most useful example of AI, so I'd love to kind of hear a little bit about just what your thoughts are in general for anybody who's saying, "Well, I keep hearing about artificial intelligence and besides that Steven Spielberg movie, I'm not sure what it even is."
Yeah, that's a great question Dusey. I think if you look at AI today. Right? It's really... Machine learning, AI are like buzzwords that are thrown around in the software industry today, right? So just to level set. Right? AI or artificial intelligence is really the science of emulating human interactions. Right? What humans would do. Right? And machine learning really is a subset artificial intelligence where the machine is learning or training itself, right, based on historical patterns and data to predict some things in the future. Right? So those are really the two concepts. So AI and machine learning are beyond just buzzwords today. Right? They are really succinctly present in our lives today and experience that we do in our lives today.
Take small examples, right, the automated self-driving cars that we hear about. Right? That's really machines learning how to drive themselves. Right? [Inaudible 00:07:34] or machines emulating what human interaction will be, how do I communicate things like that. Right? Or when you buy things on Amazon, right, how it looks at what you're buying and suggests you saying, "Hey, by the way looking at the past data from people and things, we suggest the following things coming out of this." Right? So all of that is really to... ultimately to make things easier for humans to be able to either not have to do certain things or have to do certain things, but just really at their fingertips. Right? And that's where, Dusey, even... If you think about Keap, right, our core is really around automation. We talk about ourselves as sales and marketing automation. Right? And just take the simplest example we have, right, and you're right, small businesses are chaotic. Right?
Scott and Clate always talk about conquering the chaos of a small business. They have so many things to worry about. Right? The last thing they should worry about is their sales and marketing, because a solution like Keap can help them automate a lot of things. And a simplest example could be: Hey, I have a beautiful website, I drive leads to this website. When somebody comes to my website and they enter a contact me form. Right? We want to just automate the communication right off the get go. Right? I don't have to get the contact me form send me an email as a small business owner, go to my email, check the data in there, put it into some spreadsheets and things like that, that should just be taken care of magically for me. That's really the, kind of just a high level of where I see AI automations, etc., playing into the small business arena.
Yeah. You want it to create the path of least resistance. And I think what a lot of people don't realize is that AI is prominent in a lot of everyday activity that we're involved in. I mean, Netflix would be a good example because it... No, seriously, it takes the programs we watch and then based on that algorithm, they'll say because you watch this, how about this suggestion? And same thing with like smart assistants, like Siri and Alexa, we have all these IOT smart home devices now that have been getting more and more utilized over the last few years. So that being said, what example of AI would you see in a software as a service type technology that we have here at Keap with our CRMs?
Yeah. Laura, that's a great question that you asked me. Let's take some simple examples, right? One of the things that we do here at Keap is having amazing email marketing capabilities built into the product. Right?
Right, so I'm the customer I want to reach out to my customers or prospects or leads with an amazing message via email. Right? Now, clearly that email is useless if the customer that I'm sending it off to doesn't get it. Right? So it goes into their spam or it goes to the junk folder, etc. Right? So what are the techniques. Right? So we, in the product today, know when, if you're looking at the content of your email, right, the words that you use or the verbiage you used, what is the likelihood of it going into spam. Right?
Because we've looked at the patterns of the past, we've looked at our customer history of the past. We understand the algorithms that many of the email hosting services like Yahoo and Microsoft, etc. So we, based on those algorithms, tell our customer saying, "Hey, by the way, the likelihood of this not hitting the inbox is high, unless you change it." So we look at the patterns of that thing and give an example of say, " Hey, by the way, you may want to change this." Right? That's one example. The other example is, many of our customers generally have leads based on this that they haven't gotten, right, off of many prospects, etc., as well. Right? Well, some of those lists may not be appropriate or may be what we call spam traps. Right? The invalid or things like that. Right?
We again use our machinery because we send billions of emails to our platform, right? We know what are valid emails, what are not, what are the spam traps, etc. We again, nudge our customers saying, "Hey, by the way, you may not want to send this email out to the following people because high likelihood, again, it will go to spam," and your email reputation as the sender will be impacted, and hence your future email capabilities will [inaudible 00:12:33]. So again, this is an example of where we're using lots of data that we have, lots of intelligence and algorithms that we built in to say, "This is the best course of action you should take as a small business." And a small business doesn't know all those things. Right? They don't need to worry about this saying, "Hey, am I using AI or not AI." Right?
We just beautifully present that into the products saying, "Hey, by the way, this is the best way to do it." I'll give you another example just on the email side. Many times we will notice that the... So once the email is reached, right? That's the inbox rate, right? Now, what about the open rates. Right? So we have intelligence built in [inaudible 00:13:18] knowing the past saying, "Hey, by the way, seems like these type of emails that you've been sending, Mr. Sender, are opened on Monday mornings at 9:00 AM more often." Right? As compared to if you send it on Sunday. So we use intelligence to say, "Hey, by the way, I'm not going to schedule it at this time. I will schedule at this time." So not only do you get a high inbox rate, but you also get a high open rate for the customers as well. Right? So those are just examples, just in one domain around email marketing, that we can use our algorithms and products to give a better experience for our customers.
That's really cool. That's really handy because if I am really good at whatever the thing is, I'm really good at building pools and getting people... And even on the sales side of it, of helping people understand all of the questions that go into getting a pool installed in their house and selling them on our service and why it's so great, if that's the thing that I love doing, then it's hard to do that and also be an expert at knowing the best time to send an email, knowing the content that's going to get put into spam, those email addresses that are spam traps, all that kind of stuff. So letting something else take that load on for you, seems like that would just be invaluable.
Right. Dusey, you make a very good point here. Most of our small business owners are small business owners. They're not sales and marketing experts. So as much as we can make it easier in the product, embed it in the product, automatic in the product, as much as we can build those best practices in the product, they have less things to worry about from a "Well, how do I market myself? How do I sell my capabilities," etc. That should be just given them into the product itself.
Yeah. Well, I would love to hear your thoughts on some of this... Some of our small business owners are probably... are really great at sales and communicating one-on-one with people and other ones, maybe not so much, right? But someone who spends that time, that sales and that one-on-one communication. I'm curious to hear from your point of view, how you feel like this can fit in with that, right? Because some people might want to hand off the sales entirely and kind of get away from it as much as they can. But I'm wondering if there's not also a place for it in the kind of consultative realm of sales of, how can I focus on the parts that I do best and have it take the other parts off of me if I'm really into sales.
So Dusey, is your thoughts around instead of doing the one-to-many email marketing things, if I want to do one-to-one, how can the product or machine learning or algorithms help that one-to-one communication as well?
Exactly. Because to me it seems like the most natural use of that is for scaling, right? I can now "talk" to so many more people than I ever could one-on-one, right? But now I'm kind of flipping the script there and saying I'm more of a boutique business that I work a lot hands-on with one-on-one stuff, how is this helpful to me?
Yeah. Good question. Well, let's take more examples of that, right? What we want to do is, in the product, to make sure we are personalizing our communication, the one-to-one communication. Right, things like that. Right? So let me give you another example. So we have an amazing mobile app today in the product. Right? Things that you get with Keap, right? Now, this mobile app allows you to separate your personal interaction and your professional interaction. Right? And we do that by allowing you as a customer to have what we call a Keap Business Line. Right? So let's suppose I want to have my personal line and a Keap Business Line. Now, if you get our mobile app, you get the Keap Business Line.
Now, with this Keap Business Line, you can actually communicate one-to-one with your potential prospects or customers. Right? Now, what happens with that is now because you are using that, we do allow you to personalize that one-to-one communication with the Keap Business Line. So let me give you an example. Right? Let's suppose... Many times, and I don't know whether you experience that, I call landscapers, I call roofers, etc., They never call me back. Right? Or I'm waiting for them [crosstalk 00:18:10] or I reach out to some small business. Right? And I usually get recommendations from three or four of my men and I called the three or four and whoever calls me back first is most likely going to win my business. Right?
I heard that. Yeah. Sorry, go ahead, Laura.
No, I was going to say, I've definitely had that experience where, "Okay, you actually took the time to call me back, then the job is yours." [crosstalk 00:18:27]
It's not the intention of the small business not to call you back. Right? They're just busy. Right? They're just busy, they [inaudible 00:18:35] and things like that, or their message might go to a voicemail that's very generic saying, "Hey, by the way, thanks for calling me." And I was like, Oh my God, are they even going to call me? Now with the Keap Business Line, you can make that communication more personal. Right? So what happens is we detect that you're calling the business phone, then I, as the landscaper, the roofer that service provider, the lawyer, can send a prescriptive message, a more personalized message saying, "Hey, Laura. Thank you for calling me. I'm really busy at a job right now. I will call you back as soon as possible, or here's a link to my appointment schedule, just make an appointment with me and we can figure it out. Right?
It's a very personal note rather than a generic voicemail message that you can leave. So Dusey, to your point about this one-to-one communication, we also allow that one-to-one communication and again, the machine learning and the AI comes into it saying, "Hey, what's the best natural course of reaction." The other thing we can take it even further. So let's suppose they leave a message saying, "Laura, thanks. Really interested in your accounting professional services. Please call me back. This is Rajesh," things like that. In our business line, we can actually transcribe that message. We read that message through and we suggest Laura, the next course of actions to take is this.
Oh, that's awesome.
Oh my gosh, that's amazing.
[crosstalk 00:20:03] A lot of them you're listening to the message and think, "Oh my God, what do I do next?" et cetera. We immediately nudge you to take the right action already because we've now read through the content of it as well. So Dusey, that's like now just we're taking it more on a personal level as well and helping you personalize your one-to-one experience as well.
For me, as a customer of a small business owner, I can really see myself in that position and how great that is because one of the things that I hate the most is when we've made those calls, you call a few people, one of them gets back to you right away. That's the one that you pick, but then somebody else calls you back the next day or two days from then. And now I have to be like... I'm very non-confrontational. So-
... I have to be like, "Ooh I went with someone else already. I'm so sorry." Right? And of course I feel bad, they feel bad because they didn't get my business. But being able to have something help you get that response out or do it automatically for you sounds, yeah, that's [crosstalk 00:21:04]
Or what's even worse is that someone calls you back two days later and they have a better quote than the person you went with. So you realize, "Huh. Should I cancel the first one and then go with the next person?"
Oh yeah, that sucks.
But, yeah, creating that automatic sequence to basically prompt the person like, "Okay, here's the next step," that's just genius, and it takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. So-
Yeah, exactly. And Laura-
... yeah, that's fantastic
... this is a one time set up, right? This is a... What you set up just saying, "This is how I want my personal communication or personalized reach out things." You set it up once and let the application take care of it. Right? You don't need to worry about this afterwards. Right?
Set it and forget it. That's what Keap is good for. It's a one and done.
We need an infomercial now. Copy the old set and forget it, set it up. All right, audience, everybody, and forget it. So I would love to shift gears just a little bit and kind of think about what you kind of see in the future of AI and automation. Are there trends that you see that small business owners should be on top of that they should be thinking about? Things that are on the cusp or that are brand new to the market or any... What do you see in the future of AI, I guess is what I'm trying to get at.
See, Dusey, I think the key point here is our small business owners don't care about technology. They don't know what AI is, they don't know of machine learning, they don't understand algorithms, they don't need to. Right? We need to embed this technology at the right place and the right thing seamlessly in their experience so that they don't... All they're trying to do is get their job done as quickly as possible and get out. Right? Like [inaudible 00:23:01], provide an amazing experience to their customers, right? But I think to your point... So my main point with that is whatever the future holds is where we embed intelligence into our solution at the right place for our customers. Right? And they don't see it as technology and [inaudible 00:23:22], they just see things getting done better for them. Right?
So I'll give you two examples of potentially where we're looking at as well. So, as you know, in our solution, we have a lot of automation, right, things like that where we have to say, when something happens, then do something like this. And once that's happened, then do something else. So our small business owners can have powerful automations being powered by Keap. But we also realize that a lot of small businesses still use to run their business. They could be Shopify, QuickBooks Online, etc, etc. Right? But the automation engine is very critical for them to be able to reduce their workload. Right? So one area we're looking at is how can these automation engines that we have do that whens, and thens not only within Keap, but in external systems as well. So Keap becomes really the nucleus and we can manage all the automation, the universe of automation across the system as well.
Can you give an example? I'm sorry to interrupt. Can you give an example of an external system outside of Keap that that would help with?
Right. So let's say QBO, right? So you use QuickBooks Online, invoices get paid. Well, when invoices get paid, you want to do a beautiful notification to your customers saying, "Hey, really, thank you. What about next follow up with this thing," etc. Right? Things like that. So those are some examples. So Shopify, a cart got abandoned. Right? The people didn't go to the buying float. You may want to reach out automatically and say, "Hey I've got a special offer for you." So those are the types of things that we can do in the product as well. The other thing we're looking at is, I think potentially that could be looking in the future, is part of our core also around with automation is really helping our customers understand their customers, well and sometimes understanding the sentiment of that customer is important too.
And the sentiment score could really help our customers provide them an amazing experience to those customers that have low sentiment or high sentiment. Right? Be able to sell somebody with high sentiment. The sentiment score could be created with various data that we have across those customers. Right? The communication that have happened, the complaints. So we can actually review all the interactions that have happened, how many appointments they've booked, how many invoices they paid, what kind of messages they send so that I can guide our customers to say, "Hey, by the way, these may be the best customers or best leads for you to be able to generate your next set of business or these customers you really want to focus on to improve their sentiment to be able to do that." So those are some examples, Dusey, that we're looking into like 2021 and things like that, to see what can we do more for our customers to help them provide an amazing experience to their customers.
That's cool. Yeah. I do feel like in general, just with technologies is all over this place, the interoperability is becoming more and more of a thing, right? We see with Apple very slowly kind of opening some things that you can do with their software, that hook in, just being able to set different default apps now in iOS. And I feel like APIs for people to... And for those that don't know an API is just a way for one piece of software to talk to another piece of software, kind of to share a common language, I feel like it's getting more and more common to have those sorts of connections. So yeah, I can definitely see how getting that, kind of spreading that web out to everything that a small business owner uses talking together would be incredibly valuable. That sounds awesome.
Yeah. So there are definitely challenges ahead for those things, but there are always opportunities here where we can make the lives of our small business owners even easier to help them conquer the chaos that they have in their day-to-day life.
Do you think there's any... What would you say to those that kind of have a, I don't know... Again, back to the portrayal that we see of AI, whether it's in the media or when I say the media, in fiction and stuff like that, what would you say to somebody that's saying, "Ooh, I don't know that I like the idea of a computer running all of that stuff for me."
The fear of robots taking over the world. [crosstalk 00:28:02]
Pretty much, right? Arnold Schwarzenegger.
You know there are those people out there who, yeah, are skeptical, they watched the last season of Silicon Valley and they're like, "I don't want any part of this."
Yeah. Again, it kind of goes back to our point around, listen, we want to enable that for customers who want to be able to take advantage of that. Right? But all of these in our solutions are configurable. Right? Even the examples I gave you about the spam filtering, or... I mean, at the end of the day, the customers could still ignore our recommendations and ignore these things and say, "Hey, I don't care about those things. I don't trust the algorithms. [inaudible 00:28:45]." We don't enforce one way or the other, we suggest, we guide, we enable more than anything else. So if there's a fear of that technology... But I actually do think that once people see the benefits, right? I think some of the fears of the unknown, right? But once you see benefits of that, I'm optimistic on how that can help them improve their customer journey and that customer experience as well through our application.
And there, again, easing their fear and kind of reminding them we're already utilizing a lot of this technology now. We're depending on a lot of it with our, with our phones and our computers and the apps that we use. And a lot of it is just kind of has been gradually implemented into our daily lives. So, if we remind them, You're already using AI, you just don't know it. It's not as infiltrating as you think it can be. So I think that would ease a lot of their fears, but if you also drive the point home that as a small business owner, AI will help you increase your credibility among your customers, it's going to help nurture them.
And going back to the email marketing example, I've been at email marketing for the last 10 years. And a lot of things that we program within an email marketing app is how do we avoid getting an email put into junk folder or spam folder. And a lot of that comes from, what kind of keywords are we using? And a lot of that is just avoiding simple words like vacation or something that's free. It's something as simple as that, that will actually ensure that your email does make it to an inbox. So is that something that you've also utilized in the algorithm back end for AI?
Oh, absolutely. That's exactly what the spam recognition algorithms for us do, is those keywords that we know will get right into the junk [inaudible 00:30:49]. And Laura, you're absolutely right. I think as long as people recognize that it's already in their lives, right? You gave the Netflix example. Right? When I look at a movie, it already tells you, "Well, there are other movies like this that you may want to consider because other people have considered the same things," etc. Right? So we already have that, but it's just not called AI, right? Netflix doesn't say, "Hey, by the way, I'm AI in your-" [crosstalk 00:31:15]
Let's AI your experience for a minute.
That's fantastic. Well, Rajesh, thank you for spending some time with us talking through automation and AI for small businesses. Are there any kind of final thoughts? What would you like to leave our audience with?
Listen, I think what I would just like to say to our audience members is they have a very difficult job at times where they have a lot of things to worry about from their business standpoint. Running a small business is not easy and not trivial. And I want to just congratulate them to have that entrepreneurial spirit, to be able to run those small businesses.
All we're doing here is providing them the necessary applications, the tools, the capabilities to make their lives easier. Right? Either to be able to help manage their contact lists, be able to do sales and marketing automation, be able to manage their appointments, the pipelines and all those capabilities, all we're doing is we're building the software so we can help our small business customers because we recognized how difficult their job is, how difficult their work is. And all we want to do is empower them because ultimately as a country, we are fueled by small businesses. Right? And their growth is important to us as a community, as a country. And more importantly, us here at Keap because that's our mission to help small businesses.
Fantastic. Thank you so much, Rajesh that was incredibly insightful. And hopefully our small business customers will take a lot of value out of this. So we really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today. We know you're very busy and so we really, really appreciate it. So thank you very, very much.
Yeah. Laura, thank you so much for your time. Dusey, thank you so much for the opportunity as well. Happy to talk to you guys anytime if you guys need my help.
Excellent. We may have to have you back because this is definitely interesting.
Happy to be back.
Excellent. Well, thank you all so much for tuning into this episode of Small Biz Buzz. I'm Laura Dolan.
And I'm Dusey Van Dusen.
And we will see you next time.
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