Rob Holland

Jan 25, 2021

Learn How to Get Instant Feedback from Your Customers and Implement it Right Away with Rob Holland, the CEO of Feedback Loop


Episode Summary

Rob Holland has had to travel a long way – from working at CGC to becoming CEO of Feedback Loop. The journey wasn’t easy, but that’s how he got a vast amount of experience in the consumer space. 

Luckily for all of us – he selflessly shared his knowledge about what’s going on in the customer’s mind when they weigh whether to buy something or not. So if you want a shortcut directly to the mind of consumers – this is where you’ll find it.

In this episode, we’ve covered some hot topics – the effect branding has on customers and their perception, and ResTech, a term that stands for “research technology.” The purpose of research technology is to bring businesses and customers closer together by analyzing businesses’ insights and initiatives. With ResTech – agencies, platforms, and brands won’t have to depend only on simple demographic information, but they can now pull in purchase-based information.

Online shopping has rapidly gained popularity, and it’s the easiest way to buy something. But how do you stand out from the competition and give your customers what they want when they want it? Data is collected all the time, but only the people who know how to use it right will benefit from it. 

Rob Holland also shares how automating data analysis can save you months and thousands of dollars. 

So how can you keep up with all that data and turn it into your advantage?


NAME: Rob Holland 

WHAT HE DOES: As the CEO of Feedback Loop, formerly known as Alpha, Rob’s primary goal is to build a bridge between consumers and brands by using ResTech to boost efficiency and reduce errors in analyzing data. Not only does Rob lead an innovative company, but he also helps other companies to innovate smarter and learn faster. 

COMPANY: Feedback Loop

KEY QUOTE: “I learned real fast to be humble. I learned real fast the power of experience and the value of experience over book smarts.”

Episode Highlights

“Learn Faster and Innovate Smarter”…

 “So the quality goes up, the speed comes down and you can really, for the right types of decisions, deploy and distribute research much broader in the organization at a much more cost-effective manner so that you can use data much earlier in the innovation cycles, so that you’re constantly getting consumer feedback or other types of data, but broadly across research, you can integrate that in more efficiently and it can help companies learn faster and innovate smarter.” 

In the rapidly changing world, where people expect everything instantly, how can a business satisfy their customers’ needs? Feedback Loop’s mission is to provide an agile platform for research, so companies have instant feedback from their customers. This process enables companies to make better and quicker decisions – ultimately leading them to more customers & more growth.

The Sweet Spot between Slow and Expensive Research & Decision-Making Based on Data with Poor Quality

“The other option is you can go and do a project. And then the other option is you can have shadow research that’s ungoverned, you can get platforms and you can just run surveys or ask questions, but you don’t have any control over it. We fit right in the middle of there. So we can source for most of the business decisions. It’s the Pareto principle.” 

Sooner than you think, you will have a fantastic tool at your disposal that will conduct serious analysis and make decisions based on data that’s relevant. The best part is that your customers will get what they need when they need it and return for more. 

Secrets of B2B Messaging

“You gotta make it easy to buy. The underlying principle is never about your product and your solution. It’s always about the customers’ problem and their need, and you have to start there. A lot of companies get excited because they make great, really innovative, disruptive products, and, of course, when you’re trying to go to market when you believe in your products, you want to drive them. But it’s really not about them at all, it’s about the problem, the solution and you become part of the solution with the product that you bring to market.” 

There are approximately 5-10 decision-makers in every company, and you need to teach only one person that’s part of that company how to sell your product to their colleagues. That person is your champion that will convince the others you have the solution for their problem. 

The Evolution of ResTech

“There’s just too much money spent on research today. There’s anywhere between 20 to $50 million of research, maybe more spent globally in the US.” 

Billions of dollars are spent every day on research. The research we know today can’t keep up with the demands of consumers. That’s where research technology plays an important role because this rapidly growing industry will change the way research is done. It won’t be slow and costly anymore – in a matter of seconds the enormous amount of high-quality data will be ready to help you make the right decision. From analyzing to decision-making – a whole process will be automated. 

How Can You Save Thousands of Dollars?

“We’re just significantly more data-driven in everything we do. And so what’s crazy is we’re not making decisions with enough data upfront and it’s like the agile cost of the change curve. It’s like if you make decisions upfront when you’re planning, it’s much cheaper, it’s literally like, for every dollar, it’s $10,000 after products are produced.” 

Wrong decisions are dangerous for your business, but fortunately, Feedback Loop has the solution. With high-quality data and instant decisions, Feedback Loop helps you stand out from the competitors and be innovative while doing it.

Read the transcript »

Through Your Looking Glass
Episode 1
Rob Holland, CEO, Feedback Loop

Rob Holland: [00:00:00] So you need to make sure that the tools you’re using a fit for use. And I think that’s really an important play. 

[00:00:40] Patrick Comer: [00:00:40] Alright, welcome, Rob. Welcome to this  episode of Through Your Looking Glass. I’m extremely excited to have you  with me today. So welcome.

[00:00:49] Rob Holland: [00:00:49] Thank you, Patrick. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:00:52] Patrick Comer: [00:00:52] My name is Patrick Comer and I’m the founder and CEO of Lucid. I have with me Rob Holland, the CEO of Feedback Loop, which is formerly Alpha. And today we want to really discuss and go through two important topics. One is, B2B marketing and how branding affects our customer’s perception of our brand and of ourselves, and also the importance of research technology, branding itself as Res Tech. So these are the two topics we’ll be going through today. But before getting into any of that, Rob, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to be here today?

[00:01:28] Rob Holland: [00:01:28] Sure. So I’m the CEO of Feedback Loop , formerly known as an Alpha. And,  we worked together quite closely, our companies, so it’s great to be able to just have this conversation and build on the work that we’re doing. I think the whole idea of the research space and consumer research, in particular, is really just a combination of my journey through my career.

[00:01:50] So, for almost three decades now, I’ve been working in different aspects of the consumer space, starting out in CPG, with Clorox, and then in retail and Safeway, out in the West coast, and really learning how brands and consumers interact and how consumers and shoppers make shopping decisions and purchase decisions.

[00:02:09] I started there and then moved over to the research side, over at Nielsen, where I ran Nielsen products, across North America, for about 10 years, on the market research side. So, that included shopper and consumer panels and all the different products across the board. And so working with gamma brands and retailers and consumers, after about two decades of big company consumer work, learning and working with some of the best brands and people in the industry, I went into the startup world and moved over to ad tech.

[00:02:42] I’m with a company called Datalogics that was pioneering the integration of purchase based audiences into programmatic and the consumer platforms. So as their early days and moving away from online behavioral and basic demographic information to bring it over into the actual purchase based consumer information.

[00:03:04] So turning that and digitizing that is a phenomenal ride. We had a great run, and that was acquired by Oracle, but combined with other companies to do the data cloud. And then went over to MarTech where was really focused on consumer personalization at the retail online, retail e-commerce space. So it was really about bringing the right product to the right consumer, the right price at the right time and the point of purchase cycle. And did that for one company called Bluecore for about three years. And then I decided to get into the research space because I see a big opportunity to drive agile research and to drive technology to really make research programmatic and to bring the consumer the voice of the consumer much earlier into the innovation cycle and much more broad across the companies that work with them. So that’s what brought me here.

[00:03:56] Patrick Comer: [00:03:56] Rob, I am thrilled that you are leading Feedback Loop and a part of this industry because of that background.  Speaking personally, I’ve spent most of my entire career in research technology. And to have someone with AdTech and MarTech now leading one of the prominent Res Tech companies just means you can lend a lot of experience to the path that we’re on. So I’m thrilled that you’re a part of the story with us now.

[00:04:23] Rob Holland: [00:04:23] Glad to be here and it’s really exciting times. And, I think the environment was right. And just from a technology and a business need perspective, before the whole COVID crisis, and now more similar, it’s just imperative that businesses can have the support. They need to make the decisions they need. 

[00:04:43] Patrick Comer: [00:04:43] I know that you’ve been supportive of getting together to do this interview for awhile. Part of that story is that when we were connecting over the summer, I think we spoke several times once COVID really started to engage, because there’s so many dynamic things that we need to work through at the moment.

[00:04:59] We both started talking about this concept of Res Tech, and not just the name but the process of an industry defining itself. And I just really remember how important it was for me, both professionally and personally, for you to really say ‘I’m a believer. I understand what this does. I’m ready to help out.’

[00:05:18] And so, thank you for engaging at this level and I know that you’ve offered up your support various ways to move the needle here. And just so everyone knows, as Res Tech is a new concept in our industry , just a quick definition. Res Tech of course is short for research technology.

[00:05:36] And the definition that we’re working with right now is really an umbrella term for all the software and the tools that help either platforms, agencies, or brands target, deliver, analyze any of their insights, initiatives, whether that’s called surveys or otherwise. So it’s really meant to be an umbrella term of the digital transformation of our industry.

[00:05:56] Rob the question I’d ask you is really, what is it about not only the name of Res Tech, but the process that’s important to you, Feedback Loop and some of the experiences you can share from Adtech and MarTech along these lines.

[00:06:09] Rob Holland: [00:06:09] Yeah, I think the parallels are just really stunning and they’re very aligned. So if you think about AdTech and MarTech, what really converged what really converged was the evolution of technological capability, the ability and the willingness of consumers to engage technology at a fundamentally different level  and the expectations  that created through the iPhone, through Google, through Facebook, through Amazon, through the big players and everyone else in the industry, coming together with the need to just produce more and more content and get it out faster and efficiently. And the research, world is much like that, you think about buying ads, in the old days, you’d go to lunch, you have a few cocktails, you get a paper IO, you might fax something over and then you get into a media buy that was planned out weeks and months in advance, but the consumers and the distribution of the content was just changing, the platforms are changing and you couldn’t keep up, and you see it happening in television right now as well, which we were predicting for decades, and stuff really hit.

[00:07:22] Same thing on MarTech, e-commerce is exploding and it was exploding pre COVID. You have to get the right people online. They want information instantaneously that has to be don e  algorithmically. The same thing holds true from our tech, the number of people online and e-commerce, and the pace of shopping is so fast that you have to have algorithms to be able to run and put the right types of offers and products in front of the consumers at the right time, to make them drive purchase decisions. There’s a lot of data, everything’s being tracked. So you can automate that and you can really do that at scale. On the research side, the demand for agile business, agile management, agile product development, to be able to spool up and create the marketing programs to support AdTech and MarTech, requires research to move faster.

[00:08:14] And that means that you have to take technology, to automate many, many steps. Think about a classic survey and doing that as a project. You have to go in, you have to engage your agency. You have to write a brief, you have to define the business objectives. You have to create the survey. You have to go and source, figure out where you’re going to source the survey, source the survey, run the survey, collect the data, clean the data, structure the data, report the data. That’s weeks or months and thousands and thousands of dollars. And meanwhile, the decision’s already been made. So, there’s a way to automate all those steps. That’s what we’re doing at Feedback Loop. Our platform takes about 30 steps to run 400 person survey with about 10 questions and it condensed it down to six steps of which are automated.

[00:09:06] We can compress that down to three days or less. And we can deliver a survey, launch it, design it, launch it and deliberate it, and it can be used in and deploy to take action and make decisions. So technology is required to make that happen at scale.

[00:09:23] Patrick Comer: [00:09:23] That’s a huge efficiency gain going from, what you said, 30 some odd steps down to six, just from an internal process and labor. But also one of the key things people miss about programmatic is it reduces error. We learned this in our investigation of how in FinTech and the finance industry programmatic or algorithms one of the biggest values was the efficiency, but it was really the reduction in error, which on the finance side would save billions of dollars in terms of, their processing. 

[00:09:52] Rob Holland: [00:09:52] That’s so true. And the error piece is one of the things that’s critical. So the quality goes up, the speed comes down and you can really, for the right types of decisions, deploy and distribute research much broader in the organization at a much more cost-effective manner so that you can use data much earlier in the innovation cycles, so that you’re constantly getting consumer feedback or other types of data, but broadly across research, you can integrate that in more efficiently and it can help companies learn faster and innovate smarter.

[00:10:28] Patrick Comer: [00:10:28] That’s one of the key kind of changes in perception about programmatic and automation. People don’t understand how much the quality can improve when you automate, when you go down these paths of improving efficiency, when you adopt programmatic. We’ve seen this time and time again, where the expectation was that a slower, more expensive process or cost structure was higher quality but once companies started to adopt aspects of programmatic, aspects of agile, they start to realize actually the quality of data collection and insights is actually improved. Obviously, we enjoy that because we’re both on the AdTech and the Res Tech side of things, but it’s something that our customers are starting to see as well and that’s a key benefit, they may not have been expecting.

[00:11:11] Rob Holland: [00:11:11] Well, that’s part  of the opportunity and the challenge of this whole transformation into agile and research. It’s a major element of what w e  are focusing on at Feedback Loop as we bring this and help evangelize it in the market because, as would be expected, research has a fiduciary responsibility to mitigate risk, to help make sure that data is quality data.

[00:11:34] The whole concept of quality is so critical, but it needs to be re-imagined because if you’re thinking about doing a waterfall development, whether it’s a product, it’s a campaign, it’s, marketing message, whatever, what have you, you need to do a lot of heavy research upfront because you’re going to start building and you’re going to go on a path down a path that you gotta be right.

[00:12:00] I remember the days of Clarks, we would do mini markets and test markets where we’d literally take over cities and fill grocery stores with product before we’d launch it nationally. It was so expensive and we could do one of those every few years.  It took an enormous amount of time and energy and effort to get done and you just can’t move that way today. Right? 

[00:12:25] Getting people to understand that as they move to agile themselves and agile research is part of that. The business teams are flying blind and they’re making decisions, they have to make decisions, rapidly and the research teams just can’t keep up. 

[00:12:43] That creates a really big problem in the business. We want to help the research teams support the product teams and enable product teams to have guard rails, think of bowling and having the bumper, so that they can actually do research on their own. That is quality and that is sanctioned through the research teams and then distributed so that they can actually move quickly.

[00:13:08] And that’s a big shift and that the industry is in the early stages of that shift and that’s the opportunity. And that’s what we’re trying to bring, that message, to the market, to make it safe and broadly adopted.

[00:13:20] Patrick Comer: [00:13:20] Well, it seems to be a case in point for your most recent name change. So you originally called Alpha and you can hear it in your language talking about  agile and product development as a route. But most recently you changed the branding and changed the name of the Feedback Loop. So I’d love to learn more about that process and that evolution

[00:13:40] Rob Holland: [00:13:40] Yeah, it is an evolution. We’re super excited about it. The idea of the name change really was meant to follow how our businesses evolve and our customers have helped us to grow. We’re about five years old and we’ve been on market really for about four years and we started out as, I’ll call it, a shadow research type of a tool that was meant to go point solution that was really geared towards giving product, managers the ability to quickly collect rapid consumer feedback and integrated into their upfront product development cycle. So it was really around the alpha stage and even the pre beta stage so that they could integrate real data as they’re making their first choice sets. And what’s happened is we’ve evolved much beyond that.

[00:14:35] So where we’re actually working from all the way from the alpha stage through UX and finished product to get feedback on the finished product. So it’s an end to end solution now. So what we’ve seen is, and what we keep using in our language with internally and with our customers is feedback,  feedback loops, because we’re providing consumer feedback to product and business teams, marketing teams, innovation teams, digital teams, we’re also connecting the digital and the product business teams to the research teams. So this feedback loops between consumers and business teams and feedback loops we’re creating between business teams and research teams. And that’s where we see the most power. Our strongest customers and our best relationships are when those two loops are working together in tandem and they’re aligned.

[00:15:24] And that’s exactly what we do. So we went out and we really start thinking about how do we simplify our name, make it more obvious about what we do. Alpha was not completely obvious. It was more subtle. And we shifted to an approach where we are bringing just a more direct communication who we are and what we do.

[00:15:45] Patrick Comer: [00:15:45] So when you say two teams, what I’m hearing is the business teams and the research team are those are the two teams you’re referencing? And what I’m also hearing you say is that there’s a need for those teams to be in tandem of how they’re, intervally getting feedback since a feedback loop, for various products, various efforts.

[00:16:07] It also seems like there’s a communication line between the two that needs to be created or strengthened. Is that part of the product suite or the service suite, as well as how those two teams integrate or relate information?

[00:16:18] Rob Holland: [00:16:18] Absolutely. So it’s a shared platform and there’s different models and they hope that the beauty of it is that we’re flexible enough and the approach to do everything from the most centralized model ,where there’s a centralized research team. Maybe they have a dedicated, maybe not dedicated research resource and embedded in the business team, but with the research can be run through the research team and distributed to where the business teams work completely independent of research with sanctions and guidelines and research can be as close or far away as they feel they need to be and want to be. So every company has their own version of that. That’s a continuum, there’s no right or wrong answer, whatever works best we can accommodate it. And that’s really where we find things that helps us to really drive value and help to enable companies as they go through their own evolutions and transformations into agile element to just more rapid development.

[00:17:19] Patrick Comer: [00:17:19] We’re seeing a increasing acceleration on the speed of iteration, like how many different types of surveys, how fast they’re being spooled up and then actually how quickly they’re coming in and out of field, how quickly all that data’s being collected. I see it as an evolution of learning within our customer’s organization of what’s possible because the mindset that a lot of organizations come into research is that it’s slow, it’s expensive, it’s hard, it’s for one department of an organization to handle. 

[00:17:49] What we see over time is that it’s becoming iterate fast and customers are creating new types of research products or new types of even feedback that were not even possible before because of the change in speed cost and agility here. So, I’m curious as to how your customers learn what’s possible over time because the perception or expectations coming in are often so very different, as compared to what’s possible to do these days.

[00:18:15] Rob Holland: [00:18:15] Let me start with a metaphor and then I’ll give you a real life example of how that’s played out.  Imagine you’re in a car and drive and there’s a storm going on. And so, you’re driving, you need to turn on your windshield wipers. Your windsheld wipers are moving and they’re giving you split second clarity, but then it’s immediately secured through the rain so it comes again. So you have enough constant iterative cycle feedback input to be able to navigate from point A to point B. It’s not a perfect picture, but it’s enough to keep moving in and get you. We have to go quickly and efficiently. That’s exactly the concept. So you can really compress and do iterative cycles on different types of research to be able to move forward on your initiative.

[00:19:08] That’s exactly what’s going on on an AdTech and MarTech. A customer journey. You go here on a site, to there, you get immediately served up a different experience that is intended to insent you meet your needs and help you to make your purchase journey 

[00:19:25] On the AdTech side, wherever you go, you can see advertisements relevant to you, and that is meaningful to you as a consumer. So it’s the same concept. One of the greatest examples of how this has been done is, one of our customers, Farmers insurance. They were in a competitive situation where Lemonade came out and created this app that based on younger millennials and gen Z around renter’s insurance.

[00:19:54] And the whole idea of that app and that first use case was to bring a new distribution channel to something that’s new to all these consumers as they’re growing and becoming adults and needing to start insuring themselves. How do you get the concept of renters insurance? So they made it cool. They made it hip. They made it easy. They made it technology completely different direct to consumer model Lemonade did. Compared to going to your traditional insurance agent in a strip mall and working through paper back and forth to go get insurance. So they made it super simple, raised a lot of money, very successful story. Farmers, over 130 year old company with a very big agent distribution model spun up, and a whole new team called Toggle, which is the brand, created their own app and they decided they needed to create an happening and innovate very, very fast. So it was an agile business and agile business unit, agile team. And they use the Feedback Loop. One of their strategic partners, and they run over a series of, over a series of  less than a year, run over 200 tests, they talk to tens of thousands of consumers, and they were able to get very specific, incremental bites of feedback on decisions ranging from the name of the app and the colors to where does pet insurance fit in, and what’s the right menu of options to feature so that you can drive attention to how do you even use specific language and change legacy language around very specific elements of the insurance so around certain types of components deep inside the policies. And they just continuously move to a cycle where they’re running 20, 30 tests a month. And they’re really processing that through and making decisions on it in real time. So it’s a very good example of the incremental approach, but it’s small bites, rapid and rapid succession where you can navigate the way you need to in order to move quickly and really deploy agile in a meaningful way.

[00:22:15] Patrick Comer: [00:22:15] When you said 200 in 1 year that’s basically a test almost every single business day of the year. That’s not a small number of A surveys, but B just, handling the onboarding of a survey or a question, going out in the field, collecting the data, analyzing, providing a feedback. There’s a lot of, what I’ll say, technology uplift required to make that efficient because we don’t have the right platform.

[00:22:41] The concept of running 200 surveys can be quite daunting from a manual perspective. You’re just going to manually do the whole thing.

[00:22:49] Rob Holland: [00:22:49] Absolutely. And think about not just the running of the surveys and showing a level of quality and then having the output ready to be consumed and used for decision-making and then being able to take that decision. Right? So,  it’s one thing to get the surveys completed and even published, then you have to interpret them and act.

[00:23:10] So having that delivered in a way that’s consumable is critical to the source, making sure that the quality is there upfront so that you can just drive through the process and not stop and ensure that you have the quality checks.

[00:23:28] Patrick Comer: [00:23:28] So thinking about this name change both of our firms are in this B2B space where our customers are another business. How do you differentiate between how you change your brand and brand messaging for B2B customers? And the following question, that really is with any name change, at least from my opinion, is often about preparing the customer for where you’re going to be as a business down the road, where you’re trying to lead the customer and lead the business too. So there’s usually a difference between where you are, what you actually do or will be doing and what your customers perceive you’re doing now. So I’m curious as to how you think about brand messaging to B2B, but also how do you go through this evolution of how your customers perceive you today versus where you want to lead them down the road?

[00:24:13]Rob Holland: [00:24:13] That’s a great question. So one of the, um, fundamental principle that we are running through is branding and the renaming. We are really focusing on choosing clear over clever. When we first started, we were very clever, alpha, testing, it was geared towards a very specific use case. It was like any startup it’s the initial use case. And we were talking much more around the empowerment of the business, which we still believe very firmly. What we learned over several years is that, to be really successful, even if you start with the business, you ultimately have to connect with the research side and you can go into the research side because they’re much more flexible and interested in the idea of supporting agility than they have been in the past. And I’ve been in the business for over 20 years. So I’ve seen the evolution. And so if you can connect those dots directly and clear, and don’t worry about being clever, because you do, we are educating. So that’s a fundamental  principle. The other thing is to speak in industry terms.

[00:25:28] So we are talking about insights platforms, or we had a few different ways we kind of described ourselves. We’re an agile research platform that provides rapid consumer feedback to business teams, primarily product marketing innovation teams, and to research teams and the innovation teams and business teams just are flying blind and they’re making decisions quickly without significant data or information.

[00:25:53] And the research teams are getting enormous pressure to just keep up and their options right now are: I can use a really sophisticated research tool and do very sophisticated research that only a researcher can do. I can spool up a project inside my house and run a project, or I can work with an agency and outsource it.

[00:26:18] And that’s a project as well. And none of that keeps up with the pace. So explaining what we’re doing, really focusing on it, was key. And then what changes from a customer perspective. Most of our customers, literally every one of our customers, got it instantaneously, which was awesome. Well, the road shows we’re doing is with describing this to our customers have been so exciting, because they get it because that’s what we’re doing.

[00:26:42] And when we tell them the story behind the name change they’re just like literally sometimes high five. And so it helps them talk about what they’re doing with us internally. It makes it easier as well. And then we’re coupling that with just a massive platform rebuild. So when COVID hit, one of the things we did do, that was about my third month with the company is we accelerated a year and a half product development cycle until about nine months. So by the end of the year, we will have completely, integrated so much customer feedback into our platform and just really rebuilt it so that we could take it to a whole nother level. And that’s part of the rebrand as well. So, that’s kind of how we’re following up from a customer perspective.

[00:27:27] It’s not just a name change, it’s a platform upgrade and enhancement, and it’s going to enable us to just expand. The footprint of agile research in the use cases that we can address going forward.

[00:27:39] Patrick Comer: [00:27:39] So it sounds like the origin story was really around product research. And then as you’ve evolved, you’ve realized that the actual research teams and business teams outside of just product can utilize these feedback loops to accelerate their speed and their agility on business decisions or research decisions, not just product decisions.

[00:28:01] One of the questions I was thinking of coming through this is that oftentimes we hit on our end concept of a UX research or also, in a customer experience, once they’ve engaged with the product. So I’m curious how both those two items, both on the user experience research or UX research and the CX side, are part of the product or a part of your thinking or how that is engaging with feedback.

[00:28:28] Rob Holland: [00:28:28] Yeah, it’s great, it’s really important. Before I answer it, I’m going to frame it in a little bit more of a context. If you think about the world of research there are so many different types of research and they’re not apples and oranges. They are very different purposes.

[00:28:44] If you’re using UX research on a finished product, that’s a tech product, that’s different than UX research for user experience on a physical product that you consume. If you want to look at ethnography, if you want to go into deep causal analytics, if you’re doing research for pharma, where you can’t have type two errors, it’s a very different game than if you’re doing something where a false positive is not a game changer. So you need to make sure that the tools you’re using a fit for use. And I think that’s really an important play. We fit in a number of spots and our goal over time is to increase our footprint much like a piece of Swiss cheese goes into a piece of a block of cheese, right?

[00:29:29] So that’s really the evolution of any startup company. So we play across the board, on certain types of UX, and we are upfront in product ideation and everything in between . Our sweet spot is we can help understand the whys very quickly behind the behaviors. So that’s really where our focus is right now. And we have a whole product roadmap. We will be expanding on that, upon that and beyond that. And that’s where the exciting thing for us over the next couple of years.

[00:30:02] Patrick Comer: [00:30:02] You’ve gone through this, name change, this branding change, this bit of storytelling. What advice do you have for other organizations that are staring down this exact same process for reaching and telling their story to B2B customers?

[00:30:15] Rob Holland: [00:30:15] Gardener has been mapping the buyer journey for a long time and the reality is in B2B. With the exception of very small spot purchases. There’s anywhere between six to 10 people involved in any kind of a purchase decision. So that’s the first thing to keep in mind.

[00:30:32] You might have a great champion, but you have to help that champion sell inside the organization. You’re not selling to an individual you’re helping that individual sell. So that’s pretty important to make a buying decision. You gotta make it easy to buy. The underlying principle is never about your product and your solution. It’s always about the customers’ problem and their need, and you have to start there. A lot of companies get really excited because they make great, really innovative, disruptive products and, of course, when you’re trying to go to market, when you believe in your products, you want to drive them. But it’s really not about them at all, it’s about the problem, the solution and you become part of the solution with the product that you bring to market. So don’t forget that, that’s super important. If you can get on the same side of the table as your champion and help them be successful because not only you have to convince them that your product is the product to buy but then you’ve got to help them get that done. And that’s really hard for companies. And I’ve been in small startups and I’ve been in over a hundred thousand person organizations in a relatively high position, with pretty big budgets, and making purchase decisions is by definition difficult. It’s an internal control process. So you need to spend political capital and even if that’s your job and you’re going to be judged by those decisions and how you navigate them through the organization. So just remembering that that’s a super important element in getting anything done, when you think about how do you work through B2B buyers and help them on their buyer journey.

[00:32:31] Patrick Comer: [00:32:31] It sounds like the last 20 years of my career. But it’s interesting now being, on the other side, the CEO of a large growing organization, you can see how you put more and more controls on purchasing. And there are more and more people, especially as the price tag increases, but it’s oftentimes less about the cost of the product in terms of dollars, but more of the cost of change of internal process, change of controls that is more expensive than whatever the price tag is of the thing.

[00:33:00] And so I see more and more the discussion around what is the cost of implementation, training and support of a thing versus the outright, dollarized cost of a license or whatever it may be.

[00:33:12] Rob Holland: [00:33:12] That’s right, but that’s why, again, it’s critical to start with their business problem

[00:33:16] Patrick Comer: [00:33:16] Yeah.

[00:33:17] Rob Holland: [00:33:17] Because all that disruption has gotta be worth the squeeze, right?

[00:33:26] Patrick Comer: [00:33:26] yeah. 

[00:33:26] Rob Holland: [00:33:26] Really walking into a problem, that’s important and you’re really clear about how you can help the business solve their problem with your product. It at least removes some of the friction and it makes it a better process for everybody.

[00:33:44] Patrick Comer: [00:33:44] Well, I want to switch gears to something that we started with, that I get very passionate about, is helping our industry define itself in a productive way. And the reason why I get excited, but also kind of been out of shape as I’ve struggled with this, I think we collectively struggled with it since I got into research and I came in on the sampling side, and it was very hard often to explain what we did say to my parents that was always a challenge, but much less to a customer what is the change going to be. And of course, in my experience as founder and CEO, raising capital speaking with only whether it’s investors, whether it’s capital partners, whether it’s potential strategic partners, there was always this learning curve, this gap between what we could provide, what we did and their ability to understand.

[00:34:44] And one of the origin stories of Lucid is we saw how specifically in AdTech, how that industry had, certain business models that were known and specifically with an AdTech, it was exchanges and a DSP demand side platforms. And so we literally took that framing in order to understand our business model Lucid, to be the largest exchange and the largest DSP and the research space.

[00:35:12] However, what we started to recognize is it wasn’t good enough just to adopt a business model. If everyone didn’t understand what you were, it’s almost like we were neither fish nor fowl, because we didn’t have a bucket to be put in. And I never thought I’d say I needed to be put in a particular bucket, but without a clear definition of a category, without a clear definition of what we do, it’s hard for everyone to rally around it.

[00:35:41] And we started at Lucid thinking about this. We talked about it at sample con conference in Q1, we could still be in person. And then you and I discussed it over Q2 during COVID how important was long-term and we’ve really dedicated ourselves to focusing on this, definition process. We started also looking at how much investment is actually occurring in this overall space. And what was good to see, but also compelling to see is that we’re going to be, last year and this year combined, almost two and a half billion dollars of third party investment into the Res Tech space. And that’s not a small amount of money. And of course the curve is up into the right and it follows similar curves of investment of AdTech and MarTech. And so it seems like we’re on the cusp of all this really coming together for all the right reasons.

[00:36:33] But I want to get back to that moment when I started talking about this concept with you. What really did you glom onto, what were the things that you really started getting? Because we seem to be on the same page and I’m trying to explain why that’s important. What do you see in this process that’s of value to you and to your business?

[00:36:51] Rob Holland: [00:36:51] Yeah. So, we touched a little bit on this in the opening when we were talking a bit about some of the similarities. Essentially, when you think about AdTech or MarTech. and we talk about the macro themes, there was a compelling change in the consumer shopper, the consumer of media, the shopper, the purchaser of retail and technology.

[00:37:18] So there’s their technology and their willingness to, basically, open up new channels, new media channels, new  retail channels, e-commerce channels. And then that created an audience of people that needed to be addressed. And there was an efficiency play and there’s money there.

[00:37:37] Right? There’s an economic opportunity. So that’s really pretty fundamental to the ecosystems evolving and evolving quickly. I think on the research side, more to B2B, the B2B to C customers that we work with are trying to respond to all the changes going on at the consumer level.

[00:38:00] We’re just significantly more data-driven in everything we do. And so what’s crazy is we’re not making decisions with enough data upfront and it’s like the agile cost of change curve. It’s like if you make decisions upfront, when you’re planning, it’s much cheaper, it’s literally like, for every dollar it’s $10,000 after products produced to go back and choose like changing a house project. When you lay out the plans, you design it upfront and then you start building it and you change it. It’s a mess, it’s never as good. So there’s a market to respond to the consumer response That’s key. So Res Tech for me, what makes me excited about it and it’s why I came to Alpha, now Feedback Loop is I think that it’s an emerging market, the economics, there’s just too much money spent on research today. There’s anywhere between 20 to $50 million of research, maybe more spent globally in the US.

[00:39:04] Yeah million. 

[00:39:05] Patrick Comer: [00:39:05] and I think the SMR numbers like 60 to 70 billion globally spent on research right now.

[00:39:10] Rob Holland: [00:39:10] At 225 billion in the US. Because that’s  a lot. And the fastest growing sector of investment is on tech.

[00:39:17] Patrick Comer: [00:39:17] Yeah, absolutely 

[00:39:17] Rob Holland: [00:39:17] It’s a couple of billion, one and a half, 2 billion, which is a lot of money, but it’s a fraction of what the potential is. Right. So, there’s a real need. That’s what gets me excited.

[00:39:28] I think the problem that you teed up is around categories. As humans, we have to categorize things. Good, bad. We have to it’s a survival.

[00:39:38] Patrick Comer: [00:39:38] It’s in our nature, right? It needs a category.

[00:39:40] Rob Holland: [00:39:40] It’s either good or bad. It’s the person with the club that looks angry coming out good or bad. it’s innate. So we need to be able to categorize.

[00:39:51] And not that this is good or bad, that was just a illustrative example, but we got to put things into categories and we have to be able to have points of reference. And that’s where establishing right now. And that’s why it’s hard. It’s still a new concept. And what we need to do is really define it and create these points of reference.

[00:40:09] That’s why agile research is a point of reference.

[00:40:12] Patrick Comer: [00:40:12] Right, right.

[00:40:13] Rob Holland: [00:40:13] and, where we fit in that pool, the way we think about it is if you want something really sophisticated and precise, you’re going to use very highly precise, specialized research tool to do it. The other option is you can go and do a project. And then the other option is you can have shadow research that’s ungoverned, you can get platforms and you can just run surveys or ask questions, but you don’t have any control over it. We fit right in the middle of there. So we can source for most of the business decisions. It’s the Pareto principle, 80% of decisions are like that. Once you’re a wiper, metaphoric, you can do that, that’s a huge part of the market and that’s where we’ve see a lot of opportunity. 

[00:41:00] Patrick Comer: [00:41:00] I like the categorization, but also the lessons learned one of the key values that RestTech has is we get to see the evolution of AdTech and MarTech, the good aspects of it and the challenging aspects, because it hasn’t all just been easy breezy. It also allows us to understand what business models are likely to be needed as we mature and as we evolve and also allows us to understand what outcomes are possible.

[00:41:26] If we think about the number of AdTech and MarTech, say unicorns or public companies, all the success stories that come out of a technology transformation of an industry. And my belief is that, there are a ton of incredible Res Tech companies, not only that are maturing, but also being founded right now, and anything we can do to support them helps the overall growth of our industry, period.

[00:41:51] Rob Holland: [00:41:51] Totally agree.

[00:41:52] Patrick Comer: [00:41:52] I also predict, as much as there is a prediction and success around AdTech and MarTech convergence, over time, we’ll also see the research con side come through as a necessary part of that convergence. A lot of companies, or brands, or even agencies think about their Ad Tech stack, or more and more, they’re start to think about their MarTech stack.

[00:42:16] I think the Res Tech stack will be another interesting conversation with CIOs and CTOs about how they’re going to organize all this information that’s coming through the pipes and various stages of products and advertising. And how it’s going to integrate in that core kind of decision-making capability of the business.

[00:42:34] Because, as you’ve seen your customers seen the ability to have agile decision-making is core to your competitiveness as an organization. The faster you can iterate with speed and accuracy, the faster you can move. You were just talking earlier about how you move forward the product evolution from 18 months to nine months, some version of that, which is a huge effort, but that speed creates a tremendous amount of value is a shifting of gears. And as our, broader customers on the research side, understand they can shift gears and speed, that decision-making capability is core to the success of every organization that we work with.

[00:43:12] and I see that as the fundamental principle and shift. Companies realizing that they can make decisions backed by data iteratively and faster than ever before.

[00:43:25] And 

[00:43:28] Rob Holland: [00:43:28] that reduces the investment and you can even fail fast and move on.  But surely, a dollar market cap companies fell fast, who’s going to argue with that right. Move on and go and make it easy to do that. And that does drive I think the opportunity to even take. When you break research down into smaller bites and smaller pieces, you can embed it and it can be produced quickly. You can embed it deeper into other components. You can, integrate consumer research or research into personalization and get a little bit more of a why on top of the behavior. .You can combine those. You do the same thing on the media side. So there’s, definitely opportunities as it just breaks down into the molecules and the elements.

[00:44:20] And you can just build infrastructure to drive that through. I think that’s really what the future is. And there’ll be room and definitely space for the precise, absolute, complete deep research. Absolutely. But that’s really specialized and that’s really for a subset of the decisions that have to be made.

[00:44:43] Most decisions can be made with a lot, a lot faster with a lot less intensity.

[00:44:50] Patrick Comer: [00:44:50] With these interviews, I always ask the same three kind of last questions that are not about business at all. It’s more about how you have your experiences, so I’ll just go through them. The first one is what was your first job and my job think of paycheck? Your first year, your first check in the mail as it were. 

[00:45:10] And what lessons do you continue to use from that first job?

[00:45:14] Rob Holland: [00:45:14] Checking the mail, paycheck, not my paper route job, which actually I did learn a lot, back in the day, but I think my first job was at Clorox and I came in actually as an internal auditor. So I started on the finance side and I went to a plant in Jersey city, we were auditing the plant as a union plant, really tough union plant.

[00:45:37] And I grew up in New York, but I was out in the West coast. I was just a kid. I was 23 years old and here I am walking in a plant. We used to wear suits back then in a plant, which is crazy. And I’m telling line operators how to run their business and they’re looking at me like, what is wrong with it?

[00:45:55] And these are tough Jersey city people. I know them. I grew up right across the river. I learned real fast to be humble. I learned real fast the power of experience and the value of experience over book smarts. I just fell back on some roots of just respect and you respect everybody, and you respect whoever you’re interacting with, and pay attention to their point of view because they knew more about what was right and wrong about the plan than any of us were ever going to do.

[00:46:28] And if you can actually connect with them and engage them, you can get more information and actually help the situation and I was able to do that right out of school.

[00:46:40] Patrick Comer: [00:46:40] That’s amazing. As a reference point, one of my first jobs in New York was at a Queens, seeing shop, I was a carpenter. Now I’m not from  Queens and so there was a very clear cultural disconnect, but I learned similar lessons at that scene shop, and I think you know the type of workers there, it sounds very similar where they knew exactly what they were doing and know that a liberal arts college kid from Alabama was going to tell them how to build scenery. That was good time. 

[00:47:09] Second question is what’s the best bit of hard feedback you’ve ever received that just resonates with you still today?

[00:47:16] Rob Holland: [00:47:16] It was probably in about the middle of my career. So I was at the point where I was successful at what I have done, but I was really starting to interact much more with senior management, executives management.

[00:47:31] Patrick Comer: [00:47:31] Yeah.

[00:47:32] Rob Holland: [00:47:32] And I was pulled aside after one meeting of some sort. And I finally got the feedback I needed to hear, which was to remember, to keep things as simple as possible and especially things that are complex. That’s the superpower. If you can figure that out and you can communicate that, it’s gonna be much easier to do that.

[00:48:03] It ties back directly to what we were talking about on how you define ResTech. 

[00:48:08] Patrick Comer: [00:48:08] Got to keep it 

[00:48:09] Rob Holland: [00:48:09] how do you simplify the complex? It’s why we’ve went to feedback loop. It was clear clarity over cleverness. It’s  a principle that I, still struggle with the times and I want to continue to work at it, but it was the best feedback I ever got because it really changed my life, not just professionally, but personally, and professionally.

[00:48:31] Patrick Comer: [00:48:31] That lesson seems to be, as you suggested, core to you and also how you approached, this brand change and this name change right? Clever, make it simple, like a straight forward. No need to be a too complex. The last question to go with is a more personal, but what’s the most important thing you learned from your mother?

[00:48:54] Rob Holland: [00:48:54] It’s a great question. I think the most important thing she taught me was be good to people and always take care of your family and the corollary of that, which is also don’t let anybody outwork you ever, and really continue to just push when things get tough.

[00:49:15] And I’ve actually combined those two things, because sometimes you don’t want to be good to people who aren’t good to you. So you gotta work it. You gotta connect it. And you just keep driving that’s what mama taught me.

[00:49:27] Patrick Comer: [00:49:27] Okay. I love the mother. I can imagine. Would she actually used that phrase. Don’t let anyone outwork you is that how she said it?

[00:49:33] Rob Holland: [00:49:33] Literally how she said it She actaully said don’t let anyone ever.

[00:49:38] Patrick Comer: [00:49:38] Ever? You got to put the “ever” in there, that’s extra, that’s extra right there. Rob, this has been glorious. Anything else you want to add to any of these things before we sign off here?

[00:49:51] Rob Holland: [00:49:51] No, just again, thank you for the opportunity to get together.  The conversations just energizing and inspires me. I’m excited about with the space we’re in the opportunities in front of us. I love to disrupt. I’ve been part of a couple of big disruption curves. I don’t want to be a third. That’s what I choose to do.

[00:50:08] I live for it. And, no one’s gonna work me in trying to get it done.

[00:50:13] Patrick Comer: [00:50:13] Ever no one’s ever going to outwork you .  Appreciate you being open and saying yes, not just to this moment, this interview, but really saying yes to partnership in a variety of ways. And from our first conversation, I got that sense from you and Lucid and Feedback Loop formerly Alpha. We’ve been working together for years and this disruption in building this capability.

[00:50:40] And it’s been a great partnership between companies and also colleagues who have worked at both firms. And, just can’t thank you enough for that. Yes, for that openness and that willingness to engage on a whole bunch of levels to move the ball forward for our companies, but also for our industry.  I expect to learn a lot from you given that AdTech and MarTech history as well.

[00:51:01] That’s a great addition to all of us, so welcome as it were.

[00:51:05] Rob Holland: [00:51:05] Thank you and I’m excited to get going. So, let’s go.

[00:51:09] Patrick Comer: [00:51:09] Onward indeed. 


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