Voxie is a text messaging software that helps businesses connect with their customers with personalized text messaging at scale. Voxie was founded in 2018 and has been able to bring around 50% response rates and 30% CTR for their customers. Mikhail Avady, VP of Marketing and Product at Voxie joins us for the interview today. Prior to associating with Voxie, Mikhail has founded several successful companies. Apart from marketing, Mikhail has also worked on sales, customer success, finance, and corporate law and has been featured on publications like CNN, BBC, Forbes, and International Business Times.
Mikhail and his team have been using Salespanel ‘since the early days of Voxie’ and it has been their go-to tool for marketing, visitor identification and tracking, and sales collaboration. Voxie also uses Salespanel’s integration with their CRM to bring data intelligence directly to sales reps.
Mikhail joins us for this interview to share experiences of his entrepreneurial ventures, scaling Voxie and using Salespanel to help his team sell better.
01:03 Career Graph: Building Successful Companies
03:18 Biggest Accomplishments
05:12 Media Growth Hack for SEO
08:12 Adapting Salespanel
11:33 Sales and Marketing Alignment With Salespanel
15:08 Suggestion for New Marketers
Nilangan Ray: I’d like to start by asking you about Voxie. Can you tell us more about it?
Mikhail Avady: Voxie is a text marketing platform that helps companies capture more customers quickly and keeps them coming back either into a store or online using two-way conversations.
Nilangan: So, your customers are B2C, I’m guessing?
Mikhail: Yes, the majority of our customers are B2C. Omni-channel retail is the vast majority.
Nilangan: You used to call yourself Voxie Chat, right? Did you rebrand the company?
Mikhail: Yes, we were able to get the domain name voxie.com.
Nilangan: That’s good to hear. Can you tell us more about your role in Voxie?
Mikhail: I’m in charge of product and marketing. I work both with the engineering team to ensure that our customers have the tools necessary to drive more revenue and the marketing side to tell everybody about the amazing stuff we’re building.
Nilangan: I’ve seen your CV, which is really wild. You’ve worked in finance, you’ve worked in marketing, you’ve worked in sales, and you’ve also worked in corporate law. But you’ve also founded several successful companies. Can you tell us your story of being a serial entrepreneur and how things have worked out for you?
Mikhail: You know, my path is a little bit "different." I’m one of the few people who went to get my MBA at the same time as I was building startups. I thought it was an important base of knowledge. But I’ll fast-forward my story to how I got involved with Voxie. I was actually at a different company and was testing something that was really hot at the time—this would’ve been around 2018. Conversational marketing was just taking off and companies like Drift were extremely popular. There was a lot of hype about it, and as a data-driven person, I wanted to test this. So I started testing traditional landing pages for lead gen against these chatbots and found that it was about seven times better. I was extremely excited about this channel and saw it as the future. Immediately after conducting this test, Bogdan [Constantin], who was the founder and CEO of Voxie, came to me—he and I had known each other for a long time—and said, "Mikhail, I’m working on this conversational marketing company. What do you think?" And I was just blown away. I was like, "I’m in, let’s do this. I want to help you with this company."
Nilangan: How long have you been working for Voxie?
Mikhail: Almost two years.
Nilangan: And what have been your biggest accomplishments with Voxie?
Mikhail: Well, we took it from almost zero to a million dollars in recurring revenue. That was our first major milestone. And now we’re on the path to breaking 10 million.
Nilangan: Has the pandemic affected you at all?
Mikhail: It has but in a positive way. Businesses more than ever need to get in front of their customers, and it’s hard to break through the noise. So not only has the channel become more powerful, but we’ve also had industries open up that we never went after before. Industries like restaurants, for example. We needed a better way to communicate with our customers—not only in terms of offering curbside and delivery services but also that those curbside pickups would be safely coordinated.
Nilangan: While some companies are in a rough spot right now, tech companies are in a better place than ever, to the point where stocks of all the big tech companies are skyrocketing. I think this has been a really interesting time for SaaS companies like Zoom and others.
Nilangan: Now, I have to ask you this. I see that you’ve been featured on CNN and BBC for uncovering some crazy patents made by Google, Facebook, and others. Can you tell us more about this?
Mikhail: This was probably one of my first major milestones as a marketer. It was with my first company, which is still around. We were still a young startup in the bootstrapping phase. We didn’t have a lot of money for advertising and I had to find a more organic approach to drive leads. That means you’ve got to go grow your SEO, right? And one of the biggest factors is high domain authority backlinks. Some of the highest backlinks are news, so how do we get more of these linkbacks? These were the questions I was asking myself. I studied a lot and came up with this framework. My goal was to continuously give reporters something valuable, newsworthy, and repeatable. So I reached out to some reporters and asked them, “Hey, if I was able to get you information about patents soon as they’re released, so you can be the first person to write about them—and I’ll curate the list for you—would you be interested in that?” And they said, “Absolutely, I would.” So, I built a relationship with reporters to feed them information about some of these groundbreaking patents as they first became public. As luck would have it, it struck big and we continued getting high-authority backlinks.
Nilangan: So, if I understand this correctly, you used this growth hack for media releases to get high DR backlinks and along the way, you discovered these crazy patents?
Mikhail: We had to find something newsworthy enough to provide high value to reporters.
Nilangan: So, what’s the craziest thing you saw? Is there anything you remember from that time?
Mikhail: It’s almost 10 years ago now, but what’s really cool is that those patents that we were discovering back then are starting to become real now. And one of those is Amazon delivery drones.
Nilangan: Yeah, 10 years ago somebody would’ve thought that was insane.
Nilangan: Now we come to Salespanel. What made you consider Salespanel and what challenges were you facing?
Mikhail: I wanted a better way to understand who was coming to my site. Google Analytics is amazing as far as general data and source data are concerned. But sometimes it’s hard because while I can tell where they’re coming from, I don’t know who they are. That’s the problem I was trying to solve.
Nilangan: You’re mainly using the company identification, I’m guessing?
Nilangan: I interviewed another customer a while back who said the same thing: that Google Analytics is fantastic, but sometimes really hard to work with. Also, you can only react to the data it gives you. You can’t proactively work on that data. What we want is for businesses to work on every visitor so they can dynamically show their content or reach out to them with highly targeted content, even when they’ve left your website. In the case of company identification, you’d never know which exact visitor had visited your website. All you can do is make a guess or try reaching out to them. So what we’re doing is helping companies qualify visitors and sharing targeted content only with qualified visitors to increase conversion rates. We hope people are finding it useful.
Nilangan: What do you think about Salespanel’s customer experience and how we deliver value? You’re also a B2C SaaS company, so tell us what you think.
Mikhail: Salespanel’s been great. I think I’ve been using it for a few years now, since the early days of Voxie and everyone has just been great. I get my questions answered very quickly, along with detailed instructions. I had some complicated Zaps with Zapier set up and you guys were really great in helping us navigate through those challenges.
Nilangan: So, you would rate our support fairly well?
Nilangan: Coming back to Voxie, what marketing strategies have worked the best for you at Voxie?
Mikhail: I’ll tie it into Salespanel. The way that we really use Salespanel is as a support software. And what I mean by that is it supports our sales efforts. We might do outbound prospecting on Jane at company ABC, right? But Jane might forward this email to Eric, and Eric might come to the site. In that scenario, HubSpot isn’t correctly giving us event data and telling us when company ABC is coming to our site. Salespanel has been able to fill in that gap a lot of the time. That’s the main way that we utilize Salespanel. Now we enable our salespeople to do proactive reach-outs—text them, call them, email them—anywhere they are in the cadence. This allows us to accelerate our cadence once we see this higher level of engagement.
Nilangan: In other words, your sales team is using Salespanel to understand customer behavior, then reach out to the right people while already having the major data they need to close the deal or to move forward the conversation.
Nilangan: Have you learned anything in the last six months during this pandemic? What has been your experience? How have you handled things?
Mikhail: You know, the pandemic came at an interesting time in my life. I had to change my wedding plans, among other things. And, you know, I still feel very lucky. I moved in with my significant other, right before the pandemic and I’ve been able to spend more time with family in general. Before the pandemic, we didn’t make as much time for family and close friends. But because we’re all sheltered in place, we’re only opening up our circle to family and close friends. It’s been a little bit of a blessing, I think. That’s the silver lining in all this.
Nilangan: Yeah, I think it has changed the way we live. By the way, your wedding was a few weeks back, right?
Nilangan: Congratulations on that. I’m really glad that everything worked out well for you in the end, considering that nobody knew when they could do the things they’d planned.
Mikhail: Yeah, it was an interesting experience to have a wedding during a pandemic.
Nilangan: If you had to suggest something to new marketers, what would it be?
Mikhail: Research, research, research. One of the most important things for us is that every marketer on our team is researching to get better at their job. I know that sounds kind of obvious, but marketing trends change every six months. In order to be effective, you need to be continuously learning and studying. And while that may seem a little bit scary, it’s also a huge opportunity for new marketers, because new marketers are never that far behind.
Nilangan: Yeah. Everything is available on the internet, so you’ll always find it if you’re looking for it.
Nilangan: Well, Mikhail, it was great talking to you.
Mikhail: Thank you, have a wonderful day.