MarTech Interview with Frans van Hulle, CEO and Co-Founder, PX

MarTechSeries
Originally published in MarTechSeries on March 27, 2019.

“We are at an inflection point where technology can rapidly advance the industry and create a more level playing field between buyers and sellers.”

Tell us about your role and journey into customer acquisition. What made you start PX?

We started as a lead generation company with our own and operated websites in several verticals, but we knew we could offer the industry more. From day one, we always had a focus on technology, and in our minds, it was the path to solve some of the biggest challenges in the industry including transparency. Addressing the issue of transparency eventually became our guiding principle as we developed the platform. In 2018, we converted from a lead generator to a MarTech company providing the first and only open marketplace and platform for advertisers to automate and manage their customer acquisition campaigns.

Tell us about the team/technology you handle.

Our PX team consists of about 70 people, of which, more than 25 are developers. We have a very strong focus on our technology platform, which is proprietary and developed entirely in-house. Our goal is to provide performance marketers with a platform and an open marketplace that offers them complete visibility into their customer acquisition programs. Transparency to see where every lead comes from (down to the URL) and how every lead performs within the sales funnel.

How is the customer acquisition industry different from what it was a few years ago?

Advertisers are getting smarter and want to maximize their return on investment. Although Marketing Automation is still a big challenge for many advertisers, there are more tools available today than ever before. In my opinion, we are at an inflection point where technology can rapidly advance the industry and create a more level playing field between buyers and sellers. Traditionally, sellers have held most of the power but we see that beginning to shift as transparency enters the market.

What goes into creating a frictionless experience for tech buyers through automation and data analytics?

Technology has its limitations unless the end-user has a full understanding of how to operate within it, so providing in-depth training and customer support is a high priority for us. It starts with a seamless onboarding process over an extended period of time where you really take a client, step-by-step, through each process and every function. Secondly, it is key to establish quarterly business reviews (QBR) on each account with real-time access to reporting.

Lastly and most importantly, is to have each data point linked to a potential user action, in real-time. For example, if a buyer pulls a report that shows an ROI lower than their objectives, they can adjust bidding, change the filters and make adjustments in real-time to improve their return. This is a great area of focus for us.

How much have Marketing and Advertising Operations changed since the arrival of Automation and BI/Analytics tools? How do you leverage these tools at PX?

Everything has changed a lot. I equate it to how quickly we’ve been able to advance our own platform. This time last year, marketers did not have the same level of transparency or insights into the campaigns that they have today. At PX, we’re starting to leverage more tools internally for our own sales and marketing activities. We’re doing a lot of BI on client value, cohort analysis, and client categorization.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies does PX use at the moment? Personally, which is your favorite Marketing Automation tool?

We use a wide variety of tools at PX including:

  • ZOHO – CRM, pipeline and opportunity management
  • Gmail – Email outreach, Calendar
  • MixMax – Email add on: Meeting scheduling, elegant attachments, delayed send, follow-ups, templating, read receipts, and more…
  • Linkedin Sales Navigator – Prospecting and outreach
  • ZOOM – Scheduled calls/conference calls, available as a Chrome calendar add-on for 1-click conference call creation
  • Vonage – Basic telephony (aim instead when possible to conduct client interactions on Zoom)
  • Gong.io – Call Analytics, Recording, Transcription, and Insights
  • Slack – Internal communication & chat tool, team slack channel, cross-functional sync
  • AdobeSign – Contract signing
  • PX – Where all the magic happens!

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Marketing Technology for 2019?

We see transparency being the number one disruptor in customer acquisition in 2019. For years, buyers have had to rely on antiquated processes to implement and manage their lead and call campaigns. More and more, marketers are being forced to justify their budgets. Without technology that can demonstrate true visibility into where their leads are coming from and how each lead performs throughout the sales funnel, they can’t conduct an accurate assessment. Buyers should demand transparency from their partners and we see this shift as a big disruptor for the industry.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
Not anyone specifically. I tend to look more at how more established companies such as Marketo and HubSpot are evolving to address industry issues.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

We, at PX, are actually very focused on AI and have started the development of the first tools in the industry that apply AI and Machine Learning. At the moment, we’re working on a smart bidding tool that helps our clients buy leads and calls in a smarter way, at optimized pricing, while keeping the optimal cost per acquisition in mind. We have high ambitions internally to further implement AI into our platform.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

We inspire our team by actually showing what is achieved with the help of technology. Since we introduced our open marketplace in September 2018, our clients have been thrilled with the results and we feel it is important to share those success stories with our team to demonstrate the great work they are doing. PX is a family and we feel it is important that everyone see first-hand the impact they are having on people’s business.
One word that best describes how you work?
Think big, act small… summarized in one word ‘detailed.’

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Outlook, WhatsApp, Slack, Zoom and from a personal point of view: Catawiki (to expand my comic collection!).

What are you currently reading?

I read a lot of comics.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Do what you say, and say what you do. My former mentor told me that when you stick to this rule, you’ll be better than 80% of the companies out there. It’s simple, but so hard to follow!
Thank you, Frans van Hulle! Hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

About Frans van Hulle

Co-founded PX, the world’s first transparent customer acquisition platform, providing a single marketplace for companies to acquire customers from hundreds of vetted and sought-after sources. The company provides a mar tech solution for marketers to grow and efficiently scale their customer base, and is active in the Home Services, Financial Services, and Insurance industries.

Inspired by other entrepreneurs, driven by creating rather than money only. I love to create and to find the right business models and I am always interested in participating/investing in innovative, international projects in my areas of interest (lead generation, online marketing, affiliate marketing). Generally prefer possible joint ventures, win-win deals and working with other entrepreneurs, as well as launching ultra-successful products and businesses.