SalesTechStar Interview with Andrei Petrik, CEO & Co-founder at NetHunt CRM
A CDP or Customer Data Platform is used to collect and unify data within a central database and this database includes different data sets like purchase history, company interactions, on the other hand, a CRM stands or Customer Relationship Management is an integrated, data-driven software that helps improve and advance the ways in which a business communicates with customers and prospects. It is still common for sales and marketing teams to (sometimes) confuse the best of the two between CDPs and CRMs. In this interview, Andrei Petrik, CEO & Co-founder at NetHunt CRM breaks down the differences while sharing the inspiration and story behind his platform.
Tell us about yourself Andrei, and tell us the NetHunt CRM story. When and how did it all begin, and how have you seen it evolve over the years?
“I’ve been in love with coding for as long as I remember. From being in university, creating mobile games from scratch, to travelling around America and Europe implementing large, enterprise-scale CRM for big business. It’s always been my passion. I loved my job, travelling and teaching; I was comfortable.
But there was always one thing that bugged me about these massive systems. We’d spend weeks setting it up in a transnational company like, I don’t know, eBay or something, and then we’d spend days training their teams. But out of the dozens of reports it would churn out, they would only really use two of them; out of the hundreds of different features, the sales team were only really concerned with it as a contact database… if they used it at all. The real kicker was that the companies were spending up to $300 per user, per month!
What I didn’t get was why CRM couldn’t be something like Skype, where you just download it and its up and running for $5 per month. It was too much of a process and these salespeople really didn’t need all the backend stuff. The user only needs a side panel and not this monster software. We needed to strip it back and take it back to basics. We needed a system that was flexible enough to fit a business, rather than being rigid, and these businesses having to flex to fit the system. That was the lightbulb.
We took a holiday, we spoke about it over a few beers, writing lines of code on napkins at the bar. We came back home, took sabbaticals, and took a huge leap into the unknown and created NetHunt.
Since then, I’m proud of how much the system has evolved and is evolving. From the basic functionality we offered users at first, we’ve managed to secure unmatched Gmail integration. These days, NetHunt can be used by sales, marketing, and support departments alike. It supports the whole sales process, from lead capturing, to email campaigns, to reporting and beyond.
We’ve never looked back.”
How do you predict the path for adoption and use of CRMs for B2B businesses globally? Which ways can you see the evolution of the industry going, and which features do you expect to see more?
“The technology isn’t ready for the very final vision of CRM. Yet. That is, to have a business advisor by your side at all times, telling you what’s going wrong and where, what you need to do more or less of, and which processes aren’t profitable. Basically, AI is the future of CRM.
If we look back at how CRM started, it was basically a fancy database. Slowly, it evolved to have a nice UI, and then a lot of analytics were added. Automation only came very recently. As a result of this short timeframe, we’re still having to dig down into our own data to find prevalent trends and causes of problems. Like, I’ve still got to keep an eye on that 100k deal and look for the signs that it’s going cold.
Instead, we’re going to start moving towards smart notifications. We’re going to have data working for us, where the automation that gathers the data actually processes and learns from it, telling us when and where something is not as it should be.
AI won’t give us full automation; we don’t want that. What it’ll give us is the opportunity to oversee a process, instead of having to do it every day. Everything will be even simpler; even more central. People don’t want complicated systems to do something simple like book calendar appointments; we’ll be able to automatically glean information from client chats as well as emails.”
We’ve seen that a lot of non-tech sales and marketing workers often confuse CDP and CRM. Can you tell us what the main differences are, and which features each has?
“To be honest, I’m not surprised! There are so many acronyms and abbreviations floating around these days.
So, CDP stands for Customer Data Platform. CDP is used to collect and unify data within a database. This database includes data such as purchase history and company interactions, and is accessible to other systems. Marketers then use this data in their advertising and marketing campaigns to create a personalised, targeted customer journey.
On the other hand, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. This is an integrated, data-driven software that helps improve and advance the ways in which your business communicates with customers. It started out as a simple interaction tracker, but these days CRM is useful to the different departments of a business. From bulk email campaigns and tracking for marketing, to automated pipelines for sales and automated tickets for customer support.
Where CDP is quite rigid and narrow in its definition, CRM has grown and become much broader to do different things.”
What tips can you give us about bringing sales and marketing teams closer together?
“Ah, Smarketing! In my view, as a CRM expert anyway, I believe that for full alignment between those two teams it’s absolutely essential to be working out of the same system; they should both be logging into the same CRM at the start of the day.
A CRM dashboard can be the first stop in any journey. That same customer context that’s being used by sales to personalise their outreach can be used by marketers to develop buyer personas, and even by customer support to resolve a ticket as quickly as possible. Most CRMs these days visualise the pipeline so everybody is working from the same page, with the same process, to the same ends. Even with things like reports, we can automate them and refer to them in inter-departmental meetings.
For full alignment of sales and marketing, we need full transparency and untethered communication. CRM gives us that.”
Do you still see marketing and sales teams not utilizing their full tech stack, including CRM? How can they fix this?
Absolutely. I regularly take calls with clients and partners and can tell, even from the other end of a phone, that they don’t use their tech stack to its full potential. It’s broad, but we can take a look at reporting, for example. Team leaders and managers are still doing a lot of manual work to gather and aggregate stats. It can be down to a number of reasons, maybe they simply aren’t aware that there are easier ways, or they could even be afraid to use them… but how can they fix it?
Well, I suppose all they really need to do is dedicate a day, just one day, to learning the capacity of the systems they have in place. That’s all it takes.
Even as business starts to reopen, remote work has become much more prominent since the Covid-19 pandemic dug in. Have you got any advice on teams working from home?
“Yeah, it’s tough. Of course I’m going to say that CRM helps by centralising everything, but there are a heap of other technologies out there that can help. A good project management tool like Trello or Jira helps team leaders put everyone on the same page. I also know our team uses Slack to stay in touch. That’s what’s important really, staying in touch; even if it’s just asking how somebody’s doing and maintaining that social aspect in your life to stop yourself from going bonkers.
Going beyond technology, I always find that music helps. Especially music without lyrics, that can simply be played in the background. Artists like Bonobo or Lemon Jelly are some of my favourites to work to.”
How do you believe the pandemic will affect the marketing and sales world?
“For SaaS companies, I don’t think too much is going to change. The digital channels that we use to acquire new customers and market our products have stayed the same, if not grown. In fact, the Internet has cushioned the blow for a lot of the business world, so we can be thankful for that. I do think it’s important to focus on retaining existing customers over acquiring new ones, simply because buying power is so unpredictable. Sales should be less pushy and intense; more valuable and understanding.
For companies who operate offline, who are less “socially distant”, they’ve got a bigger job on their hands. They might have to repurpose their entire business, pivot new products to make them corona-friendly, adopt online business models, develop new promotional strategies, and learn how to win customers all over again.”
Catch the latest episodes of the SalesStar Podcast to hear more on what Industry leaders in tech are doing to optimize business processes during this Covid-19 downtime.
Andrei Petrik is the CEO and Co-Founder at NetHunt, a Gmail-based CRM system. Having been in the industry for more than 12 years, Andrei knows a thing or two about customer relations and business processes. Prior to developing his own product, Andrei was Director of Product Management and worked closely with corporations on helping them implement enterprise-level CRM systems.