Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WMC Interviews: Dale Underwood

This week I caught up with Dale Underwood, CEO of EchoQuote, an automated lead capture web service provider. EchoQuote enables B2B companies to automatically create customized price quotes based on the requester's email address and distribute lead information to an internal sales team or channel. The philosophy behind the product is simple: between your website, analysts, publications and social media, prospects can now learn pretty much everything they want to know about your product or service before ever contacting you—except the price. EchoQuote fills that gap, on a pay-as-you-go pricing model that minimizes risk.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before EchoQuote? What’s your background?

Dale Underwood (DAU): I’ve been directly involved with information technology my entire career. I started out as a datacenter operator (I worked in the computer center at Virginia Tech while in high school), turned programmer, sales engineer, salesman and finally business owner. In 1998 I co-founded Marzik, a Value Added Reseller (VAR) focused on selling enterprise storage solutions to the Federal Government.

WMC: How and why did you get started in this business?

DAU: By 2004 I noticed a change in the business climate; the self-service nature of the Internet was empowering our customers to research and learn about the products we were selling. As a VAR it was becoming tougher to remain the “subject matter experts” when customers were not only using the latest gear everyday but they also had the Internet to supplement their research. I felt it was time to try something new and so, in January of 2005, my partner bought my share of the business. Marzik was a very positive experience and I owe a lot to my former partner.

I took some time off but it didn’t take long to begin thinking about building a new business. I liked the VAR business but it was missing one thing—innovation. The VAR business has not really changed much over the years so I came up with a plan to improve it. The plan focused on building a Self-Service platform that would benefit everyone involved in the enterprise sales process; the end-user, purchaser, large system integrator (prime contractors like Lockheed Martin, EDS, etc.) as well as the manufacturer’s sales and marketing teams. The end result was a VAR with this incredible internal infrastructure; my analogy was a bicycle with a jet engine. I quickly saw the value of the engine and decided to separate it from the VAR business and market it as a service to product manufacturers. I obtained a patent on the process in early 2007 and EchoQuote was born.

WMC: Who do you target, that is, who is your ideal or typical client?

DAU: Although our Self-Service Pricing model could be used across a wide variety of industries, we tend to stay within the IT product manufacturer segment simply because they are the quickest to adopt new technical processes; their entrepreneurial spirit is also a good match for our own. Our ideal client is a small to medium size IT product manufacturer (under $100 million) that has a good product but is just not getting the traction it deserves. Small tech companies are more aggressive and tend to judge value on results which aligns perfectly with the “pay for results” model of EchoQuote; it’s literally risk free.

WMC: Who do you view as your competitors, and what separates your offering from theirs?

DAU: Our primary competition is newness of the concept more so than choosing another service. There are many outstanding SEO and PPC products and services that drive web traffic but we have found very few that truly address the issue of filtering out good, qualified opportunities. EchoQuote was designed and written from the ground up because there was nothing in the market that addressed the B2B pricing dilemma—“How do we empower the prospect to select and receive a custom price quote while maintaining control at the sales edge?” Many B2B marketers assume they have “seen something just like it” but they are usually talking about product configurators or shopping carts. Our B2B solution is about connecting people; in our case connecting qualified prospects with the sales and marketing teams.

WMC: What’s your "elevator pitch"—how do you describe the value your service brings to your customers?

DAU: EchoQuote is a web based service that captures more qualified opportunities earlier in the sales cycle. We empower a potential customer to select and request custom pricing that will be delivered within minutes while alerting the appropriate sales team of the opportunity.

WMC: How do you market and promote your business?

DAU: Right now we are simply focused on making a huge impact on our existing customers and it is working. One client has uncovered over $20 Million in qualified opportunities in the first half of 2007. B2B Marketing is about visible, measurable results and with examples like that we expect the word to spread.

As for external marketing, I personally feel expert B2B marketing bloggers are a good first step for us. I am also learning a lot through my membership with MarketingSherpa and am excited about the upcoming Demand Creation Summit.

WMC: What’s the biggest or most important marketing lesson you’ve learned since you got started in all this?

DAU: Your product or service must translate to successful customers; everything else is just noise.

WMC: Anything else you’d like to add?

DAU: I’d like to thank all of the B2B marketing bloggers out there for their continued insights and lively discussions.


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom


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