#LSA19: Q&A with Alignable’s President & Co-Founder Venkat Krishnamurthy

Earlier today, LSA’s Greg Sterling took part in a one on one interview, with Alignable’s President and Co-Founder, Venkat Krishnamurthy. The session focused on the state of small business, as well as what Alignable is and how it came to exist, and why trust is the core of its mission.

Here are a few notable questions from the interview:

How did you come to be co-founder of a small business network? What got you interested in small businesses?

My journey into this was I started a company and sold it to a large public one. As my kids were getting older, I got to know a lot of the SMB owners. I was struck by how behind they were on marketing, so I quit my job and said let me go try building a marketing application. What happened was, they weren’t interested in the marketing application. However, the businesses were more alone than ever. There was no place for them to turn to even locally.

There’s a lot of limitations coming through Alignable regularly, but what are people doing on the platform, what’s the engagement like?

The substrate of the network is the connectivity between people. We’re local, so as a local business you can connect with local businesses in your community. Once you create that network, there are three big things people do. They chat with each other, businesses can talk to each other that couldn’t before. The second is a forum with different topics. It’s bigger conversations sometimes with hundreds of thousands of people talking about different things. The third thing is seeing what other businesses are doing and then being able to engage with them.

How are the businesses on the platform using the NPS data, are they engaging with it?

They are definitely making decisions with it. It’s hidden away a little bit on the application, but we plan this year to bring it more front and center. We see a lot of questions on our forum, like how should I be using this brand? The data is all there on our site, but they still go out and ask.

A lot of the companies that are working with marketing services for SMBs in your service are very poorly rated as a category. Why do you think that is?

All you have to do is look at the comments in those NPS surveys. I think the primary issue is a breach of trust. They [the SMB customers] are sold something, they don’t know whether what they just bought is exactly what it is or not because the reviews they’ve seen doesn’t give them the full picture. There’s a lot of churn and burn with companies.

How does a company selling marketing software to SMBs build trust? What does trust mean?

I believe SMB owners really divide the world into two buckets. You’re either someone they trust or you’re a vendor. If they trust you, they will stick with you forever. Trust is everything, there is nothing else. The term “brand” in this day in age is your customer’s perception of you. You have to jump over a much higher threshold to convince them [the customer]. Small business owners don’t believe the sales pitches they get all the time, the thing they believe is another small business owner. And they aren’t optimizing for price, they’re always optimizing for trust.

What does a vendor do to get into that conversation?

These people are not just small business owners. This guy is an architect, that woman has an essential oils CBD business, so the question is, who are your biggest proponents in those crowds? Which vertical do you have real success in? Then go after those guys instead of chasing after verticals that are not a good fit. Find your influencers and let them speak for you. Our platform helps you identify those influencers and fans.

What business is Alignable in? 

We want to fundamentally reshape the SMB economy by bringing together small businesses worldwide into this network. It starts with how they interact with each other locally, how they buy goods, how they buy services. We want to give them back the advantage that’s been taken from them in this digital landscape. Our grand vision is being able to connect the small business economy so someone like me is able to build an app without thinking about reducing cost and acquisition.

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