GE 260: MediaRadar CEO Todd Krizelman Shares How They Grow 30% YoY & Did $50 Million in Business Last Year (podcast) With Todd Krizelman

Todd Krizelman

Hey, everyone! In today’s episode, I share the mic with Todd Krizelman, Co-Founder and CEO of MediaRadar. Media Radar is a firm that helps ad sales workers and business development people find and identify the best prospects. They are a CliffsNotes for ad sales.

Tune in to hear Todd share why almost every fashion website and broadcaster in America uses MediaRadar, why he spends 50-60% every week selling, how they increase sales by 8-18% per year for each client, and what his strategy is to weed out mediocre employees.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: MediaRadar CEO Todd Krizelman Shares How They Grow 30% YoY & Did $50 Million in Business Last Year TRANSCRIPT PDF

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • [00:32] Before we jump into today’s interview, please leave a review and rating and subscribe to the Growth Everywhere Podcast!
  • [01:44] The idea for MediaRadar came from Todd’s time working in the industry.
  • [01:58] He noticed there were very few tools to help salespeople do their jobs.
  • [02:15] MediaRadar is a subscription service. They charge an annual fee to use the platform.
  • [02:36] It’s a SaaS business.
  • [03:03] Almost every fashion website and broadcaster in America uses MediaRadar.
  • [03:17] They believe they increase sales by 8-18% per year for each company.
  • [03:45] Most of their business is people actually selling the ads.
  • [04:00] They work across media formats.
  • [04:42] MR has over 2000 customers and they have grown by about 30% per year.
  • [05:10] It is a challenge to maintain that growth year over year.
  • [05:33] The median customer spends about $25,000/year for their subscription.
  • [06:00] The first 100 customers were achieved by strategizing.
  • [06:12] They wanted to the first 20 customers to be from very small businesses.
  • [06:38] Bigger companies are sometimes slower on the trigger.
  • [06:54] They also wanted to be able to improve using feedback before approaching bigger conglomerates. Smaller companies are better partners and listeners.
  • [07:35] After the first 20, they looked for companies that would make quick decisions.
  • [08:15] They ruled out publicly held companies or any with procurement departments.
  • [08:47] Last year, MR did around $50 Million in business.
  • [09:10] The most important thing Todd has learned is that you need to provide value back to the ecosystem you serve.
  • [09:45] Sometimes, this means providing free insight to the people you serve.
  • [10:06] Thought leadership is important, as well.
  • [10:40] At conferences, they don’t try to sell, but rather talk about industry trends and how to be a good partner.
  • [11:15] MR has booths at conferences, which are big investments, but a great way to get your name out there.
  • [12:15] Be diligent about collecting information: if you meet someone at a conference, get their name and put that into a database. Track your interactions in all forms.
  • [12:57] MR has built profiles on people over time.
  • [13:45] They are really playing the long game.
  • [14:12] It is very hard to force a true relationship. You have to earn the right to talk to someone.
  • [15:20] In his last company, Todd never worked in sales.
  • [16:10] It weighed on him that he never understood sales.
  • [16:25] There is huge value for a CEO to meet with clients.
  • [16:41] Don’t be an armchair quarterback, lead the charge.
  • [17:00] His biggest failure was not putting himself on the front lines in his last company.
  • [18:02] It’s hard to identify middling employees and clear them out.
  • [18:35] Even if they are nice, they have to go.
  • [19:05] You need people who can deliver quick results in order to grow your company.
  • [19:55] During review periods, try to question how well a person is doing.
  • [20:22] MR has been employee a helpful metric to weed out employees.
  • [20:50] Predictive Index is less known than Myers-Briggs, but Todd likes it better.
  • [21:35] One helpful tip Todd believes in is consistently upgrading your equipment (laptops, phones, etc.).
  • [22:22] He doesn’t want to spend his time worrying about battery life, so he will upgrade purely because he knows the newest phone will have a better lifespan.
  • [23:00] Todd recommends the book written by one of the founders of Sony.

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Disclaimer: As with any digital marketing campaign, your individual results may vary.

Full Transcript of The Episode

Show transcript
Todd Krizelman: You know software for a subscription that could be, but it's that business model.

Eric Siu: Got it. Okay. Well, cool. And I think for just even me to understand better, are there any kind of case studies you can speak to where agency A used this, and then their conversion rates jumped up by 200% or something like that?

Todd Krizelman: Yeah, sure. Well, so I can talk ... I can't give a specific name because customers really prohibit that and dislike it, but I can definitely talk about it. As an example almost every fashion site and magazine uses MediaRadar. Almost every broadcaster in America, their ad sales team uses MediaRadar. Typically, in the ... For the average sales rep we will increase their sales between 8 to 18% in the first year. If someone was selling a million dollars, at a minimum we would expect them to sell almost $1.1 million. We would expect that bump immediately.

Eric Siu: Got it. Okay, and when you say ad sales, what kind of advertising agencies for example are using this? I'm assuming it's not the traditional kind of digital marketing agency, or is it?

Todd Krizelman: First of all know that we're ... Most of our business is with actually the people selling the ads, so it's ...

Eric Siu: Oh, got it, got it. Got it. Okay.

Todd Krizelman: It could be an ad sales rep at magazine, a website, a broadcaster, and it can be ... What makes it sort of interesting is it's across not only any media format, like digitally it could be both programmatic as well as direct. For those that are listening the difference is basically computer based trading of advertising versus selling advertising the good old fashioned way, by phone, or by human. But it's, for us the business is completely agnostic to media format. We work with people selling newspapers, magazines, whether it's video, or all the above benefit from the service.

Eric Siu: Got it. Okay. Makes total sense now. Okay, cool. What are some numbers you can speak to around the business, whether it's revenues, customers, growth rates, things like that?

Todd Krizelman: Sure. We can talk in terms of number of customers. We have a little over 2,000 current customers in MediaRadar. The growth rate has grown, sort of fluctuates between 30 and 40% per year, and that's been the last five years. That becomes I think more challenging every year as we grow because it's ... I think it is a game of figuring out how to both penetrate the market better, so that means basically selling more of the existing stuff to the same customers, as well as expanding into new markets, and trying to add customers in sort of adjacent markets. It's both areas we have to grow if we're gonna keep up that growth rate.

Eric Siu: Got it. Wonderful, and I think you might have mentioned earlier too. These are probably annual deals? The average customer how much are they paying typically?

Todd Krizelman: The median customer of MediaRadar is around, is about $25,000. It varies based on the modules that people buy so, but on the median I would say that's about right.

Eric Siu: Got it. Okay. Wonderful. Walk me through, I guess, early days, I do want to jump back to ... Well, I'll jump back to this other question later, but early days, I mean, how did you go about getting, let's just say your first 100 customers or so?

Todd Krizelman: The first 100 customers, we had a real strategy for thinking about in the beginning. One, we wanted the first 20 customers to be really small not well known companies. This is a B2B business, so we do not have, it's a B2B in a single vertical, so that means we don't have a product that we sell horizontally to millions of clients. It's really ... There are about 15,000 possible customers we might ever sell to, so we wanted to choose brands that we thought were smaller, that first could make a decision. Bigger companies sometimes take a year to sign. We were a startup, so we focused on people with who we thought good or bad could give us quick feedback, and if they liked it they could buy it, and we could move on.
And two we thought about the first 20 being smaller and midsize companies because we wanted to work it out, sort of work on the product and hear people's feedback before we went to some of the big conglomerates. We worried that the big conglomerates, if we didn't have it all perfect, and we didn't. If we had challenges with the product, that we could work them out with smaller clients who would be better partners, better listeners. Companies and people who wanted to be involved with an entrepreneurial venture. Our experience for sure was good with that, but with bigger companies we found that they didn't want to be guinea pigs. They wanted to be buying fully baked products, and so in the first 20 customers we were just interested in people doing essentially ... Knowing that they were gonna be guinea pigs.
After that we really started with companies that we thought ... The next 80 after the first 20, we looked for companies that we thought could make decisions quickly. And so there were plenty of companies that we would have loved to have, but we thought they would spend a year to a year and half evaluating our MediaRadar, and that was too long for a startup. You just have no money. You're trying to just make ends meet. The beginning was really targeting customers by their likelihood to make a decision and buy quickly.

Eric Siu: How do you determine kind of who, which companies you thought were gonna move quickly versus the slow ones?

Todd Krizelman: We ruled out any company that was publicly held. We ruled out any company that we thought had a procurement department. Basically, like a whole level of review and process that we would be ill prepared for. We looked for companies that were privately held. We looked for companies that had more than 50 employees, but fewer than 500.

Eric Siu: Got it. Makes total sense. Okay, cool, and if I'm doing some back of the envelope math right here, so 2,000 paying customers, median $25,000, is it safe to say you did close to, or around $50 million?

Todd Krizelman: Yeah, that's right.

Eric Siu: Cool. Great. Sounds like a lot of hand to hand combat. I ask that question all the time and it's really interesting that you got the 20 first, and then the 80 next. It's always interesting the stories I hear. I'm also curious, I mean, for how you guys are going about acquiring customers today, I guess, what's one effective thing that's working for you from a marketing perspective? Or even sales perspective?

Todd Krizelman: From a marketing perspective, I think the playbook has been the same for many years. The most important thing I have learned, and I didn't learn it in this job, but it was reinforced to me in this job was provide value back to the ecosystem that you serve, right? We're not selling to millions of customers. We only have to be in front of 15,000, but that means we have to really be known to them, right? And not just being known doesn't mean that there's awareness, top of funnel awareness. There has to be giving back to the industry. That means providing insights for free to most companies just about the quality and health of the marketplace. The media market is really confusing and complicated right now.

Eric Siu: Yup.

Todd Krizelman: Lots of people having lots of success, but an equal number of people really struggling, and so that means sharing information at a high level for sure. It means thought leadership, speaking at many events. Sponsoring, just spending money and being a good economic partner. A lot of the events wouldn't take place if there weren't sponsors to host and sort of pay for these events. We proudly sponsor probably 25 events per year, and a lot of that is to signal to the market what we know what it means to be a partner. And so from a marketing strategy there's very little, at these conferences we don't try to sell anything. We don't get on stage and say, "Here's the latest version of MediaRadar." It's really talking about what's happening in the industry, how we can be a good partner. That's the number one thing we've done as a marketing process that's been effective.

Eric Siu: Got it. And you know nowadays people talk about how sponsoring events can be a huge time suck because you're sitting in the booth the whole time. It sounds like you're actually doing more than that. And then I guess, A, so that is the question, are you doing more than just having a booth? And then I'll go to my next question.

Todd Krizelman: To that question, yes. We do the booths, but we do everything else too. And I would share conferences and events are expensive and big investments generally, and I'm not sure it's the right solution for all software businesses for example, but if you're in a very narrow vertical, right? Where the population of people all know one another really well, they look forward to these meetings, they're friends, they're not just competitors, being a thought leader and a partner, we hear it over and over is really important to why people will initially get started with us, like to take a meeting, and sort of give us consideration, put us in the consideration side.

Eric Siu: Right. 'Cause you're there anyway and then the in-person always helps and creates conversion rates?

Todd Krizelman: Yes, there's no question.

Eric Siu: Cool. And so how do you guys measure ... I'm assuming a conference you might spend $10,000, $30,000, $50,000. How do you measure the ROI for a conference?

Todd Krizelman: That's a great question. It's taken us all the years I've been doing to get close to the answer. One is collecting information everywhere on sort of the path to becoming a customer, right? If I shook someone's hand and we actually talked at an event, I'll write it down, and that will later when I get back to the main ... I'll face the marketing team who has responsibility for this. We'll put that into a database, and it might just say Todd shook hands. No real. It might just be introduction, right?

Eric Siu: Right.

Todd Krizelman: But that person over a period of years might see me speak at four or five events. They might download a whitepaper, or attend a webinar online. They might come to the public website. Over time we build profiles on people to try to help us understand what is our ... A lot of times you don't really know your relationship with the level of exposure. When we go to conferences we keep track of who we're talking to, what we said, and what was the degree of interest, and degree of dialogue, and that gets filed away.
I saw that on your site a good ... You had the interview with the CEO of Visible. I think tools like Visible and HubSpot, and Marketo go a long way to making it possible to tie all of those data points together.

Eric Siu: Cool. Then I'm assuming, it sounds like you guys are getting really granular. Todd shook hands for example, and then it's basically, it's sitting in your CRM, but then over time you're basically playing the long game. Everyone, especially a lot of people on this podcast, they want things to happen ... Long is one year, but in reality long is ... We're talking over a couple years, right? It sounds like you guys are playing that long game.

Todd Krizelman: Yes, if we're saying a year is long then we're playing the long game. I would say that we're an enterprise SaaS business, maybe enterprise lite, but for sure we think relationships are built over time. I think it's very hard to force, sometimes it happens, but very hard to force a true relationship, and in many ways I think you have to earn the right. We talk about this a lot with our sales reps, you have to earn the right to talk to someone. You can't just send marketing spam. You have to talk to ... You have to show them that you know something about their business that they don't know that could be valuable to them. You have to earn the right to have an initial conversation.

Eric Siu: I totally agree with that and this is something I tell my team all the time. It's like you're investing now or making deposits in the bank right now to be able to withdraw later. And then I just remember last week, kind of when I was walking around at SaaStr, which a SaaS conference, and you know just walking by, and then people are just like, "Oh, podcast guy, or, "Hey, I listen to your podcast, man." I think that starts the touchpoint, and that starts a conversation down the road, and who knows what's going to happen? I think that's really important for people to understand that. I just keep preaching this over and over, not just on this podcast, but the other podcast Marketing School.
I guess my next question for you is tell me about your biggest failure, and it doesn't have to be this company it could be just overall.

Todd Krizelman: Oh, god. Eric, there are so many. Okay. Well, in my last company I did something that was ... That certainly impacted me. In my last company, which I spent ten years of my life on at a company called TheGlobe, I never did the job of sales. I was a young CEO, I was an entrepreneur, I was a product guy essentially.

Eric Siu: You were 20 years old, right?

Todd Krizelman: I was a little older. When I started I was probably 21, and I exited basically there when I was 30, but I never had the courage to do sales in that job. I always thought sales was for others who specialized in it, and always if we missed the number, or if we released a product that was not good enough, the sales team would say, "You know, you don't know. You're not out there on the front lines like me." And I think that really weighed on me. I never in this company, at MediaRadar the whole entire time I have sold, and even as we've become a much larger firm, I still spend 60% of my hours, 50 to 60% every week on selling.
And so I think there is a huge value for a CEO to meet with clients, to hear what they like, to hear their concerns, I think you just ... One, I think you just understand the market and how they perceive you and value your product. And two, I think you are internally, I think you are leading the charge, right? You're not the armchair quarterback. You are leading your firm into battle, and sometimes that's humbling. Sometimes it's, you feel really wonderful when it works out, but I ... That was one of the biggest failures of my last company was not taking full ownership. Not really putting myself out there on the front lines every day.

Eric Siu: Got it. Well, still ... You still, that's ... I mean, in your early twenties, you took that company public, right?

Todd Krizelman: I did.

Eric Siu: Wow. Okay. Amazing. But it just shows that even the CEOs always have to be selling. ABS, always be selling. Is there any other lessons from that one? It sounds like a pretty ... It sounds like a pretty visceral experience to be doing that for ten years. Always be selling, so is there anything else?

Todd Krizelman: You know the other thing I would say is ... This is very specific, but it's an HR thing and I observe that it's a challenge at a lot of companies, but certainly it's been true in this company where I'm at now, and my last couple jobs. Great employees are really easy to see and identify. Everyone knows when you've got a real star, and you're like, "That's a star." Really bad people in a normal company get fired, and that's also pretty straight forward stuff, but where I observe there's a real challenge in a fast growing company is getting rid of okay people, and I think it's really hard. I think it's really ... You can have someone who is maybe doing their job alright.

Eric Siu: Yep.

Todd Krizelman: But I think if your culture is to grow fast, and I think you have to decide if that's the culture, and if that's the objective, but if it is, all through the organization you have to be willing to make some harder decisions about essentially swapping out people who are okay, who are often by the way, and the hardest is when they're really nice. A nice person doing their job okay, but not great in a fast growing company has to go.
And you sometimes, I was listening to some of the podcasts talking about, Reed Hastings, and the sort of culture within Netflix, and they seem like they've taken that to the extreme, and really have it down, but I think it's hard to do. I think, you know, the interpersonal stuff can act as real headwinds to keeping your company growing quick, but I think to grow quick you need people who are ... Who can not only deliver results, but have an appetite for it. They have an appetite to see ... I don't want to call them challenge junkies, but they really want constant growth, and it's hard to interview for that to just ask someone. It's something that we find you sort of have to observe, and some people who start average become great. Other people start average and they just stay there. That's the other only thing I would say we in some years we felt like, I felt like I didn't act on that enough.

Eric Siu: Got it. Do you have any ... Is there any process or framework for weeding out the okay / really nice people?

Todd Krizelman: These nice little middle performers. Listen, one, I think there are a couple things and one is during periodic review periods, whether your company does quarterly, or semi annual, or annual reviews, to really try to get to that question of how is this person pushing? And the second thing is we use behavioral tests now on all employees called the Predictive Index, which was something that was introduced to us through a board director about four years ago, and that has been very, that has been very helpful.

Eric Siu: Got it.

Todd Krizelman: Both in terms of evaluating existing personnel, as well as evaluating personnel that you're considering dire.

Eric Siu: Do you think it's better than the Myers-Briggs, or are they mutually exclusive?

Todd Krizelman: I think it's better than Myers-Briggs. I think Myers-Briggs is so well known, and also the questions can be gamed reasonably easily. I think Predictive Index is so, the questions are so subtle that you ... That the candidate, especially Myers-Briggs is so well known publicly that people just know it, know it generally, but Predictive Index I think is less known, less obvious, and so a lot of the people who took the test including myself, we just ... You weren't sure after you took the test what it was going for, but it does end up being very predictive. It's fascinating and I have no economic interest in their business or anything. It really has been quite transformative for us.

Eric Siu: Oh, you just said the word, I was gonna ask how transformative, but you just said it, so I'm gonna check it out afterwards for sure, and we'll drop this in the show notes too, but as we work towards wrapping up here, just two more questions for you. I guess, what's one new tool that you've added in the last year that's added a lot of value to your life? It could be like a Peloton bike, or it could be Evernote.

Todd Krizelman: It's not Peloton. I'm nearly so healthy. I would say it's not a new tool. I would just simply say it's a really good decision to constantly upgrade your laptop and your computer. This is something that we really believe here. We basically replace everything every two years for everyone. Is just that there is, the pace of business is so voracious and so fast now that it costs something to have downtime, and so I would say as one thing that I've really embraced over the last couple of years, even with for me personally is just really all the things that I do in my life ...
I'll give you an example, I bought a new phone when the new Apple iPhone came out. I'm not an Apple fanboy. I absolutely don't care about any of the whiz bang, any of the new cool things, I don't, but what I don't want to spend any time on is worrying about the battery life of my phone.

Eric Siu: Right.

Todd Krizelman: And even if it's Apple's fault, I literally do not want to spend time on it, and so I will upgrade the phone purely because I know that the newest phone does not have problems, and I can begrudge them for this, and I do not think it's fair, and I agree with all the consumer reaction to it, but as a business person I'm evaluated on whether I'm delivering faster growth at MediaRadar, and I don't want to spend four hours on a weekend worrying about my phone battery.

Eric Siu: Right, makes total sense. Cool. Final question for you, what's one must read book you'd recommend to everyone?

Todd Krizelman: First book that comes to mind for me is a book from 15 years ago, it was written by ... I'll email it to you right afterwards, but it's one of the founders of Sony who wrote a great sort of history of Sony, and I think one of the things that I most took away from it, and still about is how for ... In any company there's a nucleus of people. People who really drive the whole boat forward, and when you're with these people, like MediaRadar I've been doing this a dozen years, and there's over a dozen years, there's probably 25 people who have been here for most of those years who never left, and you're going through life together, right? These are people who probably ...
Me as a good example, I was not married when we started. I got married. I now have a dog, two children, the whole thing. And in those years, a company, if you want to have fantastic talent, you have to treat those people well, and I don't just mean economically. You have to work around the fact that they're going through these life changes, and at some periods of time they will operate at peak efficiency, and other times they may not. And while I think in general there's no point in having a huge amount of flexibility for a larger workforce. I do think that when you're talking about the real people who drive all, so much value, that book really, I thought for me, put it in very personal terms of the level they went through sometimes to get the best people, and it sometimes was just so personal in terms of the way they recruited people. Anyways, that's my favorite book, and I get there are probably a whole bunch of books. It's about 15 years ago, I'll send you the exact name after I'm off the phone.

Eric Siu: Todd, well this has been fantastic. What's the best way for people to find you online?

Todd Krizelman: Best way to find me is very simple, it's just Todd, [email protected]

Eric Siu: Love it. Todd, thanks so much for doing this.

Todd Krizelman: All right, Eric. Be well. Thank you.

Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to this episode of Growth Everywhere. If you loved what you heard, be sure to heard back to GrowthEverywhere.com for today's show notes and a ton of additional resources, but before you go hit the subscribe button to avoid missing out on next week's value packed interview. Enjoy the rest of your week, and remember to take action and continue growing.