A company called xiQ tweeted a link to something I had written, tagged me, and when I followed it back to the source, I found this newsletter. The concept struck me as something as a mix between Curata and Paper.li and I thought it could be a useful tool for content marketing.
I signed up for the newsletter, which is very good by the way, and traded DMs with the company. One thing led to another and I wound up taking a demo of the product where I learned there’s a whole lot more too it than just newsletters and auto-tweets of links to newsletters. It has a pretty sophisticated use case for AI that took me by surprise.
And so, while it gets a little outside the scope of PR tech, it’s still an interesting tool worth learning about.
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1) Curating content in xiQ.
The process of curating content is exactly what you’d expect. There are more sources than you’ll ever need in the data set and you add your own content or your own content sources. For example, you can add an RSS feed from your favorite blog or manually upload your latest white paper.
It also has a number of filters to help you sift through the mountain of articles xiQ has indexed to choose the best ones to share. Most of the publications you can think of are there already. You can search by keywords or specific URLs and establish parameters for relevancy and time. What you are doing is basically picking articles and links that you think are relevant for your prospects that will eventually go out in your newsletter.
xiQ keeps articles and links in its index for nine months, so the available content is all fairly recent. If you want something older, you can add it manually.
2) Customizing the branding.
The tool gives you a range of options to customize the look and feel of your newsletter. You can add a logo, change the colors, write custom subject lines and introductions if you wish.
3) Publish the content.
When you hit publish button on xiQ it sends out the newsletter with the articles you’ve curated. It also offers options to share that link on social media, and you can automate this or manually customize it if you wish.
If you already have a marketing automation tool, you can export an HTML link and send your newsletter out through that system. The RSS option allows you to publish the links you’ve selected to a page on your website.
It’s important to note these links are hosted by xiQ on AWS and so they don’t actually live on your website, it’s just embedded by way of RSS. The company says it keeps articles you’ve sent in its index for up to 10 years.
Separately, but equally important, the list of emails that you are sending this too, is the one you already have. xiQ does not currently offer a standard way for its customers to gain more opt-in subscribers – the same way I signed up for the newsletter above.
For me, that’s a big missing piece, you’d have to set up your own landing page and then constantly export and import contacts to xiQ. However, the product folks explained that this is on the roadmap and they will write some custom code for a customer with this need in the interim. That’s a leverage point on any deal.
4) The analytics get interesting.
So far, we’ve seen what is, essentially, something with Google search- and Mailchimp-like capabilities integrated into a single platform. That’s interesting, but not too interesting…until we get to the analytics.
First, you see standard analytics for any email marketing newsletter – sends, opens, clicks and bounces.
Then it an analyzes the content, industry and organizations that are clicking. For example, it shows you the keywords that get the most interest from your audience – so use this information and go back to step one and add more links like this one.
Secondly, the box on the right, by organization, is the account-based marketing (ABM) aspect. These are all named accounts, and you can see which accounts are most active with your content.
5) Lead scoring and profiling.
The next view is the lead scoring screen. You can see the scores on the far right. This looks much like what you’ll see in other marketing automation tools.
Then the system goes a step further and builds a profile of the contact. It will go out and search for any public information from blogs, or articles the contact has written, and also to social media profiles the contact has maintained. Its AI engine ingests this information, processes it, and produces a profile that xiQ likened to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs questionnaire many times (ENTJ), but remember, I’m a subscriber to their newsletter, so they must have a profile on me, right? I asked them to pull it up and they did and notice it includes tips for communicating with me (see screenshot below).
So, what’s happening here?
The salesperson is seeing a prospect in a named account that hit a lead score threshold to trigger outreach. And the system is using public source information to generate a profile and coach the salesperson on how to best communicate with the prospect.
Is it creepy? Maybe a little bit. However, this information is all public. The AI is analyzing data I’ve chosen to publish. Further, I guarantee the social media sites you are already using have profiles on you based on what you say, share and even the emoticons you choose to use. Don’t use the emoticons, people! These companies use them to index your feelings!
The system also builds organizational profiles. Notice the “sales triggers” on the bottom left. You can sort by the triggers you want to examine, for example, to find named accounts + new funding + just hired a new CMO.
xiQ also has integrations with public financial information – like Yahoo Finance – that puts company data at your sales teams’ fingertips.
6) Customers and pricing.
The company says it has about 30 customers right now. I noticed several big brands on the client list including Schneider Electric, which of course the Content Marketing Institute has put forward as a content marketing success story.
The company has 19 five-star reviews on G2 Crowd at the time of this writing. Some of the comments include:
“We have been using both the xiQ for Marketing (AI Newsletter Curation) and xiQ for Sales (Dossier) solutions. The newsletter technology is incredibly useful for thought leadership and keeping up with new trends, and it makes it easy to generate content for our customers. The newsletter metrics are very detailed and useful as well. On the sales intelligence side, our Business Development team uses the Dossier solution to generate a personality analysis of every person they schedule a meeting with, plus a profile of the company.”
It’s a subscription model (SaaS) and entry-level pricing starts at about $6,000 per month. That’s $5,000 for the content curation foundation and $300 per user for the “workbench” – that’s the analytics and profiling data. The xiQ app is an additional $40 per user per month.
7) Background and funding.
The company is based in Redwood City, Calif., and was founded by Usman Sheikh, who spent many years as an executive at SAP. The name xiQ means you multiplied by artificial IQ; in some ways, it’s an equation: xiQ = you x AI-IQ.
The company says is has raised $2.2 million in funding over two rounds, according to an email sent received from a company source. That’s an update from the original funding – attributed to Crunchbase – which xiQ says is erroneous. Pitchbook currently shows one raise: a $1.1 million round of angel funding. A search on EDGAR did not produce any filing records as of September 2019.
8) Martech briefing assessment.
It seems to me xiQ blends content curation and distribution with ABM. The AI profiling is impressive. It looks pretty simple to use and probably a quick way to build some sales momentum in the near term. If the company does invest in features to build subscribers, it’ll add to the long-term value. Many of the digital platforms B2B marketers are hooked are starting to limit the data being shared, and so if you are not building your own audience today, you are going to pay dearly for reach in the future. xIQ could be a tool that helps solve that problem.
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