198: Innovate Your Outbound Marketing with Vitalii Romanchenko

Vitalii Romachenko, CEO and co-founder of Elai.io, a company that generates learning and development video content with real human narrators from just text. We discuss about Elai.io services, how to promote business using outbound messaging through LinkedIn and Email, the ideal content that can be amplified through AI-driven voices and Who are ideally suited to benefit from Elai.io’s services.

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Innovate Your Outbound Marketing with Vitalii Romanchenko

Our guest is Vitalii Romachenko, CEO and co-founder of Elai.io, a company that generates learning and development video content with real human narrators from just text. Vitalii, welcome to the show.

Hey, Steve, thank you. It’s a pleasure being here.

I’m excited to have you because you are running a company that is very exciting. Plus, you have a very interesting background. I mean, tell me, how did you evolve from a graphic designer into the founder, CEO of an AI-driven business?

Well, it was a long journey. I think I have more than 10 years of what all in software development industry in various roles. Started my career after graduating as a computer engineer, starting as a graphic designer. And then I worked with graphics and I started my own business like that kind of digital agency to help people create websites.

And then I transitioned into product management, project management, engineering management, was leading big enterprise products, was leading game studio for one of the leading iGaming companies as well, and then always wanted to build a product company. So two years ago, we started eLight with my friends, and yeah, it was quite a journey. So, but happy where I’m at right now.

Well, it’s not was quite a journey. I’m sure that it is still quite a journey. You’re still a young man. So let’s talk about, normally I don’t ask about the business, but this is such a unique looking business. Tell me a little bit about ELai.io and what are you trying to do here?

So basically, in a nutshell, we help companies generate educational video content with real humans from text. That’s our punchline. So we’re a deep tech generated by a company that developed the technology that allows you to kind of clone yourself, basically by sending us a couple of minutes of your video. Also we do the voice cloning as well.

And once you have your digital copy, you’re able to produce video content at scale without recording yourself anymore. So it’s like once you have the avatar, you just then type the text or upload text documents or PPTX presentations, and it will be automatically transformed into narrated videos. Also, we support multiple languages. So in one click, you can basically transform your presentations and the written text into multiple languages and could generate and receive the video.

So it basically simplifies the process of video creation. And we know how video is booming right now. We see the trend where people stop reading, you know, as they start to watch videos and 65% of web traffic came for video last year. So it’s tell us about the importance of video. So that was the main core. And that’s what we saw two years ago in this opportunity and that’s why we decided to pursue it.

That is very interesting and very scary at the same time. Elections are coming up and I’m sure that some people are going to use technology like that to create deep fakes and stuff. But I also have a client who is an extremely busy coach and he sometimes doesn’t have enough time to record his podcasts in person. And then he uses this kind of technology to be on a YouTube video himself. So I see both sides of the coin. So here is my question, which I’m wondering about.

Several years ago, I was running a peer group and we had speakers coming to our peer group every now and then. And one of the speakers who came in, he asked the group what was the biggest takeaway and people had different ideas and then he said, I tell you what the biggest takeaway you had, it was my energy. So I spent 90 minutes here or two hours and I exhumed a certain energy that is, you know, making you more excited to do the stuff you need to do. So my question is, does that energy still still work when someone is recording this kind of video? Can that AI generated, I don’t know, person or talking can still transmit this kind of energy?

The biggest takeaway from interactions often comes from the energy exchanged, something AI-generated content may struggle to replicate. Share on X

Awesome question. I would say to a degree, because still the technology is not perfect. So avatars, when we create the digital copy of the human, it’s not that emotional as a real human. For some people who are kind of more calm, that’s totally fine. But for some people who are expressive, you know, show hands, that could be a limitation. And we’re working on, this is highly complicated technology. We have big R&D team who’s strictly working on that. And this is, as I mentioned, it’s highly complicated thing to do from engineering perspective.

And we have one of the most advanced teams in the world who’s doing that. So I think in a couple of years, maybe less than two years, we, you won’t see the difference. So the technology would be to a degree where you pretty much want to recognize the generated video, the real video. And our tasks will be again, much more expressive, more emotional. And also you will add gestures where you can programmatically kind of wave your hands, you know, like your avatar can do some stuff, you know, with the gestures. So in two years, you won’t see the difference right now. Yes, there are still things, you know, to make it more engaging.

Brave new world. So you’ve been running the business since 2018 or was it two years ago when you started, two years ago? I think you said.

Yeah, so we actually, we incorporated less than two years ago in February, 2022.

Okay, so you’re running, you’re the CEO now. And so how do you grow a company like that? What kind of ways do you find to get the word out and to get people engaged with your product?

So basically, because we’re a venture-backed deep tech company, so there are, you know, usual route, you raise money, you go to venture capitalists and they provide funding. But that was not really the case for us because we launched the company before the war and also when there is like a biggest crisis economically and also from venture capitals perspective, it’s quite hard to raise money now. So like you need to rely on something more than just investors money and you need to try to build an organization.

And one of the things that my common data suggested My commentators suggested that once you raise the round, you need to treat it as like it was your last round. So you always need to build lean organizations that can be scalable without resources. And I think that’s what we do. We had really strong understanding of the customer profile. We were delivering fast, building great product. And we started to build traction pretty much organically from inbound marketing and outbound marketing channels, but without huge budgets for marketing. And we’re still doing that.

So you always need to have the mindset that you will need to win regardless and you need to build the product that people love, kind of. And that’s how you build the proper product. So it’s not about raising a bunch of money and then you spend it and then you’re done. It’s more about, okay, if I want to have millions in funding, how I can build an organization? And yeah, it’s very tough. It’s very challenging, but we were able to do that. And we were able to grow fast, around 30% month over month. We now have more than a thousand customers. We have big names, big brands using our product and we continue to deliver. So yeah, it’s just like your dedication and losing is not an option, you know.

So that’s fair. So, I mean, ultimately every company has to figure out how they can grow organically. So there’s a virtual venture money only goes so far, even if you go multiple rounds, ultimately you have to have a model where you can self-sustain and grow on your own. That’s a good segue to what I’d like to ask you about, because in our pre-call, we talked about different frameworks to grow outbound through LinkedIn and emailing. I wonder if you could share with me and the listeners, how framework like that works? How can you, you know, by just using LinkedIn emails, how can you grow your leads and create leads and, and to generate customers?

Yeah, definitely. So I think there are several variations of the customer acquisition frameworks and framework, and also the way how you approach, you know, the problem. So at the beginning, you will need to define your ICP or ideal customer profile. This is the first step. And basically you need to identify what problems are you solving for this particular group. If this is a business, then you need to apply like the B2B growth strategy. If this is more like a regular customer or just regular people and you’re looking for B2C segment, then the strategy probably will be different.

So once you define your ICP, your ideal customer profile, then you basically understood what the problem they have and what’s the solution will you kind of provide to them, whether it’s a product or a service. Then you need to define, the second would be define the channel, how people will know about you, right? And again, depends on the strategy, if it’s like a B2C, they have certain strategies how you can acquire customers from B2C. If it’s like mobile app, then you have strategies to acquire customers through the Apple Store, Google Store, advertising, and also sale and stuff.

But if it’s like a B2B, and especially if it’s a bigger checks, you will need to probably do a lot of outbound marketing activities such as cold email outreach, LinkedIn outreach. So this is very important. Usually the best strategy for the startup or the first company to define one segment, one customer, one segment. So it’s better to find one scalable channel to kind of grow, rather than put a lot of effort on different channels.

It's better to find one scalable channel to grow, rather than put a lot of effort into different channels. Share on X

You will need to define one channel that you think works better for you and has the best ROI and scale it. For example, let’s say you’re a B2B company and you’re selling something, some product, and you tested Google ads, and you calculated that the customer acquisition costs, for example, like $50, something like that. And you are making much more out of this, you’re making much more money from unleads. And you calculate that, how can I scale my Google ads campaign to drive more relevant traffic?

So it’s always good to understand how you can scale and calculate metrics and data behind your sale. So this will be very important. So if we’re talking about B2B, as I mentioned, there are several ways that could be pay debts, that could be LinkedIn and email outreach. This is more on, yeah, on outbound side.

Okay, so these are the channels, paid, LinkedIn, email. What’s the next step?

Yeah, so after that, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to experiment with other channels. It’s probably good to have the content creation strategy and have the blog running, and do the publications. So all of the things are good, but you need to find something that is scalable and that can work for you. After you just basically understand your customer, you start to test the different channels and let’s say you found this, that outbound marketing work for you. So for LinkedIn and email outreach, this is quite a tricky one because it’s changing a lot.

It's probably good to have the content creation strategy and have the blog running, and do the publications. So all of the things are good, but you need to find something that is scalable and that can work for you. Share on X

So like two years ago, three years ago, you could spam. You know, you can basically generate a lot of emails and then send a bunch of emails and that was fine. But it’s constantly changing and algorithm is changing as well. So now you can define your ICP and start to send the campaigns, but they won’t convert in the calls because they sometimes are getting this to the spam and also the messaging is wrong and people just don’t care about emails anymore. So they have a bunch of, every day they have a bunch of emails. So you need to be smart here.

So the good thing would be when you’re gathering a database of emails, you need to validate them. Also your email that you’re using, your domain should be warmed up. So there are tools that warm up your email box, that your email, warm up your email domain. After all of these steps are done, so you need to validate your messaging. Also start different campaigns. And they shouldn’t be spammy.

And there are some tools that check you actually, like folderly, they check your email body text and tells you, is it spammy or not? Because if it’s spammy, then Google will mark it as a spam you know and you probably your email deliverability would be really low. So all of these small pieces now matters and then probably it’s not enough for you.

Maybe I would call these steps after you build your email list so you define you found the scalable channel so define your ideal customer profile you find the scalable channel you build your email list. Can we call number four, apply avoidance, spam avoidance tactics, essentially warming up the domain, making sure your copy is not going to be rejected by Google. These are spam avoidance tactics basically.

Yeah, you can basically, you can say choose your tools basically. If this is email marketing, your main outreach strategy, then yes, choose your tool that you will use to do that properly. Because you can basically do it manually, one email at a time per day. This is a strategy as well. But if you want to scale and if you want to send thousands, you need to prepare, you know, prepare your outreach and you need specific tools.

So very important right now, what I see from the trends is personalization. And this is a part of the, for your outreach campaigns. It’s better if the person who receives email understand that this is a real person to send it to this email to them. So you probably need to combine those two things. So it can be, if you’re sending email, do the same touchpoint with LinkedIn. So for example, hey John, nice to meet you, my name is Vitalii and you sent this email.

Personalization is key for outreach campaigns. It's about building trust and showing that you're a real person with a genuine offer. Share on X

Then I found the same John in LinkedIn and saying something like, hey John, this is Vitalii, I sent you email. Kind of, this is my offer. So you’re basically developing then multiple touchpoints and that’s how you show that this is, first of all, Vitalii is real, he wants something and he offers something, maybe I will need to check. So it’s always about relationships, it’s not about just a bunch of emails, because nobody reads a bunch of emails. You need to build the trust and you’re basically fighting for the attention of your prospects.

Okay, so I found a scalable channel, I built an email list, I chose my tools to avoid being spammed, and then I personalized it, and that’s it?

No, that’s the part of the funeral, right? And then you start to receive the feedback or results, right? So you started your campaigns, you launched it, you received your first feedback. The next step would be validate your feedback, change something, and then do it again, iterate. So validate, iterate. It’s always about basically data that you’re receiving and validation of the feedback, constant validation of feedback.

So you decide, you and you decided who you will work with or what the product is to create. You decided the channel, you launched the campaign, you test it out, you got the results, then you try, okay, what should I improve? Or should I scale? Or should I hire more sale people? Or should I have more email? Or should I change the ICP? So you did it and you validated it.

And when you’re talking about the ICP, the first step, you can, after the campaign, you can understand that, okay, the person, if this is in our case, like learning development manager in the companies with 500 plus in US, this ICP might not work for us, but let’s say the same ICP with Brazil might work. So once you get all of the data, you now can validate and rate the rates. Okay. Now you launch in another campaign and that’s how you’re testing always. It’s all about data-driven approach, getting the results, constantly change, checking, innovating and rate, rate, and trying, trying, trying.

And even if your campaign is perfect today, in six months it might not be because Google will release new updates and your strategy will be obsolete. But the framework pretty much stays the same. You know who you’re selling to kind of, you understand that they’re paying, you understand the channel, how you would teach them, you build this trust and then you get the data, reiterate and start again.

Is this a stressful thing to do? I mean, if Google can change the algorithm overnight, then essentially you are building a house of cards.

Yeah, but this is something that I think relevant to all of businesses in all industries, because like if you rely on inbound marketing or search engine optimization, it’s the same thing here. Google can change something and we will drop in the position. If you rely on pay debts, let’s say your competitors start to invest more in pay debts, you’re already not getting the same results, you know? And it’s getting much more competitive and expensive.

So it’s always like that. And this is about competition and it’s always stressful. So the part of your DNA would be, you know, you need to win regardless, and you will need to figure this out. And there will be always opportunities. It’s always possibilities. You just need to, you know, to find them.

It’s basically the same thing as entrepreneurship. It’s just even more accelerated because the marketing landscape moves faster than generally industry landscapes, marketing evolves faster, and then you just have to do everything faster and be more resilient, I guess.

100%. And this is, you know, there are several rules about entrepreneurship and about the building a product, that one of the, one first rule is like focus on the quality of the product more than on just, on just on the cost of the producing. So try to build something that is relevant and people can use actually. And the second rule would be, you know, focus on the revenue generation.

So revenue generation is very important. It’s not about, you know, just some kind of social activity, you do business or something, you’re an entrepreneur. You need to make money. And the third rule is that follow two first rules, build something that people like and focus on generating revenue from that. If something doesn’t work with your product, change the position, change the model, but make this product, you know, work.

Sometimes I talk to the startup founders and they basically struggle to find the business models, struggling to find product market fit. And I’m always pointing them to the, who are your customer and what their problem? You need to first identify that and what the problem that they will be, what are the solutions they are ready to pay for? And you need to figure this out. Once you figure this out, then this is a business, this is a startup, that’s how you actually can do stuff.

Well, that’s fantastic. So Vitalii, let’s go back to Elai.io. So what is the ideal content that can be amplified through AI driven voices and who are the ideally suited customers for you?

Yeah, so we started the company with a kind of horizontal approach where we were offering the solution as a video editor for everybody. So with any use case, you can generate videos, whether it’s marketing videos, social media videos or training videos. And recently we narrowed our focus to learning and development video content. We see how we can benefit the big companies, educational institutions, or even SMBs as well to create training video content.

So that’s where we focus in right now. Also something that we recently released and it’s kind of in a beta, but we will make it bigger. It’s called Real-Time Conversation with Digital Avatars. So prior to what we were building, you needed to render the video. So you type the text, you need to wait a couple of minutes, and then you receive the video where the avatar is speaking. Now, basically, with this release, you are able to talk with digital human.

It can be a digital teacher or chatbot or whatever, but it has a face. So now you can ask questions and Avatar will answer you in real time. So using that application, now all the chatbots in different companies who will need more engaging type of solution, they can integrate with us and use it. So this is another big portions that we’re working on. And yeah, but the focus would be still in learning and development. And I think that’s where we can give a lot of value from product perspective.

Love it. So you can now employ real-time chatbots, essentially who will talk your language and will represent your company. And they look more relatable and can help people better. That’s really cool. So Vitalii, if people would like to find out how they can employ such a virtual chatbot or how they can get this technology into their business and improve their learning and development functions, or they want to reach out to you, where do they find you?

Yeah, so basically you can go to eli.io and book a demo with the team, or you can find me in LinkedIn, Vitalii Romanchenko, and I don’t know, send me a message and I will reply to you as well. Yeah, so we are pretty much available online. So if you’re interested, just book a demo with the team.

Awesome. So definitely don’t miss it. Elai.io, it’s E-L-A-I.io. Check it out. It’s an amazing technology. And I think we all have to use this kind of technology if you don’t want to fall behind our competitors. So check it out. Vitalii, thanks for coming on the show and sharing some state-of-the-art technology with our entrepreneurial audience.

Thanks, Steve. It was a pleasure talking to you and thanks, audience. It was a pleasure talking to you and thanks, audience. It was a pleasure.


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