In today’s MarTech conversation, we chat with André Calvente, the global communication lead at Alana, an AI solution that can help businesses automate their services in the most human way possible.
In today’s conversation, Calvente discusses the ever-changing dynamic at Alana AI, working with a remote team, and balancing product-led growth, brand credibility, and results-driven marketing approaches.
Tell us about Alana AI
Alana AI was founded in 2015 with the aim of being a solution for scaling and humanizing the relationship between brands and clients. Our CEO and founder just felt that there were too many platforms and MarTech tools that didn’t offer a proper solution to connect people in a humanized way without losing the opportunity for scaling up and developing new business.
Alana AI uses artificial intelligence with NLP, or natural language processing. Next month, we are launching our self-service platform, which will allow any business to plug Alana into their digital channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, and so on. Then, Alana will create automated, scalable interactions with a humanized, high-quality feel, thanks to NLP. In other words, we can deliver the best of both worlds.
Our new self-service platform focuses on customer service and chatbots, but Alana also has a wide range of other skills. For example, Alana can produce both descriptive and prescriptive insights and reports about your channels to help you refine your strategy, it can send notifications to encourage conversions for leads, and it can even make offers through specific channels.
Our current focus is on scalable customer service because we believe that’s what most brands are currently looking for. It’s great for large brands that communicate with huge numbers of clients, but we also want to offer it to small and mid-sized businesses. These businesses don’t always have the budget or the ability to build a team solely for customer service.
The goal with Alana is not to replace people. Instead, we want to change the way people work. If you have AI doing the simplest things, your team will have more time to work with strategy and to find out how to use Alana to get the results they want.
What do you do in your day-to-day work as global communication lead?
I'm responsible for global brand positioning, leading our content, and making sure the marketing squad is aligned on our main goals.
I have two different teams within my marketing squad. One is the content team, which focuses on quality content, and the other is the performance team, which focuses on ads and traffic.
As we’re shifting toward becoming a self-service platform, our setup within the marketing squad is currently shifting. I used to have a sales force (a sales team, for example), but we’ve just gotten rid of it. We believe that our product sells itself.
We’ve had a really strong remote culture at Alana AI since the beginning. So, we like to do some ceremonies to keep everyone feeling connected. Every day, I connect to our Gather account, which is a new service for remote working. This means that we’re all in the same virtual office—we can go to private rooms, colleague tables, and so on. We work on bi-weekly sprints and deliver bi-weekly releases to our CEO. I like to have a daily 15-minute chat with my team to keep us all on track. We also document everything, which is hugely important for us. We also use Atlassian tools—Jira for project management and Confluence for official documentation—so that we always follow a clear process.
What are some of your goals and challenges at Alana?
In terms of what we want to create and what we want to build, we want to make AI democratic and available for any business size.
We’ve actually just launched our expansion to Latin America this past year, and now we’re working on soft launching in the US. This coming year, we plan to generate $3 million in sales in America. This past year has been pretty successful in Latin America because they had to automate their processes and bring their teams online. That helped us a lot, and we closed last year with $10 million Brazilian, which is around $2 million American. In 2021, we are aiming for $25 million BRL.
Our marketing goal is to drive traffic to the website—the product should do the rest. My job is to lead brand awareness initiatives, and connect product intentions and product-led growth with our marketing initiatives to drive traffic and convert.
We work with OKRs. Every quarter, we define the main objective for each squad and the key results that we should deliver to reach this goal. Our main objective for each quarter will be to drive a certain amount of traffic in comparison to the previous quarter.
I try to look at OKRs for our content team in terms of quality because we’re a creative group. I want to provide good content because I think that the traditional view of brand positioning and brand credibility is vital. While product-led growth is our North Star, I also know that we need to prove ourselves by building credibility.
What has been most effective and why?
At the beginning of this year, we just decided to start rebuilding our teams. We reorganized our squads and cut certain elements, such as sales, as I mentioned earlier.
This was a wonderful initiative for us, as I could build my own team member by member while thinking specifically about our goal within the marketing squad. So I had the chance to build the perfect team for our company’s intentions. In the previous year, we had so many dynamic shifts within the company that many employees would find it hard to adapt.
What new trends are you noticing?
The main trend we often discuss here is that there is no more space for traditional marketing not compromising with results and with sales. Marketing these days is all about conversions. For example, our OKRs aren’t about leads or traffic, they’re about brand positioning—but there’s no space for that.
In the near future, there will be a more holistic approach. After all, every squad or department has the same goal. And that’s why we’ve created Alana, which can span across all departments and help everyone reach their singular goal. And, of course, clients don’t care which team you’re on—they just want to connect with the brand itself.
How does content marketing fit into your strategy?
At Alana AI, we see content as being responsible for quality and brand positioning. I believe that we still have some space for traditional forms of content like ebooks and podcasts.
I think the future of content will be about delivering a way for clients to interact with you while they consume content. That’s why webinars and online events are becoming more and more popular. Nowadays, people want their content to fit within their schedule, so content like ebooks or podcasts can sometimes take too much time.
What we’re about to start doing at Alana AI is launching webinars and live discussions alongside our ebooks and articles to help bridge this gap and make our content more interactive.