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Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Building Business Relationships

By June 3, 2017 No Comments

AI Conversation with Steve Woods, CTO and Founder of


I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Woods, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Founder of – a company that uses Artificial Intelligence to seamlessly help develop business relationships through awareness and network insights.


  • 01:39 Steve Woods CTO at (Career Background)
  • 02:27 Eloqua as inspiration
  • 03:48 – The ‘secret’ relationship builder
  • 05:04 The ‘Magic’ behind and How it Works
  • 07:47 Relationships and Trust are Built on Small Interactions
  • 09:07 Small Effort, Huge Impact
  • 09:38 Unlocking Hidden Relationship and Network Opportunities
  • 10:48 Nudge for Teams – Unlocking Exponential Opportunity
  • 13:04 Implementing
  • 14:02 AI trends in Marketing – it’s not Robot Masters and the Terminator
  • 17:26 Artificial Intelligence Predictions in Marketing and Sales
  • 19:52 Advise for Businesses and Marketers New to Artificial Intelligence


  • Our focus needs to be on how we can guide our potential customer along a path of thinking toward buying our solution? You don’t need an AI strategy, you need a sales and marketing strategy.
  • Fundamentally we’re all trying to generate revenue for our organization. The most effective way is to understand intention, social proximity, and what (or who) is guiding the decisions and behavior of your target organization.
  • Business is built on relationships and relationships are built on small incremental interactions.


Justin Jones: I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Woods, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for – a company that uses Artificial Intelligence to seamlessly help develop business relationships through awareness and network insights. For example, somebody in your business network (Bob Smith) won an award at a dog show. You get notified through your regular updates but also through your calendar. So, next time you’re about to meet with Bob, your calendar will inform you about Bob’s recent award.

This provides a golden opportunity to congratulate Bob. Most people would miss this opportunity to acknowledge Bob and strengthen the relationship. What may be considered a ‘trivial’ insight from a business perspective, is very significant for Bob on a personal level. This is how relationships and trust are built – one small interaction at a time. Nudge is a phenomenal tool, that delivers exponential value for people who want to build and nurture business relationships

Steve, you have a background very well suited to technology and Artificial Intelligence. Having worked with Bain and Company as a consultant, the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Eloqua, and then joining Oracle – at what point did you say to yourself, “I’m going to build a company that uses AI to effortlessly deliver business relationship insights to improve sales?”.

Steve Woods: The founding team at Eloqua went deep into the marketing space to build a platform that focused on the discipline of metrics, processes around insights and data – with the goal of truly transforming how marketing approached Business-to-Business (B2B) organizations.

It was interesting to see how a set of complementary technologies, when applied in the right way could transform a discipline that had been around for decades. Marketing went through a huge transformation (2000-2012) which we found fascinating and subsequently led to our interest in solving real business challenges with a similar approach we had used at Eloqua. When my time at Eloqua came to an end, we started looking for the next growth opportunity – and based on our experience in marketing automation, the sales space was the obvious next step in our minds.

Justin Jones: Where does pull its data from – LinkedIn?

Steve Woods: We basically pull data from most sources – except LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a great business, they are basically collecting and selling data. They do very well selling data in the Human Resources (HR) space and now they’re doing phenomenally well selling data in the marketing space; it makes sense why they’re a walled garden in terms of access. Nobody can use the LinkedIn data set. Which is fine as you can go back to primary sources, and with a little work you can create a similar quality data set for your own use.

Justin Jones: For people who haven’t used before; how does it work?

Steve Woods: What we’re trying to do is help people sell – through helping them build relationships. If you look at anything to do with selling, whether you’re selling a product, a service, or your vision to investors … the crux of that is all about building trusted relationships.

There is a certain amount of elegance that only humans can bring to this relationship building process. The ability to build a human bond with people, is a very human thing.

But there is also a ton of pure grunt work when it comes to the relationship building process. What relationships do I have and who knows who? Am I keeping on top of my relationships? Are these relationships becoming stronger through nurturing, or weaker through neglect? What’s going on with the people and companies I care about? What conversations are taking place? What are the latest changes, insights, threats or opportunities to my relationships? For someone who wants to build relationships and build trust, the research behind this effort requires a lot of grunt work.

Looking at news sources, daily spreadsheets – who you’ve been in touch with, who you’re losing touch with. If this is done well, people can become phenomenally successful, phenomenally powerful by keeping all those relationships alive and growing. Where most people fall-down, is that this research requires a lot of hard work. Getting up at 6:00am in the morning to do all the research manually is a daunting task.

What we decided to do with was to tackle this overwhelming research load with smart AI algorithms, not the human elements but the grunt work elements. We then serve all this research up to you on a silver platter – so you can focus on building trust and relationship aspects without the manual grunt work.

Justin Jones: What I really enjoy about is that on those meeting-filled days, automatically serves up rich information on all the people I’m meeting with throughout the day. Timely ‘gold nuggets’, insightful information that helps me further nurture and develop my relationships.

Steve Woods: It’s really one of those things where relationships are built on little tiny interactions. Something happens to Bob, you know he or his company has wins an award. You notice it (via, and coming into the room you say something nice about winning the award. Perhaps you haven’t spoken with Bob in six months, you reach out and say, “hey congratulations, nicely done.” It’s a minor thing, but noticing it moves that relationship a step forward. Not noticing it, although not fatal – fails to move that relationship forward. It’s a lost opportunity.

The best relationship builders never miss a chance to apply one of those tiny moments to place the relationship in a better light. All we’re really trying to do at is make sure that you have those moments in your back pocket, and know about them so that you can build that relationship. One little small increment at a time.

Justin Jones: What may appear tiny from a business perspective, is most likely huge for Bob from a personal perspective – and you noticed.

Steve Woods: Thanks to nudge it is small from an effort perspective. What we’ve found time and time again with people whose success derives from their network, is that small things often get noticed and lead something bigger, opening new and unexpected connections and opportunities. But if you didn’t put all that work in beforehand to create the fertile [relationship building] ground, you wouldn’t see that cascade of virtuous events happen.

Justin Jones: Being a user of myself, I appreciate the value and power on an individual level. When connecting teams of people on, working within one enterprise – I’d imagine the impact is exponential. Is this case, does one plus one equal three?

Steve Woods: If you take a step back and look at the business of today. We’re obviously evolving from a world that’s production oriented, every person is a replaceable cog – into a world where individuals are nodes on a graph of knowledge and their ability to contribute to the organization is really a function of two things. What do they know and what other knowledge do they have access to inside and outside the organization through their personal and business network. What can they make happen and what ideas can they formulate?

If you look at a business in transition like IBM, or any knowledge oriented business like Google or Facebook. These businesses are groups of people who each bring fascinatingly different nodes of contacts and information to the overall network. The organizations that intelligently view and leverage employee networks are well positioned to identify and capitalize upon business opportunities. We’re starting to see organizations transition to this type of collective thinking and we’re happy to be at the forefront of these conversations.

Justin Jones: How complicated is it to implement

Steve Woods: It is dead simple. There is a free version for individuals that care about their network and a team version that helps teams selling into lists of targeted accounts. That product has a per user model where you can try it out, build a small team and grow from there.

Justin Jones: What Artificial Intelligence trends do you believe marketers should be aware of?

Steve Woods: If you boil Artificial Intelligence down beneath the multiple levels of buzzwords it offers endless opportunities. If you look at the first generation of pre-AI programming. The programming building blocks are extremely simple. You’ve got a bunch of “FOR loops” and “IF statements”, and when you do that at massive scale and create some very interesting.

If you boil AI down to that level of simplicity. It is the ability to recognize a pattern that is incomplete. Whether that is in text, images or data sets. You can say, here’s a bunch of ‘stuff’- what is the pattern?

Focus on basic programming constructs such as “FOR loops” and “IF statements” allows us to tackle some interesting challenges in very interesting ways. It’s not Terminator, it’s not robots taking over the world. It is just another tool in the programming and business toolbox. You can start looking at things like networks and relationships and begin understanding it at a level you could not a few short years ago. With AI, we can scale repetitive tasks instantly, doing this in a way that is cheaper, faster and more accurate than humans.

Justin Jones: What do you see happening in the marketing industry. Do you see more targeted solutions that focus on specific repetitive tasks (like – where do you see Artificial Intelligence evolving in the next three to five years?

Steve Woods: We are evolving from the view we had of companies 10 years ago, which was a very basic. You had a company, it had metrics like a NAICS code for its industry, number of employees and a revenue information. This information gave you this sense of what the company was, and whether or not your product or service was a good fit – that is, would this company potentially need the product you were selling? This was just a terrible way to evaluate a potential target company.

Now with the benefit of AI algorithms, you’re able to look at an organization in a more meaningful and relevant way. Asking ourselves, what do they need or want? What are they trying to do? What intent do we see from their behavior? Who influences the company’s thinking? Importantly, are any of those influencers also connect with people in our network and have we worked with anyone from that company before?

Fundamentally we’re all trying to generate revenue for organization and the best way is to understand intention, social proximity and what (or who) is guiding the decisions and behavior of your target organization.

Justin Jones: What advice would you give marketers or businesses looking to implement AI?

Steve Woods: I would say ignore the AI piece of a solution. Focus on the problem – not the underlying technology. As a marketer, you’ve got to think about how to get inside the heads of buyers. Understand what they’re trying to do, understand who influences them and who they trust? Then ask yourself, how can we become one of those trusted relationships.

Our focus needs to be on how we can guide our potential customer along a path of thinking toward buying our solution? It doesn’t matter if we use AI tools or not.

The point is that you have to accomplish a business objective, and you have to think about this through the lens of buyers and sellers. If you accomplish that, you realize that the concept of AI irrelevant, it doesn’t matter. However, you will most likely end up using AI embedded technology because it is increasingly hard to solve today’s challenges without it.

As a marketer and sales leaders implementing the tools of today, I don’t think you need to care. Focus on investing in tools that solve a specific problem. You don’t need an AI strategy, you need a sales and marketing strategy.

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