IT Digest Interview with Marcin Cichon, CEO & Co-Founder, Pricefx

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Pricefx

“Pricing is the #1, strongest and fastest, lever a business leader can pull to rapidly improve profit and margin growth.”

Hi, Marcin, could you tell us about your professional journey so far?

I graduated in Marketing from Zurich University and in photography from ETH in Zurich and my intention was to make a creative career in Marketing, but then I ended up in the software industry by accident.  Shortly after taking my very first job at Coopers&Lybrand (later PricewaterhouseCoopers “PwC”), my first and pivotal moment was when a good friend of mine, who was working in software sales, convinced me that software was better than what I was doing, and I should switch gears.  That friend and I are still friends, and he would end up becoming the first CRO for Pricefx once we got it off the ground!

When we started Pricefx, I had experience building and managing new teams and later in General Management for established companies – but nothing could prepare me for the rollercoaster ride of starting up a software company from nothing and building it to the level we are at today.  There are so many incredible and unforeseen challenges that come along with starting, building and leading a company like this, and also so many exciting and rewarding moments!

I’m very proud that my experiences before and with Pricefx have led us to this moment we’re in now, I never could have imagined. I’ve learned so much during this incredible journey, but one thing stands up above all – great people build great products which then attract great customers who become the very foundation of the success.  But everything starts with great people.  That’s why “culture eats strategy for breakfast!”

What challenges did the COVID-19 pandemic pose for you and your team?

Many. When the first lockdown went into effect in March of 2020, I was in the middle of my annual world tour and had to scramble to determine how I would get back to my home in Switzerland from India where I was at the time – it was not easy. I was not alone – as a global company, we had to manage numerous situations around the world where our team members were traveling or became stranded due to border closures, airline restrictions and more.

It did not get any easier! We were already a mostly virtual company when the pandemic began, so the transition to fully remote was not too difficult to manage for our staff. But navigating the complexity of testing, vaccines, travel restrictions, office closures and the like was a persistent and difficult challenge for us, as I am sure it was for many companies.

Perhaps interestingly, we were right in the middle or raising a funding round when the pandemic began. Initially this was quite scary, as the level of global uncertainty seems to tell us we would not be able to secure the funding we needed. But we decided to continue, and as the process moved forward, our business continued to show strength even with the global economic and social difficulties. So in a way the pandemic helped to showcase the resiliency of our products and our business model, and we wound up closing a $65M Series C round in the 3rd quarter of 2020!

What makes Pricefx the best pricing software?

Everything!  But most importantly:

(1) being a modern, cloud-native solution, (2) with the most flexible architecture, (3) being the pioneer and the first in the industry, truly 100% non-proprietary, non-black-box, transparent, open optimization engine and (4) fueled by never stopping, customer centric, relevant innovation.

We were truly the first 100% cloud native pricing solution, launching at a time when there was great skepticism in the idea that sensitive pricing information could be safely and securely stored in the cloud.  But this became a pivotal differentiator for us, as cloud SaaS has come to be the primary and preferred architecture for enterprise software.  Our early bet on pricing in the cloud has given us many advantages that every one of our competitors now try to copy.

Our foundation in the cloud has enabled many advantages to our customers, including the industry’s fastest time to go live (conventional solutions can take more than a year to launch for customers, while our implementation can be less than 6 weeks), and the industry’s fastest time to ROI – typically our customers fully payback their initial investment in the first year they use it.

Our flexible cloud architecture has also enabled innovations like our Platform Manager, which enables seamless, point-and-click integrations with leading enterprise systems like CRM, ERP, and other mission critical applications that enrich the impact of pricing solutions.  No other company can provide the ease of integration we do, and it’s because of our cloud “DNA”.

In 2020, this same cloud powered flexibility allowed us to offer our Accelerators – the industry’s first rapid activation capability.  By analyzing the implementations, we had accomplished across dozens and dozens of customers, we were able to standardize and productize the most common and critical pricing functions customers require, and package them into standard capabilities that can be activated in as little as a couple of days.

Today more than 1/3 of all Pricefx customers take advantage of Accelerator powered activations, and many of our competitors are just now launching replicas of this capability. There are so many more reasons, but to me it is our early belief in native cloud SaaS as the future, and our continued focus on capturing the advantage that flexible cloud architecture can provide to our products and our customers.

Also Read: IT Digest Interview with Patrick Moorhead, Chief Marketing Officer, Pricefx

According to you, how important are pricing solutions for a business?

They aren’t important, they are mission critical, period!  We have seen over and over again how the activation of a robust and end-to-end pricing analytics, price management, optimization and realization solution like Pricefx can dramatically improve both top- and bottom-line performance resulting in substantial improvement of profitability for a business, often in a very short amount of time.

We estimate that still today, more than 70% of B2B enterprises above $1b annual revenue are manually managing their pricing processes with spreadsheets and using highly ineffective and inflexible, homegrown tools.

These are very inefficient and error prone, and even small efficiency improvements can often ROI the investment they make in our solutions.  That’s not to mention the real impact that truly professionalized price management and optimization can have on margin performance through price effectiveness.  When these two outcomes are taken together, pricing software has the ability to materially and sustainably impact overall profitability by millions and millions of dollars per year for any type of business, from the very first moment they start using the solutions.

Pricing is the #1, strongest and fastest, lever a business leader can pull to rapidly improve profit and margin growth, and I believe it is still highly underestimated as a core component of digital transformation for large enterprises.

How does pricing software impact the Marketing and Sales funnels of a business?

In our increasingly digital and transparent market today, price has become a central brand and product marketing differentiation for many companies.  So, having the ability to manage pricing decisions and changes in real time and at scale, is becoming a competitive advantage for companies who use price point as a marketing differentiator.

Similarly, with the rapid and dynamically changing market landscape many B2B companies face today, being able to easily and centrally manage and adjust pricing based on robust data analytics and optimization, and deliver that in real time to salespeople in the field as they configure orders for customers is also a big competitive advantage.

Today, the first to price and quote a deal stands the best chance of winning it, and without an optimized, dynamic pricing and quoting capability, many companies leave money on the table because they are dragged down by manual processes and cumbersome workflows and approval processes.

When taken to full advantage, a pricing capability like Pricefx can have a real and substantial impact on both sales and marketing for any size of an enterprise in B2B and B2C and in all sectors.

What are the 3 things that business owners can do to optimize their digital outreach?

  1. Enable “smart” automation everywhere it is possible to remove manual and outdated friction in your processes, esp. when executing non-value adding activities – form marketing, to operations, to yes, pricing, quoting and delivery!
  2. Invest seriously in your website as your #1 selling tool, and staff a team of people to make sure your content and messaging is constantly meeting the needs of your digital first customers.
  3. Operate from an understanding that today’s buyers want and have access to massive amounts of information about you and your competitors, even before they contact you – 70% of the buying journey today happens online, and before someone ever talks to a salesperson. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because you’re not saying it on your website, your buyer will not learn it somehow.  We have adopted the mindset of educating rather than selling, with the idea that if we can become the “classroom for the industry” that the trust we build with buyers by helping them become smarter will earn us our share of their business.  And it is really working well for us.

What are your views on the evolution of CRM software and what are its benefits?

The era of CRM systems started approx. 25 years ago and since then the functionality evolved and expanded significantly covering many aspects of customer relationship management but in their core, vast majority of CRM applications remain a sales automation and account management solution.  One of many areas that remains significantly underserved is the embedded view of customer’s profitability and long-term value, based on real transactions with that customer.

This is what a pricing solution, tightly and seamlessly integrated into the CRM processes would bring.  In addition to that many CRM applications lack the quoting and negotiation support functionality and that’s another area there an integration of a pricing solution would bring a substantial and long-term value.

Equipped with embedded pricing software that can provide near term insights, CRM systems will be able to identify complimentary cross- and up-sell opportunities, so businesses can deepen their relationships with their customers.  And, with built-in intelligence, future CRM capabilities will help identify potentially at-risk customers by analyzing and understanding behavioral and buying patterns before they become apparent, which might be to late.

Pricefx is one of those highly capable and flexible pricing solution that can be seamlessly embedded into many leading and/or seamlessly integrated with all CRM systems out there.

Could you name the Top 5 apps/platforms that you use for Marketing and Sales?

The “spine” of our automation is (1) Adobe Marketo + Salesforce.

Around that core we use a variety of tools including:

  • Drift
  • MetaData
  • Adobe Bizible
  • WordPress + Elementor

Could you name one other CEO that you would like to see featured here?

Rob Bernshteyn, Coupa, Noel Goggin, Conga and Christian Klein, SAP

Any advice you would like to give to all the budding entrepreneurs out there?

Solid, value-adding product is key but as I said at the beginning, pay attention to your company’s culture.  The combination of a kick-ass product that sells well and your customer love with a motivated team that is always prepared to walk an extra mile for your customers, no matter what time of the day or day of the week, will build a foundation that is hard to copy.

Be fair, flexible and respectful towards your customer and your own people and always focus on relevant innovation.  Bells and whistles and wordy marketing might look good on the surface but what matters is: (1) value created and (2) sustainable, robust, reliable performance and (3) true customer centricity.

Thanks, Marcin!

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