Cindy Van Luyck is the CMO at CHILI Publish, and in this, Over the Skype session, we talk about SPICYtalks, CHILI publisher, and how to market complex products and services.
As with all our ‘Over the Skype’ interviews, quality is limited to bandwidth, web-cams, and ability to literally LIVE mix the conversations. However, it works, and with Over the Skype, we will bring you more than 20 exciting people, and angles on the industry as it is right now.
This is a Morten from INKISH.TV, and welcome back to yet another episode over the Skype. This time I know I always introduce that it’s always my friends, but it seems that that happens that I get friends with everybody and this time it is with Cindy Van Luyck from CHILI Publish in Belgium. So, welcome to my show, Cindy.
Hello, Morten. And yes, I do consider us friends. Even if we don’t see each other that often, we always have a lot of fun together. So yes, thank you for introducing me as your friend.
Yeah. But you are, 100%-
I’m Cindy Van Luyck.
Sorry. That is the delay of the Internet, but that is how it is. I will keep quiet, which is very rare that happens, so you have the stage. Go on, tell who you are and what you do.
It’s very rare that I’m quiet too, but lucky I get the stage now so I get to talk. Yes, I’m Cindy Van Luyck. I’m the CMO for CHILI Publish for over six years now. Wow. Prior to that, I worked for Enfocus and ADAM software, now part of Aprimo Digital Asset Management vendor. I’m not going to disclose how many Drupas I’ve already been to.
Are you sure about that? Can I convince you to talk about how many Drupas you’ve been at it?
Yeah, I think it was going to be my fifth this year. I guess it’s delayed.
That wasn’t that hard, right? Okay, so CHILI Publish, for those who don’t know what CHILI Publish is. I think we need to … I don’t want this session to be too much about products, but I would like to talk just so the people know what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to talk a little bit about your user event, SPICY talks of course, but I think we need to explain a little bit about what CHILI Publish, what kind of company and what kind of software you developed, because I think that is actually so cool that I don’t understand that not everybody is owning it already.
Okay. Good. Then you should probably join our sales team then, Morten. Let’s keep it short. I’ll try to explain a little bit what we do. With CHILI Publish. We actually celebrate our 10th anniversary this year. We have over 350 customers in 28 countries. What is it that we do? Well, we developed a software tool called CHILI Publisher. It simplifies and automates how graphics are created. Now let me explain.
Producing graphics such as brochures, labels, any type of print actually requires manual labor, and it often takes time and money and it’s very error prone. And so, with CHILI Publisher, we simplify that process by converting traditional graphic files into smart templates. We allow users with no graphic training to come online and self service, meaning they create their own ready to use visuals in the browser. That’s in short what we do.
I would like to add to it because to have these smart templates, that is one thing, but what makes it really smart just for people to understand and how you actually utilize it. The last time we met each other, that was in Berlin, where you had this SPICY talks event. The reason why I referred to that event was that you did something really cool with CHILI Publisher in your marketing of the event. Because I think, I can’t remember if it was you or it was Pete, but you showed an example of how many different formats on the Internet you need to have advertising for. How many different formats on paper, how many different variables you had with all the speakers and things like that. I think that it was thousands of templates that you should have done manually to do that, and you did it like [inaudible 00:04:20].
Exactly. Exactly. That’s what we call the Izations. There’s different translations, variations, customizations, that’s what we call the Izations. If you want to do that, all of them manually, it takes you a lot of work, a lot of mundane tasks actually, boring mundane tasks for a designer to do when the person should be working on more creative ideas. That’s what we try to eliminate with our software, is to automate and optimize that process.
When you look at it from a user perspective, because when I saw the demonstration and also in Berlin, you have an interface that looks very similar to what a designer would normally use to work in or in his or hers work anyway. So, I think that most people will feel quite comfortable in designing the templates, right?
Yes, exactly. That’s indeed what we’re after, usability and making the designer feel comfortable in his work setting. It can be a very technical person. It can be an educated designer, but it can also be a B2B consumer. It can be someone at home wanting to create a birthday card or an invite for a wedding, but it can also be a marketing manager such as myself. I have some knowledge about design. So, it allows a wide scope of people to edit documents and then to create something.
The approach of having these smart templates, is that something that is pretty unique to CHILI Publisher or do you have competition in that area as well?
Yep. It’s fairly unique to CHILI Publisher, and I’ll tell you why. All of our smart templates contain this intelligence like brand identity guidelines or even regulatory requirements. On top of that, we add a level of business logic to it. You can integrate external data sources such as STEM, BIN, URP, even a simple Excel sheet to our solution, and it will automatically feed that smart templates with data, again eliminating the error factor.
And then also important, with these smart templates as I already told you, a whole wide variety of profiles can work with the software. That’s not always a given with all the other competitors, which are actually sometimes even potential partners of ours to be honest.
That means that when the journey started 10 years ago, it was not just a good idea, but it is also a unique opportunity to automate the design process in ways that you would have difficulties in doing with other software solutions. Is that correctly understood?
Yes, exactly. Exactly. Because of that responsively out and the document intelligence that we bring, that’s a huge, huge benefit for a lot of printers and agencies actually at that.
Yeah, because it’s funny that you mentioned that because every time I meet some of your nice people, when I go to events, sometimes it’s Kevin, sometimes it’s Pete, sometimes it’s other people as well, I often ask the same question. Who is the typical CHILI Publisher customer? I think that I often, especially also from Fabian, I get the answer that you have many different kinds of customers.
I saw that also from the SPICY talks in Amsterdam that you have one-person companies that are really utilizing CHILI Publisher to an extent that I think a lot of people would be surprised about to large organizations like helps thinking of American Cancer Association and how they were using it to really benefit both the communication but also the fundraising part of their thing. I think that one of the challenges with CHILI Publish, and you must know that as a CMO, is that you basically have to market the product into a lot of different segments before you get the sales.
Absolutely. More than that is my daily challenge, and unfortunately there is no message that fits all. It’s very hard for us to market our solution and even more to do so in a contextual way. Whenever we communicate with marketing, with the company, we always try to think, “Okay, who are we talking to? That might be indeed, like you already mentioned, a marketing manager in the American Cancer Society, but it can also be an owner of a small business.
And then taking it further is that a business-minded person with more marketing knowledge or is it more like the CTO wanting to know more about REST and SOAP APIs? That’s the second level of difference that we have. And then again, these companies can have different challenges. You can have a brand owner that is looking for something specifically to solve a packaging issue, but that same brand owner can also have issues on a marketing collateral field.
So, what message do you bring? That is always so hard to do, and that’s why I always love going to trade shows. I still love going to trade shows, because you’re there, people pass by and it’s at random. They come to your booth and they start explaining what their issue is. That’s where you step in and that’s where you explain what the added value is of having CHILI Publisher into your platform.
But you’re absolutely true, Morten, it’s very hard for us to describe our ideal customer profile. There are so many. I once was at a trade show where a tattoo printer came onto the booth, and I could totally work on his business case and before we knew it, we had a whole process and project set up in our heads. But it can be many things, so it’s not making my life easier, but interesting though.
Of course. Of course, that is, the more potential customers you can reach, the bigger the opportunities. You just touched upon it now that you have different entry points because you have a very technical aspect with the open protocols, the APIs and all that kind of thing. You have a very intuitive UI to things, but I think that also what people have to understand is that if you just buy the box so to speak, right? Then you get basically an engine, right? And that engine is what drives.
So, you get the UI, and the frontends can be altered because I think for myself, I remember before we knew each other and I was thinking of CHILI, I was always thinking of it as the best web-to-print solution you could get, but it’s actually way more because you can build it to web-to-print solution. You can make it to an automated smart template aid engine. You can use it even for photo books. You can use it for a lot of different applications and things like that.
I do understand your challenge and I’m sure that you get your way around it then, but I think you should do more because you should sell more because that is a good software you have there. Just told you.
I see. Thank you, Morten. I’m going to hire you in my marketing company team.
I’d rather work the way that we do it now. It’s fine with me. By the way, by talking about it, you issued a press release, I think it was maybe last week about that you’re building, it was actually a web frontend to your host solution, right?
Yeah. Indeed, two weeks ago, and now we introduced CHILI Publisher online as SaaS editing solution. Yeah, indeed, that’s the press release you’re probably referring to it then.
Exactly, yeah. What is the idea about it?
It’s actually so that we could have a-
Yeah. Okay, sorry. What is the idea behind it?
Well, we launched it so that we could have the cloud collaborative technology stack for web-to-print service providers so that they can ensure business continuity and so that they can optimize their web-to-print platforms. Many printers and agencies actually are very much aware of the benefits of web-to-print and the added value it can bring, but are very often hindered by a lack of time, lack of resources, expertise. There are many things holding them back.
And so, we decided to open up our offering and bring CHILI Publisher online as a SaaS solution so that we can always offer an up-to-date version of CHILI Publisher hosted in the cloud, including instant access to all the product updates, the latest features, new modules and not in the least also cloud elasticity so that they can always scale-
Scale, yeah. Yeah.
… depending on their business. Yeah, scaling is very important. That’s the reason why we now offer CHILI Publisher online to make it easier to you to-
Okay. Is it a full CHILI Publisher that you get? Because I must admit that I read the press release, but I didn’t know that part. Sorry about that.
It’s okay. No, no, no, it’s totally fine, Morten. That’s why it’s good that we have that conversation so I can bring you up to date.
But yes, it’s a full CHILI Publisher product online that goes with all the benefits.
Of course, that is something that you see from a lot of different software vendors to offer cloud-based solutions. That is, of course, great because I guess like so many other softwares it has a lower entrance point so you can be also financially more interesting to more companies, right?
Yes, absolutely. I think it lowers the threshold for printers to step into that new era, and it’s definitely something that we see today. We need to help printers and agencies that struggle and that want to move forward, that want to go into the future. I think this is a perfect opportunity for them to rethink their business.
One of the things that I also find quite interesting about CHILI Publisher and also CHILI Publisher as a company is because now we speak about printers using it as a web-to-print engine, but it’s also connecting to the brand owners where they can use it for a lot of other things. One of the things that I found quite interesting from your SPICY talk event in Berlin was also that you had different partners exhibiting. One of the partners was … I can’t remember who it was right now, sorry. But that was the CMS supplier. Who’s that? You also participated in …
Yeah. We have a couple, but I think the one you were referring to was Sitecore.
Yeah, precisely. Sorry. Yeah. Because I think that it’s great that you connect also. It’s not like, because as you said, you can take the databases. Basically, I think they have some kind of DAM system and they have content that is, of course, driven to the web, but then you can basically, with CHILI Publisher you can take the content and utilize it to different platforms, right?
Yes, correct. We connect with a lot of DAM and CMS systems. Site Core is one of them. There’s, of course, also Aprimo, [Aquino 00:00:16:33], [Keepico 00:16:35] is there as well at our event, Cadenza. We actually integrated with virtually any platform or solution. What you just said is the major benefit of doing so is that you can get the data out of the repository and fit your design right away with the right content.
Yeah. And that is opening a new opportunity for even more customers, right?
Yes, absolutely. If you’re talking about brands and brand owners, that’s also very important and interesting target group for us because they have that struggle too, and they have a lot of in-house agencies that struggle with a lot of data and a lot of files and a lot of customizations. So, for them too, that’s a huge improvement on their go-to market. It’s a marketing material.
So, yet another story to tell in order to get into the mindset of these people because that is a new mindset that you can combine all your major assets and from both and from legacy databases and combined into these variable things that you are doing of course, right? Maybe you don’t know, I’m sure you know, but I was just wondering when your salespeople, and you have a partner strategy as well, but when you are in the market, what kind of obstacles do you see in that process of getting to a sales?
Well, there are actually many. Well, first of all, it depends on the type of company that you’re talking to. But I just mentioned for instance, brand owners. These are usually quite big companies, enterprise level companies. What happens there is that you have a very diverse decision-making units. There’s many people involved, there are a lot of stakeholders. The people putting the signature down are not always the people that drive the process or the project. So, by the time you get to talk to everyone and get to explain what the benefit is, then you’re months further down the line.
The second challenge is also, okay, what do you have running right now? Where do we need to tap into? Although we’re very easily integrated into any platform, the companies themselves often need to restructure or think about the structure on how they would like to see this whole end-to-end solution work. And then last but not least, with smaller companies, there’s always the budget considerations to take into account as well.
Of course, yeah.
Now luckily we invest heavily in writing out and broadcasting SPICY star stories. What are SPICY stars? Those are our customers. We call them SPICY stars. And so, we let them talk about how much they want both in costs and in time savings. That’s the story that we then write out or organize a webinar around so that we can use this to show the customer like, “Listen, okay, this is what your benefits in X amount of time on that problem and that issue and in that process. That makes my life a little bit easier. Luckily we have a lot of customers that are more than happy to share those insights as you were able to see you during SPICY talks.
Yeah. Yeah. That was for those who don’t know what Spice Talk … As I mentioned, it’s your user event, and you find new exciting places to have them. Is it every year or every second year? I can’t remember.
It’s every year, yes. Last year, indeed, we tried to have a bit of an art scenery or-
Yeah. That was amazing. But one thing is, of course, the scenery and the food and all that kind of thing, but it was also amazing that a company with 10 years is of course some age, but still 350 installations of customers are also a considerable number, but still compared to the size of the world is a very small number. But you attracted a lot of people to travel from Australia, from the US, from all over Europe to come to Berlin.
What I liked about it, you had like three different tracks of knowledge sharing education. You had the business scene, which was the biggest one, where I spent most of my time. And then there was for the newbies, and there was also for the experienced one so they get the chance to talk to your extremely skilled developers and very also very good educators, I would say. That is kind of because what the SPICY star you just spoke about is … We made a lot of interviews, but we made one for example with Airbus, and that was at first actually a quite exciting story. Can you tell a little bit how that got going?
Yeah, sure. Yeah, SPICY talks, first of all, it’s an event that is built by and for our customers and partners. We take great pride in organizing this and getting as many people involved as possible. Not only get them involved like being there, but sharing. Sharing is very important. During that event, everyone opens up. The goal of this event is to be as open as possible on how you did things. How did you go about things? Actually also be open about the challenges.
It’s not always a walk in the park to set up [inaudible 00:22:40] or to set up any project or process. Which challenges did you come across and how did you solve them? Because we have so many types of customers, we put them on stage and we give them 25 minutes to tell a little bit more about their project. For instance, [Thomas Jullien 00:23:03] he will create it for Airbus, a brand portal, where the staff can …
Yeah, yeah. I invite everyone to come to our website and have a look at the customer story at the SPICY star Story. But the Airbus staff is able to go to a brand portal where they can access and create marketing projects that are consistently protected with strict brand guidelines from Airbus, imposed by Airbus. So, there was Thomas Jullien, but there was also Bpost.
Yeah. Yeah, that shopping-
There was also-
… chain in Belgium. Really cool.
Yeah. Yeah, that was cool too.
Yeah, the The Colruyt is cool. What else did we have? The American Cancer Society in which staggering-
Phillips. Yes, Phillips was there too. And then the good thing about Phillips and many of these other customers on stages, you would think they would use it for a specific case like marketing collateral, but for [Phillips 00:24:09] it was for events and event coordination.
I was so surprised because they save so much money that you can’t believe it, right?
No, absolutely. Absolutely. Many of our customers like for instance the American Cancer Society, they went from 2000 hours to just 117 hours for certain documents. There was also the precision marketing group that saw their cost reduced with 80%. 80%. So, we put those people on stage, and then of course they come with amazing numbers, but then they also share how they went about it. That is interesting to know.
Yeah. That is what when I often ask both Kevin and Fabian about where the complex software becomes more and more difficult to market because the more complex the software becomes, even though the UI is easy to use, the stories need to be … Because I think that, maybe I’m not right, but I was just thinking that if you see those stories and if you understand the applications and the business cases around these, these must be some of the most effective marketing to do. I really congratulate you because I think your stories is a beacons for how to do these kind of user-driven marketing. Yeah, I just want to say that to you because I think they really tell your story in a great way.
Yeah, thank you, Morten. We always put a lot of effort in working out these stories. It’s one thing to find a customer willing to talk about it, but you need to indeed find the right pain point that they solved and come with numbers and approaches that are interesting for the readers and the listeners.
Yeah. Unfortunately right now we have a Corona crisis, and I think a lot of businesses and people are suffering from it globally. Beside working from home as we spoke about, is that something that has influenced the CHILI Publish in any way?
Yes, absolutely. I’m not going to lie. From a business perspective, we indeed feel the Corona situation. That’s one. So, from a sales perspective, there’s no way that doing really hard outreach right now. There’s no way that we do that. But from a marketing perspective, for us right now, it’s very important that we keep communicating, that we reach out to people, that we keep informing everyone.
This is an ideal moment to connect with people, with our customers, with our partners, with our prospects. So, right now we invest heavily in webinars. We just launched a new startup, so I invite everyone to go and subscribe to that as well. But yeah, of course it has an impact. Has an impact also on the way we work together. Before everyone was used to indeed to going to the office. Now we’re working remote, but we were always used to being inventive and proactive. So, we were able to switch quite swiftly, that I-
Sorry, one of the things I’ve been talking to a lot of the other industry leaders that I’ve been talking to during these over the Skype thing here is how the Corona crisis influence, not just in the short term but also in the longterm, because I think that first the first question I was more like whether the Corona crisis and the way that we’re working from home as a fact will change demand also when it comes to print and how we use technology.
And then I spoke to my new business partner in Brazil, Hamilton Costa, and he was like, maybe it’s not so much the Corona crisis, but more the fact that the Corona crisis maybe fuels the depression that everybody has been talking about. When you have depression, that is actually where the biggest changes in technology and in innovation happens. Are you a strong company to also get through the crisis and make sure that you come out as an even stronger company on the other side?
Yeah, so I think we laid the foundations over the last 10 years. I think we’re lucky to be in such a strong position. We have some margin on multiple levels, both from resources, budgets, but it is challenging. So, I consider us very lucky to be in this position where we already have that basis whilst we’re … It’s not linked directly to Corona, but we were already thinking about CHILI Publisher online.
So, this was for us an ideal opportunity to … We pushed the release a little bit forward because it’s an ideal opportunity for printers to now tap into what we offer as a product. That makes that we have enough to overcome the spirit right now. I’m pretty confident that we will survive.
Okay. I was not questioning your survival. I was more like, the strength of going through any crisis when you have good times and you’ve got more customers, I know from Kevin when we interviewed him at SPICY talks that you got more work processed through CHILI Publisher. I was just wondering that is when you’re on the upstream, it’s always fun to be part of it and those kinds of things.
Another thing, and just maybe a side note to this one, because before Drupa officially decided to postpone till next year, I think that you were the first company in the industry that actually announced that you decided to pack down your commitment to Drupa and stay home. I think that one of the reasons were because you were afraid that there would not be enough people coming there. I think that everybody was asking, “When are they pulling the plug basically,” right?
What about now? Are you planning to go back to the next Drupa or is that too early to say?
No, it’s not too early to say. Yes, we did back out of Drupa for multiple reasons of, of course, security and health. We needed to ensure that our team members and the customers that we will bring, everyone was staying safe. By thinking of that we also assumed that there will be less visitors too. But that was not the main reason. I think at some point we decided not to go anymore because we had more investments to make as well. It was at that point for us that we couldn’t wait for Drupa anymore to decide on whether or not it’s going to-
Because it was kind of-
… take place.
… the next step where you needed to push a lot of marketing into the market and spend a lot of money and things like that and hotels and all of that.
Yeah, of course.
Yes, absolutely. It was not an easy decision to make but a logical one to make. And so, we pulled out but now Drupa came back to us with a new date. I think if everything is safe again by then, if it’s safe to travel again, if we can come to trade shows again physically, then yes we will participate again. But we will evaluate the situation again a couple of months prior Drupa.
Yeah, I think that is the only reasonable thing for everybody to do, right. I’m happy that you’re not the only one going to Dusseldorf in case there’s a health issue. That will be a shame. Sorry I couldn’t help. Cindy, we’ve been talking for a little bit more than half an hour now. Is there more that we need to talk about or any good thing you want to talk about?
Well, I think we are already covered the novelties. We talked a little bit about marketing, which is always nice for me to do. Not everyone asks me about the way we do marketing, but I’m always very proud of the team, the amount of work that we process with the team that we have. So, I’m also very happy that you mentioned SPICY talks a couple of times, because it’s something that we are all-
I love this event because it has all the values. It’s funny because I don’t know if it’s only us, but we rate all these user events we participate at. It’s been a fight a little between Hunkeler Innovationdays and SPICY talks. But you’ve got a new competitor in the field, and that is the Think Smart Factory in Japan. I must say, that was maybe the best one, but you come close after. I promise.
Yeah. Okay. Okay. After this call you need to tell me why it was such a good event so that I can-
Yeah, I will do that. We can do that.
… steal a couple of-
We could do that offline because I think your event is very, very, very good. I really am. That is great. Cindy, here on the final note, I just want to thank you very much for your time. I know that even working from home, you’re busy, the kids and husbands in the background … Husband, sorry husband. Everything is just great to talk to you, and I wish all the best. I wish that CHILI … I look forward to see all you guys again, to be honest. So, thank you very much.
Thank you, Morten. It was very nice talking to you again.
Okay. See you in a moment, right?