Ryan Raiker is Vice President of Marketing for AYR
What's your industry?
Technology and tech marketing
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
Previously I worked in the public sector. My focus there was around IT planning, streamlining, and modernizing citizen experiences, and integrating enterprise technologies that helped transform government for the digital age. I think the biggest thing that had me thinking of a career outside of government was the lack of change. Everything in government felt stale and dry; everything moved so slowly.
While I have a huge passion for all things tech, there wasn’t enough digital tools in my experience working in the public sector. I mean I was working with people who were still using paper and pen to record constituent service requests and move them from department to department!
This may come as a surprise but I didn’t plan to be a marketer, actually. If you told me that I’d be where I am today 10 years ago, I’d laugh you out of the room, but things change. Candidly I think I’ve always been quite good at marketing. My background in analytics and process improvement certainly helps me understand buyer behaviors, customer analytics, and ways to improve workflow in marketing. However, when I started my role at the technology startup TimelinePI I was a Solutions Consultant, basically a sales engineer.
In retrospect, I suppose I was always around sales and marketers. Maybe I was helping some of my clients with marketing in my consulting business, but it wasn’t my main focus. It all kind of just happened.
After the 2019 acquisition of TimelinePI by ABBYY, I joined the intelligent automation company as a product marketer. It was shortly after that I was able to demonstrate my skills in digital marketing as ABBYY's Director of Digital Marketing. While working at ABBYY I had worn several hats including staying immensely involved in the product marketing of the process mining solution - ABBYY Timeline.
It was in the fall of 2022 when I was inspired to try something different and head back to the startup world when I joined the company AYR, then named Singularity Systems. It was a big decision. My decision was really based on "Why not? If not now, then when? Would there be a better time to do it?" In the end, I knew my passion was in entrepreneurship and helping underdogs achieve what others deemed impossible. It was only a few short weeks after I joined we rebranded to AYR to tell a powerful customer story about ARE YOU READY. It was a lot of fun to come up with the new company name and all the messaging and strategies to go along with it.
What kind of work does your daily role involve?
In my role as VP of Marketing at tech startup AYR, I have been responsible for creating the vision, along with the messaging, positioning for the brand, and go-to-market strategies. My goals are to ensure maximum growth and scale for the organization. I like startups because I can wear a lot of hats, and essentially no two days are the same.
I am responsible for creating effective campaigns, analyzing customer segments, and developing engagement strategies. I also oversee the budgeting and execution of digital marketing tactics such as SEO, email marketing, social media campaigns, advertising, and lead generation.
Not only do I need to be on top of marketing, but as the VP of Marketing, I often need to evaluate the competitive landscape to ensure the company is ahead in all areas of digital marketing and create initiatives for testing new channels or strategies for optimizing existing ones. It is then an important piece that I work with and engage with our sales team to ensure they are equipped with competitive knowledge and quality materials in order to be prepared to serve our customer's needs.
A key requirement for this role is staying up-to-date on emerging trends and keeping an open dialog with both internal stakeholders, such as product teams, and external parties like partners or vendors.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I am a professional marketer in the technology space. I get the interesting job of trying to explain what new technologies like AI, machine learning, and cutting-edge analytics solutions have to offer businesses and improve the future of work for everyone.
I think everyone needs to know that AI, machine learning, and these other intelligent automation solutions are not replacing human workers. Despite all of the sci-fi movies created around AI, automation, RPA, and robots, there will not be a Terminator situation created because of automation in the workplace.
While the fear of automation is something managers should acknowledge, automation and even the best technologies by themselves are not intelligent. RPA is unable to perform like a human worker. It’s unable to make decisions on its own and doesn’t have common sense either. Due to this lack of intelligence, RPA will never be able to outperform a human worker’s emotional and complex intelligence. Automation doesn’t take over entire positions; they take on the repetitive, monotonous tasks that humans usually dislike doing anyway (or that have already been outsourced). This means they are able to assist the human workforce in reducing errors and repetition. In reality, intelligent process automation tools make humans’ jobs easier and even have the potential to create new (and better!) job opportunities for human employees.
When you think about the building trades, do you think that the drill replaced the job of the human carpenter? I imagine the answer is: Absolutely not! I think everyone would agree that the drill assisted the carpenter and made him much more productive in his trade. AI is doing the same.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
Successful people never do it by themselves and remaining loyal to those who help you get where you are going will pay major dividends in the long term.
It is important to treat everyone with respect and give credit where it is due. In business, loyalty often creates positive relationships that can be beneficial for both parties in the long run, as people will be more likely to work together again if they have been satisfied with their experience in the past.
As a founder, it's crucial to recognize the importance of loyalty to those who helped get you to where you are. It's likely that you have had support from many people along the way, including family, friends, mentors, advisors, and investors.
Here are some pieces of advice to help you build and maintain loyalty with those who helped you:
Show appreciation: It's essential to show appreciation for those who helped you along the way. Express your gratitude and acknowledge their contributions to your success. Simple gestures such as a thank-you note or a small gift can go a long way.
Stay in touch: Maintaining contact with those who helped you can help build loyalty. Regular check-ins, updates, and invitations to events can show that you value their support and want to continue the relationship.
Be transparent and honest: Being transparent and honest with those who helped you can help build trust and foster loyalty. Keep them informed about your business's progress, challenges, and opportunities.
Share success: Sharing the success of your business with those who helped you can help build loyalty. Consider offering equity, bonuses, or other perks to your early supporters as a way of thanking them for their contributions.
Offer opportunities for involvement: Providing opportunities for involvement in your business can help build loyalty. Consider offering advisory roles, speaking opportunities, or other ways for your early supporters to contribute to your business's success.
In summary, loyalty to those who helped you is crucial to the success of a startup. By showing appreciation, staying in touch, being transparent and honest, sharing success, and offering opportunities for involvement, you can build a loyal support network that will help drive the long-term success of your business.
What's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
In my work in Digital Transformation and intelligent automation, we massively change the way large enterprises function and work by starting with processes and making improvements to be more effective and efficient. We can do that with ourselves too. I aim to challenge the status quo of remaining stagnant because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
In my early college years, I was injured in a car accident. I suffered a major concussion and had months of vestibular therapy to get me back to where I needed to be. At that time, I was challenged in regular activities, I was failing classes, and overall I was just really struggling. While doctors advised me to leave school, I knew if I left I wouldn't return. So I stuck with it. Even though I changed my major and took summer classes, I kept pushing on and I kept trying.
At the end of the day, perseverance after a concussion like that requires determination and resilience - but this can be achieved through understanding one’s needs and taking things one step at a time! These steps have gotten me here. I’ve learned that your happiness and your accomplishments stem from you. And more than that, they stem from your mindset and the way that you view yourself and your life. I realized that I knew I needed to keep with it and work harder to get through these adversities.
In the current climate especially, many CEOs are looking for ways to cut costs, with marketing budgets usually one of the budgets to be cut. Is that wise?
While cutting costs may be necessary for some businesses in difficult economic times, reducing or completely eliminating marketing budgets may not be the best approach. Marketing is essential for businesses to create brand awareness, attract new customers, and preserve customer loyalty. Without marketing, a business may struggle to stay competitive and maintain its revenue streams.
Moreover, cutting marketing budgets could result in a decreased ROI and a loss of market share to competitors who continue to invest in marketing. In times of economic uncertainty, businesses that maintain a strong brand presence through marketing may have an advantage over those that reduce or eliminate their marketing efforts.
Instead of cutting marketing budgets altogether, businesses can look for ways to optimize their marketing spend, such as by focusing on targeted campaigns or investing in digital marketing channels that may be more cost-effective. By taking a strategic approach to marketing, businesses can continue to promote their products and services while also managing their costs.
For people thinking of starting businesses in 2023, would you say it's still possible to build a big business with little or no marketing budget?
It is possible to build a successful business without a large marketing budget, but it can be extremely challenging. I think at a bare minimum you have to have something laid out to spend on marketing. In today's highly competitive market, having a marketing strategy is crucial to reach and engage with potential customers. Without marketing, it can be difficult to create brand awareness, generate leads, and drive sales.
However, there are ways to build a successful business without a large marketing budget. Notice I say "large budget." That amount will vary based on the audience you are targeting and the competitiveness of the industry you're in. One approach is to leverage social media and content marketing to reach your target audience. By creating valuable and engaging content that resonates with your target customers, you can build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website or store.
Another approach is to focus on building a strong referral network. By providing excellent service and building relationships with your customers, you can encourage them to refer their friends and family to your business, which can generate leads and sales at no cost.
In addition, businesses can also look for cost-effective marketing channels, such as email marketing or community partnerships to drive growth.
While building a big business with little or no marketing budget is challenging, it is possible with the right approach, commitment, and dedication to your customers.
Can you share one or two of your favorite free marketing strategies that a business owner in your industry can use.
Leverage Social Media: Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram offer SaaS companies a great opportunity to connect with potential customers and create awareness about their products and services. Remember, there was once a B2B marketing afraid of Facebook, and we all know how that went. Marketing leaders need to embrace innovations and new platforms. Sure, it may seem scary, but we must try, fail fast, and grow.
Utilize SEO To Drive Organic Traffic: SEO (search engine optimization) is a great way for SaaS companies to increase visibility on search engines and drive organic traffic to their websites. Companies can optimize the content on their website by using relevant keywords throughout the pages, creating topic clusters, optimizing images for search engines, creating high-quality backlinks, and leveraging tools such as Google Trends to track the performance of their search engine rankings.
This will help them ensure that they are consistently appearing at the top of SERPs when users search for related terms online.