My Story

When I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was go into advertising. It verged on an obsession.

My grandfather was a very successful and highly regarded UK ad guy in the 50s and 60s, so it was considered the family business. And I grew up in the UK in the 1970s—the heyday of British advertising, when the ads on TV were often more entertaining and more memorable than the shows.

Coming out of college, I was hired by the London office of Benton Bowles (which then became DMB&B) as a junior account executive. For three years, I worked on consumer-packaged goods and retail accounts, including General Foods, Tetley Tea, and Mars candy. It was an excellent apprenticeship. I even worked on the Wembley Stadium account. As a die-hard soccer fan, this was freakin’ heaven.

Working for a big agency in London in the late ’80s was about as fun as it gets. In the words of Jerry Della Femina, the famous NY ad guy, “I honestly believe that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”

He was spot on.

I moved to the US when I met Alice, the girl of my dreams, a Texan, who became my wife of thirty-four years. After I relocated, I joined the venerable Ogilvy & Mather. I was entering the University of Advertising. Ogilvy was where you learned how to do advertising the right way.

Working on Compaq (remember them?) and IBM, I learned how to market technology and about B2B marketing strategy and execution. And I learned better ways to develop brand strategy.

It was still fun, intellectually challenging, and frenetic, and it was pretty cool to tell my friends about.

But something was missing.

I had this nagging doubt. I wasn’t entirely sure whether any of the advertising I was involved in worked.

We were creating famous ad campaigns. Our clients’ sales were growing. But it did not seem to matter what we did and how we measured it—it was not ever really clear how our work made a difference.

We all passed this off with the famous quote attributed to John Wanamaker, the nineteenth-century retailer: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

We were asking clients to spend tens of millions of dollars on ad campaigns, and no matter how much we researched them and measured their impact, the cause and effect between what we produced and someone buying the product seemed tenuous.

Then, something changed for me.

In 1994, my father-in-law gave my family a PC for Christmas. This old 386-chip beige box came with a 9600 baud modem and a Netcom CD. I had never been online, and one evening, I thought I would give the new thing called the Worldwide Web a whirl. At six o’clock one night, I booted up the PC, put the Netcom disk in the CD drive, and got online for the first time. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. By three the next morning, I finally logged off. There were not many websites then, and by the time I went to bed, I had probably visited most of them. It was chaotic and hard to navigate. Most websites were corporate brochures, but it was clear that this was transformative.

I knew this could be the biggest thing in my career, and I wanted to get in early.

And what was clear at first sight was that this was a highly measurable medium. We would be able to attribute results to our efforts.

I jumped into the emerging digital industry very early and have never left it. For the next fifteen years, I worked in digital marketing. I loved how we could correlate our campaigns to results. It was not perfect, but it was so much better than the days before the web.

A little over ten years ago, I took a right turn. Through a series of random accidents, a physician friend and I started a health-tech company, Practice Unite (later renamed Uniphy Health).

We were focused on solving a big problem in health care: the terrible communications between clinicians. It is hard for doctors, nurses, and all the other professionals involved in caring for you and your loved ones to communicate with each other effectively and in a timely way. This challenge is a big part of patient safety issues. People die because of breakdowns in communications.

We developed an idea for a mobile app for clinicians. When we pitched this to the CEO of a hospital, he said, “You build it, and I’ll buy it.”

So, we did.

His hospital became our first of many customers. Users loved the app, and we were able to sell the solution to many other health care systems over the next few years. We eventually sold the business to a larger health-tech firm.

It was an exciting period in my life, but there was a big source of frustration.

As the CEO, I needed greater predictability in forecasting our sales. We suffered a few near-death experiences due to poor cash flow when deals did not convert or closed much later than expected. I endured a frequent battering from investors when we missed sales targets, which happened too often. And five years in, we had to lay off staff, as we were way off our growth forecasts.

It made me sick. I was desperate for a way to create and forecast demand in a more predictable way.

It was especially frustrating for me, as I had three decades of experience in marketing and selling B2B. Our marketing had generated demand, and we could see that our PR and social media were building awareness. In addition, demand-generation tactics would sporadically generate leads for our sales force. We also had some success in using LinkedIn to reach out and start new relationships.

The problem was that we had not developed a scalable way to build a forecastable sales pipeline.

When I started healthlaunchpad in 2020, I had a double-edged mission. I wanted to help technology firms navigate health care more effectively. But my personal mission—my white whale—was to help companies develop more effective and more predictable ways of marketing.

When I met Ben, I knew a little about account-based marketing (ABM), but Ben’s journey at Nuvolo opened my eyes to a better way of marketing.

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