Outreach Circle Builds Member Trust By Moving Away From A Transactional Approach Of Networking To More Personal Interaction Using Video

In a time when establishing new relationships is nearly impossible, association executives and members are leaning more toward the use of video to connect with their peers. 

Outreach Circle allows for members to build personal relationships through its innovative and unique engagement tool by deepening and building trust between associations and their members. By embedding Gather Voices as a widget into the Outreach Circle platform, members are able to communicate and share their personal experiences and opinions through video. 

Watch the Complete Conversation

Read the Complete Transcript:

Michael Hoffman:

Hi, everyone, it's Michael Hoffman, CEO at Gather Voice and I'm really excited today to be talking to Sang Peruri, who is a supporter of Gather Voice and an entrepreneur doing really amazing things with a company called Outreach Circle. Sang, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, but also to show everyone the very cool stuff that you're up to.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Thanks so much. Really excited about the opportunity to collaborate together. I think our clients could mutually benefit from Gather Voice and Outreach Circle working together.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah. And I think there's a connection. I'm going to describe what I think is kind of the synergy to use a terrible word may be between us and how we sort of think about things, and then I'd love for you to show us the product and really take us on a little tour of it being used. So, for us, what we do at Gather Voice is enable organizations to collect a lot more video from a lot more people. And the lot more video is because people want video content more than they want text content, they're interacting with video content. But a lot more people because people, especially in the association world, it's all about your members. The members are where all the intelligence is. The members have relationships with each other. The members respect each other's experiences. And so, having people connecting with other people, as opposed to simply top-down communication from an organization, that's exactly what we're about. We're saying to our clients, "Hey, you can be polishing all this content and pushing it to people all day long. But if you let the content come up from the ground up, it's going to be ... First of all, you're going to have to do less, because your people are doing more, but it's also going to be more relevant and more interesting and more connective and move your organization away from a very transactional way of working to a much more relational way of working."

Michael Hoffman:

So, that's what Gather Voices is all about, and I think that's what Outreach Circles all about too.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly. It has very similar parallels. You're really focused on having members produce those videos and the members are the messenger. With Outreach Circle, it's the same sort of concept. Instead of the organization or the trade organization or the association being the messenger, the members would be messengers and people will trust other members or their friends more than a stranger. So, that's really the premise.

Michael Hoffman:

Right. Right. Excellent. Well, so maybe just give a little bit of background about how you got to this and then take us through it.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Awesome. So our story started when I ran for office back in 2014. I was running for my local school board and we had a town of around 30,000 people, I had a small budget of around $4,000, and we were knocking on doors and doing local coffees and meet and greets. And that was generally going well. And then an outside pack came in and put over $100,000 into the race against me. And all of a sudden, we were overwhelmed. We knew we had to try something different. So, we'd launched a friend to friend or relational organizing campaign. Made it easy for our supporters to reach out to their friends. And amazingly enough, it worked. We won the race, even though we were outspent more than 30 to one. And after that, we started Outreach Circle to help organizations, campaigns, and causes with their outreach efforts. And our premise was people will always trust their friends and neighbors and family more than a stranger, and we wanted to make that easy. We wanted to convert cold outreach to warm outreach.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah, that's great. I mean, and again, that's so connected to what we're doing, which is all about trust. People trust their peers more than they trust institutions. The trust in institutions has weakened dramatically and that's true across the board and certainly in the nonprofit, in the association world as well.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly, exactly. What prompted me to reach out to you about working with Gather Voice is we're both ... Outreach Circle and Gather Voice are part of the Blackbaud social good challenge, and we're working in this cohort with them. And I received a video that Blackbaud had sent out to collect video testimonials from the other startup founders. And I looked at the user interface and I go ... I thought, "Gosh, this could integrate really nicely in Outreach Circle. This would be a really nice workflow to combine for our clients." So, that's really what prompted all of this.

Michael Hoffman:

Excellent. Well, great. Well, why don't you share your screen and show us what Outreach Circle's all about?

Sangeeth Peruri:

Absolutely. Let me share my screen here. All right. So, with Outreach Circle, we have an admin interface and then we have a supporter or member interface. And this is where the ... And what I'm going to show you today is a supporter or member interface. We also have a backend admin interface where you set everything up. So, there's a number of ways to access ... For members to access the platform. If they're coming straight off of a website, they could search and go to outreachcircle.com and search for your trade organization or trade association, or they could simply ... You could have a link that takes them straight to a branded landing page that would have-

Michael Hoffman:

And this is ... Let me just clarify. First of all, I'm so excited you're showing a mobile view as the first view, because I think we are in a mobile-first world, and organizations just don't do it. They don't think that way first. And I think a lot of our clients are challenged by what's the experience people are having on mobile? So, that you're showing us, this is amazing because I think obviously large numbers of members would have their experience on mobile. And then just to clarify, this is a mobile browser, right? Or is this an app? Or both?

Sangeeth Peruri:

So, we have both. We have a mobile browser and app and the way we've set up our mobile browser, it'll work on tablet and desktop as well. So, it's really set up to be anytime, anywhere. We have found that there tends to be app fatigue in terms of having to download an app. So, we wanted to design a really light touch where you could recruit supporters very quickly onto the mobile browser. And then if you want, you can get them to download an app, but either workflow is possible. Another thing that we have with our company is we have a custom development arm, so we can spin up custom white-label apps for our clients. So if you want your logo in the app store, you can immediately take advantage of all of our core functionality, and then we can also embed other functionality that you like from third-party platforms or design a custom workflow for you as well. So, instead of having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars and spend six, 12 months to get an app out, we can get your own white label app out in a week or two.

Michael Hoffman:

That's fantastic.

Sangeeth Peruri:

So yes, it's a mobile-first. We actually started as a desktop-first platform five years ago, and then we looked at where all the data was trending. And it was very clear that most users are spending the majority of their time on their mobile phones. So, we went to a mobile-first approach for our company, but we realized there's a lot of users that prefer to work on their computers. Myself, I spend more time on the computer than the mobile phone, and we didn't want to alienate those users. So, we built a platform that works across all platforms.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah, that's great. Terrific.

Sangeeth Peruri:

So when you come in, you're going to have your branded trade organization page here, and there's a simple button that just says the support that gets them into the workflow. And from here, there's a number of things you can do. If you want to collect their complete contact information, you can start that here, whether you have them log in with Gmail, Facebook, or email password, or we have a rapid onboarding flow where we skip all of this and all it asks for is an email. And then if ... Depending on how your systems are set up, we can also integrate with third-party platforms where if they're coming in from your platform and they've already entered in their name or email, et cetera, we can pre-populate those fields and bypass all of this to make it a seamless experience.

Michael Hoffman:

That's great. I was going to ask you about single sign-on. I think that's something that many clients want and that you can do that is terrific.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Now, another thing that's interesting is, Michael, you had showed me before how you can take Gather Voices and embed that as effectively widgets in other's websites.

Michael Hoffman:

Mm-hmm.

Sangeeth Peruri:

What I'm going to show you here is we have a series of actions that you can have members take. Any of the actions or the feed as a whole can be embedded as a widget in any of our clients' platforms as well. And so, if you want this as a discreet mobile app or platform, you can do that. If you want to embed this as widgets in your site or app, you can do that. You can also ... If you want to do the ... If you have certain functionality that you want to embed in our platform, you can do that as well. So, we've architected the platform. You can break it apart any which way you want.

Michael Hoffman:

That's great.

Sangeeth Peruri:

So now, let me walk you through, this is our activist hub or action hub or member hub. This is where you're going to have your members take action. At its core, Outreach Circle is an action platform. And we built this in a way that it looks like modern-day social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, et cetera, where people are used to scrolling through and you can have engaging content here. Now what's nice here is this is your own feed, so you're not at the mercy of Facebook or Twitter to deliver content. You can push this content in any order that you want. You can have multiple different feeds for different teams or regions. If you have people coming in off of different Facebook ads or different events, you can push different content here. And so, when you come in, I'm just going to show you some of the different things you could have. one-

Michael Hoffman:

Let me just clarify, because I think it's important. When you say actions, you really mean any kind of action. So, I can watch this video. It can see this thing on Facebook. It can take an advocacy action. It could be registered for this conference, or it could make a video, right? That's what you're talking about, right? All of the different kinds of things you may want members to do.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly. Exactly. We also have an open-ended action call link to a webpage, which is one of our most popular actions. And what happens is a lot of clients will start with a generic link to a webpage, and then we will integrate it and make it deeper and make it more of a custom native action. So it's very open-ended. Organizations will use this for training or agendas or to put policy pieces. We don't have a custom native action for policy pieces, but you can link to any sort of page or website. And with Gather Voices customers, you can have an action to record a video or to watch a video or share a video.

Michael Hoffman:

Right, right. Perfect.

Sangeeth Peruri:

So, some of the actions ... First, we have just shared on social media and we don't take any extra user authentication here. It posts as them. So, you can like, comment, share, and this can be Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. Any platform that you think makes sense for your base. You can also give updates here. So, maybe there's something really important going on in your industry or for a conference coming up. Now, what's really nice with these updates is they have to click on it to actually read the update. So, you can take stats on which content your clients are actually ... Or your members are consuming.

Michael Hoffman:

So smart.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Now, things like social media here, you may ask, "Well, can't I just post this on my social media feed? Can't they just share that?" Well, the problem with social media is you're at the mercy of the algorithm. If your member doesn't see that feed at that right time, they're going to miss it. And if you send them an email, it might get buried. Whereas here, they could come in and they could go through two, three, five actions that you think are important at that time, and you can send them a notification to reach out, whereas, in Facebook or Twitter, you can't send a mass notification for your base. Here, they could go in and they could just share and repost whatever you have on social media.

Michael Hoffman:

Right.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Other things that we have are things like task management. Maybe there's little things you want them to do. Watch a video, share, march, wear a shirt, attend a seminar. So, you can ... Or read something.

Michael Hoffman:

Mm-hmm.

Sangeeth Peruri:

You can track tasks. You can also do attendance check-in. We know a lot of people, they'll do some attendance at Zoom, but then you have to take all of that Zoom data, put it somewhere else. Or if you're at a conference, you have paper and pencil sign up forms for people to attend or different webinars or different events. And someone has to do all that data entry and no one wants to do it. So you basically end up not doing it. Here, you can have little actions where people just press the check-in button and all of this data can be integrated back into your database or CRM systems. That's another thing that we do. Being an integration platform, we will push all of our data into whatever systems you are using. We're not in the business of convincing our clients to get off their CRM and use Outreach Circle. We are built to go into your CRM.

Michael Hoffman:

Excellent.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Other things, if fundraising is relevant, you can do that. Here are video updates. YouTube and Vimeo videos can get embedded directly into our feed, so they don't have to go outside of Outreach Circle to watch that. Another thing that may be very helpful for trade associations is polling. Simple surveys. Where do you want the next conference? What three things are most important to you? Do you want to collect their address to send them a gift? And so, you can do open-ended questions. You can do linked questions. You can do surveys. You can do endorsements and testimonials. So, this something where you could do a video testimonial or a photo testimonial, for example. These are kind of the micro-actions that we have on the platform. We have lots of little micro-actions. Now I'm going to show you some of the more involved actions. So, the first one is our relational organizing action, and what I think is most relevant to trade associations is our email workflow here. What you can do is, let's say you want a member to reach out to all their friends that are trade association members or their base, or invite others to attend a conference, attend a training, et cetera. You can personalize a message for them. "Hey, we have this great conference or webinar coming up next week. I really encourage you to attend." And there's just a simple registration link. They can then personalize that message if they like. Then what they can do is they can import a list. For campaigns, they might want to import their personal address book. I would think for enterprise customers, trade associates, they're going to import a file, and they can import that file, and then we will remove all the duplicates and junk contacts, et cetera. And then they can send this message. They can select all, and this can go to all of their lists. Now, what's nice about this is the message is going to come from that individual person, not from the organization as a whole. And then you as a trade association, now you can track to see how many people each of your trade association members have sent this out to, who sent out a message, so you can track all of that. And we've gotten really good with engagement. We're getting north of 50% open rates here. And that is because these are not sent.

Michael Hoffman:

They're coming from somebody that they know. So, they're taking a look at it. So, that makes a lot of sense. This is the core of what you mean by relational organizing, and when we talk about peer to peer. It's I can connect directly to my community with content that you've provided me through, that the organizations provide.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly. Exactly. So, it's all friend to friend here, and that's what creates the engagement. We've also been at this for a while now where we send all of our emails generally in small batches, because it's all friend to friend. So there are hundreds of messages, maybe a thousand. So, we have a really good sender rating as well. Whereas most clients will be sending to thousands or tens of thousands. So, over time, your sender rating goes down. So, that plus the combination of this coming from a friend dramatically increases open rates and engagement.

Michael Hoffman:

Right.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Now, another thing that this whole action around personalizing a message, importing an address book, verifying the email so there's not a lot of spam in there, and then ultimately sending this message, this whole workflow with these three steps can be embedded as a widget into any of your sites or right next to a Gather Voices video. So, maybe they record a video and then you want them to send it out to all their friends for them to record a video. Or maybe they record a video and they register for a conference. Then you want them to send this out. So, you can have this embedded.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah. Absolutely. It's like sharing functionality on steroids, because it's not simply captive to a Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever you happen to be. It's letting you connect right to your individual context. That's really powerful.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly. We make it easy instead of having to copy and paste and then set up another email template on MailChimp and then set up that list and go through all of that. It's just very, very simple and easy. And our messages tend to be more informal. They're more text-heavy instead of tons of fancy graphics. So, it creates a lot more engagement and it looks like a message coming from a friend. Now, we have that same workflow that I showed you in email via text as well. If you wanted to text friends to a list. I don't think that workflow is as relevant to your client base, but we have another product called affinity texting, and this product I think is very relevant to your base. Here what would happen is you could have an association member, and let's say you want them to text people to come to an event, or let's say you have a Zoom webinar coming up and you have 300 people that have registered, and you really want to make sure that they attend that event. And with Zoom, you can require a cell phone and email upon registration. So, what you could do is you could use our affinity texting and-

Michael Hoffman:

It's the modern phone tree, right? You would say to people, "Here's our board and we want all of you to call these people to make sure they show up." Here, you've made this the way people actually interact today, which is by text and you're setting it all upright for them.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly. So, the message is pre-populated. You can personalize a message, and then once you load in a list, you can just start texting all of them and you text them all one at a time. And what that allows you to do is actually send the message from a personal phone number. And so, let's say you have the head of member engagement. And so now, this person can text from his or her own phone number to that member saying, "We have a webinar coming up. Please attend. Are you registered? Would be great if you attend." Now best practices, the first message would say, "Hey, this is Susie from the association. This is my number. Save it in your address book. If you never need anything, please reach out." So, what this does is it forms a deep and personal relationship between the association and its members.

Michael Hoffman:

I love that because it's also what we're talking a lot about with our clients and others is the move from a really transactional way of operating to more relational ways of operating and the idea that people are part of a community and this is that in real life, I think.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly. And let's say you want them to do a Gather Voice video, right? Now that you have a relationship with them, maybe a couple of months later you text them, "Please do this video or attend this event."

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah, I love that. Hey, we're all trying to make these videos. And so, then you get a reinforcement message from somebody else via text. That's very powerful.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly. And it's coming from a personal cell phone, not from a short code, which is really, really powerful here. The other thing that's nice with this workflow is since you're texting people one at a time, you don't need their opt-in necessarily to text them. Whereas if you were to broadcast SMS, it's nice because you can do one click and it goes to everybody. But if the member has not opted in, you really don't have that ability. It's also 

Michael Hoffman:

And we've seen that, right? We've seen that's kind of ... The way that the law is, right? If you want to send it to everyone, you have to have their opt-in. If you want to send one at a time, you can just do that just like I would send a message to you.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly. And we just automate all the copy and paste and we track which messages are sent. And also, you can push to your CRM systems. You can also apply tags and do data entry. Are you coming? You can log in yes or no for your systems. And the great thing about this is it's just really personal and that's what works here. And so, these are the products that I thought would be kind of the best fit for your customer base, and excited at the opportunity to work together and experiment and see how we can add additional engagement for your clients.

Michael Hoffman:

That's great. I'm really excited about how we're going to integrate these tools. And again, I think our purpose is very much aligned and where we see relational ways of working going with organizations, this is what organizations have to do. They have to start connecting the people in the modalities that people want, in the ways they want, they have to have more video, which is what we're solving for, and they have to be able to communicate with each other, which this makes really easy to do. So this is terrific, Sang. So, I'm really excited to move ahead with it.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Awesome. I just realized, I forgot to show the complete workflow. So, if you have a number of people to text, you would just hit send, and then it would copy and paste the message into your messaging app.

Michael Hoffman:

Wow.

Sangeeth Peruri:

And then when you hit send, it actually comes from your messaging app. And this is why it's hard for people to ignore the message, because it's not coming from a shortcode or a computer-generated message. So, we already know people see text messages more than email.

Michael Hoffman:

Yes.

Sangeeth Peruri:

And they're too busy to be on a phone call, or you don't have time to call them. You know they're going to see the message. Now, this takes it a step further. Not only will they see the message, they won't ignore the message, because it's coming from a personal number, not from a computer.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah. Fantastic. Yeah. I love it. I mean, I think this is one great piece of it that's really powerful, but I think the whole general workflow of being able to give actions to people, have them share it, and in a really easy way is something that's missing from a lot of organizations.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Exactly, exactly.

Michael Hoffman:

Great. Well, Sang, thank you so much for taking the time to show us this, and if somebody wants to get in touch with you directly, where's the best place to do that?

Sangeeth Peruri:

Yeah. So you can just email info@outreachcircle.com or if you want to email me, it's Sang, like I sang a song, at outreachcircle.com and if you want to find more information, our website is client.outreachcircle.com.

Michael Hoffman:

Terrific. Again, thanks so much and have a great rest of your day.

Sangeeth Peruri:

Likewise. Thanks so much, Michael.


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