Compelling Service leads to Behavior Change
Approximately 10 years ago both myself and long time friend Aakin picked up Sony VAIO computers. I got a desktop while he snagged a laptop. We bought these computers because we wanted to play Diablo 2. The game finally prompted us to upgrade aging computer systems, changing our behavior. Was it worth it in hindsight? Probably not, as Sony VAIO systems weren't very resilient. But we enjoyed the game and many other applications so it's difficult to judge. The important lesson is that desirable software ignited our buying action.
Fast forward a decade
Here I am working with a gifted hacker (Tyler) on developing and refining a high utility location based event update service, Garage Dollar. Current garage sale goers use local newspapers, craigslist, and aging GPS systems. We want to change their behavior by introducing a system and visual map that shows only real garage sales in their area. The risks:
- can we build a service compelling enough to attract and sustain subscribers
- can we market the site to a wide enough audience to make it a desirable distribution/advertising channel
- can we get enough current garage sale goers to change how they find and advertise sales, by using a smartphone
- with our new model of advertising and finding garage sales, can we induce new subscribers to participate. Ease of entry invites a larger potential market
As we close in our next pre-alpha release I have great confidence that we can build it, based on the enthusiasm and skills of my cofounder Tyler and my own slowly growing skill set. I'd like to say thanks to the Google Map API team, version 3 is a smooth interface that can be leveraged for many valuable location apps.
Online Marketing Experience
*update* My friend Arnold Waldstein has reminded me of the complete measure of performance (cost per action).
To minimize the other risks I've taken to speaking with regular garage sale goers, and advertising in three separate channels in a focused area in my town. The advertising channels and my experience with them is laid out below:
It took a little to set up this internet radio ad channel, as voice actors and a specified 30 second sound byte are part of the equation. My initial performance was $1.30 per click in my area. With incredible customer service (thanks to Daniel Razumov) this was reduced to 50 cents per click by more precise targeting of stations in the zip codes I submitted. Rapid customer service was the defining quality factor of TargetSpot. That's something Facebook and Google can't compete with at scale. I'm not sure how TargetSpot can scale that kind of personalized service, but I'd like to see them try. I see an opportunity to algorithmically optimize click through numbers per dollar based on the performance report.
Facebook has a very high amount of impressions which allowed it to rapidly hit my daily cap ($15) at 70-80 cents per click. Overall this was the easiest to setup and even integrates an image of our service.
Google AdWords had similar performance to Facebook, was almost as easy to setup as Facebook (more tuning of keywords), but didn't have the page impressions in my area to rapidly exhaust the broad range of keywords specified.
There are additional marketing channels I can leverage: junk mail local newspapers, local radio stations, and huge cardboard signs. Garage sale goers rely on the local paper for garage sales as well as card board signs. These channels may be necessary to attract a threshold subscriber base in a given geographic area. There's nothing wrong with using the channels we are attempting to displace.