If you were in charge of rolling out an app that lives and breathes online, you’d think the most natural way to market that app would be online.
You’d be wrong.
The SocialRadar mobile app tells you who’s in the local vicinity, how they’re connected to you, and what their interests are. The company has also recently introduced a software development kit (SDK) that allows other companies to integrate location-based services and consumer insights within their own applications.
The company is taking a surprisingly up-close-and-personal approach to marketing.
As a startup with a brand-new product, SocialRadar’s marketing group had two primary objectives:
- Determine the audience for the product
- Bring the idea to market
The audience wasn’t as obvious as it might seem. So the company tested different hypotheses.
One theory was that kids would want to use SocialRadar to figure out who’s nearby so they could potentially avoid embarrassing situations like running into your ex-boyfriend who dumped you—when you’re sweaty from the gym. Another was that young professionals would want to use the app to know where their friends are or to make new connections.
Said Shana Glenzer, VP of Social Marketing at SocialRadar, “We tested a number of messages and audiences while using tools like MixPanel and Facebook Audience Insights to understand what resonated. We discovered that a campaign that played off the idea that the product would help you avoid awful social moments didn’t have the impact that we anticipated.”
What did work was a partnership with CTIA—The Wireless Association, an industry trade group that represents the international wireless telecommunications industry. CTIA puts on the CTIA Wireless and CTIA Enterprise and Applications conferences every year. At these conferences, Social Radar tried standard marketing tactics like giving away an iPhone to get people to try the app to learn how it lets them find people who have a particular interest.
“We found that a simple message that said, ‘Download SocialRadar to know who’s nearby and how you’re connected’ performed better than the cute, kitschy stuff we did for our initial market tests,” said Glenzer.
At the same time, SocialRadar wanted to spread the word to the tech community who it hoped to eventually persuade to embed the technology in their own apps. It embarked on an influencer-marketing campaign.
With any marketing campaign, it pays to play up your strengths. In this case, the company’s trump card was Michael Chasen, the company’s CEO and the co-founding CEO of Blackboard, the educational software company.
“Michael was a brand in and of himself. We took his brand and got him speaking and writing contributed content for the Wall Street Journal and Inc. to reach a broad spectrum of people. He was able to promote the brand in ways we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own,” said Glenzer.
As Chasen started to get the word out, Glenzer put her “boots on the ground” in a reconnaissance mission to discover and court key influencers in the company’s key markets—DC, Philadelphia, and New York City. “These influencers were people who knew the lay of the land and who it was important to get to know. We found the people who knew everyone. We called them to mine their community and connections to help us figure out the real players,” said Glenzer.
Chasen reached out to these influencers personally and invited them to meet in the flesh over lunch, dinner, or cocktails.
To ensure they would accept the invitation, SocialRadar invoked the cool factor. “We found the right venues. That helped us create an event that people would want to come to,” said Glenzer. “That was particularly important in New York City. By figuring out where people actually wanted to go, we demonstrated that we valued their time and wanted to make it a good experience.”
Now that the company has launched its SDK, it’s mining its influencer connections to get leads. “We learned that getting influencers together face-to-face goes far. Our relationships are very strong because we used that personal touch,” said Glenzer. “It’s much better than sending a tweet.”
Only now that its influencer network is in place is the company finally taking the next step and bringing its campaign online by launching Facebook ads and securing articles in publications like TechCrunch.
The ultimate outcome remains to be seen. But so far so good. To date, the moral of the story is to make the most of your known assets—in this case, the CEO’s brand. And to take advantage of the power of influencer marketing. Good old-fashioned face-to-face marketing can build the strong relationships you need to move your marketing to the next level.