I am looking for a talented student to work on a marketing internship or case study focusing on customer acquisition in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market. I run a small app for generating a store locator called StoreMapper. I built StoreMapper in what might be a textbook Lean Startup fashion. Several of my freelance clients, all small e-commerce shops, requested a store locator page. Given the ubiquity of store locators, I assumed there must be a boilerplate solution for this, rather than having to build it from scratch. A quick found no great solutions, so within 24 hours I built an extremely rudimentary version of the app, launched it and started asking people for their credit card info.
Over the next few months I slowly added features as customers demanded to its present state, which is reasonably feature-complete and robust. Given the 100,000s of sites with out-dated store locators and new e-commerce sites coming online every day, the scalable potential is huge. However, despite several trials, I have not yet found a good strategy for acquiring new customers for StoreMapper, nor any good research on the topic of selling SaaS products to very small online businesses.
StoreMapper has three primary customer profiles:
1. Web developers who work for multiple e-commerce clients. Thinking, as I originally did, that it does not make sense to re-invent the wheel, many developers steer their clients towards paying for StoreMapper rather than spend custom coding hours.
2. Small business owners who run their own e-commerce presence. Typically they have some knowledge of HTML/CSS and are able to run their own websites on a platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. StoreMapper requires no coding other than optional customization of the style.
3. Webmasters at larger web-based businesses. This represents a tiny portion of customers and at this point I have not found any reliable ways to reach this customer segment.
Tactics to date for scalable customer acquisition:
1. Google AdWords: My first strategy was AdWords. At first I found AdWords to have an extremely steep learning curve. I called their free help line repeatedly and eventually got a decent setup targeting customers searching for “store locator app/widget/plugin.” While this did lead to some conversions at a reasonable overall customer acquisition cost, ramping up the daily spend did not lead to any increased conversions which lead me to believe that I was likely cannibalizing customers who would have signed up anyway through organic search results. I am not currently running an AdWords campaign.
2. Ad Hoc Referral: Many e-commerce platforms keep list of 100s of recommended developers on their website. Attempting to target customer segment #1, I scraped all these email addresses and sent a nicely worded (I thought) pitch informing them I would pay a referral fee (I A/B tested between $20-50) for any of their clients they signed up. Total emails sent: ~600. Total referral sign ups: 0.
3. Outsourced Cold-Pitching: One good pattern I found from my existing customers was that they were often converting an existing page with dozens of retailers just listed in text into a store locator. So I put out an oDesk job describing this criteria: “Find me websites of any kind with a retailers page that has at least 10 locations listed and get their email” and paid a very small per lead fee. I then sent out a cold pitch for StoreMapper highlighting the benefits of improved in-store traffic, etc. This yielded a few conversions but despite the very low per lead fee I was able to get on oDesk, it was overall not very cost effective.
4. Platform App Store: Shopify has a pretty robust App Store and I recently integrated with platform to allow sign up and billing through Shopify accounts and went live in the App Store. Conversions are pretty good and around 30% of total sign ups come through this channel.
5. Powered by Link: Nearly all of the other sign ups come through organic/viral marketing of the widget itself. Perhaps the best single line of code in the whole app renders a “Powered by StoreMapper” link back to the site. I send a follow-up email to every new users asking how they found StoreMapper and almost all the responses (confirmed by Google Analytics) show that conversions happen when someone in any customer segment sees StoreMapper on another site and follows that link. This is pretty fantastic and has been driving slow but steady (and free) organic growth for the app.
Through this process I have been in touch with other SaaS marketers trying to target the micro/small e-commerce market and have found little in the way of good tactics or research. I would love to work with a talented student or marketer on an internship or case study. I’m offering open access to all the business’s data, a willingness to experiment and a small marketing budget for proposed ideas.
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