Start up in 7 days series:

A blackboard in the men’s urinal at the local.

Never miss an opportunity. A blackboard in the men’s urinal at the local.

The Strategy

I had limited time and very limited funds, so how was I going to market AutoCarLog?  This question provoked quite a bit of discussion on the forums I was posting in.  The answer?  I couldn’t.  With my limited resources and time spent in development I had to get other people to do it for me, and importantly, I had to get them to do it for free.

The Pitch

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

I couldn’t do anything without the ‘Pitch’.  The pitch is a one liner that wins hands down in the ring at Pitch Club.  It’s how you sell your product or service to someone in an elevator when you only have 20 seconds of their uncomfortable attention.  A pitch must address the value proposition by answering “what is it and what’s in it for me?”

AutoCarLog is the easiest way to maximise your taxable claim for car expenses, by logging every trip by mobile phone and automatically calculating your claimable amount.

Not perfect, but I could deliver it with passion and conviction and it explained what the service was and how they would benefit.

Bulk buying power

A great lesson learned is that it is far easier to sell to one buying many than many buying one.  “But AutoCarLog is for the individual” I hear you say, “who would want to buy it in bulk?” How about Tax accountants?  Could I convince them to refer my service for me?

Armed with my awesome pitch I called the major ones up.  After just six phone calls I managed to get a meeting with the Managing Director of one, and an invitation to email a proposal to another.  I made sure I spoke with the decision makers and they were all supportive of the idea.

The deal was they would refer their clients struggling with their car expenses to use my product and in return I would sign over half the signup fee.  I had in effect 1,000 voices around Australia promoting AutoCarLog. Brilliant.

All it took was a couple of phone calls so don’t be afraid to give it a shot!

Word of mouth

Word of mouth advertising is one of the strongest forms of marketing and it’s free.  But it is also the hardest to drive, the best you can do is influence it.

The best way I can think of to influence word of mouth is to have an awesome product and target the bottom line.  I decided to offer AutoCarLog completely free if people referred the service to their friends.  Sign three people up and pay nothing.  No catches, no gimmicks, just a simple referral system.  It worked for Amway.

Price point

Sell for too much and few will buy, sell for too little and it will take a lot of sales to recoup costs.  Setting the right price was my next challenge.  I conducted a snappy market research by asking friends, accountants, my bank manager and everyone I spoke to on the phone asking, them two questions “how much and how often”?

I settled on $39 for six months, $69 for one year ($5.75 a month), which in the words of my web savvy accountant was “chicken s*** cheap”.

Value adds?

Finally, I had (what I thought) was a great idea to send all AutoCarLog’s customers a small business card size sticker with a quick ‘how to guide’ to stick in their car somewhere – a reminder to update their log and explain how. To save costs I could print the first few out myself for less than $10.  When I was pitching this idea to K she drew me back to an old episode of the ‘The Apprentice USA’ (Season 3, Episode 15) where contestant Tana spent hours putting Dazzlers (little sparkly jewels) on her limited edition t-shirts.  She believed they would bring in a higher price.  The truth is she would have been better off spending that time better marketing her product (without the dazzlers) and might not have lost that round as a result.

So whilst I love the idea of a sticker, it’s not going to bring in more customers.  I need to focus on the core service and spend the time marketing that.  (For now at least, I can always print them later!)

Right, now on to some nitty gritty development.

Filed under:   7 day startup   autocarlog   challenge   start up