Product Development & PreMarketing for startups
Oradea Tech Hub hosted last month an exciting workshop for technology aficionados about how to do well in product development & marketing for startups. We were more than happy to respond to their invitation as our Product Manager & CMO at FieldVibe, Adrian Cucerzan and Laurentiu Culda shared valuable insights into their work to a relatively crowded room at the Hub.
The star of the workshop was FieldVibe, Mobiversal’s latest product. The two speakers answered on point by taking various interesting questions from the audience and giving practical examples shared from their own efforts in launching FieldVibe and managing it likewise.
The event was also made possible with the help of Orange through the Fab Romania program. Orange Fab works closely with startups from Romania by opening them up to the latest technologies on the market while exposing them to a wide range of clients. We also want to say a great thank you to Monica Obogeanu, Startups Program Manager @ Orange for managing the panel discussion!
Here are the main questions we tried to cover and answer within the workshop at Tech Hub by connecting the product development and marketing operations to FieldVibe’s story.
What are the main phases when launching a tech product?
Well, in the first place, as funny as it may sound, you have to make sure the product is 100% functional and ready to use. There’s no arguing about that. We’ve brought the product at a minimal set of features that would really add value to our potential clients before even thinking of an official launch.
Before launching FieldVibe to the market, Laurentiu’s first task was to set the ground rules for a pre-marketing strategy. We don’t know exactly how well known the concept of pre-marketing is but it refers exactly to what it means: marketing your product before the official launch.
There is a lot of validation in this phase, coming from potential clients with regards to actual needs for your product. Plus, you get to see the media channels that work best for your marketing process and also you get some leeway to experiment freely and get a real taste of the market.
Do I need a budget for launching my product and if yes how much are we talking about?
I think there are so many incredible things you can do with marketing in general without even having to rely on a budget. For example, Laurentiu worked closely with other colleagues that helped him with the pre-marketing campaigns and put together a large database with potential clients (SMEs).
The first contact with the clients was very important to us because we saw what type of message they are most receptive towards, on what social media channels they interact more and where we can reach them more easily.
We also used a lot of mockups, landing pages and surveys to get us that first touch with people. We basically asked them: what type of business do you own, how many field teams they have, what are the greatest challenges they faced, etc.
We had campaigns summing up approximately 30.000 cold emails. By doing this we didn’t try to get validation from people but instead to figure out our ideal client persona and what is the best way to communicate our product.
The people we’ve contacted knew first hand that the product was in the development process and that we were gathering insights in order to match the demands with what we could offer.
Our strategy was transparent from the very beginning and we did not intend to create false expectations. For example, to give you some transparent feedback from the people that answered back to us, they mentioned that they sought a real advanced business solution and we’ve already put down our next features and strategies for the product.
This could have never been possible without interacting with the market. And as you see now, we run all this process without a big budget allocated for marketing.
In short, if you have the knowledge, there are strategies that you can implement without the need for large advertising or PR budgets.
How do you identify the right product to work on?
When thinking about creating a new tech product it is essential to understand that not all ideas have to be new and revolutionary. In our case at Mobiversal, we built on previous knowledge, so to speak.
Four years ago we’ve launched Appointfix, an app that helps professionals and small businesses to easily schedule appointments and reduce the number of clients who forget about their appointments.
As we’ve expected, Appointfix grew steadily by co-opting more and more clients and it was after we’ve received valuable feedback that a location feature was needed, it simply struck us that there was a market for a different product that would be built around doing just that!
Of course, we started doing some research and indeed there was a demand for service management technologies. There were three major questions we sought to answer: how big the market is in the field services management is (will grow exponentially until 2025 only in the software businesses), what is the market penetration rate (under 50%) and how can we improve the existing services. Like we mentioned earlier if you cannot innovate at least make sure you can improve an existing product.
How can you estimate the full potential of a new feature on your product?
FieldVibe started to take form thanks to the gathering of valuable insights from our clients at Appointfix. Many of them came from different backgrounds as SMEs, activating in various markets, and as such, we created a new product that would match their demands even better.
What FieldVibe actually does is that it gives field team managers an easier way to make scheduling and dispatching happen.
To put it in phases, you first have to identify what is that exact feature that your clients really need (you can find it really easy by asking them to send valuable feedback, whether on an existing product or based off a market research), then get your numbers right in the area that you work to attract clients.
The key here is to make a really good assessment of how much space there is on the market with something that you want to create in order to achieve the desired conversion rate.
What about your market competitors?
To be honest, at the moment we are at half the features of some of our main competitors. But our question was the following: does the target market really need those specific features?
As a general idea, we took on a bottom-up approach. What do we mean by this? There are clients that do not need at the moment features like billing, estimates or payments.
At one moment or another, the product will start getting traction, and this will happen as soon as it gets validated by the market. For us, validation means that you have clients. Simple as that. After our client profiling process was done, the features that FieldVibe has at the moment are exactly what those people need.
We did not focus on converting quantity over quality when it comes to clients. Our main purpose was to create an enhanced user experience that would compete with the top dogs in the industry.
There are a lot of things that differentiate tech products globally: first, the context in which we find ourselves and the way investments work in the US versus Europe. You can either use bootstrap as a way of funding your business or look for investments elsewhere. Neither is bad, you just have to find your path and way of doing things that suit your vision best.
I would also want to emphasize the great advantage we had while preparing for the official launch of FieldVibe because it wasn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation. Having launched Appointfix four years ago was of immense help to our current know-how.
How do you identify personas?
Well, we first chose the type of companies that do fieldwork and have a specific size. We drew two types of personas: one for employees or business owners that work on-site as dispatchers (they take notes while on the field, creating jobs for workers). These are usually small companies with 2-4 active field teams. The other one is for companies who have 5 or more field teams and already have a dedicated dispatcher. For them, it’s not really justifiable to use a smartphone to make appointments, instead of a dedicated workstation.
Therefore we started working at a companion web app (work in progress) for this particular group of employees. Our hunch is that people from the first category will make the step into the second one when their companies will develop and scale.
Again, it depends a lot on the context and area we are talking about. If we refer to the US, companies that are considered to be small have around 50 field teams, while medium to large ones can get up to 500 field teams.
How do I get my product well communicated to the market?
Before joining FieldVibe as CMO, Laurentiu gained valuable experience working for a digital agency. There, he developed his creative process and content strategy, while also adding to his marketing toolbelt utensils such as Planable, a social media tool that lets you manage all the big four media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin.
Having used already all of them before for communicating products digitally, the strategy was to promote FieldVibe on all four at once. Interesting to note here is that what worked very well with Appointfix was Facebook.
As a marketer you really have to know the ins and outs of social media platforms by heart: the way they work, what their algorithms are all about and how they can influence the content you are trying to promote. You have to think them through in order to have your message reach your potential clients.
With FieldVibe we had a hunch that Instagram would be a better ‘fishnet’ for our clients. You may be wondering how did we connect with plumbers and field managers on Instagram but we found out there were influencers with tens of thousands of followers in these particular work areas. Unbelievable right? You simply have to find your online community and reach out to them.
To cover the topic of paid ads and sponsors, we actually did not make use of them at all, at this moment. Why? Because we were in the validation phase, in which we wanted to calibrate our product with the real needs of the market. During this phase, certain adjustments and fine-tuning can be made. We plan to use paid ads and other promotional partnerships in the Scale phase.
What are some best practices for launching a tech product on the international market?
We started making a full thorough analysis in April 2018 and in July we kicked off the development process. In parallel, we spent six months on pre-marketing, researching potential clients and testing different communications strategies.
We did not rely on a specific budget to communicate our product through as our strategy was to make full use of our resources in order to maximize what we had (which was a lot, giving the know-how we accumulated over the years). It was also a matter of timing. In July, most SMEs in the US were on holiday and thus off work.
That’s when we realized we could make an official launch by participating at an event hosted by Demo Nights, thus first getting into the local and national tech community. It proved to be a great event for networking and exposure.
Another important thing to mention here is having (the chance) to build on the experience of previously launched products. At Mobiversal, until now we have launched and offered consultancy and pre-marketing efforts for over 70 tech products.
Always appreciate how far you have come. Take the time to slow down and ponder on your achievements. Pat yourself on the back, you’ve earned it.
Last but not least, enjoy every moment because it goes by quickly. In the process of establishing your business, you work day and night, but you forget to enjoy the process. It is very important. Otherwise, you will get bored with what you are doing, and the passion will slowly fade away.