First a disclaimer – this post isn’t intended in any way to start a flame war with the mega blogs out there. Hell, in the past I’ve written for ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington is a good buddy of mine (he must be, we’re Facebook friends!) Rather it’s a plea for startups to really think about their go-to-market beyond the most basic of plans.

Recently personal finance application PocketSmith was featured on some big name blogs (TechCrunch and LifeHacker among them). Knowing the Pocketsmith founders, and having experienced their openness previously, I touched based with them to look at the metrics around what a mention in a big name blog really does for a start-up.

At first glance it would seem that a mention on a big name blog or publication would really make a difference, the graph below shows traffic Pocketsmith received both before, and directly after some public exposure. You notice impressive spikes, which is all well and good, but what does that really mean for a SaaS business which is, after all, fuelled by recurring revenue?pocketsmith traffic

The spikes on the graph can be attributed (in chronological order) to a review on LifeHacker, a mention in a local newspaper, a TechCrunch review and coverage in the newsletter Thrillist.com.

Pocketsmith’s James Wigglesworth reports that their usual conversion rate (from free to paying customers) is around 4%, both the LifeHacker and TechCrunch spikes generated far lower conversion rates, in fact between them they only generated a miserly 1% average conversion rate. Which leads one to the conclusion that the vast majority of readers of the big name blogs are what we’d call “tire kickers” and not really prospective customers. He did however add that “being mentioned on those blogs however is more of a rite of passage than a customer acquisition strategy. And the coverage has helped open some very cool global enterprise-level discussions through the exposure and credibility.”

Of course there is a caveat to all of this and that is that the gains are very much dependant on the type of business being reviewed. Case in point – last year I wrote a post for ReadWriteWeb reviewing Zendesk the SaaS helpdesk solution. I’ve since bumped into Michael Folmer Hansen of Zendesk a few times and always lauds the turning point that article had for the business (admittedly generally after a beer or two). The metrics immediately following my review can be seen in the chart below;

Zendesk graph

It shows the spike in traffic gained from the article I wrote. More interestingly is the fact that Zendesk’s daily sign-ups increased by a reported 100% and their customer based doubled in the weeks following the article. For Zendesk then, the exposure was definitely beneficial.

So what’s going on here? Simple really. Pocketsmith is a consumer application targeted at Ma and Pa users. As such it needs to find ways to connect with the mass market (something they’re doing quite successfully via a channel partnership strategy).

Zendesk on the other hand is a helpdesk tool that, at least initially, was primarily targeted at tech savvy individuals and web companies – the very sort of people who read ReadWriteWeb. As such it’s unsurprising the benefit they got from the article.

So what are the takeaways from all of this? Simple really; know your customer, understand where they hang out, what their drivers are and the triggers that will convince them to try, and hopefully buy, your offering. Until you do so, you might just be dreaming about something of little, or no, value. For those who continue to aspire to a mention by the “big boys”, here’s some information to make sure you leverage the spike as much as you can….

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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