Difficulties in promoting a business-oriented startup

    This month, the Internet community was much pleased by the statement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the government plans to promote the introduction of modern Internet technologies in Russia. The tangible problem of our Motherland is its inert attitude towards modernization. Observations of experts show that the cause of the death of many IT startups is not the poor quality of the product, but the problems with promoting the technology on the market and the legal insecurity of companies.

    In this article I want to share the story of the promotion of one of the projects of our company.

    The idea of ​​the project is the creation of an online booking system for companies providing services in various fields (it has already been described in more detail on Habré here) Most startups share their focus on Internet users. But our startup initially implied close cooperation with companies doing business offline. The main goals of the application are to attract new customers and increase the efficiency of the company. This specificity of the project requires you to be sure of the usefulness of the product before its mass implementation.

    As a test case, an application was written for one European service station, with which we already had experience of cooperation. Practice has shown that using the application was effective for this company. “Since we commissioned the pre-recording system, the overall organization of work and the efficiency of the use of lifts have improved. We managed to increase the total number of sales by 40% at the peak of seasonal work due to better filling of the work schedule, ”commented Executive Director Runar Greadsson.

    They planned to promote the project in parallel, not only in Europe, but also in Russia and Ukraine, which I want to talk about. We started the advertising campaign in the Russian-speaking market by looking for competitors. As it turned out, at the moment there are online booking services created specifically for a particular institution (hairdresser, cafe), there are also many implementations of booking tickets and hotel rooms. Separately, there are city portal sites with lists and contact information of companies. Nothing resembling an attempt to link a structured catalog of service companies with an online reservation was found. The absence of competitors, of course, is a big plus, but, on the other hand, it clearly said that the market is not yet completely ready for such a product. Consequently, full-scale advertising was needed from scratch.

    Investors allocated a limited amount to promote a startup, so the costs had to be strictly regulated and creative approaches to solving problems. For example, we refused to advertise in the media and outdoor advertising, as it was a rather expensive and risky investment. It takes a long time to form public opinion (namely, to encourage people to trust booking services on the Internet, and for companies to consider it a good practice to provide such a service).

    For the initial stage, our company chose a less costly option: several sales managers were hired to familiarize potential customers with our offer and to study demand. After the first week of communication, we came to the following conclusions: computer illiteracy is still very common (especially among older people). Despite the presence of the necessary communications and reliable Internet providers, people are in no hurry to conduct the Internet. The reason, most likely, is psychological - the reluctance to change anything in the paperwork, the fear that the information will be stored “somewhere on the Internet”, and not in the usual notebook at hand. There is also no motivation or understanding of how IT technologies can increase the company's profitability. This is especially true for managers of small and medium-sized companies.

    Nevertheless, we decided not to abandon this category of partners, since larger companies were primarily interested in the popularity of the site and the number of companies already registered. Therefore, first it was necessary to recruit some initial base of small companies. To attract them, we decided to change our positioning: we focused not on the booking system, but on placing in the companies catalog and providing the site as additional advertising. We also held detailed consultations on the use of the application, and sometimes even came with a professional camera and took the necessary pictures. Since the factor of trust played an important role in the registration of the company, at the very initial stage we mobilized all the contacts of the company employees.

    The next step was to attract large firms and company networks. For presentations, we prepared printing products, also took care of modern technical equipment so that, regardless of the circumstances, it was possible not only to conduct a slide presentation, but also to show the system in action online. And, if possible, immediately carry out the registration of the company and the necessary consultations.

    Another way to promote the project that we plan to actively use is reselling. The first partner himself contacted us (their company planned to develop a similar application) and offered to sell the code. But our company is more interested in partners who will be engaged in marketing. Therefore, at the moment, cooperation is under negotiation.

    As mentioned above, consumers are not quite ready to use high technology for doing business, so often the response of companies was lower than expected. Nevertheless, we plan to continue to attract customers. For example, a press release is currently being prepared in print. In parallel, the development department is creating additional plugins specific to certain categories of services, improving usability and design. From the very beginning of the development, we were prepared for the fact that we would face obstacles in promoting the market, however we are confident in the usefulness and convenience of the project for Internet users, and we also became convinced of its effectiveness for enterprises. Therefore, we have great respect for the position of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev in that trends in the introduction of Internet technologies will be encouraged in every way.

    The reason for the article was the following information:
    “To value the time of people,” Dmitry Medvedev turned to ministers and governors with such a demand. “The introduction of modern Internet technologies should cover all areas of life, especially medicine and education,” the president said. “Computers are absolutely indispensable for distance education. make it possible to make an appointment with a doctor over the Internet, maybe get a video consultation. " He demanded that electronic diaries in schools and electronic cards in medical clinics be made in the near future.
    Source: Official website of the President of Russia

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