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Bootstrapping to $5 Million: IdeaScale CEO Robert Hoehn (Part 6)

Posted on Wednesday, Apr 13th 2016

Sramana Mitra: What did you learn in your international expansion? Was there any particular geography that was adopting your technology faster than others?

Robert Hoehn: On the marketing side, a lot of people shy away from it just because it’s hard work. It’s already hard to run a marketing campaign with SEO and demand generation. To do it in other languages is very difficult. We’re still learning but we’re definitely into it. We love it. On the product and engineering side, it’s like building a new market without having to build new, complicated products. I know how it needs to work. I just need to translate it.

Sramana Mitra: Is your product then localized in all these different languages at this point?

Robert Hoehn: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: I imagine you went to the English-speaking countries first?

Robert Hoehn: Yes. Now, we’re doing Japan, which is a really interesting market. It’s one of the hardest, I would say, because there are a lot of the cultural issues with crowdsourcing and feedback. In general, we try to pick pretty difficult countries to go into. Our logic is if we can get tthrough the security hurdles in those countries, then we can do any country. I guess we just love pain. We picked Japan. We picked Germany. As you know, data security is pretty tough there. We actually set up an AWS server there. Australia is pretty important to us. We are also doing Singapore. Those are some of the countries that we’re working on.

Sramana Mitra: What are the bigger percentages that are coming from some of these locations?

Robert Hoehn: Germany, EU is pretty new. I would say 5%. Australia has grown organically. A lot of it has to do with the conversions of English-speaking people who are not as concerned about where the data is stored. We actually don’t have a server there yet but we probably will in the next six months or so. They’ve just grown on their own. They’re about 5% to 6% of our business. Singapore is pretty new but very promising. Japan is also pretty small.

Sramana Mitra: What is your competitive strategy versus other bigger players like Survey Monkey? Actually, Survey Monkey is not a direct competitor in this case. I know there are a bunch of idea generation solutions. Is there one that you see in deals more often than not?

Robert Hoehn: There are a lot of them. This innovation management platform market is pretty highly fragmented. There is not a clear player at this point, but there are some strong contenders – Spigot, Brightidea, Imaginatic.

One of our competitive advantages is our audience. We have a pretty large audience because we’ve done the SEO for so long. We just built this huge audience. We’re always putting out white papers telling stories because we believe in Sales 2.0. We have always been 100% inbound. We haven’t really spent a ton of money at all on outbound efforts.

Sramana Mitra: You do good content and harness the audience through the content marketing.

Robert Hoehn: Yes, it’s huge for us. It’s barely marketing. It’s something else. It’s research. It’s storytelling. Basically, 98% of our marketing spend is just in writing stories and inbound efforts. To extend that strategy, we bought a company Innovation Management in the past couple of months.

It’s a great website. It’s like a blog with some additional features that build an audience. They’d produce webinars, videos, and white papers. We were really interested in trying to build our audience and also, in a way, consolidate the market a little bit. I don’t mean consolidate like own all the revenue but just consolidate the story of innovation management.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Bootstrapping to $5 Million: IdeaScale CEO Robert Hoehn
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