We first covered Planspot last year when the startup was in the run-up to its launch date. Billed as an event marketing platform that primarily synced with social media sites to easily enable a promotion campaign, founder Satya van Heummen has since considerably changed the direction of his business. It’s a brave move for any startup team to stop, reassess their business plan, and decide to move away from the original intention. But this is what Satya did when he realized that his startup wasn’t helping his clients as effectively as he had hoped. We spoke to Marketing Manager, Reinoud Tjallema, about this change. In his words: “We dropped most of the social media integrations and decided to focus on what our users really want.”
Reinoud found that their clients weren’t too concerned with receiving help promoting their event through social media, something which is relatively easy for most companies to do. Instead, they decided to refocus their attention on the marketing potential of a wider cross-section of media. Their new business plan has expanded as a result: “Planspot now focuses on easily running effective marketing campaigns across multiple channels: traditional media (magazines, blogs, event listings, billboards), social media and newsletters.” The platform also now provides a feedback system for clients so they can see how their marketing campaigns are being received. “The other focus is on providing powerful insights (statistics) that show event organizers exactly how well their campaigns are doing and which channels are performing best.” This expansion of PlanSpot capabilities has gone down well with clients. As Reinoud puts it: “As a result we see a constant five percent growth per week in users, and have a lot of happy and retaining customers.”
Following this change in direction, the team has expanded from three to seven – taking onboard a former lead developer of the Dutch social network, Hyves. There’s also a new focus on their international image, working with US companies to help spread the word. “We went to Silicon Valley in October and have just launched in the US with international partners like Zvents, Getpromotd, Allevents.in, Songkick and Upcoming, basically offering a US-wide media network.”
Embarking into unfamiliar territory is a common journey for any startup founder, and Reinoud speaks frankly about the difficulties of trying to predict the unknown. “A major problem for any tech startup is that you’re doing something that hasn’t been done before. Regarding development we ran into all sorts of trouble, ultimately resulting in delays. Because you’re doing something new, it’s hard to estimate and make fixed roadmaps. Yet business depends on those new features being released and the business needs to get going, especially if you have investors breathing down your neck.” Time can be of the essence when you’re trying to introduce something unique to the market, as there is always a danger that someone else will come along with a similar offering.
They also came up against unchartered territory when working out how to market and price PlanSpot: “The other main problem for any startup is finding your product-market fit. Once you do get new features released, there’s a big chance people aren’t waiting for them or there’s an expectation mismatch. This also counts for pricing your product, something that you always do wrong (unless you’re lucky).”
The team are keen to develop the business still further, but are careful to only introduce new features that will benefit many. “The other major challenge is what feature should be developed next (in order to make more users happy). People ask a lot, but we only want to develop features applicable for more than one user. So it is all about talking and a lot of coffee meetings before we create some new awesome features.”
Reinoud is candid in his assessment of the business’s success so far. “Most startups fail because they get stuck in this vicious circle of delay and product-market mismatch, and simply run out of money. Our main success is that we managed to control delays in development and have come closer to our product-market fit with every new release. The proof for that is a media network that is performing better (the publishing rate is increasing), more users starting to pay, building more partnerships, and that we’ve won some awards.”
Planspot’s remit is now much wider than its original set-up, and Reinoud is pleased with this altered direction: “No matter the consequences, don’t be afraid to pivot. Don’t be afraid to change strategy, your product, your features, your developers, and people in your team. If something doesn’t work, better change it today than tomorrow.” Ultimately, the risk the team took in overhauling the business direction seems to have paid off, giving them more scope for development. Perhaps a good example of the benefit of listening to client feedback when tweaking your offering.