The other day I noticed a number of comments on different CloudAve posts from someone purporting to be a user of a new invoicing web application. Upon further inspection I discovered that in fact the purported “independent user” was in fact an employee of the company. Suffice it to say that I’ll not be spending any huge amount of time talking to Invoicera, and their astroturfing comments are less than welcome here on CloudAve.
Moving on from the discovery I took a look at their website – what I found was a little amusing, an almost facsimile reproduction of the FreshBooks (CloudAve review here) offering. I was discussing this with someone from FreshBooks and they took an exceedingly philosophical line saying that;
This is the Internet. In the future, analysts and investors will measure how successful you are by the number of clones that pop up in your wake. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Looking past the obvious copycat issues, I started wondering what Invoicera really though they’d achieve spamming my posts with their URL. While here at CloudAve we pride ourselves on being one of the leading voices on cloud computing, and while I’d like to think I’ve got a reasonably good name for SaaS accounting commentary, the fact of the matter is that customers count, and customers make their decisions primarily on what there friends and peers use.
Back over at FreshBooks Sunir (job title: Chief Handshaker) said it straight when he posted asking why on earth online marketers would spend their precious time trying to get a mention on TechCrunch (or RWW or CloudAve for that matter) when they could so valuably be spending their time turning their customers into evangelists for their product.
HubSpot has an excellent post with some metrics showing the relevant conversion rates between a mention on a general blog and a mention on a specific, industry-directed site. As would be expected, while a mention on one of the top ten general blogs draws lots of traffic, that traffic is undifferentiated and very unlikely to lead to actual sales.
Compare this if you will to the FreshBooks approach as described by Saul Colt (job title: Head of Magic) as podcast over here. Some specific things that differentiate the FreshBooks approach are;
- Taking their customers to dinner
- Sending their users flowers when they’ve had a bad day
- Receiving a 99% positive referral rating from existing customers
- Have an entrepreneurial blog and irreverent newsletter
- Have a Twitter following so passionate that users solved problems
- Instil a little bit of “magic” into everyday life?
FreshBooks are a best practice case study for marketing to the long tail – people reading the FreshBooks blog or newsletter can feel the sense of excitement around this crew – that sort of excitement is infectious!
Yup – forget astroturfing and dreams of a Techcrunch mention, all you really need…… is love.