A Q&A with MarketMeSuite co-founder and CEO Tammy Kahn Fennell. The Cambridge, Massachusetts–based company was founded in 2009 and raised $1.1 million in new funding in early August, led by Jeff McCormick of Saturn Venture Partners.
SUB: Please describe MarketMeSuite, and the value proposition you offer to small-and-medium sized businesses.
Fennell: MarketMeSuite is an end-to-end social marketing solution for small businesses and teams. The ‘Inbox’ lends itself to very high engagement across your existing social sphere, but also allows you to target within your location or niche to reach out and grab new fans, followers and connections. The biggest question businesses ask about social media is: ‘will this improve business?’ When you use MarketMeSuite you will get actionable leads and ultimately improve your bottom line.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Fennell: Small-to-medium sized businesses. Most of our users have less than 25 people in the company, with many with less than ten. Having small business backgrounds, it’s the demographic that spoke the most to me and my co-founder and we also see it as having the highest growth potential in social marketing.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Fennell: That’s always a tough question because a lot of tools have benefits depending on the needs of the user. With Cotweet sunsetting recently, a lot of smaller businesses have been jumping over to fill that void. We get a lot of top-level comparison to HootSuite, and we have a ton of respect for what they built over there. Sure, above the water level there’s some similarity with any platform that offers the management of social streams, but we approach it through an inbox concept, and are very focused on lead identification and conversion. We look at ourselves as a social marketing tool with rock solid management rather than a social management tool that can help you market.
SUB: What differentiates MarketMeSuite from the competition?
Fennell: MarketMeSuite’s view of the social world is that conversations need to drive leads. We make it incredibly easy for people to engage through our unique Inbox For Social, which is a concept users immediately get. Managing your social interactions is only a third of the puzzle though. Who in your fans, followers and connections is saying things that matter to you as a small business? And do you even have enough people in your social pool? MarketMeSuite enables users to sift through these interactions, identify and mark items as leads, and grow their social connections.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Fennell: MarketMeSuite started out as a project by our UK company by the name of Pie Dog Media, LTD in 2009. When MarketMeSuite started to gain traction and the Inbox For Social was launched, we decided we needed to be closer to where most of our customers were, and that was here in the United States. We launched MarketMeSuite, LTD, earlier this year. To date, most of the traffic that fills the top of our ‘marketing funnel’ comes from word of mouth, SEO, and a lot of blogger outreach and joint events.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for MarketMeSuite? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Fennell: Definitely an ‘aha’ moment. Alan—my co-founder—and I were both running our own small businesses, and both were working for the same client on a project, me on the marketing, Alan on the tech side. We got to talking and realized we both had a similar pain point—using social to translate into actionable leads. MarketMeSuite was in development soon after this moment of realization and within a few months we were both working on it full-time. After a year, I moved my entire family from New York to England to be closer to Alan and the team.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Fennell: Naming a company is hard! MarketMeSuite isn’t actually our first name. For about six months we were MarketMeTweet, but then realized we wanted to expand beyond Twitter, so we changed it to Suite—the hope being that people would see us a Suite of social tools to help them Market themselves and their businesses.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Fennell: Building a startup is hard, that’s for sure. At many times it’s a labor of love. I’d say our biggest hurdle has been having our development speed keep up with our ideas. We’re a small team and what we built should not have even been possible with the resources and the bodies we had, but needs must, and we made it work. My co-founder and team makes any obstacles placed in our way possible to overcome. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with.
Another obstacle is grabbing market share. As a small company it’s difficult to make noise, especially when you can’t keep up from a funding standpoint—even if what you are offering is unique, which it is. Rather than get involved in a ‘who can spend more on Adwords’ competition, we’ve always had to be super clever about our marketing efforts. A lot of SEO, a lot of engagement marketing—users referring new users—and a lot of social marketing has kept us in the game.
SUB: You recently raised $1.1 million in new funding. Why was this a good time to raise this round, and how do you plan to use the new funds?
Fennell: It was time to move MarketMeSuite to the U.S., and we wanted to find the right investment partner to do that so we could come to the U.S. and rapidly accelerate what we’ve worked so hard to build. We are so excited about this next chapter and plan to use the funds very wisely, putting money into development, marketing, and improving the user experience, which ultimately increases engagement and conversions.
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional funding in the near future?
Fennell: Not something I’d want to go into now, but these sorts of situations are always fluid and we will always do what we think is the best for continuing the upward trajectory we are currently on.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Fennell: Currently we have a free version and people can upgrade to be a paid user if they need access to more social profiles and a few other markers. It’s still early days, but we’re seeing good conversions. Once a user becomes active, 70 percent of them return every day, so when they need to add more, it’s proving to be a natural progression to pay. And, our prices don’t break the bank. With plans starting at $9 a-month, it’s within most users’ marketing budget.
SUB: What are your goals for MarketMeSuite over the next year or so?
Fennell: Our users will start to see more data around their actions. We have been collecting a lot of statistics under the hood and we plan on returning these to our users so they can make educated decisions about what is working, and what isn’t. We will be outputting a lot around leads and lead generation, going beyond the current ability for users to geo-target and niche target manually to doing some of this for the user, so every time they log into MarketMeSuite hot leads will already be waiting for them. Of course, one of the great things about being web-based is that we can push all these new updates to our users very easily, so our users are always getting the best of what we have to offer.
Our top goal is to continue this trajectory and keep adding users, increasing market share in this space. We have a great product that when people use, they love, so it’s getting it out there to more people and continuing to grow. Thanks so much for a post like this. We love the chance to tell people about what we do, and I hope this helps others benefit from our experience.
MarketMeSuite – www.marketmesuite.com