What would your company be without sales? They’re pretty important, huh? So what’s all of your valuable sales information doing in a measly Google spreadsheet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, as the founders of Durham, North Carolina-based RocketBolt discovered. “We were astonished to find that sales professionals at even some of the largest companies were still using low tech solutions such as basic spreadsheets to monitor even their most important sales relationships,” says Andy Roth, RocketBolt’s head of customer success, whom we met at 36|86. “Almost everyone thought this was a poor solution, but nobody ever seemed to ask if there was or should be something better. This presented a great opportunity and an interesting challenge.”
Founded in August 2013 by Matt Hofstadt and Aaron Dinin, the company has launched a suite of intelligent and easy-to-use sales tools. Hofstadt handles the front-end development and product design, and Dinin builds the core backend functionality. “Together, they’ve been working with various sales professionals to create a product that makes what used to be a tedious contact management task into something more effortless and enjoyable,” Roth says.
But this core product—its money maker—is not what makes RocketBolt a household name; it’s the company’s free email tracking plugin for Gmail, designed for anyone, not just sales professionals, that is garnering the company some serious attention. Within the first three weeks of launching, the plugin that can tell you who’s opening your emails was featured on the Chrome Store’s homepage, getting the company over 300,000 impressions per day. It’s currently ranked the No. 2 email productivity extension in the Chrome store and Roth says it’s generating around 1,000 new organic plugin installs each week.
Roth says offering a free and easy-to-use email plugin has been a tremendous help, not to mention savvy sales strategy, for the startup. “We’re now able to capture more people into our funnel faster, while at the same time providing steady stream of value,” he says. “Through the plugin, we’re able to accommodate a more diverse audience, introducing each person to the RocketBolt features most relevant to them.”
So what’s the takeaway for your startup? “Start with something simple,” Roth says. “Make something everyone can understand and use. Use this starting point to get users, and then show your users something else, something they otherwise never would have seen.”
In fact, Roth says if his team could do it all over again, they would have launched the email plugin first, before the core product.
“Starting with something simple and easy to understand is a great approach,” he says. “Build something small and useful. Once you’ve attracted a large population of users, then you’re in a good position to figure out what they would actually pay for. For anyone just starting out, my advice would be to build an audience first, then figure out how to monetize.”
The free plugin has also been great for brand discovery. “One of the most important things to work on is becoming a relevant part of the conversation,” Roth says. “If people don’t know you exist, then it doesn’t matter if you have the greatest product in the world.”
BONUS AUDIO: Andy Roth of RocketBolt talks with Relationary Marketing during 36|86 in June.