Brought to you by IBM. The founders of Cause.it, an app connecting businesses with good causes for mutual benefit, talk about how they launched.
In this four-part series, we interview industry leader about how technology and business are evolving the way companies use marketing and social media. This post is brought to you by GOOD, with support from our partner IBM.
Science says, when two things collide, at least one of them will not remain the same. In the case of Cause.it founding partners Gagan Dhillon and Andrew Blejde, the energy of such collisions not only changed their futures, but may have even more far reaching impact in communities everywhere. Friends since high school, Dhillon approached Blejde about launching a mobile app that would pair businesses, causes and volunteers in a mutually beneficial way. By linking charities with local companies, business owners can help their community while also helping reach potential customers. (Watch their video here to see how it works).
Combining efforts in September, the 20-year-olds brought Cause.it to life, using Austin’s SXSW Interactive as a springboard. The follow-up is launching in the founders’ hometown of Indianapolis. This month, the app takes on Los Angeles, where Dhillon and Blejde caught up with GOOD to reflect on their journey thus far and how it’s been impacted by marketing.
GOOD: What do you think of the role of the CMO in the business world?
Dhillon: As CMO, I want to bring people into the doors of my business either through promotions or connecting with them personally. You can do that through social media and you can do that in a one-on-one fashion, which is what our app allows us to do. Cause.it allows businesses to show people that they’re more than just about making money; they care about things going on in the community.
G: Does Cause.it have any CMO role models?
Dhillon: Steve Rusche, the founder of eTapestry. He was in charge of operations and marketing at eTap when they came out with new software that had a lot of bugs. When people weren’t happy—they had 5,000 clients—Steve served as crisis management, reaching out to each client one-on-one. It was amazing because eTap didn’t lose many clients. It’s unfortunate, but you see more and more CMOs coming in to do damage control than to push out new products.
G: How do you see marketing strategies changing?
Dhillon: I think social media has opened up transparency and branding. At Cause.it we don’t always talk about the Cause.it app; we talk about what other people in our industry are doing and how consumers are impacting our industry and other businesses. It’s important to connect all the dots now. It’s so easy to miss something and if you miss something major, people don’t look at you the same way. It’s unfair, but that’s how you’re judged in the social media world.
G: What changes has Cause.it made in this vein?
Dhillon: We had to change our vision; we had to change the message we were sending to people. We went out and said Cause.it was completely different from what it really was. That was bad marketing on our end.
Blejde: The biggest surprise [has been] engagement through email. It was one of the deficiencies we had when first creating Cause.it. We spent some sleepless nights integrating that into our application.
G: How are your client relationships evolving?
Dhillon: I think it’s always important to reach out to somebody who’s using your service weekly, or even daily if you have someone dedicated, just to show them they’re not just buying software or a product, there’s a human element, we’re here to help. That’s why Comcast Cares has Twitter accounts where humans literally sit there and answer Comcast questions. Customer service has a bad reputation right now because of telemarketing; through digital media and social media, I think it can change.
G:With all the changes happening in the marketing world, what new skills, relationships and tools are needed?
Dhillon: You need to have a realistic sense of what social media means to your brand. Networking is also important. The more one-on-one relationships you have with people, the more beneficial it is.
G: What lessons have you learned since starting?
Dhillon: The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that nothing ever goes according to plan. And trust your first instinct.
Image via Cause.it
Find out more about the future of technology and innovative marketing at the CMO CIO Leadership Exchange presented by IBM June 6 through June 7, 2012 in New York.