Conrad Egusa is the founder and CEO of Publicize, an innovative public relations company specialized in start-ups, and a guest contributor to TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and The Next Web. He is also a global mentor at 500 start-ups The Founder Institute, and the Spanish accelerator Zarpamos.
At the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, I asked him about personalization, social data, and the advice he would give to an early-stage start-up like SpringTab. Although a part of this interview focuses on our company, I decided to publish it because I believe the insights from Egusa could help other start-ups, too.
I know that you invest in media companies. With SpringTab, we help website owners personalize their content according to the Facebook likes and preferences of their visitors. What do you think about this opportunity? How do you see personalization and data in terms of the publisher industry?
The media is hurting right now, and part of the reason is that Facebook kind of controls monetization and controls a lot of time spent. In a situation like this, you could frame personalization as a tool that will aid publications to combat against the social media site’s influence.
Facebook is a popular personalized service that media publications can’t compete with. SpringTab, for example, could say that media publication is losing its mind share because of personalization, but now they can integrate that into their own platforms.
Yahoo and other popular media sites revamped their home page in the past two years. And I think the reason why they probably failed is that they didn’t invest enough into it, and you can position your company as the solution for that.
So all we need to do is to create the right frame…
I don’t know enough about the company, but I think you don’t need to stop at media publications.
You could say that Facebook personalizes everything, but it’s just one player in this enormous ecosystem that is the web, and SpringTab believes that every website should be very personalized. When you log in to Dropbox, why is that not personalized to you to the extent that it could be?
And if you do that, you make the mission much bigger and much more ambitious. And then you back up these statements with your Forbes coverage, and all these things, and it becomes a really interesting story…
What do you think, what kind of companies could benefit the most from accessing social data? As I see it, brands, e-commerce sites, and publishers could all gain something valuable from understanding their audience on a deeper level. It could help them, for example, in retargeting, or to create better recommendations.
When you communicate with the media, talk about this big mission, but also recognize that in the beginning, you’re not going to be focusing on everyone. You’re just going to be focusing on the media or on the brands.
Companies need a business model that helps them become sustainable and grow their teams, and the target market you chose is really important. Media publications don’t have a lot of money to spend. But if you came to me as the owner of a start-up and try to charge me 50 times more money, but I thought your service could help with our bottom line, I wouldn’t even blink to pay for it. It just wouldn’t even cross my mind.
So nowadays it’s better to approach media companies with a business model that helps them make more money in exchange for a cut of the revenues…
I guess the challenge is that a lot of media publications, from what I’ve seen, have an idea, and they are all experimenting with two or three new ways about how to make money. So their resources are already being used in other ways, which makes it harder.
As a founder of a company or enterprise, we have extra resources. Most publications have like four or five employees and a handful of contributor writers, and those guys are already working 50, 60-plus hours a week. Contrary to this, we have extra people around; we have people who have time to experiment. So we’re like, hey, this experiment sounds interesting. Who on our team is free? We have the extra person to experiment.
So that’s why I just think if you look at these companies and you have two houses, and one house has a thousand times more money in, and it is a thousand times more bigger, it just makes more sense to go to that direction. And once you have that model working, you can always go to these other houses and work for these other markets
I love the house example. What do you think, whose house is a good target market for us?
Two thoughts came to mind. What industries are actively using Facebook already? I think it’s much easier to go to a company and be like, hey, you’re already using Facebook, and you have this pre-existing customer base, so this is what we can do. Otherwise, first, you’d have to sell Facebook.
The second thing would be to look at companies that potentially could be your target market that are already spending a lot of money. So, for example, let’s say you’re targeting marketing companies because they run marketing for their fellow clients. And if you find one big marketing agency, you kind of have a hundred clients right there.
A lot of those marketing agencies might pay for HubSpot, and it’s not that hard to find out who they are. We go to HubSpot and find a huge list of 2,000 of their clients. That’s your target market.
Once you have found these companies, how would you pitch them?
I think, in general there’s going to be one big problem that you can solve for them, and to me, it is just finding out what that problem is. Is it like they are using Facebook but they don’t realize that there’s all these analytics that they don’t have access to, but you can help them. That’s one solution.
It could be an easy way to personalize. I would just find what’s that huge pain point.
A mistake people make is that they try to solve five pain points, and they think that it’s a good thing, but it’s actually a bad thing. I rather take one pain point that’s super strong, as opposed to 50 that are kind of like mildly painful. So just try to find that one big pain point, whatever that may be.
What advice would you give, how could we build a good network to reach the right people?
Going back to the things that you provide, if I were in your shoes I would try to focus on one and just own that space. So as an example, one of the things you mentioned was retargeting.
You could publish articles on why retargeting is effective and how social media can help, and become the thought leaders in retargeting.
Before Publicize, I had this marketing company, and I’d say Publicize might get around 500 leads a month. With my old marketing company, we would get like one every couple of months. And the problem with the old marketing company was that I was trying to be many things to everyone.
Once we said that we only focus on this one thing with Publicize, we started to offer articles on how people can also do this for themselves if they wanted to.
People started to come to us even from the very beginning. And I remember talking on the phone and saying things like, hey, I just would like to let you know that we’ve never done this before. This is just starting off, but they were like, hey, you guys are so much better than the other competition, we would want to do it anyway.
I think it really helped that we’ve found our focus.
During our meeting, I also asked Conrad Egusa about his unique approach to PR and the techniques that could help start-ups get featured in major publications. I posted this part of the interview on my personal blog. Click here, if you’d like to read it.