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Mike Rheaume worked in marketing and advertising at a Boston firm for about 3.5 years before co-founding his current business SnapKnot, an online directory of wedding photographers which helps engaged couples find their perfect wedding photographer. A clean, photocentric design coupled with fast, easy search by location and budget range allows couples to find, save, and compare photographers who match their criteria, and then contact them directly for booking info. SnapKnot just turned 2 years old.
Couples no longer need to waste time wading through hundreds of irrelevant or misleading search results on the web, nor get overwhelmed by standard wedding sites cluttered with all sorts of vendors and distracting advertising. SnapKnot has unique wedding photography to match your individual needs. We want to make planning your wedding as fast, effortless, and painless – indeed, fun! – as possible.
MO: What was your inspiration for creating SnapKnot? What attracted you to the wedding photography market?
Mike: The initial seed of the idea actually came from my co-founder Reid Warner’s experience when he got married in 2007. He and his wife Eunice had a tough time finding a photographer for their wedding. They inevitably used some of the big, established wedding sites as well as endless searching on Google and it ended up being an exercise in wasted time, stress, and frustration.
Reid and I were talking about various business ideas in the general sense of connecting people with service providers, and we narrowed in on wedding photography. There was a need for a site like SnapKnot in a huge market and we decided to give it a shot.
MO: How long did it take from having the initial idea to getting the website up and running?
Mike: About 4 months from initial idea to the launch of the site. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted the site to look like and how we wanted it to function. We were able to work with a great design and development team for the launch, and it was a fantastic process overall. We consider ourselves fortunate with the speed, workflow efficiency, and the resulting website that launched back in February of 2010. As new entrepreneurs in a bootstrapped startup it was a tremendous relief to have as flawless a launch as possible without any budget or schedule overruns.
MO: How did your previous experience and background contribute to the development and success of Snapknot.com?
Mike: For about 3.5 years I worked at a small marketing firm in Boston. We were a full service firm, and I learned a tremendous deal about marketing fundamentals, branding, lead generation, direct and online marketing, and more. As an agency we were a bit behind the curve when it came to social media marketing, but I recognized the power of social media as an equalizing, cost-effective part of an overall marketing strategy. As we were bootstrapping our startup, I was confident that we could start getting traction early using a time-intensive but low-cost strategy centered on social media.
In addition to the marketing background, I ended up learning a lot about running a small business. Great customer service was a core value, and that has served us in good stead as well with SnapKnot, where we often get high marks from both photographers and engaged couples on our fast, friendly service.
MO: How has internet marketing been pivotal to the success of the company?
Mike: Internet marketing has allowed us to be a global website from the moment we went live. It’s easy – easier, in many ways – to reach a specific audience online rather than focus on offline efforts that may be restricted by geography, or cost-prohibitive to run on a large scale for a bootstrapped startup. Onsite SEO, SEM and targeted banner advertising, along with an emphasis on social media strategy has helped us compete and succeed thus far in a marketplace unfortunately crowded with unattractive directories and bloated, corporate “all-things-wedding” sites.
We have certainly made mistakes along the way, but in the online word things change every day and testing is cheap. You can stop or improve ineffective online efforts without the cost and time involved in, say, a national print campaign gone wrong. The Internet is the ultimate democratizing tool in a global marketplace. It’s possible for a couple guys with laptops to take market share away from major companies with millions in revenue and hundreds of employees.
MO: How have you managed to build up an international network of diverse and inspiring photographers?
Mike: We created our @SnapKnot Twitter account a month before we even launched the website. Twitter has been great for connecting with photographers worldwide. As solo-preneurs in their own right, photographers run the gamut from luddites to tech- and marketing-savvy social media masters. There is a huge number of photographers on Twitter, and it was actually quite easy for us to tap into that network initially. About 200 people following us after that first month knew when our site launched, and that resulted in about 100 signups and our first paying member the first week we went live. In addition, we were able to connect with some very influential photographers who really helped us by retweeting and mentioning our site in the early days.
Extending our social media strategy with tools like Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and Flickr has allowed us to reach thousands of individual wedding photographers that are 100% in our target audience across the globe.
MO: Can you tell us how you managed to negotiate a partnership with SmugMug?
Mike: February 2011 was our first time as an exhibitor at WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) in Las Vegas. This is the major annual exhibition and tradeshow for the wedding photography industry with some 16,000 attendees last year and probably more in 2012.
We were fortunate to get a mention in Rangefinder magazine that month which was published just before the show. Markham Bennett, who is the VP of Business Development at SmugMug, stopped by our booth after having seen us in the magazine. He had some positive feedback for us and of course we were well aware of SmugMug as they are a true leader in the photography industry and simply a great company with positive core values and a tremendous team of employees.
We started talking about ways in which we could work together and soon began a cross-promotional effort which ran over the next few months. We saw some early signs of success and wanted to step it up a bit with a closer integration. SmugMug’s API is great, and our dev team was able to put together an integration whereby SmugMug members can now authorize and link SnapKnot with their SmugMug account and SnapKnot will automatically pull their photos and videos directly into their SnapKnot profile.
We are pleased that this came together with an official announcement last month, and we are more than thrilled to be working with SmugMug.
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