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Tony O. Pham is the VP of Marketing at Life360 where his responsibilities include user acquisition & engagement, corporate communications and social media. Since he joined the company, Life360 has gained over 10 million people using its family safety app for iPhone and Android (Grand Prize Winner of Google’s Android Developer Challenge). Prior to Life360, Tony led community, online and product marketing at Slide, whose social applications reach more than 170 million people per month in over 200 countries. Google acquired Slide for approximately $180 million in 2010.
Early on, Tony realized the importance of enabling and empowering people to have a strong voice. Growing up in Seattle, he was confirmed as one of the youngest board members on the King County Children & Family Commission at the age of 16. Tony has written for The Seattle Times and has been quoted in publications such as BusinessWeek and USA Today. He has also spoken at conferences including SXSW and Marketing 2.0.Tony graduated with a B.A from Grinnell College and is a Fulbright Scholar.
MO: What early influences contributed toward you becoming one of the youngest members on the King County Children and Family Commission at the age of 16? Where did that passion to make a difference come from?
Tony: I was involved with a youth advocacy organization called Youth ‘N Action that exposed me to teenagers from all walks of life who were unified in our determination to improve our local communities. There were members of our group who had been convicted by juvenile courts as well as individuals who had been through homeless shelters. They really opened my eyes to the injustice inherent to many institutional systems. After working side-by-side with young people who had it a lot tougher than I did yet still remained optimistic about the future, I knew I wanted to do my part in making positive contributions, whether that in the form of volunteer or professional capacities.
MO: How does Life360 work and what makes it different than other products on the market?
Tony: Life360 has a free mobile app that lets you know where your family is located, when they need help and what is on their minds using our cross-platform FamilyChannel ™ group chat. While the carriers all offer their own versions of family locator services for a monthly charge, we feel that it is important that our app is free and that is largely why we are the largest and fastest-growing mobile family safety application on the market. The Life360 app is cross-platform and has already proven useful to people in real-life situations both everyday and during emergencies. For example, one Mom named Kristina in California finds that Life360 gives her peace of mind while her son walks dogs around the neighborhood. For his part, the son appreciates that Life360 encourages trust and deters nagging.
MO: Your specialty is engaging and innovative marketing strategy to acquire and retain users. Do you have any advice or tips for our readers who need to grow their customer base but don’t have a big marketing budget to work with?
Tony: Good question! Working in the technology industry, I know from first-hand experience that you do not need a big marketing budget to grow your customer base. Content marketing can be highly effective, but you need to make sure that what you put out resonates with your target audience, so much so that they will want to share it with their networks. At Life360, while we enjoy games and social apps as much as anyone else, we saw that we were connecting with Moms in particular by providing a utility app that helps them to keep their families safe and in sync. I created a survey to see how Moms are using their smartphones today and we published a Smartphone Mom infographic that got significant distribution with over 1500 unique shares. I also think it is important to demonstrate that you are living your mission, which is why we partner with organizations like MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-Aged Kids) to help educate parents on communicating with their children.
MO: You’re currently adding over 100,000 customers per week. How have you managed to gain such traction and how are you handling such rapid growth?
Tony: We conducted over 100 landing page tests early on to determine trigger points for parents, as measured by click-throughs and sign-ups. We identified the keywords, messaging and products that would attract, convert, engage and retain our customer base. Over time, we’ve continued to test and optimize to the point where I believe we have a very compelling and strong offering today. While our recent growth is welcome, we are far from an overnight success story. Since we launched the first version of our Android app in 2009, we’ve always stayed focused on delivering the best experience possible. As long as we provide value, our community will grow, primarily through word-of-mouth.
MO: You have a strong and passionate community of customers. How do you stay engaged with them?
Tony: A big part of why we’ve been able to grow so quickly to over 10 million customers using our app is because of the passion that parents have for how we help keep their families safe and connected. We take advantage of traditional channels such as email but social media helps us to facilitate day-to-day contact. I’m fortunate to have a capable community manager; feel free to follow us at @Life360 or like us at www.facebook.com/life360. We have also recruited a strong team of bloggers to act as resources on dieting, parenting and more. I think it is a turn-off to talk about your product too much; you have to show an interest in what your customers want to discuss. For example, we publish posts on topical news like Halloween safety, which helped us to get picked up by over 65 local TV news stations over that holiday weekend last year. Of course, we also do fun things around the Life360 app like our Christmas video caroling contest.
MO: You have a great example of how Life360 gave a family peace of mind during the flooding around Memphis in May of 2011. Can you share that experience with our readers?
Tony: Yes, the results showing Life360’s effectiveness during the Memphis floods underscore how everyone on the Life360 team feels that all of our hard work is worthwhile. We heard from community members that were watching the news who expressed concern for Life360 families that lived in the region. When we looked at our database records, we saw that over 2500 families successfully broadcast location and safety status updates to their networks, even though phone lines were jammed. One customer, Scott Tatum, said to us, “The app was very helpful during the storms and flooding in the Memphis area. I would recommend this app to anybody. My family is very close knit and we like to know that we are all OK during times of trouble.”
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