Co-Founders Brian Kantor and Sean Barkulis come from families that have always owned small businesses. They found that their family members were continually struggling with how to market their businesses online to bring more customers into the door. So, Brian and Sean came together to build a platform that could not only save business owners countless hours each week on their marketing efforts, but could help them to reach tons of new customers in the process.
UPlanMe’s marketing technology platform simplifies how small businesses market and promote their specials, sales, updates and events consistently to their own website, to their social media channels, and across web and on mobile to save time and reach tons of new customers.
MO: How does UPlanMe work?
Sean: Most local businesses are running daily and weekly specials and promotions to drive new customers in the door. Unfortunately, many of these businesses have no idea how to promote these specials and events other than a sign in front of their door. That’s where UPlanMe comes in. For a minimal monthly fee, we provide these local businesses with a single marketing platform to manage and promote all of their upcoming daily and weekly specials, sales, updates, promotions and events consistently and automatically to their own website through an embeddable calendar, to their social media channels and to a network of third-party websites and mobile apps to save time and reach tons of new customers.
On the flip-side, there are hundreds of local websites / blogs, travel applications, location-based applications and business listing sites that are looking for content from local businesses on their specials and promotions in hopes of engaging their website and mobile visitors. UPlanMe provides these web and mobile apps with free access to its database of 50,000+ local business specials and events. This helps UPlanMe’s business users promote their specials to thousands of new customers with a click of the button.
MO: Can you talk about the development process from having the initial concept to getting it to market?
Sean: We spent a lot of time speaking with local businesses to find out what their major struggles were when marketing their businesses. We actually found out that approximately 80% of local business marketing was being done by the owner and they were spending upwards of 5-10 hours a week on it. In addition, their largest concern was bringing customers in the door during slow hours, so they were creating specials and promotions to drive traffic. Unfortunately, they were having a tough time spreading the word. Lastly, many local business owners have websites that they cannot update so easily. So we set out to build a product that could a) save them time on their marketing efforts, b) help them to reach new customers and c) automatically update their websites with their specials through our calendar technology.
Once we understood the problem business owners faced when marketing their businesses online, building the UPlanMe product was quite easy.
MO: Startups typically need to pivot and evolve their business model over time, especially as customers start to use their product or service. I know that you just launched UPlanMe a few months ago but have you tweaked anything yet as you start to gain momentum?
Sean: Well actually, we first launched UPlanMe in February of 2012 as a consumer facing app. Our goal was to help consumers find fun things taking place from their favorite musicians, sports teams, bars, restaurants and retail stores. We quickly learned that there was a lot of competition in the online and mobile event discovery space. At that time, we had also built out some minimal tools for businesses to market to our consumer base. As growth stalled on the consumer app and after we started speaking to some of the local businesses, we found that we were in a great position to start building out more tools to address their needs. So we actually pivoted about 6 months ago into a full-fledged marketing platform for local businesses, which is now our current product.
MO: How important has social media been to your marketing strategy?
Sean: For our customers, social media is a massive component of their marketing strategy so we’ve clearly integrated that functionality into our technology. However, as a B2B company social media is not a large component of UPlanMe’s marketing strategy. While we do use Twitter to engage with our customers, most of our sales and marketing is through e-mail campaigns and partnerships. Actually, partnerships are one of the largest drivers of our customer growth. We have forged several partnerships with other complimentary companies providing resources and tools for small businesses. They help us to promote our product to their existing customer-base and reach a wealth of new customers.
MO: What’s the biggest thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Sean: Well the biggest thing for me that is both personal and professional is the recent launch of my self-published book, “How to Market Your Business Online: Get Your Business Known on the Internet, Increase Your Customers & Make More Money!” available on Amazon. After working with all of these local businesses, I found that many of them were not fully-optimizing their online presence to reach new customers. There are so many simple, free steps a local business can take to broaden their reach on the internet. Unfortunately, many have no clue where to begin. So I set-out to write a book that lays out those steps in a clear, concise manner.
As you can tell, I’m very passionate about helping small businesses succeed, so this was a huge accomplishment for me to write this book and to help as many small businesses as possible.
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