Marketing is everything
Marketing isn’t everything but…
We had spotted a gap in the market for rent protection for landlords, which was something no one else was doing. Between us we investigated what it would take to offer this product to the market. My partner was convinced of its merits, after-all it was his great idea, but I took some persuading. I checked with others and sought their opinion. Most of the responses were positive and couldn’t believe it wasn’t already available in Ireland. I remember one individual telling me it wouldn’t work – I can’t remember what reason he gave – I probably wasn’t listening.
We researched the market and indeed there were no competitors. We fleshed out the numbers and understood that if this proved successful it was going to be worth it.
I was in.
Between us we had to absolutely drill into who this product was geared towards. We did this and at this stage realised that although it was a large group, which was good, it was going to be a diverse group, which was not so good. By teasing out who our target market was it demonstrated that a significant challenge would be how will we communicate to such a wide and diverse group. We threw out some ideas and made some clever notes, but we sort of kicked to touch on that one.
Then, we had to decide what the benefits should be offered, what would clients appreciate and, what would they need. Of course, we wanted to give them everything, but everything comes at a price, so this was a challenge. Eventually we metaphorically put ourselves in our potential clients’ shoes and decided what we and our customer would like, was aligned. On reflection, we possibly got this about right.
At this stage, we tried to conjure some fantastic names that would instantly capture the essence of what we were offering. I found this the fun bit as there is a trapped artist deep inside my body. One rule I had here was that we weren’t allowed to use an umbrella which is a cliché in insurance. We both agreed that ‘what it says on the tin’ approach is probably best, and it didn’t take us long to settle on an agreed name.
www.rentassured.ie was now conceptually born and we would offer rent protection to landlords in the event a tenant defaulted on their rent. That was the easy bit.
We contacted insurers both here and the UK to try and make our pitch. There wasn’t stampede of interest, but we met some decision makers and although they told us we had a ‘great’ idea, and indeed we ourselves were ‘great’ they weren’t interested. After some time, we received a favourable reaction from an insurer in the UK. There were multiple meetings and some back and forth, but they agreed to underwrite the product. We showed them the cover and the price we had decided on and they politely tweaked it.
While these negotiations were ongoing, we were also trying to design and build a fancy website. The website had to perform the necessary systems in the back end while at the same time be customer focused and easy to navigate in the front end. Functionality and aesthetics sometimes do not marry well. The front end looked super, but the back end could have been better so lesson learned there.
Eventually we got the green light from insurers and our partnership with them was born. Soon after the website was completed and we were good to go for launch.
We lost some momentum on the launch as we went in the wrong direction initially, but we engaged a PR friend who put us on the right track. We got some headshots done for media and this turned out to be the windiest day of the year so that possibly was a bad omen.
We got great coverage in the digital version of some of the national newspapers and RTE which was great but to cap it off we managed an interview with Pat Kenny on the radio who understood our offer and thought it would be very beneficial to the landlord market. This was all fantastic and I for one was elated.
Then it stopped. Well maybe not that suddenly but we gradually ran downhill.
We had no marketing budget. We had a great launch with a great product at a good price but nobody knew about it. Obviously, some people knew about it and purchased and indeed we looked after landlords who did have tenants who defaulted, indeed we received a fantastic testimonial, so the system worked. However not enough people were aware of the offering so they couldn’t buy what they didn’t know.
We tried different paths to market both via intermediaries and digital, but we realised that you need a substantial budget to get profile for a new offer particularly if that new offering hasn’t been for general sale previously.