We caught up with Martyn Gould, the Founder of yboo.co.uk, the iOS and Android app which matches you to the right SIM only deal. Here, he tells his start-up story and shares the tips he used to scale yboo from 0-1000 in just six weeks!
Being weird makes business more fun – for us and our customers
We’ve been asked numerous times, why we chose a name that most are unsure how to pronounce! It makes me laugh when I hear some attempts at pronouncing it, and if you can’t smile when you talk about your business, then what’s the point? It’s also a great conversation starter which can only be a good thing, especially as a start-up.
It actually sparked some debate and lots of interaction on our social media – and all of it shone a spotlight on our brand. Some people pronounce it y-boo, others y, b, o, o, while some say e-boo.
yboo stands for ‘you’re better off on’ so the first letter is pronounced ‘why’. We love it, but we really don’t mind how people pronounce it so long as they are talking about us. We’re not precious about it, and that mentality shoots right across our brand. For us, it’s more important how we benefit our customers and the disruption we’re causing in the industry.
“yboo will show consumers the single version of the truth – which mobile network and deal is really best for them.”
In our yboo life, there have been 1,000 highs and two major lows. Here’s us in Dublin in 2016 when we received early feedback from yboo proof of concept. We had a pint or two that evening! I definitely recommend pausing to celebrate your wins and then get back to work.
Up until that point, we weren’t sure if it was a go or not. Even though we knew it would be a brilliant product, it was touch and go for a while, and we also needed to convince investors. Having them believe in us said a lot.
UK Consumers overpay for mobile services by an incredible £5.4billion per year which is incredible. When you sign up to yboo, it cleverly studies and understands your behaviour and habits so it matches you to the right deal. The sheer complexity of the UK market is impossible for most people to decode without tons of research, so yboo does all the work for you. So our business model was based on finding a huge problem that consumers may not even be aware of, doing the research to be able to state the facts and explain it in straightforward language, then offering an easy-to-use and free solution.
There’s also the issue of signal strength which I know from speaking to people is a particularly frustrating issue, especially in the countryside or for those who travel. We also discovered that UK coverage maps don’t actually show you the average voice and data quality levels where you live, work, and hang out. Whereas from Q2 this year, yboo will recommend on price and signal strength. We’re able to back up what we say because we did the research first and really know our industry and market. That’s business 101, but so many start-ups jump in with a new idea and not enough data to support it.
Build on your core values
One of the things that impressed our investors is our values which we’ve firmly stuck to and are the foundation for our future marketing and growth strategy. When we started yboo back in 2016, we said:
- yboo will work with mobile networks to help them understand more on what consumers need.
- yboo will bring training, opportunities and jobs to the Holme Valley.
- yboo will be owned by its employees and they will own shares in the company.
Consumers like that we are giving back and in an industry where loyalty is difficult to keep, that’s so important. Our values have been intrinsic in growing yboo, in part because it’s not all been highs and successes and you need something to fall back on. The lowest point in my career was probably when I’d spent eight months re-mapping processes for a major telecoms provider in Europe, only for them to stop the project and write off the costs. These things can hit hard so nowadays we have a great team and we’re always focused on the end-goals.
If you can build a strong team around you then not only is it good for morale and keeping momentum but equally, you don’t have any gaps in talent or knowledge. So the interviewing and hiring process is key and should be for all start-ups. Once you have the right people, then it’s just like the old saying about all the cogs working together to keep things moving.
Learning business success (and failure) the hard way
In the early days developing yboo, I would say the biggest frustration for me was understanding why things didn’t work, particularly with marketing. You can’t just copy the big, established players and expect to get market traction.
Everything is a test but also a learning curve that we and our customers benefit from because those mistakes taught us to do better and the successes are helping us grow. We’ve used every strategy, technique, and trend to find our niche from competitions, focus groups, testing a variety of messages, targeting different segments, and trying PPC, Twitter, Google, and Facebook campaigns. You name it, we tried it and will continue to do so!
There is so much data available online for pretty much everything you need to know nowadays that it can become overwhelming. So, being able to lean on experts whether we hire, consult, or outsource has been invaluable.
What’s coming for yboo?
- iOS includes rewards! We will unlock rewards from major brands as you use and share yboo with your friends
- Recommendations based on price and signal strength where you live, work and hang out
- And last but definitely not least, meet boo the switchbot – an automatic network switching tool. We ❤️ her!
Don’t be afraid of changing strategy – even mid-launch
In the early days, we acted like Google. We expected to be able to promote a competition so people would download the app for the chance to win an expensive Samsung device. We can admit now we believed people would just instantly love yboo as we do. That just didn’t work and we’ve since learned we need to take a ‘show, not tell’ approach.
It was when we began acting like a start-up that our numbers started to improve. We were engaging with consumers, asking for feedback about our product and adapting based on that information. I love getting technical so I wanted to test every single combination of micro-campaign with a small boosted spend to see what happened. However, although the results were interesting, the volumes were so small that the statistics just didn’t carry any weight.
So I moved our focus away from paid campaigns and into things which ‘don’t scale’, and suddenly everything changed for us! I then added a huge ‘local’ focus and suddenly, by a same-day comparison seven days apart, we had an increase of 1000%.
Next, we created a four-step strategy that took us to 10x growth!
Think about the target market. What do they want and could we give them that?
I spent four days thinking about this and talking to people in the streets, in cafes, and even in my local pub. I wanted to get a single version of the truth. The benefit of surveying our local community was that most people knew us and they wanted us to make good on our commitment to bring jobs, training and opportunity to our local area.
So, we turned that around by saying, ‘we can only do that if you support us’. Without them committing to using our service, we can’t grow. If we can’t grow, we can’t bring jobs so it was a win-win for us and them to do this together. That first morning, we had thirty downloads in less than three hours. Most people wanted something back which was a fair point. So, we partnered up with a local café and met the net cost of coffee for anyone with our app. That afternoon, we had even more downloads.
What free social media tools can you use to give you a Unique Value Proposition?
We use Facebook Live a LOT. It’s free and it enables us to broadcast TV-like quality via smartphones and instantly connect with consumers globally. Customers can ask questions and get an answer from us almost instantly, obtain a PAC code to leave their current network, and review the latest offers from our operator partners. So we’re able to use this to reinforce the simple key messages of why and how yboo solves problems – show, not tell!
Always track your costs
We learned pretty early on to track our marketing costs every day and rank them. This way we can continue to pass on savings to consumers. If a Google Ad is costing £2.38 for each click, is it really effective? Wouldn’t it be better to (literally) buy your ‘top 10 sharers’ a coffee every week?
We joked with our local community from the outset that we would bribe them with coffee to download the app, but in reality, it’s become such an effective marketing tool that people have really responded to and has helped build a community partnership. If those ten coffees brought you hundreds of downloads, enquiries, and sales, wouldn’t you be happy? The power of the crowd and influencers is massive. Sometimes the battle for sales is won and lost offline.
Get the right advice
It’s really rare for any Founder to have good marketing skills unless they come from that background. When I speak to other start-up owners or aspiring business owners, I always tell them not to be embarrassed to admit their weaknesses.
Once you are honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, you can focus on what you do best and either hire good people or outsource. Find an agency who understands you and who you can learn from. Be prepared to listen, listen some more, and then listen again. Choose an agency who will support you in testing alternative channels, alternative approaches, alternative thinking.
Martyn’s top tips to work effectively and get more done:
- If something takes less than two minutes, do it straight away. Instead of adding to a list of tasks, just get it done. You’ll achieve more.
- If you’re really flat out, change your voicemail message to ‘send me a text, don’t leave me a voicemail’. You’ll get more done by responding to people more quickly.
- Create a focussed Inbox by allocating automatic actions to the contacts that matter to you.
- Use public transport. Yes, really! You’ll be amazed at just how much email/admin you can get through on a thirty-minute bus or train ride. Try doing that in a car!
- State the objectives and timescale at the start of your meetings. Something along the lines of ‘so we have thirty-minutes to decide on the selection criteria for our next hire’ and end the meeting on time. No ifs, no buts, end on time.
And the golden rule to keep your company on track?
- You’re always selling. Reinforce your company mantra, values and objectives every day to employees, stakeholders, partners, suppliers and anyone else who will listen. BUT, not just in person. Use Facebook live to talk about you, your vision, and your business. It’s free now but it won’t be forever.
Get even more great tips by signing up to our mailing list.