Of all the marvel hollywood films, X-men is probably my favourite. I’ve seen them more times than I’d like to admit in public. But in case you’re not familiar with the mutant heros – there is a scene where Professor-X builds an impressive machine called Cerebro. This nifty contraption enables him to locate all of the mutants worldwide. Professor-X can now see what they look like, learn how they feel, and start to relate to them. Being able to empathise with these strangers he eventually persuades them to join the X-men team and fight the bad guys.
The FullContact API is like a Cerebro for marketers seeking to build their tribe.
Here was our problem – we had our landing page live and we were getting email signups through at a decent rate, but had no way of knowing anything about the kind people who were signing up. Even if I was spending every hour of my day watching our signup list increment one by one, it is usually impossible to even recognise someone’s full name from an email. This meant friends, mentors, investors, journalists, and influencers were often signing up without us knowing. We would have just ended up ignoring them and missing out on great opportunities to reach out to interested people at that moment of emotional investment in Maptia. How useless is that!
I mentioned our dilemma to T.A. McCann, one of our mentors at TechStars, and he recommended that I try out FullContact, a Denver-based company backed by the Foundry Group, and he kindly provided us with a personal intro.
Enter Ben from FullContact
Ben happily helped us integrate with their API and we wrote some code of our own. There are probably an infinite number of ways it could be useful, but this is how we used it. If you have a technical background and would like to put together something similar yourself we have posted our code to guide you here.
Firstly, as each email signup is received it is catapulted through the magical workings of the FullContact API, before coming back to us in milliseconds with all sorts of interesting rich data for that person. This is exported into a Google Doc for me reference and to sift through to find trends. For instance, I get their Twitter bio, Klout topics, their home city, and all their social profiles each exported into one simple column.
Now here’s the nifty part. We wrote a custom script to set up an automatic notification email that (works along the lines of IFTTT) and uses the FullContact data we just received. I now get aninstant email if any of the following are true when a new user signs up for Maptia. These are our rules to give you an idea of how useful it can be, but of course you can set up any rules you like.
So, an email zaps instantaneously into my inbox if…
1. If their Twitter bio or Klout topics mention the words ‘blogger‘ or ‘journalist‘ OR if they >10k followers on twitter. Awesome. Now I can go read their work and start building a relationship. Big companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for automated ‘influencer marketing’, but I bet many of them don’t even talk directly to the ones already using their product.
2. If their Twitter bio or Klout topics mention ‘investor‘. Brilliant. Let Dorothy know immediately so she can do more research and follow-up with an email if relevant. This has happened at least a dozen times already. First impressions matter, especially with investors. It feels good to be able to go the extra mile and surprise them with an instant personal reply.
3. If ‘Seattle‘ is listed as one of their locations. Fantastic. Might be able to meet them for a coffee and get their feedback on our demo. Also, as our product is inherently locational, it is extremely useful to know the major cities in which our users are from since this will allow us to predict where most of our content is likely to come from in the future and spend time focusing on denser communities of signups.
Check out the tweet below that I sent within seconds of receiving one of these firstname.lastname@example.org notification emails. Amazing, right? Even though Boris happened to know about FullContact and guessed what we were using, he still loved how it let us get in touch immediately in a personal way.
Every time I get an email notification I leap into action, dive into our latest signup’s twitter stream, devour a few blog posts and send a relevant tweet or email in their direction.
As T.A. McCann says, “It’s scary good” to see in action and guess what – it’s great fun surprising people with random compliments. I’m sure there are worse jobs out there.
These interactions boost serendipity, which can’t be measured on any dashboard, but are surely an essential ingredient of any startup’s success. Many genuine conversations have been sparked by signups from people ranging from the curious UX designer or passionate travel photographer to the potential partner or investor. In any relationship first impressions really do count and to me marketing is, at its core, the process of building rewarding, meaningful, long-term relationships.
I’ve also signed up for FullContact’s email updates since I want to be the first to know when they figure out how to freeze time.
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