The MarTech sector is proving to be a lucrative opportunity for some of Europe’s brightest startups. We spoke to Andy Cockburn, CEO and Co-Founder of Mention Me to hear more about how the referral marketing platform has accelerated it’s growth (hitting a landmark £1bn in client value earlier this), what lies ahead and how the marketing industry in Europe is changing.
What’s the challenge that you set out to solve with Mention Me?
Word of mouth referrals have helped build some of the world’s most recognisable businesses from Uber to Airbnb, but we spotted a gap in the market for a referral engineering platform that would bring the power of data to the mix. That means getting to know your customers through strategic A/B testing, learning what makes them tick, then turning them into loyal brand advocates who drive sustainable growth.
The retail sector in particular has always had plenty of data to work with, but haven’t always leveraged it in the most effective ways. Mention Me solves for this, helping businesses to turn this mass of data into strategic actions that generate long-term revenue.
Looking to the future, we know that the most important principle of referral – trust built on a personal connection – can enhance marketing more generally too. We want Mention Me to be at the heart of that; it’s the future of marketing.
How do you sit within your market, what sets you apart?
We’re the market leaders in Europe and the only company globally that focuses on engineering referral through data.
An important element of a successful referral programme is making it as easy as possible for customers to share. It’s essentially about capturing the word of mouth, natural conversations that people have every day. That’s why we created our Name Share feature, which lets referred customers simply enter their friend’s name at checkout. It’s a simple yet powerful concept that means our customers can refer friends anywhere, whether they’re having drinks at the pub or walking their dog in the park.
Can you give an example of how you’ve been helping customers?
One of our longest partnerships is with Bloom & Wild, a letterbox flower delivery service that’s completely revolutionised the market. Early on in the company’s life, Bloom & Wild’s CEO, Aron Gelbard, realised the potential of referral for its marketing mix.
Aron wanted to handle referrals for customers buying one-off flowers differently to those signing up for subscriptions, so our initial solution focused on a different approach for each. Mention Me and Bloom & Wild worked together closely to run A/B tests that would optimise both programmes.
Amongst other things, we experimented with: offers, creative, sharing options, and customer journey.
As a result of these tests, the programme went through major changes and ultimately became one of Bloom & Wild’s primary acquisition channels. During peak months, more than 30% of new customers come through referral.
What do you think comes next for MarTech?
Unlike other sectors, tech partnerships are key to our success. There are very few do-it-all companies here. Instead it’s about being excellent at what you do and plugging into your customers’ wider technology stack.
Something fundamental to the UK becoming a thriving tech ecosystem is collaboration between big and small businesses. Instead of taking the ‘David versus Goliath’ approach, the best tech providers and agile innovators work together to fulfil and optimise the journey for all their customers.
MarTech is a brilliant example of this, encouraging companies to plug into each other’s systems to grow their capabilities together. By openly sharing, integrating and co-marketing ideas and technologies – whether as Open Source initiatives, or more formally via corporate collaborations and structures – these collaborations deliver some of the biggest gains for the UK tech industry and will underpin its bright future.
What’s the roadmap for the business over the next five years?
We’re at a hugely exciting moment in our growth. We’ve just graduated from the SAP.io customer experience accelerator which gave us access to SAP’s sales, technical, and marketing resources and means we’re now listed on its app store. We’re planning to keep working together closely to drive even more long-term value from this pivotal relationship.
What are the key trends you’re seeing in the marketing world?
I think marketing should be the function that drives business strategy, sales and growth, but there are roadblocks in the way. CMO and Marketing directors are increasingly frustrated with their ‘go to’ channels. Costs are increasing, the journey from data to insights isn’t clear, there’s an overwhelming amount of content, and trust in brand marketing activity is decreasing.
But we’re helping brands navigate these challenges in a different way. Instead of relying on specific channels, businesses should prioritise customer-centric marketing activity. Referral is perfect for that. Harnessing insights from our programmes means CMOs and Marketing Directors can play an increasingly important role in the strategic direction of their organisations.
What’s been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Bringing together a brilliant team. There was one point when we were on a social, we were paddle boarding down the Thames dressed in pink suits with about 50 Mentioneers covering the river. My co-founder and I looked around and took it all in and it was hard to not feel proud of the brilliant team of people we’ve brought together.
Also, we’ve just delivered £1B of value to our clients. It’s hugely satisfying to have delivered that amount of value.
If you were starting your business from scratch today, what advice would you give yourself?
You don’t have to knock it out of the park on the first try. Mention Me is my second start-up – the first taught me invaluable lessons that paved the way for where I am today.