Creating an Award-Winning Solution to Meet a Clear Market Need: The Journey to a Marketing Breakthrough
Patrick Barrett, Founder & CEO, ECAL.com
In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, personal and profitable interaction with consumers can feel like a marketing goal that’s just within reach and at the same time as elusive as the Holy Grail.
The introduction of each new communications channel presents an opportunity to finally reach that goal. Yet, even with the unprecedented popularity of highly interactive social media, it has been difficult for most organizations to foster direct connections that convert to profitable action.
Like many innovations, the solution behind ECAL now seems deceptively simple, but achieving it required the patience to nurture an idea and the ability to recognize when technologies had finally aligned to support it.
To turn the introduction of this new tool into an award-winning marketing product with global appeal, we followed a simple three-step strategy.
Identification strategy: The critical first step to identifying market need and opportunity
It was 2001—no one was talking about working “in the cloud” and cell phones weren’t yet “smart.”
I was a sports marketing professional finishing a successful major rebranding campaign for the British Horseracing Authority in London. We used the new consumer website to augment traditional advertising methods, but the inefficiency of printing and mailing track schedules left me wishing for an easier way to share the most up-to-date information with fans.
That seemingly tiny niche market need actually set me on course to develop the first online scheduler that would sync events into a personal calendar.
While it was sports organizations like the British Horseracing Authority (UK), Major League Soccer, New England Patriots (US) and Hawthorn Football Club (Aus) that first recognized the value of the technology, their early adoption established a need and an even wider market for the product.
Engagement strategy: Breaking through the missing piece in the market place to connect with the customer
The best solution isn’t always the one that seems the most obvious. To find that missing piece of the engagement strategy puzzle, we had to look beyond traditional advertising paradigms.
Each hot new social media channel has been targeted by advertisers because of the highly interactive nature and widespread adoption of these sites. But each new social media channel is simply another media channel, ultimately serving only to further fragment the advertising landscape. According to Smart Insights, ad CTR across all formats and placements is a disappointing 0.17%—less than 2 clicks per 1,000 impressions.
The same can be said of email—essentially the digital version of the stacks of direct mail consumers regularly toss directly into the trash. Consumers have been inundated with email to the point that major providers auto-sort email into pre-set folders, reducing the number of messages a consumer sees, much less opens. Remarkably, open rates on such emails can still average around 16%, but click-through rates have remained discouragingly low, around 1.3%.
Aside from email, there is another app that nearly every person on a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone uses at least several times every day: the personal calendar. The average smart phone user checks their phone up to 150 times per day and 75% of consumers age 18 to 64 report that they rely upon their digital calendar to manage their life schedule. 
Being able to book a piece of time directly into a consumer’s personal calendar is an incredibly powerful marketing tool that had never been used to its full potential.
With calendar marketing, brands place the power of content selection into the hands of the consumer, who chooses what they want to see in their personal calendar—sports and entertainment schedules, special offers, even payment reminders—so content relevance to the consumer is nearly 100%. For comparison, the scattergun approach of email marketing is available to anyone who may come across your email address, and may deliver 15% to 20% content relevancy.
Consumers choose to sync an organization’s content to their own personal calendar, delivering not only increased sales and loyalty, but which also works to ‘self-profile’ your audience and provide invaluable contact and preference data that can be used to deliver better communications and make smarter business decisions.
Built as an enterprise-level system to augment any marketing automation suite, ECAL clients own and maintain control of their customer data, and access further insights from behavioral analytics. And that data is rich, working to fuel a more ‘dynamic’ CRM framework. As a valuable CRM component along the entire ‘customer journey’, the ECAL technology contributes to all stages of the value chain, from acquisition to engagement, monetization, and loyalty.
Defining niche: Few products can be all things to all people
Developing a strategy to right-focus a solution to a particular market pain is crucial. By entering the market with a niche focus, ECAL was able to establish a clear market need and demonstrate the platform’s usefulness across a spectrum of industry verticals.
Early adopters have given rise to significant global brands adopting ECAL as a key element of their digital marketing strategy, including Live Nation (Ticketmaster), Copa America and Premier League. Enterprise clients of ECAL are experiencing up to 90%+ opt-in rates, 70%+ mobile subscriptions rates, 84% new customer acquisition, and increases in revenues driven by consumer responses that have effectively doubled the normal ‘purchase rate’ for some brands, especially for tickets.
The experiences of the early adopters helped prove the wider market value of communications targeted directly into personal calendars. For any organization looking for a deeper relationship with its customers, partners, and others, the use cases go well beyond the original sports schedule niche market: education, retail, transactional, and media, to name a few.
About the Author
Patrick Barrett is the founder and CEO of ECAL.com, the world’s first calendar marketing platform and data-driven CRM technology company creating engagement-rich digital calendar interaction campaigns for more than 300 organizations in the sports, entertainment, media, education, retail, and banking industries in the US and abroad.