EchoSign's Jason Lemkin on Using B-to-B Direct Marketing Tactics to Enter the Real Estate Vertical
The stack of paperwork involved in buying a house sometimes can seem as tall as the dwelling itself. And that's not just from the buyer's perspective. So Jason Lemkin, CEO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based EchoSign, knew that as an online signature software provider, his company could help everyone involved in the real estate vertical. The only question left was how to approach these people.
In summer 2009, EchoSign used direct marketing channels to approach realtors about its product that allows e-mail senders to customize contracts with areas for recipients to electronically initial and sign documents, then click to return them to the senders.
As of press time, the real estate vertical already is accounting for nearly 4 percent of EchoSign's revenue.
Target Marketing: What role does direct marketing play in EchoSign's overall marketing mix?
Jason Lemkin: EchoSign is still in "education mode" in the marketplace. Although the ESIGN [Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce ] Act was adopted almost 10 years ago, it's only been in the past three to five years that electronic signatures have started to make their way [into] mainstream business. So EchoSign's direct marketing includes an educational component, with a significant emphasis on brand name reference accounts, to foster credibility. The bulk of the marketing budget is spent on lead gen and includes such initiatives as SEM/SEO, direct e-mail, promotion to Salesforce.com customers (promotion on the AppExchange and sf.com trade shows), list purchase, etc.
TM: When EchoSign decided to enter the real estate vertical, what role did direct marketing play? How did EchoSign acquire customers?
JL: The real estate market is one of the few markets that has a certain maturity when it comes to electronic signatures. For many real estate agents, it's a matter of using the best service, as opposed to a need to be educated on the benefits of electronic signatures. In mid-2009, product enhancements made EchoSign an alternative, viable choice in the real estate market. So EchoSign has focused marketing efforts in this vertical only in the past two quarters. EchoSign has a strong viral component, which allows ... marketing to focus on nurturing the customer that may not have been acquired through direct marketing. In the real estate market, EchoSign partnered with key, influential sites (i.e., ActiveRain, Real Estate Connect) to expose the market to [the product].