A startup reports from the marketing frontier
November 18, 2014 7:37 AM   Subscribe

“The home runs have really been anything we can do to target our actual users,” Budman reflects. “You want to get as narrow as possible. If we can find Mac software developers in the Mission or in Brooklyn, it’s awesome.” Fast-growing online backup company Backblaze tried all kinds of marketing ploys to get new customers, from Adwords to an appearance on Ellen Degeneres: here's what worked and what didn't. (Previously)
posted by shivohum (14 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

#1 home run: blood sacrifice to Cthulhu.
posted by gwint at 7:56 AM on November 18, 2014

So what did this article cost them? (Trying to decide if saving $9 a year is worth re-uploading ~150GB of data... evidently it worked.)
posted by uncleozzy at 7:57 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

My entire awareness of Backblaze is from tech podcast ads (specifically ATP and the Talk Show), and if I wasn't already a CrashPlan user I'd sign up in a heartbeat. The podcast ads should be working well for them.

I signed up for CrashPlan because they offered a seed service - they ship you a USB disk, you ship it back with your data to start the backup, and go from there. Even so, their service has been slow and the process of catching up was interminable. I dread to think of what it would have taken if it had been a full TB to sync online. Every time I hear a podcast ad, I think maybe I should switch to BackBlaze. But then - one TB through my ^%$*(^& Time Warner cable connection? BackBlaze should offer a seed service.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2014

I hear a direct mailing campaign is the most cost-effective strategy. (Just remember to check the proofs.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:13 AM on November 18, 2014

I'm willing to bet that the blog posts which got a million views and paid off for them were the ones describing how to build their cheap storage pods which hit Slashdot (here and here) and got a whole bunch of sysadmins excited. Like they say in the Forbes article, it's not the moms watching Ellen who turn into customers. It's IT employees who know that their family members are clueless about the inevitability of hard-drive death and install a service like this for them who are the seed customers.
posted by clawsoon at 8:56 AM on November 18, 2014

Blogging: Cost = Free.

posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cost of buying a car: Free if you build it from scratch in a junkyard!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:14 AM on November 18, 2014

The billboard and television appearance both proved mistakes. Budman says that when he met with potential investors for the company’s $5 million Series A round in 2012, some said they’d heard of his company through the sign on the main drive from San Francisco down into Silicon Valley. But no customers signed up due to the sign.

Given that most startup's "revenue" is just some numbers you show to investors to get investment, the billboard was the most profitable experiment of all actually.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2014

This just proves what I always say about marketing - there are no shortcuts. Building a brand, generating awareness, and acquiring users is hard. For almost everyone, you can't just appear on Ellen, whisper some magic words, and suddenly win the user acquisition lottery. Instead, you have to build up an audience over time. Each blog post, journalist mention, SEO optimization (only the legit kinds), and AdWord click will pay a small dividend; and the key is to scale that over and over to build a solid base of users.
posted by fremen at 9:44 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Its slightly terrifying to realise it took him 5 years to target the actual product's users rather than handing money to whoever wanted to sell him ad space. His own customer databases could have given him a reasonable geographic and demographic segmentation to start with. Or, you could always ask them.

I wonder if their sales go up with release of new Mac OS systems. That could be a potential route for a paid search campaign focused on people freaking out about their computer dying. Or target near repair shops.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 9:48 AM on November 18, 2014

I signed up for CrashPlan because they offered a seed service - they ship you a USB disk, you ship it back with your data to start the backup, and go from there. Even so, their service has been slow and the process of catching up was interminable.

CrashPlan's deduce and compression algorithms kinda suck and bottleneck your upload. The steps linked in this blog post increased my upstream significantly. There's a followup post with installers/scripts to make the fix for you. (I guess I could always drive down the street and yell at Code42 in person.)
posted by nathan_teske at 3:40 PM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's the TL/DR version of what BackBlaze costs:

A couple years ago I had a hard drive start to crash. I needed to download everything on that disk to a new replacement drive, but something wasn't right about the process. So, I sent a question in to their tech support center (guaranteed response within 12 hours!), and went to bed. It was late.

I reposted my question repeatedly. About 3 days later they finally replied.

BackBlaze is cheap, if you never expect to use them under pressure, in which case navigating their software is rather opaque and tech support is completely unreliable. Of course, that sort of obviates any purpose for them at all.

Moved to Carbonite. No regrets. I've had a drive fail since, but haven't needed tech support for anything. Nonetheless, after that HORRIBLE service from BackBlaze, I put in a bogus service question - and got almost instant response. As a customer of an emergency backup service should.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:09 PM on November 20, 2014

Moved to Carbonite. No regrets.

Huh. Funny, I went in the opposite direction. Had Carbonite a few years ago, it was quite buggy on my Mac. Switched to Backblaze, and have since had two restores on two different laptops, and both times it was seamless.

YMMV I guess.
posted by shivohum at 3:39 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Certainly YMMV - and for the record, my complaint with BackBlaze was their lackadaisical tech support (despite their boasts), not the actual backup program.

But since one doesn't easily get to test a full system restore before it's an emergency, I figure tech support in a clinch is vital.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:30 AM on November 25, 2014

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