After a handful of failed business, Stuart McKeown finally got it right. In just three years, he and cofounder John Sherwood grew their marketing growth platform–Gleam.io–to nearly half a million users.
Now with over 10,000 paying customers, including names like HubSpot and Spotify, they’re running a seven-figure business.
And on the way, they got crushed by a giant bamboo-eating algorithm.
How to fail, then succeed big time
One of Stuart’s first ideas came while managing a coupon code website. He spent loads of time manually creating web pages and updating coupon codes. And this seriously restricted the number of clients he could manage.
So he collaborated with John to automate the process. And their solution quickly started pulling in $10K, then $50K, every month. And then Google Panda came along and wiped out 90% of their business overnight. Darn bears.
Next up? They tried a Pinterest website, managed coupons for businesses, and even wrote a script to benchmark web hosting servers. Some ideas did better than others, none hit the jackpot.
And then they saw it.
While running marketing campaigns at his day job, Stuart had to manually connect different campaign tools. Wouldn’t it be nice if all those apps easily snapped together into a single platform?
So Stuart and John set out to scratch their own itch: too much friction to create integrated marketing campaigns.
Gleam.io was born—a suite of marketing apps to drive growth through product giveaways, rewards, and user feedback.
Their prototype blew away previous campaign results, and grabbed plenty of attention. At the official product launch a few months later, they already had ten paying customers. And they just kept going.
One secret is Stuart’s approach to customers:
“Don’t promise something you can’t deliver. But always try to deliver more than you promise.”
The other key lies in the product.
The secret ingredient: integrations
Early failures often hold clues to upcoming success.
Stuart knew they needed to integrate with big names like Facebook and Instagram. But they also wanted to make sure that if Facebook killed competitions tomorrow that Gleam wouldn’t go belly up. Remember Google Panda?
So they made Gleam a modular product. Now companies can integrate other apps with Gleam’s platform with almost zero friction.
Need to integrate your campaign with Twitter? Gleam’s got it covered–along with YouTube, Pinterest, and just about any social media channel you can think of.
Did you know that surveys and quizzes are magic for lead generation? Now Gleam integrates with Typeform to incentivize form completions in campaigns.
— Gleam (@gleamapp) January 21, 2016
Using Typeform’s API, Gleam makes sure people complete the survey or quiz before giving them entries or awards. This saves marketing agencies a huge headache when it comes to verifying their data.
It’s the integrated platform Stuart always wanted. And to keep business running smoothly, Stuart’s also got a pretty slick way to attract new customers and talent to Gleam.
Where do I sign up?
Asking people to supply personal information through their digital devices is no one’s cup of tea. And Stuart drinks a lot of tea (really). So he needs to ask in a way that fits Gleam’s brand.
How do they do it? Stuart explains:
Check out these examples:
- Get started through their agency sign-up typeform
- Apply for an open job position
- Sign up to Gleam’s private Slack channel
Clean, beautiful, branded.
Now, potential customers and employees get a unified Gleam experience from beginning to end. As Stuart puts it:
And what happens when users complete a typeform?
It depends. Stuart uses logic jumps to send people to different places based on their answers in the typeforms. So, if an agency signs up with a big budget, they’re automatically sent to Calendly to schedule a call with the sales team.
Other typeforms send people to Gleam’s growth hacking guides. It keeps people engaged with their brand by providing useful info for growing a business.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy, but failing to success is typical for entrepreneurs.
I’ll leave you with one of Stuart’s hacks for his own success:
“Start your day as a producer, not as a consumer. Don’t get up and read the news, get up and make something.”
Inspiring advice. Want to see how Stuart put his typeforms together? You can learn more here.
And now, what company are you looking to launch?