What has a Load Shedding Notifier service got to do with an online investing company? Absolutely nothing. But that didn’t stop entrepreneurs Mark Mayer and Dwaine van Vuuren of Sharenet from launching their app, which has now helped over 140 000 subscribers stay out the dark, and won them some fans in the process.
What inspired you to develop the notifier?
Dwaine: It stemmed from a frustration with load shedding and the communication methods used by Eskom. With a development team at our disposal, we knew we could devise a system that would ease the public’s pain by delivering customised early warning alerts; and keeping them up to date with unexpected events. We started with an email service and then developed an Android app. We plan on adding an app for IOS (Apple).
This is a free service that is not linked to Sharenet’s core offering. What are the benefits to your business?
Mark: We were completely taken aback by the enormous uptake – we thought that if a few hundred local businesses took up the service that would be a lot. As a result, we had a baptism of fire into the mass-alerting space on email and via mobile and this experience will help us in the future for Sharenet, with notifications around the stock market.
From a marketing point of view, we have benefitted from the brand exposure that this ‘social project’ has delivered. Many clients who had never heard of Sharenet have come to hear about it and are associating innovation and useful data provision with our business.
Positive examples include goodwill messages on social media and big jumps in site visits and page views. We’ve also seen an increase in workshop bookings, opening of online trading accounts and stock exchange course enrolments.
What advice do you have for businesses considering similar initiatives, that don’t directly tie in with their core offering?
Dwaine: Don’t underestimate the costs and time that can accrue before you start to obtain non-financial benefits. This project has sapped a lot of our resources and we’ve often had to decide whether we could justify further work on it from a business point of view. We have persevered and resisted the temptation to charge for the service, and are instead rolling out a premium sponsorship opportunity to help offset costs.
Mark: In order to really leverage off the innovation, you need to harness the power of viral marketing and try to make use of social media channels while doing so. We would never have received the interest we have had it not been for all our subscribers sharing, liking and recommending our service to friends and family.
>> This article first appeared in the June/July issue of Your Business magazine.