Recently launched, SpaceBox is an online personal storage service and the first of its kind in South Africa. As such, the marketing is key to ensuring South Africans know what the on-demand service does, and how it works. Bettina Moss delivers the case study.
It was important for SpaceBox to be first to market. “I believe South Africans are loyal. Once they trust you to provide a service, you’re more likely to build a lasting relationship.“ says Hjalmar Venter, SpaceBox founder.
Venter admits that all SpaceBox marketing activity has developed organically as opposed to following a strict set-down marketing strategy.
No newcomer to marketing, Venter took it as a major subject at university and was further exposed to excellent sales and marketing training and experience during his time spent working for a world-class corporate business.
“Marketing has always been a passion of mine. I believe it’s one of the key fundamentals for the success of any business,” said Venter.
“I believe that marketing is an art. It’s not a science. With a new concept like SpaceBox, you don’t have much of an idea what’s going to work and what doesn’t. We’re trying out every avenue. We’re testing everything. If it doesn’t work – we try something else! The science comes once you’ve performed the art. The science is in the measurement. And we’re still creating awareness right now. It’s still early days. We’ve only been going for three months.”
SpaceBox is part of the XtraSpace group of companies, and as such it’s important that the brand design and ethos is aligned throughout the business.
The campaign around the launch started simply. Venter opted for a soft launch, which gave the company the opportunity to test the market. Originally it was nothing more than a splash web page and a Facebook page. The splash page let people know that the service was planning to launch in a few weeks time and how it worked, along with a call to action to sign up. While this was in place Venter developed the service and logistics behind it, put the launch strategy together and built the website.
Being part of the XtraSpace group meant that SpaceBox had access to a large existing customer database as well as the infrastructure in place to support the launch with an email campaign.
Venter believes that email marketing facilitates better engagement as a non-disruptive form of communication. “It allows people to look at what you’re selling if they want to”, he says.
The parent company, XtraSpace, has 30 branches around the country which meant that SpaceBox could make use of all of these as points-of-sale. Venter personally gave sales training to all the branch facility managers who are also given printed glossy brochures to distribute to potential customers.
SpaceBox includes both digital and offline marketing in the mix.
The launch campaign is making use of Google AdWords and Google banner advertising is also being tested.
The launch campaign included print advertising in Die Burger newspaper which carried through on Die Burger’s website. Pamphlets and flyer drops are also part of the SpaceBox direct marketing strategy.
Venter believes that a social media presence is crucial to building awareness and facilitating engagement with his consumers. “SpaceBox is an online service and we need to be where our customers are – online,” said Venter. SpaceBox is actively building a community on social media through their Facebook page and more recently, on Twitter. Facebook advertising has also been effective in sending traffic to their website.
The digital PR campaign has worked effectively to produce content and backlinks for SEO and Google rankings.
SpaceBox is a premium service product and the company makes use of billboards and street pole ads to drive awareness in high-density areas where property prices are expensive.
Activations are an important element in the SpaceBox marketing mix. So far, this has included activations at several shopping malls as well as exhibiting at various expos. This allowed them to connect directly with potential customers and get helpful feedback.
“I had people coming over and asking me what I was doing there. There was a lot of curiosity and it was a great opportunity for us to talk to people and inform them of our service. People signed up for the service there and then,” said Venter.
“We’re open to new ideas and exploring new types of marketing. I believe it’s absolutely crucial for any start-up to follow the guerrilla tactics of marketing,” said Venter. He cites Jay Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days as a valuable resource and reference for start-ups or any company trying to establish itself and get ahead, while bootstrapping on a minimal budget.
“The priority of a start-up is to get customers quickly. You don’t have time or money to work on brand-building. It’s all about driving sales and revenue. You need to focus on where your customers are and tell them about your service,” said Venter.
Venter believes it’s important to stay flexible and to be able to change what’s not working immediately. “I believe in ‘failing fast’. You’ve got to be in the market, not worrying about getting everything 100% perfect before you launch, because you can’t do that. There will be angles you’ve missed. There will be things you haven’t explored and there will be a better way to do something. You have to stay curious and keep learning, keep researching and refining continuously. I’m constantly exploring different avenues, looking at new technologies and innovations to communicate with consumers. It’s always a work in progress,” he said.
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