Talking about PC these days can lead us into the minefield of political correctness, which is best left to the “Ivory Tower” types. We could easily delve into personal computing and the death spiral of the desk-top business model. When talking with Vancouver’s Rick Perreault, CEO and one of six co-founders of Unbounce the conversation about PC is always about redefining “post-click” marketing.
November 2009 was the first time I first heard Perreault pitch his idea about the value of landing pages. It was probably his first public pitch. At that time he was one of Canada’s twenty up and coming digital media companies to present their ventures at the Fusion Forum, to top tier investors from North America, including Google Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners and SoftTech VC. When all was said and done, there was a lot of collective head shaking and “WTF is a landing page??”
Sticking with the vision and maintaining a healthy dose of perseverance, Perreault counts at least one of the doubters from that day as a key investor and supporter today. Today also, the Unbounce team stands at just over 30 people and growing.
They’re building on the founders’ original idea of allowing marketers to act independently from technical teams, while improving efficiency and their ability to generate sales. It’s all about producing high-converting landing pages without dealing with I.T. bottlenecks.
Part of the reason that Unbounce is approaching five thousand paying customers, and is profitable based on their current revenues, is the experience and maturity of the founding team. According to Perreault “it wasn’t about having the answers. We asked a lot of questions before moving forward. I needed enough proof and validation to convince five others to quit their jobs, consulting work, drop their clients and go full time on this. At the time these are people in their late 30’s & early 40’s with families & mortgages. You need a lot more than an idea to convince your co-founders to spend their life savings and not get paid for 18 months while we do this.”
For Perreault it was this process of “asking questions and talking to other marketers where we started realizing there was a considerable amount of shared pain. We heard it over and over that landing pages are important, but we can’t get them done because of having to involve IT and development. He lived with the knowledge that “I don’t control IT, plus they don’t think this marketing need is important.”
He’s seen the evolution of marketing tools from the likes DoubleClick to Google Analytics and to MailChimp chipping away at IT, but knew the landing page was the last piece in IT’s domain.
At this moment Perreault sees Unbounce well positioned in the middle of the online sales funnel. They have been driven by asking, “what happens after someone clicks on an ad (hence the “post-click marketing” label) because there was a time when no one gave a shit about this. It was all about how many impressions, how many people are seeing our banners, how many people are clicking on our banners, but no one asked how many people actually went to our home page?
From day one this was not as much an engineering challenge but an education challenge. Perreault notes that “no one was searching for a landing page builder. We were talking about pains and best practices for online marketers with a specific focus on conversion rate optimization. We started our blog the day we started coding.” The upside of practicing what they preached, he said, was that “we had leads the day we launched, we had built an audience, and other industry thought leaders were referring to our content.”
At times Perreault still thinks, “what we do isn’t mainstream, the whole idea of unique landing pages for all of your unique traffic sources, keyword groups, A/B testing, heatmaps, and analyzing what happens on your website, still seems to be over the head of even experienced marketers. There’s still a lot of marketing people not doing this in spite of the market maturing some.”
Looking towards the future Perreault highlights the need to deliver an excellent mobile user experience. “We need to be making it easier for marketers to publish their content cost effectively to our mobile devices. It has to be easily digestible as well. Dealing multiple browsers, multiple devices, and various screen sizes has to be more manageable. Let’s get this right first, then we can talk more about the future of mobile commerce, personalized storefronts, and delivery of personalized content.”