While Peter Tanham and Garrett Reynolds were keen to launch SparkPage – a new service to help companies develop quality mobile sites – they had to hold back for almost two years until the market was ready for them. "We needed the penetration of smartphones to reach a certain level for the model to work and once it went over 70 per cent we hit the button," Peter Tanham says.
"Mobile selling is the bread and butter of the mobile phone operators but something 'ordinary' businesses are only starting to come to grips with," says Tanham, a former marketing manager with Vodafone.
“Their websites were designed to be viewed on a desktop not on a mobile device yet every time a company runs an online advertising campaign, sends an email or even tweets, almost half the audience will see it on a smartphone. Then when they click on the ad they are not brought to a mobile-ready destination. Oversized images, awkward page sizes and poor layout causes most customers to abandon the page without making a purchase or engaging any further. That’s a huge waste of an advertising budget.”
SparkPage is an online platform comprising a suite of web publishing and messaging tools designed to help companies acquire and retain mobile customers. Its typical users will be marketeers who can use it to create a mobile marketing page. The system is “drag and drop” so no technical skills are required. Videos, product images, forms and e-commerce features can all be included. The service, which went live in spring this year, is being hosted by Amazon Web Services whom Tanham says gave the start-up very good support.
SparkPage has been developed from the founders' own resources which Tanham describes as "a small amount of money and a very large amount of time". The company has also been supported by Enterprise Ireland through the DIT New Frontiers programme and has just taken on its first employee. Tanham expects about 10 jobs to be created by the end of year one.
Customers will pay a monthly fee (not yet finalised) to access the service and SparkPage's initial target market is medium- to large-sized businesses. It is already working with O2, Meteor, Prepay Power and Eircom in Ireland and with games-maker Activision in the US.
“Instead of setting up a sales office and sending sales reps out to meet clients, we’re building an online marketing operation to build our sales pipeline,” Tanham says. “We engage with leads by phone or Skype, but no face-to-face meetings. It’s a relatively new technique that allows us to scale our sales very rapidly while keeping costs down.”