Michael Lawrence remembers the exact moment inspiration struck him for BluJaket, his Davenport, Iowa-based geo-targeted mobile coupon startup.
Lawrence was out on a double date with his wife and another couple. After paying for their meal and leaving, he found a mobile coupon on his phone for something he had just paid for.
“I had a mobile offer in my pocket for free tater tot nachos, but I paid for them because I didn’t know I had it,” said Lawrence. “I thought, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Lawrence was inspired to create a mobile coupon platform that was more convenient for customers and restaurants.
He had previously worked in enterprise software consulting and software marketing and understood the marketing needs of small businesses.
“I’ve been in software marketing for a while, and in that time, I was asked to sell things to small businesses that they didn’t need, at prices they couldn’t afford,” said Lawrence. “I wanted to return to that market and bring them something they could afford and benefit from.”
Lawrence spent nearly a year and a half developing BluJaket’s hyper-local marketing software platform.
Businesses pay a $25 a month subscription fee which lets them sign up with their location or multiple locations, create offers and engage with users who have downloaded the BluJaket app.
Aside from affordability and need, Lawrence knew the biggest challenges to getting a business’s mobile coupon marketing to be effective was to get coupons into the hands of customers at the right place and at the right time, and to motivate them to use the coupon immediately.
Lawrence wanted to make the process fun and engaging for users. BluJaket users are “stung” with deals when they’re in a certain area.
“We send offers to people when they’re within a half-mile of a business that’s of interest to them,” said Lawrence. “Whereas most offers expire at the end of a month, our offers are valid anywhere from 12 to 72 hours, so they’re making you either act right away or plan to act.”
Lawrence said that other services can cost thousands of dollars a month, making them unavailable to most small businesses. At $25 a month, BluJaket is an affordable option.
“This is something that’s accessible for almost any business and allows for easy-to-achieve ROI, as well,” said Lawrence. “BluJaket reduces the barrier of entry and puts the power in the hands of the business.”
Another key to their growth is the client database aspect of the platform. As individual businesses grow their own client base, they’re also helping build the shared user database behind the app.
For example, Lawrence said that a user might sign up to get a coupon for a running shoe store, and then see there’s a coupon for a nearby health food store.
“We call that ‘cross-pollination’ when people sign up for one business and then end up finding other ones that they didn’t know about before,” said Lawrence. “That is a benefit of that shared user base.”
BluJaket’s platform launched four months ago, but the startup has already reached its first goal of onboarding 50 customers. Lawrence hopes to have 1,000 BluJaket customers by the end of 2018.
After they’ve fine-tuned the decision-making algorithms that power the platform, they’ll start scaling up to larger cities around the Midwest. First up will be entering new additional markets in Des Moines and Iowa City.
But until then, Lawrence said he’s enjoying BluJaket and what he’s able to do for other small businesses.
“We’re trying to engage with people in a fun and effective way,” said Lawrence. “I’m having a blast every day.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.