Green Spaces is New York City’s sustainable coworking space for startups, entrepreneurs, and others who enjoy working happily while improving the world. Members from diverse and overlapping fields make us NYC’s networking hotspot for the eco-minded. I’m Marissa Feinberg, Green Spaces co-founder, marketing and PR media whisperer, and rapid dot connector. See my recent interview about Green Spaces on Mashable.
Idea Bounce goes digital!
Each Wednesday, members gather for the Green Spaces “Idea Bounce,” also known as “startup therapy with dumplings,” to get to know each other better and share news. Then, one person or company introduces a challenge they’re facing, and the group bounces ideas, recommending strategies and contacts. I’ll be sharing some of what we discover on this blog.
How to launch in a new market
At a recent Idea Bounce we brainstormed with Odile Beniflah, Senior Product Manager at carpooling.com. The company is the word’s largest carpooling network with 3.7 million users in Europe, where the concept has caught on almost ubiquitously.
The U.S. market is carpooling.com’s next frontier, and it’s a challenge. With exceptions of some major cities, the ability to drive wherever and whenever is part of the American Dream! We all like to control the radio! (More on carpooling.com and American resistance to carpooling.)
So, Odile asks, how should carpooling.com woo the American market?
Don’t canvas; dig deep
Tie the U.S. launch of carpooling.com to specific events or communities, with giveaways and promotions, rather than use a broad campaign approach. Making alliances with local partners is crucial (one idea that kept bouncing back).
Why not sponsor a conference, so people can find carpools via carpooling.com during the registration process? This came up when we realized another person in the room and I were both headed to this week’sConscious Capitalism conference in Boston. Bummer I already booked Amtrak!
What if there’s a carpooling.com widget on an airport’s website? What if carpooling.com spread the word around college campuses when students are making plans to go home for the holidays? Organizations that encourage ride sharing will get value with the convenience and differentiator of offering carpooling.com’s service.
Get a tour guide
The first thing I do when I’m headed someplace I’ve never been is figure this out: Who do I know there who knows what’s there? And then I give them a great host gift. New markets aren’t un-penetrated; it’s just not yet been done by you.
Green Spacers went into bundling mode, brainstorming what kind of partner service could work with carpooling.com. Where else do savvy, mobile, educated, social, and eco-conscious people, aka carpooling.com’s target market, go? There’s couchsurfing.org, there’s airbnb.com. There’s okcupid.com (maybe a campaign about making it easier to date people in other cities?) and what if Facebook users could post to their feed the destination, enjoyability, and pictures of their latest trip? How about celebrities showing up at red carpet events in carpooling.com carpools? (Okay, Odile didn’t love all of our ideas here, but that’s why we bounce them around first!)
It isn’t just about YOUR brand
Carpooling.com has a friendly, sensible feel. The website is minimalist, gently suggesting that “being on the road can be cheap, green, and fun.”
But as Odile put it, it isn’t just carpooling.com’s personality that’s important here. The company aims, essentially, to change the way people think about their transportation and mobility.
It’s a huge challenge for sure, but deep diving into the customer mindset — and culture — is key to understanding the marketplace. We might need a couple more Idea Bounces and platters of dumplings for this one…
Laura Grasso, content strategist + writer and Green Spaces New York member, contributed to this post.