At TrustSpot, we’re all about openness and transparency, and so now that we’re hitting another major milestone we wanted to share with you how we got started. Every business is created to solve a problem, and at TrustSpot we saw a large opportunity in a crowded market, and our execution has been working great for us. .
We’re certainly “not perfect”, but we do our best to create an amazing platform for our customers, and we will continue to do so.
The year was 2013, and both myself and Larry we’re managing an eCommerce store that was doing around $350,000 per year in revenue. It was a project we first launched in 2010, and were growing over time. Occasionally we had to hire a few resources, either to help with design, server management or even a few day to day tasks – such as customer service, or competitor research.
One of the constant issues we faced was conversion rate. We had a great site, and pretty good pricing – compared to what the other guys out there were at. However, our conversion rate was not good (in my opinion) ... it could have been much better. Knowing our problem we set out to find a solution, and that led us to customer reviews.
So like any business, we started to research the customer reviews market – looking for both company & product reviews. The results were a bit underwhelming to say the least. We narrowed down our list to about 6 places and started doing demos with each one. What we found stunned us a bit, because I guess we were under the impression that customer review platforms were more affordable and without so much effort required.
One company we spoke to .. let’s call them “Mr. TP”, offered us an OK set of features but lacked product reviews, and we felt their aggressive sales people we’re a bit too much. The problem for us with Mr. TP was 3 fold:
Features – There were a few items on our list that we really wanted, but this company didn’t have. When we asked “why” .. we never really got a straight answer, it was more about shifting blame than anything else..
Price – This is what really got to us – was how expensive the solution was. At the time they were charging $599 per month + 1 year contract (paid upfront) .. although at the time of this article’s release, their now at $299 per month (still with the 1 year contract).
Support – This was largely handled by Email or Phone (if we paid more). I couldn’t quite understand why a company would charge me more just to have better support?
So with that, we completed our rounds and decided to sit down one Friday night and go over everything that we found.
We couldn’t find a company that really hit all 3 marks, or in some cases, they were just hitting 1 out of 3 items. So we thought “There has to be other companies out there – like us, who are having this problem”. We than went to a few popular eCommerce forums and just started asking people .. “Who do you use for reviews?” .. Some mentioned the ones we looked at, but others just said “Nobody, everybody is too expensive”.
This was our light-bulb moment.
Within a week – we had a basic understanding of what we wanted to build, who we wanted to target, and a small idea around pricing. We knew 100% for sure in the early days that we did NOT want to require a contract for the user to sign – just to use us. That seems completely unnecessary and crazy, so we avoided that.
Since Larry and I have worked in the past on several other projects, we felt comfortable with our tasks ahead of us, and set out to build TrustSpot... Although at the time the project was called “RatingsBuddy”; it wasn’t until early 2015 that we shifted to the “TrustSpot” name.
We opted to build the platform ourself instead of hiring outside resources as we felt this was “our baby” and only felt confident in ourselves to build the project. We also wanted to make sure that if TrustSpot did grow in the future, we wanted a solid foundation.
After several private beta tests for select customers, and several personal life events, we put a date forward to launch the public version of the platform in March 2015. Whereas our first “Private beta” was released in April 2014, and we used the customer feedback over those months in between to better build out the product and site.
When we launched the company, we had limited knowledge on how to market this type of business, because this was our first “SaaS B2B” based company. We first took to the forums and reached out to businesses (some of whom used us in private beta) to get them to sign up and check it out.
Within 48 hours, we had our first sale ($79 plan), and at that moment we knew we had a winner.
At the time of launch we had our pricing set to: Free / $29 / $79 / $149 / $399 ... and I’m happy to report that 3 years later – our pricing has NOT increased at all. Despite growing our employee base and expanding our platform throughout the world.
Our goal from Day 1 was to create a reviews & content marketing platform for small and medium sized businesses. As we felt this was an under-served market, especially considering our competitors pricing + contract stance.
Many times prospective customers ask us “Why are you so much cheaper than X, what’s the catch?” .. And the answer I have to that question (all the time) .. Is that there’s no catch, and than I go on to talk about why we created TrustSpot, who our ideal customer is, and why we reflect that in our pricing.
TrustSpot is a profitable company which has created jobs throughout the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. We have never received any form of investment in the company, and was completely bootstrapped by our savings. We took a risk on an idea, and so far its working out great.
2017 was one of our best years yet, as we added thousands and thousands of new customers, expanded our company into Europe by opening an office in London, UK , tripled our employee count, and released around 30 new features and optimizations.
We see 2018 as an even better year, as we’re introducing some really awesome new features this Spring, and we can’t wait to get our customer’s feedback on them.
We’re looking forward to everything this year brings for us.