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When It's Time to Grow, It's Time to Experiment

How a startup called Bitsbox worked with Staples to explore all of its marketing options.
When It's Time to Grow, It's Time to Experiment
Image credit: Bitsbox
The team behind Boulder, Colo.-based Bitsbox.
By Entrepreneur Partner Studio Staff

When it comes to growing an exciting new business, every option should be explored. That's the mindset the team at Boulder, Colo.-based Bitsbox has taken since starting up in 2014. In regard to promoting the business and acquiring new customers, Bitsbox knew early on that they needed to experiment with digital- as well as print-based marketing strategies.

When Bitsbox was named a Startup to Watch by Entrepreneur and Staples, one perk was that they received complimentary marketing services from Staples. Alex Ostler, Bitsbox's director of revenue--who leads the company's sales, retention, and marketing teams--began collaborating with Staples experts to find the best combination of marketing tactics to move the needle at her company.

The need:

As the Bitsbox product improved and evolved into a 2.0 version, thousands of customers were transitioning from one system to the other. "During the transition we had multiple cohorts of people at various points on the Bitsbox journey, who required different materials and customized messaging," Ostler explains.

Having relied on digital marketing initiatives like paid social media advertising, Bitsbox got to work with print experts at Staples to experiment with direct mail. Thriving small businesses are more likely than others to use all forms of marketing, a new study from Staples shows. Sixty-three percent use social media advertising, 59 percent use online advertising, and 46 percent use print advertising.

Bitsbox's plan was to diversify their messaging channels to acquire new customers and optimize engagement during this transition.

Image credit: Bitsbox

The process:

Over a number of weeks, Ostler collaborated with Staples experts who shared best practices and guided her experimentation planning to ensure Bitsbox reached the right people at the right time with the right material. According to Staples, more than one third of thriving business owners face challenges designing effective marketing materials for their business.

Their discussions on print operations ranged from file prep, paper options, and turn-around times. "We walked away with a solid knowledge on printing logistics, and perhaps more importantly, advice on who to target, how frequently to engage, and baselines for expected results," Ostler says.

Staples essentially established the foundation for Bitsbox's direct mail experimentation. "We were able to churn out some quick customer engagement experiments with Staples and made huge progress in understanding the ins and outs of customer acquisition with direct mail," Ostler says. "The representatives we worked with at Staples were knowledgeable, helpful and responsive."

The results:

Every smart entrepreneur or manager knows that there usually isn't one silver bullet that drives the desired results. Often, the solution is a combination of many, optimized tactics.

The same is true for Bitsbox. The result of their experimentation was the first-hand experience with acquisition strategies that produce a mixture of results. All have their place. "We were able to use a small but effective budget to test direct mail and compare results against our other established acquisition channels," Ostler says.

Utilizing digital channels like paid social media advertising, search engine marketing, and banner ads allows Bitsbox to rapidly optimize their messaging and recover their cost of acquisition. Direct mail, meanwhile, requires multiple touches over a long period of time.

"A conclusive test is immeasurably valuable when you're in a rapid growth stage," Ostler says. "We were able to perform quick print runs and test engagement on new materials. Product decisions made in that process continue to influence our customer's experience, which was the goal."

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Don't Overlook Print When Mapping Out Your Startup Marketing Plan