Monday, September 6, 2010

Update business-side

It's been a long time since my last post. The summer went by so quickly. With my partner Steven Milstein, we have focused on building a generic tool for golfers and golf courses. This post summarizes the latest developments.

The product name

The product name Twetailer is now Twetailer was chosen when Twitter started to become mainstream and was made of a combination of Twitter and Retailer. The project Dretailer (more in a future post) was name from Android and Retailer, and we thought about having a variation per connector type. is better because it really illustrates that our offer is about a business platform in a global economy, with social networks involved, in a new way of connecting people—and it is not tinted by any service du jour. More information on Steven's blog post The Twouble with Twetailer. a dedicated implementation provides a generic multi-channel communication engine, conveying messages among consumers and retailers according to the given location and some search criteria. Whenever we explained what's the product is about, potential consumers understood but were blocked when it was time to formulate one of their needs... We knew then we needed to offer a very simple interface where users can post demands without thinking twice about it!

At one point, we met Marc Bienstock who offered to help us building such an interface for golfers! According to Marc:
  • When a golfer has a chance to play (because his wife gave him the permission ;), he usually calls his buddies to find three of them who are free too.
  • Then he has to call a golf courses to book a round at the agreed on time, maybe with one or many pull carts, one or two golf carts, etc.
  • If the booking goes well, he calls his buddies to give them the golf course coordinates.
  • If it does not work, he calls another club or calls his buddies with the time of the available rounds.
  • Way too many phone calls to be able to spend a minimum of $200 for 4 players!
  • On the golf course-side, they have to deal with so many phone calls; some of them have a system queuing calls up to 50!
  • Average time spent on the phone per caller is too long, and many are useless because they cannot screen them.
  • When a round stays free, it's an average of $200 lost.
So end-of-July, we launched which allows:
  1. One golfer can submit a request for a tee-off from one central place and it will be broadcasted to all participating golf courses around the given location. The golfer can specify the e-mail addresses of his buddies so they'll be cc'ed for all exchanged messages.
  2. Golf courses are provided a Web console which displays all requests posted in their area. According to their schedule, they can propose rounds—the price per round and the total cost should be documented. Golf courses don't have to watch the console indefinitely as can notify them by e-mail, SMS or tweet.
  3. Proposals are sent back to request initiator by e-mail (his buddies receive a copy if he gave their e-mail addresses). At this step, the golfer can wait for more proposals to come. If he wants to book it, a simple link in the e-mail will generate a response to be sent by e-mail to
With, golfers can get tee-off proposals with just few clicks. Golf courses get all demands electronically and can focus on the ones they can propose a round to (others are simply declined). Buddies of the golfers are notified at each step of the process automatically. No more infinite phone calls ;)

We interviewed many golfers and they confirmed the golfer's pain. With some visits to golf courses, we've confirmed the courses' pain too. The difficulty we have is that we're not sales people and it's hard to close a deal with golf courses... Knowing that the season is almost finished here, that our business model is probably too expensive for the golf courses, that we need good marketing materials, we're going to tune the offer and be ready for the 2011 season.

The reseller and influencer programs

The project has been beneficial for us on many points:
  • With the widget, we have another way to reach consumers: influencers (bloggers, Facebook groups, associations' site, for example) can embed it into their webpages.
  • If dedicated Web consoles are available to golfers and golf courses, all operations can be done with e-mails, which is the most pervasive communication tool.
  • The original messages produced by the engine were short to accommodate the Twitter limitation of 140 characters per message. These ones were cryptic to too many people. The variation of these messages for e-mail are now much friendlier and contains links ready to forward the readers' response.
  • We'll simplify the pricing model thanks to the received feedback.
But the most significant development is the offer of the influencer program:
  • Each influencer will receive 25% of the revenues generated by consumers confirming demands posted with their copies of the widget.
  • An influencer can propose one or many widgets anywhere on the Web he reaches his/her community.
  • We'll work with influencers to customize the widgets for his/her community.
In parallel, we developed the reseller program to share 25% of the revenues generated by retailers proposing goods or services with

It's possible that some well organized enterprises will be their own reseller (cut of 25%) and will drive requests with their copies of the widget (another cut of 25%) but that's fine. We'll make some money if they make some, and they'll have a good discount if they help driving more traffic (which means more business to them).

Next steps

On business side, Steven and I are looking for resellers that will help to bring to the next level. We are also trying to develop another domain specific implementation, another skin on the top of the engine.

On the technical side, if everything works perfectly for the users, I need to document the widget usage and the REST API used by the Web consoles. I need also to enable the Facebook connector for influencers to communicate on this platform as they can do on Twitter. There's also the Android application (project dretailer mentioned above) to update to benefit from the Android Cloud to Device Messaging (c2dm) mechanism and then to push notifications asynchronously. Still a lot to do but no road block ;)

A+, Dom

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