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The Unpleasant Truth About (the Lack Of A) Marketing Strategy, Part 1

Roar Marketing Concepts interviews David Baxter, Chief Pixel, at Big Pixel

Ken Wood, ROAR Marketing Concepts Founder & CEO, recently sat down with David Baxter, Chief Pixel at Big Pixel. Big Pixel is provider of software development expertise that helps startups and businesses make their web- and mobile-based application ideas a reality.
Through their unique client engagement process, Big Pixel emphasizes the importance of measuring the market potential and mapping out the launch strategy of a particular software application idea. Big Pixel also sees it as their role to be “brutally honest” with clients (perhaps at the expense of future business) when they perceive these key fundamentals have been overlooked.

This article is the first installment in a series that highlights Big Pixel’s bold approach to customer engagement.

KEN WOOD, ROAR MARKETING CONCEPTS: Hello David. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. I reviewed the Big Pixel website and you and I have talked previously. Let’s start off with examining a situation where someone comes to you with an idea for an app or a web site… is it primarily apps that Big Pixel develops?

DAVID BAXTER, BIG PIXEL: Yes, the core of what we do is designing and developing web apps and mobile apps. It depends on what the client needs. We’ve been doing mostly mobile apps, but a lot of people are coming to us wanting web apps, so we’ve been going back and forth with doing both. What sets Big Pixel apart is that building your app or website is only part of what we do. There are a lot of companies that can build your app. Big Pixel builds your startup. There is a big difference.

ROAR: Is there a particular industry vertical that Big Pixel targets?

BIG PIXEL: Small startups… not in any particular industry because we like to build custom software that hasn’t been developed before. Inevitably, that’s a pretty wide gamut… we’ve built everything from mobile health apps to payment apps for restaurants. We built a recruiting app for EmployUs. So, you see, the end-user applications we get into are quite varied. The only thing in common is someone has a problem that isn’t being currently addressed. We get asked all the time by prospective clients “Have you built something similar to what I want?”, and we answer “No… because, if we did, you wouldn’t be here talking to us!”. Then the conversation usually turns to more generic discovery questions like “Have you ever done a payment app?”. “ Sure, we’ve done things like that before.” All this to say that it really doesn’t help us to focus on particular industry verticals since all our projects usually start from scratch.

ROAR: My guess is that clients are hoping Big Pixel might have prior experience with their particular application in order to mitigate risk. They don’t necessarily want to “reinvent the wheel” if they don’t have to.

BIG PIXEL: Sure, that’s true. But, in reality, our prospective clients are “reinventing the wheel” when they bring their unique applications to us. Virtually all of our projects tend to start from scratch.

ROAR: When working with your clients, you talk about a process of idea “breakdown” and “evaluation”. When somebody comes to you with their idea for an app, what type of process do you walk them through to help further define their idea? I’m assuming the outcome of this process is a marketing specification that outlines what you are going to build.

BIG PIXEL: That’s correct. We typically meet with the client for about an hour or an hour and a half just to see if they want to work with Big Pixel and, frankly, whether we want to work with them.

ROAR: Okay, testing to see if there is a fit between you and the client…

BIG PIXEL: Yes, we actually don’t go too far in that first meeting. Mainly, we want to determine whether we can actually work together. The second meeting, called the “exploratory”, is typically four hours in length, and is where we do “practical user interface (UX)” design. In this meeting, we’re asking ‘billions’ of questions, drawing out ideas on the whiteboard, and doing the app ‘flows’ right there in front of the client so that they can see how all their app screens will interconnect. We don’t get down to the deepest level at this meeting but, coming out of it, we have a very good idea of how the app will flow and what its functionality will be. We do talk about monetization and users and… most importantly… from Day 1, how do we get this app in front of people? One of the things we push really hard is: what marketing strategy will the client employ to ensure that their app gets noticed, used, and accepted by the marketplace? There are tons of apps being developed every day and what is the client going to do to make theirs stand out? We call this marketing process “Discoverability” and we “bake” this discoverability into the app development process early on to avoid building an app that really isn’t going to go anywhere. At Big Pixel, we like to think we build great software with every project we take on, but we can’t guarantee that every app we develop will go ‘viral’! (Laughs). We talk with the client about referral programs and other ways to “loop back” users to demonstrate interest. “How will this app gain acceptance? Are users willing to pay for the functionality offered by this app?”

ROAR: So, is offering marketing strategy services a big part of Big Pixel’s value?

BIG PIXEL: No, Big Pixel is not a marketing company. We don’t set up marketing campaigns. What we try and do is remind the client that, in addition to the $50K or $100K they spend to build their app, they need to earmark funds for a user-acquisition strategy that enables them to develop and engage with an audience. Ultimately we want to help them get their first 1,000 to 2,500 users so we can get a good feel of the customer’s lifecycle and what works and what doesn’t.

ROAR: Yes, the laws of marketing are strictly enforced. Ignore them at your own peril.

BIG PIXEL: We tell our clients this all the time. From the very beginning of a project, we want them to embrace this marketing awareness concept so that, as the app is being built, he or she has a clear understanding of who their target user will be and what will be required of them in order to attract users to be interested in their app. Also, there needs to be an incentive for the app user to share it with others.

ROAR: Very important to get this on the table from the get-go.

BIG PIXEL: Now there are some situations where opportunities for user sharing could be more challenging. For example, suppose we develop an app designed to help people who are clinically depressed. Chances are, they are not going to their friends, “Hey, check out this app for depressed people… it’s great!”. This is an isolated example but, the point is, we push our clients hard to think about and make investments in how they plan to create awareness about their app.

ROAR: Okay, what are some of the typical outcomes of this ‘exploratory’ meeting?

BIG PIXEL: In some cases, after this meeting, we’ve changed our client’s business model completely. The client comes in with an idea, they think they know how it works, but they really don’t know how software technology works. We give them ideas that they never thought of or they never thought were possible… which is a lot of fun. Sometimes we are brutally honest with the clients by saying “Dude, that idea of yours isn’t going to go anywhere!”.

ROAR: So, you’re saying Big Pixel isn’t afraid to tell clients the ugly truth then the need arises.

BIG PIXEL: Yes, we actually become more opinionated as the relationship with the client progresses because we want them to be successful. We challenge them vigorously before we ever write a line of code. We tell them, “Don’t spend your money until you have a pilot ready to go.”. We also tell them to identify 2-5 people who will be truly honest with them about the viability of their app idea as it unfolds. These people will receive the app for free in exchange for their unfiltered feedback regarding the app’s overall value, usefulness and customer experience. If the client doesn’t have this feedback mechanism in place, we’re not afraid to tell them that they need to get it in place before they start working with Big Pixel. We’re not afraid of turning clients away who we feel do not have a good chance at succeeding. If we don’t do this, they ultimately won’t be happy… and neither will we.

ROAR: David, thanks for your time today. We look forward to doing a deeper dive with you on your client interaction process. I’m sure our readers will find it quite enlightening!

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