Meet Gleam, the growth marketing company that facilitated its own growth with a suite of apps aimed at businesses and influencers. Now serving over 5000 businesses, co-founder Stuart McKeown gave Hive Life the scoop.
You’ve probably entered your fair share of giveaways online – after all, who doesn’t love free stuff and a nice surprise once in a while. If you have, chances are, you’ve used one of Gleam’s apps. Founded in April 2013, Gleam is a leading growth marketing platform serving over 5000 businesses with its suite of apps. In the last year alone, their platform generated over 900 million actions. Read on to find out what co-founder Stuart McKeown has to say about Gleam’s business strategy and how its applications can help your very own startup or business thrive.
“Gleam was our sixth or seventh idea that I’d built with my co-founder John. It was originally meant to help us promote some of our other sites, like Storecrowd and Couponzor, that were in the affiliate or online coupons space,” Stuart recounts. “But things just took off.” With considerable experience growing startups, Gleam was a logical progression for the pair, developed as a marketing platform to help users grow their businesses through an online dashboard of apps. “Up until then, we always built something that relied on affiliate commissions. But, affiliate stuff has many pitfalls: poor merchants, non-payments and ever-changing Terms of Service. This was our first foray into building something that people paid us for directly,” he explains.
Gleam offers a comprehensive suite of growth-related apps, mainly used by e-commerce and small businesses, but also by social media influencers and agencies. In their repertoire, they have Competitions, a giveaway app, Gallery, a media displaying app, Capture, a tool to build your email list, and Rewards, an app where you can embed instantly redeemable rewards anywhere on your online content, be it your own website, social media sites or newsletters. “Competitions is by far our most-used app, but we’re trying to build out our suite to allow users to consolidate their options in a single place,” says Stuart. Used by online influencers such as Unbox Therapy on Youtube with over 14 million subscribers, Competitions is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Perhaps less well-known but by no means less important is Gallery: “It is, in my opinion, one of the best on the market for displaying media,” Stuart notes. Prices start at USD 97 per month for the whole suite, and less for an individual app. The entire suite is used by over 5000 startups and influencers, and with abundant success stories like the e-commerce site Jane.com or the online streaming team Twitch Kittens bringing in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of clicks worth of exposure to the business, it’s a fee that the team feel justified in charging.
Gleam’s foray into the market was something its founders took slowly. “We ran all our ventures as side projects and only went full-time when we could replace our corporate wages, which took from late 2008 to mid-2013,” says Stuart. “We were careful with money. We didn’t spend anything during those years until we had enough runway, so, when we did go full-time, it would last us at least two years,” he adds. “Those ventures allowed us to scale revenue to the point where we could afford to dedicate time to Gleam and not worry about getting VC or capital.”
With all that in mind, Stuart has a few invaluable tips for those aspiring to grow and consolidate a healthy startup. “There is no magic bullet when it comes to growth. Growth is a bunch of tiny levers that you can control to either improve your experience or detract from it,” Stuart prefaces. His first lever? Building a strong brand. “Beware of everything you read – you’re often getting a view via rose-tinted glasses. Just find something that users get value from and get your head down and build.” The next is to maintain a smart strategy. “We see a lot of businesses get tunnel-vision on their campaign, not thinking about how it becomes a part of their business or funnel. Users want a product that works and knows its place in the market, so you want to position yourself as the best choice for them,” he adds. And, last but not least, don’t copy without innovating: “There’s always a better way to do something, execute something or put a twist on it that provides value. Copying something else verbatim generally doesn’t work.”
For now, Gleam’s focus remains on retention. “Referral programmes, reviews and loyalty or email management is what we get asked for most by our customers,” Stuart says. In the future, they hope to expand that offering. “But, we want to do it right. We have a high standard and want to make sure we’re allowing users to execute something better than the alternatives,” he explains. “Building out multiple offerings is very hard and adds complexity to your app. There’s something to be said about ‘doing one thing well’ and the warning, ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ It’s a fine balance.”