The Real Story on Grasshopper Phone Service

Earlier this month I wrote about a service from Grasshoper called grasshopper.jpgSpreadable which was shut down by the company. Unlike most companies which shut down a division or brand, Grasshopper decided to write a four-part series on why they did it. Anyone else would have tried to kill the news. I called the company either marketing geniuses or marketing morons – mentioning that they did get me to write about the story and give them some extra publicity.

Since then I have had time to speak with the company – specifically the company’s Ambassador of Buzz Stephanie Bullis who gave me many answers to the questions I had and more.

Spreadable was shut down without being sold because the company decided it could devote its resources more effectively to Grasshopper than Spreadable – the social sharing/referral/marketing company. To kill a profitable business which could be sold only makes sense if your profits are small and/or you are using shared resources so your expenses aren’t all being charged to the company in question. So this perhaps answers the question once and for all.

Grasshopper for its part has been around now for about eight years and has a total of 40,000 customers and growing. The company’s mission is to empower one-million entrepreneurs and through its Grasshopper phone division as well as its Chargify service has provided service to over 100,000 customers to date. Chargify by the way allows customers to set up recurring charges for its customers.

Speaking of entrepreneurs, the company is all about helping them – even petitioning President Obama to launch November 19th as National Entrepreneur Day – which he did.

In terms of competition, the company competes with 8×8/Packet8 as well as RingCentral. There are a host of others of course but the latter is seen most by the company. Stephanie tells me they are very active online – sending me links to some of the videos (1 and 2) the company has produced as well as explaining they are heavily engaged with Twitter and Facebook. The company does have a Twitter following of over 3,200 which is certainly a solid number and she tells me they provide service through Twitter as well.

Grasshopper also does road shows, small nationwide events and has pooled resources by partnering with other small companies targeting entrepreneurs to spread the word in a guerrilla-marketing like fashion.

The company has also worked with its customers to get them press by leveraging its own relationships with journalists to help companies too small to be able to get written about themselves. In the world of journalism quite often the squeaky wheels get the grease meaning the companies which get written about are the ones who are proactive – reaching out to tell their story to editors and reporters.

I walked away from my conversation impressed – the company has a solid strategy – launch a whole bunch of companies in interrelated spaces and target entrepreneurs and make them more productive. Moreover, it fills the holes in its portfolio by working with companies who also target the same market – and shares resources to boost sales for all involved.

Is it a smart marketing strategy? Yes. Its quite different than virtually all other companies I speak with and in markets where cloud-based vendors are springing up like mushrooms, differentiation is key.

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