Help A Reporter Out (HARO) was started in 2007 as a service that connects journalists with sources. It allows journalists to get the information they need on time to meet deadlines and allows sources to get free press by giving information, interviews, and quotes to journalists. What started as a Facebook group grew quickly into the world’s largest free source repository.
When asked what the keys to the success of HARO were, Founder Peter Shankman displayed his clear focus on the importance of listening to and pleasing the consumer. “You have to listen to your audience and you have to give them what they want,” said Shankman. “The more you listen to your audience, the better chance you have of doing well.”
Focusing on pleasing online readers and customers is nothing new to Shankman. He started his blog Shankman.com in 1995, is founder and CEO of social media and marketing firm Geek Factory, and is recognized as one of the leading experts in email marketing and social media. The focus on the customer, which in HARO’s case was both the journalist and knowledgeable sources, is the force behind HARO’s success.
From daily emails promoting opportunities for journalists, to literally asking what their customers wanted, HARO excels in email marketing and customer service, and that all started with Shankman.
Shankman sold HARO to Vocus in 2010 but stayed with the company for several years afterwards. He recently left Vocus to work on several other projects, including his new company Shankman Honig. Shankman Honig is a B2B customer service company that changes companies’ ideas of what customer service is. “Companies think of customer service as a cost basis. My logic is that if you do it right, it’s actually a profit center. If you make your employees and customers love you, they will do your PR and handle your customer service for you.”
Customer service is the best form of marketing a company can have. If you want to grow your business, please your customer. As Peter Shankman says it best, “Focus on giving things that really benefit the company. If you want to benefit your company, benefit your customer first. Give your customer good stuff and they will love you. Once they love you, they will talk about you.”
Listen to the full interview and read the interview highlights below.
- Most important marketing efforts to focus on as a startup – learn as much as possible about your company and audience and the best way to give them information. “Listen, they will tell you, but you have to listen.”
- E-Mail marketing mistakes that startups and young entrepreneurs often make – sending and posting things before knowing what customers actually want.
- “You’ll be told no a lot, get used to it.”
- “You can’t make something viral, focus on making something good and it will go viral by default”
- Best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs – “If you’re not having fun, stop doing it.” “I’ve seen so many startups fail because they are not doing it for the right reasons.”