This Friday we are joined by David Temple, founder & CEO of Hello Scout and former Director of Product at Klout. David shared with us his experience building out the revolutionary Klout Perks, which metrics he monitors and why he thinks travel is an industry due for digital disruption.
Hi David. Drawing from your experience at companies like Klout, what would you say is a pervasive challenge you faced while building product? Klout Perks was ahead of its time, so maybe we can start there.
At Klout, we used to say that we were building the wings as the plane went down the runway. We had a lot of momentum but we had limited time to experiment with new ideas. Perks was a great program, but it was dependent on the consumer side of the business continuing to grow so when the consumer business slowed down, our revenue model took a hit as well.
That said, is there something you wish you guys have done differently to win that ideal market?
Something Klout did an amazing job with was our PR. We had a controversial idea that got a lot of natural press, and I think we did a good job of building on that press. That momentum was valuable but it also created high expectations. You’re never going to turn away new users, but I wish we’d found a way to set expectations with early users that we had more tools coming that would help them continue to grow and build on their influence.
Now speaking of Hello Scout, why do you think other travel companies like Expedia and Tripit haven’t gone after a similar market opportunity?
There are a couple of dynamics at play. First, we’re focused on the in-destination experience, which is a market that’s only just developing. As recently as 5 years ago, people weren’t using data on their phones when they traveled. Booking activities in-destination instead of pre-arrival is a new thing and the big brands aren’t sure how to address it yet.
Secondly, travel marketplaces have low retention since the average person only travels a couple times a year. Even if you build an amazing product, people forget about it by the time they take their next trip. This means the big travel brands spend more time focused on upfront sales via traditional search/display marketing channels. This creates an opportunity for someone who can find a different way to reach the guest (like we do via hotels).
Getting at the theme of retention and acquisition, are there specific metrics that are of particular importance to you as a product person? What about as a founder or executive?
For us, what we look at is the conversion funnel of hotel guests using Hello Scout. How many people are checking into a partnered hotel, how many of them interact with our experts and how many people book an activity through our experts. From a product perspective, that’s what we’re looking at every day.
From a founder perspective, the most important metric to me is money in the bank. The first thing I think about everyday is “how many months do we have left?”. Making enough money to extend that runway is a daily exercise.
How do you see digital enabling traditionally behind industries, like travel, engaging users in new and exciting ways?
By enabling easy, direct communication between hotels and their guests, we cut out the hassle of a middleman and make it easier for travelers to get off-the-beaten-path. This, in turn, increases repeat bookings and loyalty for hoteliers. Mobile communication puts guests in control of their trip, without having to commit to all the details before they leave home.