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Grasshopper Engages People in Order to Build a Global Brand

When Grasshopper became a Mashable Open Web Awards finalist in the Online Voting Round One for their Chocolate Grasshopper social media campaign (see Marcom Writer posts about the campaign here and here), the team began brainstorming ways to engage people and get them to vote for Grasshopper.

“The Mashable Awards voting is very clever,” says Jonathan Kay (@GrasshopperBuzz), Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, “because you can vote once per 24 hours versus one vote, one person. When you vote, a Tweet is sent out. So the question for us was, ‘How do we engage people and get them to vote?’”

The most obvious step included monitoring Tweets — and ensuring they could personally respond to each person who voted for the Grasshopper campaign.

“We began responding to people on Twitter,” said Jonathan, “and here is the wonderful thing about social media. A family-owned ice-cream store, Shorty’s Ice Cream, in Kingston, MA voted for us. They don’t have a huge following on Twitter, but the fact that they are on Twitter is awesome.

“I personally responded to the owner, Sheila Libby, via Twitter and thanked her for her vote. I later learned that Sheila is a second cousin to one of our IT people. She was very happy that we responded to her tweet and now she knows who I am — hence, a new relationship.”

According to Jonathan, the company uses social media tools like Twitter to listen and respond to people. (One look at Jonathan’s timeline and you’ll see he carries on conversations with people versus posting product pitches).

Using social media to engage customers

As a former sales guy, Jonathan figured he should track the people he met and talked with on Twitter to see if they signed up for the company’s virtual phone system. His boss, however, disagreed with this tactic.

“David [Hauser, the CEO] said, ‘It doesn’t matter whether they signed up due to Twitter or other social media — because they *are* signing up. What we’re doing is engaging people one-on-one and over the years we’ll build a loyal fan base — which will result in sales.’”

This approach to engaging people — both prospects and customers — is the cornerstone of Grasshopper’s goal of becoming the global brand for entrepreneurship.

“When people think of entrepreneurs,” says Jonathan, “we want them to think of Grasshopper.”

Grasshopper = Entrepreneurial thinking

To meet this goal, the company is committed to helping entrepreneurs. Actions include starting The Grasslands Blog, which according to Jonathan, has been a success.

Instead of being written by one person in marketing (i.e. Jonathan), the blog has multiple authors and includes inspirational posts from the CEO to how-to tips, such as how to dial a vanity number on your BlackBerry.

The blog also includes a fabulous list of the top 10 podcasts for entrepreneurs. Writes Jonathan on the blog:

...a trend I’ve recognized lately is that podcasts are slowly becoming the most popular and convenient source of information. Unlike blogs, you can take them anywhere and listen to them anytime. So, being the insanely curious person I am (and going back to my opening statement), can you guess what I did? I Googled “Top Entrepreneur Podcasts.

After finding only one site which reviews podcasts for entrepreneurs, Jonathan put together a list of the top 10 podcasts for entrepreneurs — again cementing the company’s commitment to being a resource for entrepreneurs. The post was retweeted dozens of times and is now one of the top results for the search phrase.

“Tell us your story” campaign

The media find entrepreneurs interesting, says Jonathan, because entrepreneurs are different. To take advantage of this, Grasshopper has started a new “Tell Us Your Story” forum where Grasshopper customers can tell their stories. The company then tries to get press for its customers.

“This campaign is a win-win,” says Jonathan. “Our customers win with increased exposure. We win because we get to know our customers on a very detailed level. We’re learning how our customers develop new products and services, how they think, and the challenges they face as entrepreneurs.”

Grasshopper builds on these relationships by sponsoring dinners whenever team members travel. For example, David, the CEO, recently had dinner with 25 Grasshopper customers in Kansas City.

“How many people can say they had dinner with the CEO of the company they do business with?” asks Jonathan. “Not many. This type of engagement is really important to David — he definitely lives what he preaches.”

Company Facts

Founded: 2003 — Started out as GotVMail Communications after identifying the need for an easy-to-use virtual phone system for entrepreneurs that wouldn’t break the bank.

Brand: Changed name to Grasshopper in May 2009

Number of employees: 45

Physical location: Needham, MA

Product: Virtual phone system designed for entrepreneurs