Year One: The balancing act
by Stuart McCulloh and Michael Koenig, ScoutPro, Inc.
Photo by Iowa Farm Bureau
It was tough to balance everything in the first year of our business. We were students and had classes to attend, new team members to manage, new software to develop and tweak - all while trying to find our first paying customers.
Getting the word out. We attended the Farm Progress Show in August of 2011 with a beta product we could show potential customers that were agronomists and precision coordinators at cooperatives. Our website went live and the “Contact Us” page started receiving traffic. We were new and had an exciting backstory that people at least were interested in knowing what the cost was and how they could get it.
Cultivating potential customers. That winter of 2011-2012 we had conversations over the phone with a select group of potential customers. With an app that hadn’t hit the app store yet, we needed to make sure we had everything ready for them to go. Our goal was to keep a small, but diverse group of agronomy professionals that could provide us quality feedback in year one. We wanted to keep customers close to us in case of a need to travel, and we also looked for customers who were progressive and understanding that we were a new, young, and college attending company. We settled on a list of 12 accounts and began to prepare for the growing season.
The balancing act. It now became a balancing act of class, programming team management for testing and updates, as well as making sure we had consistent customer service when needed. The balancing act also transitioned to building and maintaining our customer base. At first, we were very corn belt focused. We felt that we needed to refine the software and make sure it was bulletproof before we expanded our reach into crops that were further away from us.
Control the growth and improve the product. That became our unwritten motto as we moved through 2013 and 2014. Control the growth, improve the product, dial in the tasks and wait for 2015. To gain this growth, we relied on the good old fashioned cold call, as well as earned media promoting ourselves as the go-to for crop scouting software.
Today we’re still here. We have a good cross section of customers in 15 states that range from the core group of year one signups to brand new customers in 2017. Everyone is always looking for more growth, but the quality of growth is as important as quantity; we have consistent, steady, scalable growth, with a low churn in customers. The software works and does its job. There is always room for improvement, but they’re “nice to have” improvements and not slowing down our paying customers in their day to day operations. This was key above all things. Rather than get carried away with features and updates in the first few years, we’ve tightened up and improved our software to be the best it can be in the field. As we continue to work with integration partners, the new features will come and enhance both company’s software. Customers signed up and called for the quality of software and deliverables of ScoutPro. We had our lists of potential customers that got in touch with us from the beginning and kept them update through email marketing and webinar opportunities. Yet today, we’re still circling back to those that turned us down in the early years to give them an update and get an update from them as well.
Stuart McCulloh & Michael Koenig are the co-founders of ScoutPro, Inc., a scouting software system designed to help scouts and agronomists be more efficient and consistent in the field. ScoutPro, Inc. competed in the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge and won the Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year award.