When calling a remodeler or financial planner for the first time, many customers have been greeted with an annoying, “How did you learn about us?”
The question is important to the business, which wants to know whether its advertising is working, but does nothing for the person who needs help with an outdated kitchen or retirement plan.
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Traaqr, a St. Louis technology firm founded by serial entrepreneurs Brian Handrigan and Jeff Linihan, wants to eliminate the question by answering it before a sales representative even picks up the phone.
Traaqr’s software works by changing the business’s online ads — purchased through providers such as Google and Facebook — so that each person who clicks on them sees a customized phone number. (Each advertiser uses a finite supply of phone numbers, of course, but the software uses other clues to figure out if a caller is the man in Phoenix who jotted down the number two weeks ago or the woman in Des Moines who saw it today.)
When someone dials that number, the software has captured the caller’s browsing history and sent it to the desktop of the person answering the phone. By knowing that you arrived via a Google search for “kitchen remodeling,” the salesperson can immediately start answering your questions instead of asking her own.
The number of transactions that start online and are completed over the phone is huge. According to one survey, Linihan says, 92 percent of offline transactions start with some online interaction. Traaqr lets these businesses capture the same kind of data Amazon gets on its online customers.
Handrigan and Linihan, who are co-CEOs, say Traaqr was born of frustration. They had invested in a DNA testing business that generates leads online and refers people to labs near their homes. The company spent $150,000 a month on Google ads but couldn’t tell which ones were working.
Other software didn’t meet their needs, so they built their own solution. By late last year, after talking to other business owners who saw the same need, they decided to turn Traaqr into a business.
Using a baseball analogy, Handrigan says other software can tell users when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, but not where it will be when it crosses the plate. To get a hit — or close a sale — the business needs better predictive data.
Traaqr’s software provides feedback to Google and other platforms, enabling clients to buy ads where they get the best results. The lab-testing business reduced its online ad spending by a third while increasing revenue more than 50 percent.
Linihan and Handrigan quit their full-time jobs at their previous software startup,Chesterfield-based Recursive Labs, and raised $250,000 from investors. They officially launched Traaqr last month at TechCrunch Disrupt, a conference in San Francisco, on a trip sponsored by the St. Louis Regional Chamber.
Traaqr, a three-person company now, is looking to hire an engineer and a customer support person soon. The firm already has a backlog of digital media agencies that want to install the software for their clients, and expects to be cash-flow positive within two months.
After that, the founders say they’ll decide whether they need to raise more capital. They realize they’ll probably outgrow their small office in the Industrious co-working space downtown, and they give an open-ended answer when asked how big the company might get.
“We’re not afraid to grow fast,” Handrigan said.