When Ali Tajsekandar started Wishpond in 2009, it was with the aim of creating an online retail aggregator for Canada and the United States. His hyper-local 'shopping' search engine gave users the convenience of being able to search for deals and products from businesses in their own neighbourhoods.
But Mr. Tajsekandar ran into a snag. He was unable to provide sufficient online traffic, as well as proper tracking and analytics to prove that consumers were actually shopping in local stores as a result of using Wishpond. Consequently, he struggled to get buy-in from retailers to include their products and services on his platform.
To save his startup, Mr. Tajsekander knew he had to make some radical changes.
Based in Vancouver, B.C., Wishpond was founded by web developer Ali Tajsekandar, just after he completed his MBA at the Sauder School of Business's Robert H. Lee Graduate School.
At a crossroads when his business started to flag, Mr. Tajsekandar took inspiration from his mother. He recalled her experience running a small business and the challenges she encountered with marketing material like flyers.
Mr. Tajsekandar saw the need to support and encourage entrepreneurs to market themselves more effectively in the digital space.
In May 2011, after months of market research, Wishpond switched off the consumer-focused search engine it launched in 2009 and changed gears.
Instead of trying to bring businesses and customers together, he decided to get out of the middle and use the tools he had already developed for his site and hand them directly over to the businesses themselves.
In the place of the Wishpond search engine, Mr. Tajsekandar and his team created an online marketing portal for businesses of all sizes. Here, their clients can access a suite of custom designed digital marketing tools and extensive support to use them.
"Our goal was to help business owners increase their market reach and sales leads, by providing them with customized social media campaigns, ads, customer engagement and analytics, that are simple enough so that any person, no matter their skill level, can use them effectively."
Customer support was a crucial part of Wishpond's new direction. To handhold its customers through the new suite of marketing services, the company provided 24/7 support through live online chat, email and phone.
In the two years since its major pivot from consumer to business platform, Wishpond has grown exponentially. In 2013, it added over 50,000 customers, while increasing revenue by more than 2,000 per cent during the first five months of the same year.
Mr. Tajsekandar credits the growth of his company primarily to his about-turn in direction. "We saw the need to change, researched market needs and, with a little inspiration from mom, acted upon it," he says.
Wishpond has built close relationships with its customers to discover what services they need to succeed and adjusts its offerings accordingly. These discoveries, says Mr. Tajsekandar, have propelled rapid product innovation in the company.
"The Wishpond team is over the moon to see such accelerated growth this year," he says. "Our efforts to keep improving our products, combined with industry recognition of the value of online marketing, keep us on target for significant expansion."
From a small team of three, the company has grown to 35 people, with international teams in major markets throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia. To date, Wishpond has been used by over 70,000 businesses globally, generating millions of new leads and customers for businesses.
Paul Cubbon is a marketing instructor at the UBC Sauder School of Business. This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Small Business website.