VolunteerLocal: Sustaining momentum

Slow and steady wins the race…

That’s the mindset Kaylee Williams uses with VolunteerLocal, a company that developed a platform to manage volunteer scheduling, registration and communications. As her role has grown—going from intern to President—over the last six years…so has the brand.

The company went from 30 customers doing some free testing in Central Iowa to being used at select IRONMAN races in North America to organize, schedule and communicate with the volunteers.

“It took a long time to get our brand in the marketplace in such a way that a company like Ironman would hear VolunteerLocal and have some recognition that we were a company,” Williams says. “I think we just needed to put the years in to get to that level. And not necessarily that time is the indicator to success. We were just more about being steady wins it, so over that period of time we intentionally started to dive into the endurance industry.”

Clay & Milk spoke with Williams about how she developed the VolunteerLocal brand, how she identified pricing and an innovative step she’s taking to get more referrals and inbound sales leads.

Our conversation is below:

What’s happening with VolunteerLocal in the year 2018?

KW: We are doing a deeper dive into the new sales that we are seeing coming through. We’ve divided up our sales by channel, so we are trying to understand how people find VolunteerLocal, but then we are digging even deeper and identifying what industries they are part of.

So we’ve identified endurance, festivals, chambers, universities, these are the primary types of customers that use VolunteerLocal.

So by really understanding the data in front of us we’ve been able to make some cool experiments happen where we are manipulating the data to see if we can get more people to create an account and pay without ever talking to us.

Or if we can advertise on a certain platform to drive a certain type of customer to get to our product, so we can tell them about one feature that we think they will like.

Talk about how the company has changed and evolved over your career

KW: When we started we had like 30 people using the product in Des Moines, maybe one or two who offered to pay. I joined in 2012 out of the University of Iowa. I was really hungry, wanted to close deals and learn what it meant to be in a startup.

In that time frame from intern to where I am now, we developed pricing, identified the customers who use our product and let our customers drive the product. They truly drove our product development.

Two years ago we wanted more people to pay for our top plan, but instead of adding more and more to our top plan, we broke the feature set in half and created a new plan that was more expensive. We didn’t think anyone would pick that plan, but we found people gravitated towards the new middle which was previously our top plan.

How did you develop the pricing?

KW: It’s tricky. And we used to do monthly pricing, now you pay per event or annual for unlimited. What we realized during monthly pricing is our customers weren’t thinking about the months they needed the upgrade, they were thinking about their event.

So now when I demo and they ask the cost…it’s a flat fee for the event depending on the features they want.

What goes into a demo?

KW: You’d think it would be cookie cutter, but the best demos out there always start with the problem the customer is having. Starts with what are the pain points, so if they have a high no-show rate, or, if it takes days to get everyone into the spreadsheet to print and then highlight when they check in…

So I’m translating in my mind our feature that matches that problem

What do you know now that you wish you knew sooner?

KW: Challenge your own assumptions.

We just started recognizing customers that are paying for our product by channel and industry and for a long time, I did not think referrals were that big of a part of our business model. I just never did the work to ask how they found our product. But I just assumed that wasn’t a thing.

So we are going to move forward with Rocket Referrals here in Des Moines to see if it works for us. We will be a different use case for them because they focus more on insurance but I think it will be effective because our customers have a lot of brand loyalty to VolunteerLocal. We solve a real problem for them.

Previous coverage

Lessons from an intern to President – March 14, 2017