CrowdReach, a Charleston-based web and mobile communications platform for small businesses and organizations, is expanding its staff and footprint a few months after launching.
The firm’s nine employees currently work out of a small office in a high-rise building at 2 Wharf St. in downtown Charleston. In early 2017, the company plans to hire about 20 more people and expand into a 3,500-square-foot space in the new Raven Cliff Co.’s Pacific Box & Crate development, which is currently under construction on upper King Street.
CrowdReach President Trey Rust, who has experience working with political fundraising campaigns and email client services, grew up around small businesses in South Carolina. He saw many struggling to effectively communicate with their customers.
Business owners often lack the time, technical expertise, money or staff to invest in crafting marketing campaigns or managing social media accounts, Rust said.
He saw a need for a platform in which business owners could quickly create messages and offer real-time, tailored promotions to attract people into a store quickly, as opposed to many deal programs or coupons, which can be valid for months and are often unused.
After two years of research and collaborating with developers in Winston-Salem, N.C., the beta version started in January and the company launched in May.
Users on the CrowdReach platform can write their own messages with photos and then send them to customers — via email, text and social media —simultaneously. Users can choose which platform to send messages on, and messages can be scheduled ahead of time.
Users also can import customer contacts from iOS mobile devices, and those contacts can be segmented into lists for the user to choose from when sending.
“It’s really for the small business owner that doesn’t have time to sit in a cramped office on a dusty computer to manage a real customer strategy. Let’s make it mobile and easy to use,” Rust said. “Regardless of whatever business you’re running, in a matter of minutes, you can either schedule communications, reach out to customers about a promotional item, post to Facebook or text customers.”
Businesses can use the platform to offer a deal. This feature, known as a CrowdPleaser, would allow a business owner to ping customers within a 5-mile radius or notify those that had not been in for some time and let them know of a deal happening the next day, for example.
The customer could respond that they are interested in the deal — such as a limited number of discounted pizzas or specialty muffins — and the business would reserve one for them, according to Lauren DeHaven, CrowdReach director of sales and marketing.
Not all CrowdReach messages are about deals, Rust said. A high-end restaurant with a slow Friday night could send a message to their best customers offering a reservation, or a golf course could send a message about a sunny weekend ahead.
The platform auto-populates related hashtags, such as #Charleston and #food, for each post. Businesses can add and save their own hashtags for future use as well.
Businesses using CrowdReach can track their analytics to determine their messages’ effectiveness and tweak marketing strategies as needed, DeHaven said.
Rust said the company does not sell customer data, and customers can update their preferences to decide how they want to receive messages from businesses.
“A key component is asking customers how they want to hear from you and not just sending an email like we’ve been doing for the past 15 years,” Rust said. “Can we bring a platform to market that puts the relationship back in a little bit?”
CrowdReach targets small businesses, nonprofits and other organizations in a variety of industries, including retail, professional services, food and beverage, health and fitness and hospitality. CrowdReach offers monthly or annual subscriptions.
The company has raised $250,000 thus far and is currently in a funding round. Rust plans to expand the company’s reach outside of the Charleston region in the coming months.