Consumers haven't stopped using phones to shop and buy, but sellers behave as though they have--missing valuable information. In 2011, Todd and Laure Fisher created CallTrackingMetrics, based in Severna Park, Maryland, to bridge an analytical gap between the analog and digital worlds.
--As told to Deirdre van Dyk:
Todd: I grew up watching my dad develop some of the original video playback software. Occasionally, I'd be playing a video game like SimCity, and he would hack it so I could have more game "money." My brother is a software engineer too. He's at Google. I began by starting up businesses with my dad. Our first company was bought by Steve Case and turned into Revolution Health. It was exciting. But in 2008, it was failing, and a group of four friends and I had been talking about starting our own company. I chickened out. My dad had an idea and I thought, well, that worked out well the last time. So he and I started a consulting business. My friends went on to found LivingSocial.
Laure: I worked in business consulting. I had 40 direct reports and was responsible for $30 million in revenue. I traveled all the time. Then when we had our first child, I needed to press pause. But I was quickly pulled in by my husband and father-in-law.
Todd: We were developing political websites. The problem was, if you're chasing election-cycle money, it's there and then it's gone. So we had to shut our business. But out of that work, Laure and I hit on the idea for CallTrackingMetrics, because we kept coming across a problem. Fifteen or 20 years ago, people thought phone calls would diminish in importance. It was all about forms and online leads. But as it turns out, customers actually call when they are interested in a product. People had focused so much on online that they forgot their best customers are coming by phone, and they had no way of knowing how these customers had heard about them other than by asking each one to self-report. We thought there has to be an easy way to fix this. Our tracking software, for instance, allows you to run calls down to website visits, and to keywords.
Laure: At first, I was a one-man show out of our basement. I had our newborn in a Pack 'n Play next to me. Todd went to work at LivingSocial to support us. Luckily, I had a lot of experience negotiating contracts and working with CFOs. I was able to play the game well enough to convince them that we were a lot bigger than we were. We got a lot of these big contracts before we really should have.
Todd: If you can bootstrap, you can make it a competitive advantage--especially in the software space, where there is no true overhead. The only costs are people. And I think it's a mistake to hire a bunch of people to talk to your customers for you, because you insulate yourself from what their needs are. You'll learn so much more from your customers if you talk to them yourself.
Laure: He's creative and knows the industry. But I know how to scale a business.
Todd: Which is critical. Don't start a business without someone who knows how to manage process and to scale. I'm not kidding. If you don't have someone who knows how to do that, go get a day job.