5 Minutes With Andy Cockburn, CEO & Co-Founder, Mention Me

What inspired you to co-found Mention Me?

Almost all brands and retailers are sitting on a huge asset that they often take for granted: the trust and love that their customers have in them. This trust and love represents a huge opportunity in terms of customer acquisition. Asking these customers to refer lets brands bring in the best friends of their best customers.

Getting referral right isn’t an easy process but it is hugely valuable. Mention Me came about from my experience of getting referral to work whilst running HomeAway in the UK. There we managed to drive referral to become an acquisition channel that was worth more than 20 per cent of our total acquisition. After succeeding at HomeAway, we realised that applying our learnings could unlock this fantastic channel across across the online (and offline) world.

What metrics do you use?

The number one metric we track is percentage of total acquisition coming from the referral marketing channel. When a referral programme is mature we look for it to deliver 10-30 per cent of new customers online.

Which retailers currently use Mention Me?

We work with more than 250 clients, of whom the majority are retailers, and work across sizes and segments. From Farfetch and Matchesfashion to Missguided. From Coast to Ted Baker. From Elemis to Benefit Cosmetics.

In what ways the service has been positive for them?

The obvious advantage is the way that it drives new customers in volume at an attractive cost per acquisition. In a world where the established channels are getting more expensive and less efficient, this is a great channel to switch on. But referral is not just about volume, it also drives high quality customers.

Referred customers come in predisposed to liking and trusting your brand. They spend more on a first order (typically 10-25 per cent more) and have up to double the lifetime value. It’s also a great way of building and enriching relationships with existing customers. When someone refers you, they’re both more likely to buy again, and to feel close to you as a brand, so their lifetime value is increased.

How can retailers build trust into their marketing?

There are a few different ways. First, you can start by bringing in customers who want to trust you. When one of your customers refers your brand to a friend, the friend trusts you as much as the referring customer. It’s a really powerful dynamic.

After that it’s all about delivering on your promises and taking care of your customers through their first few orders with you. Often brands are better at treating customers well initially to get them to buy once and then after that one exchange they expect their loyalty.

We take the view that instead you need to really invest in a customer until they become a core repeater (which in retail is usually when they have purchased between three and five times). Once they’re at that point they’ll have huge trust in your brand and be far more likely to be out there spreading the word by referring to friends and family.

How important is word of mouth or referral in this increasingly digital world?

Referral should be the cornerstone of any brands’ marketing mix today but in reality many brands fail to make the most of it. Trust in all of the existing marketing channels is decreasing year on year, except for referral. In the future brands will become increasingly dependent on their existing customers being one of the biggest drivers of customer acquisition.

Tell me about your career highlights before Mention Me.

I started life as a Bain consultant and then went to INSEAD business school. Having founded my first business out of business school in the group payment space I became addicted to entrepreneurial life. I then ran the UK for HomeAway as we floated on the NASDAQ. It was there that I found my co-founder Tim Boughton and we got the inspiration for Mention Me.

The real highlight of my career to date has been what I’m doing now. I love our team at Mention Me, our product, our clients and how we’re delivering for our clients every day. I’m so excited about where we go from here. This year alone we will be growing our team again, moving offices, expanding into new international markets and launching a new product. We never stand still.

What got you into the retail sector in the first place?

At Bain I was lucky enough to work with John Lewis for a year on their product selection and merchandising. It got me hooked on retail. I love the fast feedback and the necessity of really understanding the customer and what makes them tick in order to succeed. Working across retail businesses today, I love the huge variety and mix of brands, each with their specific opportunities, audiences and challenges. When it comes to referral, it means no two campaigns are ever the same.

Describe your roles and responsibilities as CEO and co-founder of MentionMe

I oversee the team and make sure everyone is motivated and aware of how what they’re doing fits in to the bigger picture. I also get to meet with many of our clients and prospective clients. I love the fact we get to meet with so many interesting and different companies and individuals.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Going out with the team to celebrate a great week of building the business and delivering to our clients.

And the most challenging?

Too many things to do. Too few hours in the day.

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