Note from Jimmy Hua: You start with a great product and you turn it into a business.
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Notes — they’re not sexy or flashy. But when one is the difference between remembering something of significance and forgetting it, then it takes on an indispensable purpose. Perhaps that explains the meteoric rise of Evernote — the ubiquitous note-taking platform that added more than 500,000 new users in November and is anticipating hitting 6 million members before the end of the year.
While Evernote’s products have been around since early 2008, most of its growth has happened this year. At the beginning of year, Evernote was adding 3,000 new users a day. Today, that figure has risen to 18,000 new people per day. It took the company practically two years to sign on its first 2 million members, but this year alone it is on track to double that stat and sign on 4 million new users.
To say things are trending upward would be an understatement. And so, Mashable spoke with both Evernote’s CEO and founder Phil Libin and VP of marketing Andrew Sinkov to get their insights behind the company’s success.
Marketing Through Product
“Evernote does not pay for users,” says Libin, who shares that his company purposely avoids advertising. Instead, the startup takes a more holistic approach and lets its products and members bring in new users for them, he says.
“All of Evernote is focused on making our product better and that includes marketing, which is entirely product-centric. Our marketing process is a direct extension of product development, with our goal being to help our users share our love of the product,” Sinkov says.
The product approach has found a best friend in mobile application markets. More than half of all new users are being introduced to Evernote through mobile app stores. Although long popular on the iPhone, Android is helping to fuel mobile adoption and is significantly contributing to new user acquisition.
The let-them-come-to-you approach extends to Evernote’s freemium business model. “Users upgrade to Premium whenever they like,” says Sinkov, “we don’t push anyone to buy anything.”
And yet the company has managed to convert 160,000 users to paying customers, and generates around $800,000 each month in revenue.
Both Sinkov and Libin admit that the percentage of new users that upgrade is unremarkable — less than 1% of active users sign up for premium accounts in the first month. But Evernote users tend to be around for the long-haul, and the longer they stay, the more likely they are to upgrade.
Sinkov credits the company’s content and social media strategy for its ability to convert Evernote users who stick around.
“Our time is spent primarily on educating users through blogging, social media, podcasting, e-mail and other communication tools,” he says. “We’ve found that the more content we provide, the more engaged our users become, and the more likely they are to tell a friend and convert to Evernote Premium. For example, around 20% of our social media followers are Premium, while the number is around 3% for the general user base.”
The International Explosion
“The international growth has been amazing,” reports Libin. Evernote is available in more than 14 languages, has an office in Japan and hopes to develop a ground presence in Europe and Southeast Asia using the $20 million in funding it recently secured to more aggressively expand outside the U.S..
“The majority of our users are in the U.S., but we’re expecting that to change relatively soon. Our largest market outside the U.S. is Japan, where we recently opened an office in Tokyo. We launched there about six months ago, and Japan now represents 20% of our total user base,” says Libin. “European growth has outpaced that of both the U.S. and Japan.”
End users aren’t the only audience embracing the service abroad. “There’s also an explosion in international partners and developers using our API to build Evernote integrations. The amount of innovation that we’re seeing from around the world has been incredible,” shares Libin.
TV Brain Power and Uncharted Territories
Evernote is in the business of making note-taking a no-brainer activity; it’s constantly improving its products to make its system a more fail-proof system than our brains.
Of course, a system is only as strong as its accessibility, and while Evernote is available in application form on the web, mobile and desktop, there’s still uncharted territories left to be conquered. Where there’s a platform, there will be Evernote, says Libin.
Most intriguing are his plans to bring the Evernote experience to the television set. Libin was tight-lipped on specifics but he did indicate that an Evernote application for Internet-connected TVs is in the works and will be shipped in 2011. Libin speaks of the application as a lean back way to wade through your thoughts and an opportunity to experience and share notes as entertainment.
Libin’s futuristic and colorful vision makes us wonder if notes can be sexy after all.
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Reviews: Android, Evernote, Flickr, Internet, Mashable
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