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Intently: putting intent casting into practice

Posted on: Thursday 12th of December 2013

Intent casting is much talked about but little done. It’s the idea of consumers being able to express their intentions to the marketplace instead of being ‘targets’ for marketers’ messages.

Intently is an example of one of the pioneers of this concept. Users select a service and location and Intently finds relevant matches and sends out requests to them on the customer’s behalf. Founder Neil Harris told Ctrl-Shift how the business works and his plans for the future.

1. What’s the big benefit your service is designed to offer?

The biggest benefit is simply saving you time – you tell Intently what service you want and where you want it, and then Intently “shouts” it to the world. Around 75% of requests receive responses within the hour (for any service, anywhere) and it takes about two minutes of your time to raise a request. A secondary benefit is that the buyer’s privacy is retained because all communication with suppliers is facilitated via disposable and anonymous email addresses.

The benefit to sellers is that they receive qualified leads without doing any traditional advertising. Buyers come straight to their inbox!

2. What inspired/motivated you to start doing this?

I wanted an optician’s appointment at short notice, and the thought of wading through websites to find contact information and then call up every optician in the area made me think “there MUST be a better way!”. To my surprise I discovered that there wasn’t a better way, so I founded Intently and started building it immediately with a small and trusted team. I had a few key goals for the product: it must work for any service, it must work for any location, it must be almost effortless for buyers, and it must result in sales for sellers.

3. How big is the market opportunity for your service?

We are in the B2C space specifically focused on services, and we are global, so the market is very large indeed. In fact, you might say we are C2B since the consumer initiates the process.

4. What is the business model? How do you/will you earn your keep?

Intently is simply part of the supply chain (or value chain) for services. As such, we charge a small fee to sellers so that they can sell on Intently. We use a subscription model as opposed to taking a percentage of sales, and we do this because sales are frequently closed outside of the system and we simply can’t track them.

5. Where would you like to be in 3-5 years’ time?

It’s all about growth and conversion rates. At the moment we are getting a visitor to the website every minute which is great but we believe we can grow that fivefold in the next year. In addition, we need to increase the conversion rates so that more of our sellers feel that they are getting good value from their subscription. In three years, I hope that we are a profitable business with a loyal user base.

6. What obstacles will you need to overcome to get there?

The classic obstacle with marketplaces is a catch-22: you can’t get sellers on-board unless you have plenty of buyers, and buyers won’t join you unless you have plenty of sellers. We met this obstacle for sure and we had no budget available to “market our way out of the problem”.  As a result, we had to innovate our way around it. That’s now done, and our new problem is understanding the behaviour of our users so that we can figure out how to tune and optimise the system in order to generate more growth.

7. Have you got any more general thoughts or views about the changing personal data landscape you would like to share?

To be honest, I am amazed that a lot of the solutions out there haven’t yet made it into the mainstream.  Who doesn’t have the problem of managing their personal data and passwords, and who doesn’t find the Internet too seller-centric? I guess that many people have just “tuned out” the advertising, and think it’s normal to have to remember 50-odd passwords! I am hopeful that we will reach a tipping point in the next few years where many people begin adopting technologies in this space.