Neil Harris of Intently.Co tells us how he created a platform where one can request any service from anywhere.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
Neil Harris: We are doing fine, thanks. My wife has ventured into self-employment, our kids are doing great, and we’re about to get a new puppy, so it’s a really good time for us right now.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Intently.Co.
Neil Harris: So I’m a self-confessed computer nerd, I guess! I just seem to have an affinity for computers, the Internet, and how it all works. I’ve worked in software all my life as a developer and a project manager mostly. I had the idea for Intently.co back in 2011, and it was born out of frustration at how much effort it took us to procure service providers (house movers, plumbers, handymen, etc.). All that searching the web, phone calls, and voicemails, why was all the onus on the buyer?
I decided to build a platform that would allow buyers, people like you and me, to simply broadcast what they need and then wait for suppliers to come to them.
How does Intently.Co market its product/services online?
Neil Harris: We’ve tried paid advertising a few times in the past, but for us, it had a negative return on investment. Over the years, we’ve looked at numerous options, including partnering, social media drives, and affiliate marketing. In the end, we’ve found ourselves just focusing really hard on two specific areas: SEO and user experience. And these are very much linked too. We use tools to check the usability, clarity, and performance of the pages on the Intently.co website, and then we act on all the findings and recommendations. This has been a really positive process for us.
We also spend time understanding the experience of real users as they navigate and use our website and act on the questions, recommendations, issues, and concerns. This helps with usability and also helps to drive the direction we take regarding new functionality. It’s also worth saying that we get quite a lot of referrals, which demonstrates that we’re providing a good product for our customers.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how did you get through it?
Neil Harris: Our business has coped well through the pandemic. We are a subscription business; that’s how we drive our revenue. During the pandemic, our business stopped growing and instead kind of stabilized. We are grateful that it has stabilized – we think that’s a good outcome given what everybody has been through, and we hope to see a return to growth over the next couple of years.
It’s certainly proving to be a tough time for the world, with the pandemic, energy prices, the war in Ukraine, and global warming. All we really want is to be a valuable and useful part of the consumer services ecosystem, and I feel like we are achieving that.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Neil Harris: Regarding specific tools, we regularly use Moz for SEO checks, Google Lighthouse for performance and SEO checks, and Mouseflow for monitoring real user experiences. We sometimes use other tools, such as GTmetrix for performance testing and HEAP, to gather additional information about user flows and statistics.
We also use Google Analytics, but with the move to GA4, we have actually ended up building our own analytics dashboards for real-time monitoring as we are not satisfied with GA4’s approach to this area.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Neil Harris: Key competitors would be Bark and Thumbtack. We’ve been established for just over 10 years now, and we’ve seen growth almost every year. I’m confident that we’ll be able to stay in the game based on our track record and our approach to improving our business.
Your final thoughts?
Neil Harris: To all you budding entrepreneurs, just remember there is “no failure, only feedback”! That is, every time you feel like something isn’t working, or you’re told something isn’t, this is an opportunity. Be open to change – your customers will thank you.
Also, be sure to maintain your integrity. If you have customers pushing for you to do something unethical, do not be tempted by the revenue this could bring you. Being ethical is far more important than making money.