Connor Keppel, founder of software company Relay, which is aiming to become the go-to marketing and customer service solution for those running mobile businesses, has a good story to tell us about managing small businesses.
The idea for Relay was sparked when Keppel identified a need among small businesses for affordable, easy-to-use software.
“Most great software innovation is built for large corporations or consumers, not for the small businesses that are the backbone of most economies,” he says. “From talking to small business owners even before the pandemic changed people’s buying patterns, it became clear that more and more services were becoming mobile businesses. You can now book a mechanic or a dog groomer to come to your house and this will only accelerate post-lockdown as many people will continue to work remotely.”
Keppel says that while this behavioural shift provides opportunities for small businesses it also adds complexity. The operator is constantly on the road with limited time to respond to customer enquiries between jobs. While lining up half a dozen clients in a day might sound like success, this may not be the case depending on where the clients are based.
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“Success is also about location. If customers are too far apart this erodes the profit margin between mileage and the cost of driving time versus working time,” Keppel says. “Relay is designed to help these busy owners and their teams to respond to queries faster and more easily. It also helps them do marketing by postcode so they are generating business area by area, meaning more jobs in one day, closer together. This results in a much more profitable business.”
Mobile first Relay works like a digital receptionist and marketing assistant rolled into one, and is aimed at the trades and anyone running a mobile service business.
Unlike many software designs for desktops that “bolt on” mobile applications almost as an afterthought, Relay was specifically built to be mobile first.
“With Relay an operator can automate, view and respond to all incoming social media messages, emails and calls,” Keppel says. “It also allows them to manage quotations, to update and manage their website and to send pre-made bulk marketing messages by Eircode.”
Keppel set up Relay in September 2020. The company’s commercial launch is slated for this summer for Ireland and the UK, with international markets to follow. “From our research, we know that tradesmen in the UK are open to technology solutions so we have developed both euro and sterling versions of the app,” Keppel says.
Relay employs four people and founder sweat equity and investment aside, it has cost about €20,000 to bring the business to the brink of launch with support from the New Frontiers programme run by the LINC at TU Dublin.
Relay’s revenue model is SaaS and the pricing structure is being finalised.
“What makes Relay unique, and the first of its kind in Europe, is that it greatly simplifies customer service and marketing for businesses on the move,” Keppel says.
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“There are existing marketing CRMs out there and there are existing inbox and messaging apps out there. What we’ve done is to take them all and simplify them to the point where they can be used as a smartphone app and layered on top of Google Maps.”