From tweets to the streets

Adventures in Market Research 2.0

Snappy dressers. Foreign tourists. Dog walkers. Java heads. Tech junkies. Tech flunkies. Puzzled looks. Nodding heads. Eye-contact avoiders.  Big smiles. Wagging tails. And a whole lot of sunshine— What we learned from 2 days in the streets of San Francisco.


Tired of working the traditional social media and online leads, we wanted to explore new, and more personal forms of customer engagement.  The way to introduce the concept to a whole new demographic? Hit the streets: come face to face with potential new Bright Funds members.  Looking for a fresh approach to our marketing strategy, the BF team took to the sidewalks and public parks of SF in late January 2013.

What we did:

We spent two full days working the city’s landmarks and avenues, engaging people on the street to tell them about Bright Funds. User signup was highly encouraged. And so, dressed in business casual and armed with iPads, our lean (but definitely not mean) marketing team searched high and low for new users and honest feedback about the BF mission. And boy, did we get a lot of both. Some was amazing. Some was expected. Some of it was just downright odd. Here is what we learned:

General Trends

Success with:

  • Dog walkers, techies and people with children (it didn’t hurt if the dogs had stopped to do their business; it gave us time for a quick pitch)

Failed miserably with:

  • Non-English speakers (alas, our marketing team is not bilingual, but the audience certainly learned two English words—”Bright Funds”)
  • Fashionable women (there seems to be an inverse relationship between hours spent grooming and willingness to engage with strangers)
  • 50+ crowd (we found there to be common distrust of people with iPads and fear of giving away email to strangers)


What worked:

  • Asking people to chat about Bright Funds.
  • The good ol’ fashioned “elevator pitch.” 30 seconds is enough to tell the Bright Funds story.
  • Targeting people in their 20-30s in SoMa (and yes, GenY young professionals just happen to be our target segment as well)

What didn’t:

  • Asking people for their email to add to Bright Funds’ mailing list.
  • Approaching commuters. As it turns out, the SF workforce is chronically late for meetings.
  • Targeting people on Market St. (most elderly, non english speaking tourists are not as jazzed about Bright Funds)
  • Buying people coffee.  Our deal to buy people a $2.25 drip coffee in exchange for a sign up resulted in people ordering $5 double shot mochas on us and skipping town.

Amusing quotes:

  • Oh, that actually makes a lot of sense.
  • Yup. I get it now.  Very cool.
  • That’s a terrible idea” (unsure whether this was sarcastic or not…)
  • Is this really the most efficient way to meet people?
  • This is so intuitive. Are you sure nobody has thought of this already?
  • You are a Hattery portfolio company, right?” (#startupworld #smalltown)
  • (After talking about Bright Funds for 10 minutes) “So this is for blood donations, right?”
  • “I love this. How can I talk to your co-founders?” (luckily, Rutul was within arm’s reach)
  • “Are you hiring?”
  • “I’m sorry, I’m not on that Internet.” (Seriously? In San Francisco?)


In general, people are more than happy to engage with strangers about charitable giving startups.  Many were wary of giving away their email— even to friendly people with iPads—except in the heart of tech SoMa, where every person was all too trusting of technology and sympathized deeply with the plight of the startup.

Hitting the streets may not have been the most efficient way to spread the word to large quantities of people, but it sure was a fun way to introduce an entirely fresh audience to Bright Funds.