When Hope Spring Charity eCards founder Temi Odurinde, was looking for a way to generate steady revenue for the water poverty alleviation charity he founded, setting up an eCard platform was not the first idea that crossed his mind. His first thought was to generate donations using the tried and tested ways UK charities generate their funds, organising events and writing grant proposals. It became very clear to him very quickly that those two donation paths are not just fiercely competitive, but also an expensive, overcrowded and oversaturated way to raise funds.
He started thinking of other ways to generate donations to fund his passion for building wells and boreholes for communities in dire need of clean water. He came across an article that detailed the fact that British people are the largest senders of greeting cards in the world. The Brits send over a billion greeting cards a year. The sheer number of trees that need to be fell to make such a huge quantity of greetings cards.
A typical greeting card tends to be displayed on the mantelpiece for a few days by the recipient before it is discarded as waste. What if people were able to send greeting cards electronically? That will surely generate less waste and it is more environmentally friendly than paper based greeting cards. With these thoughts, Temi created Hope Spring eCards. The ecard platform combined two of his passions: making a positive environmental impact by substituting paper greetings cards with electronic cards and raising valuable funds to alleviate water poverty.
The Search for an eCard Platform
The concept behind a charity eCard platform is simple: choose a card, personalise it with your message or greetings, make a donation, and send! With one click, you get your greetings across, reduce your carbon footprint, and support a Sustainable Development Goal-6 charity. What a brilliant idea! Just one small thing—but it is significant. How do you develop a platform that makes all that happen on a shoestring budget?
When it became clear that a platform that did all the above could not be developed without tens of thousands of pounds of investment, a plan B was sought. The only viable solution was to partner with a third party eCard platform provider. This worked for a while but the problem with being on another person’s platform is that you are constrained and limited by their own limited ambition.
However, starting on a third-party platform helped generate some revenue and showed us that the concept is viable. This gave us the confidence to find the investment required to build the Hope Spring eCard platform.
Challenges : Getting Noticed in a Sea of Giants
Hurrah! Hope Spring eCards now have its own platform. Free of the limiting constraints imposed by the use of a third party platform. We now have hundreds of eCards in every popular category, from birthday eCards to wedding, anniversary and farewell eCards. This is the point where we came across our next challenge. How do we get known beyond Hope Spring water limited supporter base?
The Greetings card and eCard industry is a fiercely competitive sector. We have to compete with huge multinational card businesses as well as billion dollar international platforms that sell everything under the sun and eCards. The way we approached this was to refine where we will be competing in that sector further. We defined our niche in that sector as UK Charity eCards . This narrowing of our focus made the marketplace and competition less daunting. This also helps us to segment and prioritise our marketing strategy.
Being an online business, the best ways to make our presence felt are through the usual online marketing channels such as Pay Per Click advertisements in search engines, social media advertising, generating traffic organically through activities on social media, and optimising our site in search engines.
Of all our marketing efforts, paid advertising services (Pay Per Click) have been the most effective at driving traffic to our site. This is also the most expensive way to advertise. We used pay per click advertising for a while, but it proved too expensive.
The return from investing in Pay Per Click does not pay for itself. We have since completely discontinued investing in PPC advertising. Advertising on social media is more affordable, so we do place paid advertising on social media. However, social media advertising is only effective during major holidays such as Christmas or important events such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. leading up to big holidays when we are sure of getting good value for our advertising spending.
SEO : Best Converting and Most Affordable Online Marketing
Though we were not able to compete toe-to-toe with online giants when it came to bidding for PPC keywords. We have been lucky and successful in attracting organic search engine traffic to our website. Our site administrator Seun Olonade and our former webmaster, Evgeniy Garkaviy, are both adept at search engine optimization. They have put their SEO skills to good use, with impressive results.
Seun Olonade – Hope SpringeCards platform administrator
The traffic we generate through our effective search engine optimization strategy, is the backbone of our digital marketing.
Opportunities for The Future
There is always an opportunity for any business to grow if you look critically at your sector and your current operations. Which is exactly what we did recently. We have identified a dozen or so potential expansion opportunities. Because of our limited capacity, we narrowed the opportunities we will be pursuing in the next 12 months to just two.
The one we will give the highest priority to is moving our business from its current domain name http://ecards.hopespring.org.uk to a top-level domain name: www.HopeSpringeCards.com. We believe this will improve the site’s branding and help attract more users from English-speaking countries such as Australia, US and Canada. The second opportunity we hope to pursue is to sell gifts and other items people tend to buy when shopping for greeting cards.
What You Can Learn from Our Journey
One of the most exciting and rewarding things you can do in your life is also, potentially, the scariest thing you can do. That is to leave the comfort of secure employment and start your own business.
Temi Odurinde – Founder of Hope Spring eCards
Hope Spring eCard is still a work in progress, but there are some lessons you can learn from our journey so far. You must be willing to invest time and be ready to change your business plan, should the trajectory demand it.
Hope Spring eCard got started on a third party platform, when it was clear we did not have tens of thousands of pounds to develop our own platform. The temptation to drop the idea completely was there, but Hope Spring’s founder was quite determined to find a way. You should always look for another way, when the way you know seems to suggest your idea will not fly.
We were ready to jump, when the platform we started on became too small for our ambitions. You should constantly be looking for ways to move your business to the next level. You should always be flexible as to how to get to your destination.
We started our online marketing strategy with Pay Per Click advertising. Soon it became clear that it was not a sustainable marketing strategy, and we very quickly changed to SEO and social media marketing.