Noah Glass and GoMobo’s PR Snowball

January 23, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

This post is part of User Generated Tuesdays. If you want to be read by 1,000 new friends please go here. This is written by Noah N Glass, founder of Gomobo and attention getter extraordinaire.

GoMobo is a mobile online ordering system, which in 2007 went national online. Read about how you can fight for your right to skip the line.

We let you order and pay for food with a text message and skip the line at busy coffee shops and restaurants.

With an innovative service, a scrappy team, and a miniscule marketing budget, we launched our first four New York City restaurants in Madison Square Park on May 2, 2006. I remember throwing together a press kit on the night of April 29 (Saturday), sure beyond all doubt that my phone would be ringing off the hook the next day with scores of incredulous news desks and reporters calling to get the scoop. I told my tennis partner that I couldn’t make our Sunday game. Instead I sat at home, waiting for the avalanche of calls. But none came.

I spent the next four months running from restaurant to restaurant, dropping off promotional flyers and talking to customers waiting in line. I recruited a small street marketing team to help spread the word. We spent every morning from 7am to 9am out on the streets of New York City. We wore sandwich boards with bunches of green balloons tied on. We shoved flyers into the hands of bustling commuters. We yelled “Stop waiting. Skip the line. GoMobo!” with such volume and such frequency that we all lost our voices.

It’s a subject of much debate, who handed that fateful flyer to Sarmad Ali, a technology writer at the Wall Street Journal, but I like to think it was me. He was calling me from “The Journal.” He’d received a flyer and had “never heard of something like this.” He couldn’t promise that it would get in to the paper, because he had to “sell it” to his editors.

We spent no less than three full hours over the course of the next two weeks going through the ins and outs of the mobile food service. Each night I checked WSJ Online to see if anything had hit. At 12:01am on September 20, I saw a story called “Text Messaging Speeds Up Fast-Food Orders” by Sarmad Ali.

I woke up the next morning with giddy excitement and rushed through my morning routine to get to the newsstand. There we were on the front page of the Gadgets section of the WSJ print edition! I got on the subway to Wall St. and stood on the most crowded corner yelling “Stop waiting. Skip the line. GoMobo! Read about us in today’s Wall Street Journal!!” Those last three words made the same impatient financiers who blew past me just one day earlier snap their heads in my direction and rush over to take a flyer. When one came to take a flyer, all the others would crowd around to see what all the fuss was about. “Wall Street Journal!!” Every time: a feeding frenzy.

That afternoon, I got two calls. One was from Dow Jones radio. The other was from ABCNews.com. A correspondent from ABC had seen the piece that morning and wanted to know if there was anything that Sarmad Ali had missed. I mentioned that he hadn’t really talked about who was using GoMobo. That I’d been surprised because it hadn’t just been young techies using it. There were a lot of “soccer moms” using the service, too. In fact, “seven of our top ten users” were in “the soccer mom demographic.”

The ABC correspondent explained that she had to call me back. I thought I’d blown it. She called back five minutes later to explain that they weren’t going to use the story in the same way they thought they would. I was sure I’d blown it. Five minutes later, I got a call from David Muir, a reporter who was calling on behalf of Good Morning America. He’d heard that “seven of your top ten users” were in “the soccer mom demographic.” He wanted to know if I could meet him and the camera crew at Rockefeller Center that afternoon. “Um, yeah. That’d work. I need to get my haircut first,” was all I could get out. “I’m sure it’s fine,” he said. “We’ll see you at 50th and 6th at 4pm.

I went to my local breakfast spot at 7am the next morning to watch GMA. The cashier was nice enough to switch stations for me. Here’s what I saw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDv-LDyBbk0. The piece was the lead-in piece and was viewed by 6M Americans that morning and 6M more when it was picked up that evening by 24 ABC affiliate stations. The next day, the piece showed in Canada and a very similar interview was shot by GMTV for a UK audience that afternoon.

Since then (in the past three months), GoMobo has appeared in BusinessWeek three times, (http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/11/1115_under25/index_01.htm
http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/11/1115_under25/source/5.htm
http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/11/1123_mobile_barons/source/4.htm),
was featured on Today in New York, received the Audience and Judges’ Choice Awards for Mobile Transactions at Under the Radar, and appeared in Metro, amNY, NY Daily News, “Third Screen” (a Business 2.0 blog), New York Magazine, Gawker.com, and Entrepreneur magazine. A piece in Fortune Small Business is pending and today we shot an interview for ABC World News Tonight.

The startling thing is that GoMobo is no more compelling today than it was three months ago. Before the WSJ piece, all we heard from the press was that it wasn’t a story until we had “at least a thousand” restaurants in our network. Then, after launching restaurant number 25 in our pilot program in late September, GoMobo became a hot story. Good PR and word of mouth (plus a great product) all made marketing it much easier.

What’s the lesson from all of this?

  • Hit the street.
  • Yell until you have no more voice.
  • Hope that someone who writes for the nation’s leading business journal is around to hear you.
  • Once one person writes about you, you’re “newsworthy.” After that, just keep your phone lines open and your snowball rolling.

This is a great example of going viral using conventional (but no less effective methods). Learn more about going viral with the series below:

This is part of a series called “Learning Viral”. For the other posts in the series click below:

Learning Viral: What my Brita taught me about Commitment

Learning Viral: The Leech Method

Learning Viral: Add-on or Natural

Learning Viral: Track Everywhere from Linkedin.com

Learning Viral: The Basic Viral Model

Learning Viral: Viral Emails of Tagged.com

 

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12 responses to “Noah Glass and GoMobo’s PR Snowball

  1. Noah Mittman Reply

    Wasn’t this a sub-plot in Fame? No really, congrats on the big break. The size of the window where that break can happen is small, which is why it’s important to get out and yell ’till… well, how you put it. You only get one shot, kid. 😉

  2. DofAM Reply

    You had a good story. Thanks to your tenacity someone finally was willing to give you a listen. A lesson for all PR reps, keep plugging no matter what.

  3. Juan George Reply

    Noah,

    I’d like to say congratulations for all the excruciating and painstaking work that you must have put into this and by standing by this remarkable idea every step of the way. GoMobo is the next big thing to hit this country and starting off in the biggest city in the world was the perfect gameplan. I am trying to think of any service that even compares to GoMobo and nothing comes to mind. It is a truly remarkable story and it is just the beggining. Let the GoMobo “Revolution” begin.

  4. Stephan Reply

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