Avatar of Erik Romijn posted April 05 2013
on Erik Romijn

Open for Business 6: Marketing workshop

This is the sixth in a series of posts about Apps for Amsterdam: Open for Business, an initiative by Appsterdam, Amsterdam Economic Board and Waag Society to work with three local start-ups to support them in making successful businesses using open data. I’m participating with Bike Like a Local. As I started this series a bit late, over the next week I’ll be posting about events so far.

On 28 March, we had a marketing workshop with Matteo Manferdini, who I already knew from Appsterdam. Matteo told us about many techniques involved in marketing, tailored to our specific products and small budgets. This was a group session, so all teams could also learn from each other.

Mailing list

There was a lot of great content in the workshop, but this idea is definitely on the top of my list. People are typically reluctant to buy, even if the expensive is minor. It’s much easier if I can first prove to them I can deliver value. This is of course the general idea behind trials, but Matteo had another suggestion which fits my product very well: get a free PDF about top 10 destinations to visit on a bike in Amsterdam, by entering your email address and joining my mailing list.

The typical form to use mailing lists is to get everyone to subscribe, and send them some sales talk every once in a while. However, the less common form is that everyone who signs up gets the same content after a certain time, by using an autoresponder. This fits my product really well. Tourists typically prepare their visit 4-6 weeks before coming here, so after they sign up and get the free PDF, I could keep them involved by sending them an email a week for 4-5 weeks. Then they can see I’m already delivering value, for free, and are more inclined to buy my app. Because the bulk of the content will just be reused for every subscriber, the investment is very small.

The content of the mails should actually be useful on its own, and not just a sales pitch for the app. However, I could make sure that they tie in really closely. And having a mailing list with opted in users on hand can always be useful later.


Although I like to think of myself as a fairly decent writer, there’s always room for improvement. For example, Matteo mentioned that organisations often like to talk about themselves, instead of what they offer the user. Also, signing up to the mailing list should not be “sign up to our mailing list”, but something like “receive free cycling tips every week”. And saying things like “well designed” or “clean” rarely mean anything to the reader.


Niches are often defined in simple demographic terms, like “males between 25 and 29 from European and Asian countries”. However, Matteo explained that this is often a very poor way to define a group, as even within such a group, differences are huge.

My niche is something like “foreigners in Amsterdam, that are cycling or want to, with limited cycling skills, that own an iPhone”. It can also be very valuable to find where people of this niche hang out. Is there a “cycling tourists in Amsterdam”-reddit? With half a minute of googling, I did find a somewhat active forum for tourists coming to Amsterdam. There’s probably more of this out there.

When you dive into such a community, don’t be an asshole, and make sure you’re not perceived as one. It’s not a platform for a sales pitch. But at the very least it’s an opportunity to learn more about what drives and frustrates these people.


During the workshop I also discovered two important questions. Most important: why actually do tourists/foreigners cycle in Amsterdam? Is it because we tell them to? Or for other reasons? This is rather fundamental to Bike Like a Local, so I should really dig into this.

The other question is: how many tourists actually have a data connection, either through roaming, or by buying a local SIM card for their phone? I’ve been using the general assumption that very few do, but I haven’t validated that. There must be research on this somewhere.