Conversation with MindMeister – Social Media Strategy, Making Money from Apps and Much More

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This week I managed to catch up with Raphaela Brandner, Manager Marketing MindMeister and we chatted at length regarding the amazing concept of mindmapping. We also learnt about the impressive plans mindmeister has going forward. If you are new to the concept of MindMeister, you might want to check out our review of MindMeister.

When was MindMeister started?

MindMeister was started in February 2007, which means we just turned 7 this year.

So how has the journey been so far? Any specific obstacles that come to mind during the journey?

Well, in the first few years the obstacles were of a technical nature. For instance, it was difficult to draw the lines of the mind maps as most maps had bent lines. So the developers had to draw the bent lines with thousands of individual points. Today, I think they are using SVG technology, which runs on all modern browsers.

Another major obstacle were security and privacy concerns. Since mind maps by nature contain intellectual property and valuable thoughts, their creators are of course very interested in keeping them secured. Everything that has got anything to do with cloud computing creates security concerns for users, so convincing potential customers that we can keep their data secured was a major obstacle, even though our cloud storage is extremely secure. All paid MindMeister accounts receive a 256-bit Secured Socket Layer (SSL) encrypted data transfer, we monitor our server farm 24/7, we backup user data on daily, weekly and bi-weekly rotations at multiple off site locations, and so on.

So what were the campaigns you ran to convince your potential customers that their data is secure with you?

Since security is such a sensitive issue we concentrated on one on one interactions rather than a mass media approach. So we reached out to our potential customers through our social networks and blog in a proactive manner and whenever anyone had any question we were very prompt to answer it.

So was it mainly a one-on-one interaction rather than a major campaign you ran?

Mostly, but yes our website also contains elaborate explanations on the security procedure.

Mind mapping is a pretty new domain. What was your main inspiration?

Our Managing Directors, Michael Hollauf and Till Vollmer used to work with MindJet but somehow felt the application was incomplete as it had no online collaboration and sharing maps with others was impossible unless they bought the rather expensive software themselves. At the same time they were using Google Docs to collaboratively work on texts. This is how they got the idea to combine these two tools into a collaborative online mind mapping tool.

What are the major target markets?

Our major markets at the moment are the United States, Europe, the UK, Australia and Russia.

Are you running any country specific campaigns?

We always do in Social Media. As language is the biggest issue when reaching out to an international audience all our publications are in English by default and our campaigns mainly target English speaking countries.

So, you are not focusing on Asia at the moment?

Yes, we are also focusing on Asia and in the coming days we hope for Japan and China to emerge as big markets.

Is not the language problem really acute in China?

Language is an obstacle for communication with a lot of people. That is one reason why we have come up with an Ambassador program to get locals involved with our product. People who are interested in our tool can get in touch with local ambassadors in their country, which eliminates the language barriers.

Can you shed some light on the Ambassador Program?

In the Ambassador program we bring together some people who are really enthusiastic about mind maps and help them help us. We do not pay them but we provide them with a lot of information material, product presentations, free demo accounts, and referral codes which they can use to receive a commission for paid referrals.

How is the Ambassador Program working out so far?

It’s an overwhelming response so far and I am going crazy answering to mails day in and day out.

So how many ambassadors so far? Just an estimate.

So far we have a few hundred applicants. A lot of them are from the US, Brazil, Europe and Asia.

As a Marketing Manager of an app what are your tips?

Social Media is very important in order to get close to your user. We try to give them the opportunity to really connect with us on various channels. If you ask us a question on Twitter or Facebook, you can be sure to get a personal response from someone who really works for MindMeister, not some marketing agency that posts prefabricated answers.

Before your app is famous?

The first thing we had to consider was the name. A good app name has to be unique, memorable and innovative. It took us nearly half a year to come up with the name MindMeister which fulfilled all the criteria and also had an available .com domain.

We then launched MindMeister as a private beta, which made it seem somewhat exclusive to people. We invited everyone we knew (about 200 people all in all) and gave everyone the option to invite up to ten more people themselves. After two months we offered people to upgrade, which a lot of them did. In February 2007 we were already featured on’ hotlist, which resulted in our 1000st user the next day.

What certainly helped our own marketing efforts were the awards we won over the course of the next year. We still use the award “Best User Centered Design Award”, which we won in July 2007, to attract users.
We actively wrote to bloggers in our market niche, asking them to write about MindMeister. We posted our site to as many app portals as we could find. We started blogging and sending out a regular newsletter. And we spent a lot of time and money on SEO. I think it was all those combined efforts that lead to our success. In June 2008 we had already reached 100.000 users.

MindMeister is a paid app. What are the other ways people can monetize apps?

For us the freemium model seems to be the best way. Other tools use a lot of advertising to get by, some also in connection with in-app purchases. How to best monetize your app depends a lot on your target market and the type of app you’re trying to sell.

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Souptik is a Futures Trader in Singapore who writes about financial apps in our website. He actually believes born in another time and another place he could have been the inspiration behind ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and we don’t even beg to differ. When he is not nurturing his amazing awesomeness, he acts as the operational dynamo behind our website, raising a storm in mailboxes and mind-spaces. In previous avatars, he has been an internet entrepreneur, MBA student at IIFT and Computer Engineer from BITS.

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