Since a lot of people ask how RocketBolt got started, I thought I’d devote a blog post to jotting down our origin story. It all began with one of those emails LinkedIn sends that says: “See who’s been looking at your profile.” It made us wonder: “Wouldn’t it be great to know the same thing about our website?”
At the time, our team was working on a completely different startup. We were emailing dozens of people every week, and each one of those emails included a link to our then-company. Naturally, we wondered who was following the links to our website and what pages they were looking at.
“Surely if LinkedIn can do this for their millions of users,” we said to ourselves, “we can figure out a way to do it for our little website.”
And we could do it… sort of.
After not finding any options for pre-built solutions (remember, RocketBolt didn’t exist yet), we hacked together a solution using Google Analytics and UTM codes.
For those who don’t know, UTM codes are a way of segmenting traffic inside Google analytics by adding keyword-stuffed query strings to the ends of links. For example, instead of posting a link like
http://rocketbolt.com on Twitter, we might use a link like this:
With UTM-tagged links, marketers can use filters inside Google Analytics to see how traffic moves around a website based on where the traffic came from. This can help marketers understand things like which sources are the best at generating traffic, or which campaigns drive the most sales. (For a more detailed explanation, I recommend reading Buffer’s UTM guide.)
Thanks to a little creative thinking, we realized we could add custom UTM tags to the end of an emailed RocketBolt link in order to follow the activity of a specific user on our website. So we started sending links in our emails that looked something like this:
Well… not exactly like that, of course. Who would click on that link? We would send text links (e.g. “This is Aaron from RocketBolt”) to mask the UTM links. We’d then use the built-in UTM filters within Google Analytics to follow the activity of individual email recipients who clicked one of our emailed links.
Pretty cool, right?
Our hacked system gave us amazing intel into some of our best prospects. For example, if someone spent a lot of time on our pricing page, it usually signaled a serious buyer, which, in turn, helped us filter our sales lists in order to target prospects with higher conversion potential.
Conversely, it added a lot of extra work. Sure, including UTM codes in a handful of emails wasn’t a big deal, but when we were sending hundreds of emails each week, the process took hours. Also, the data wasn’t real-time. We had to keep refreshing our analytics account just to see if anything happened.
At that point we knew individual user tracking on our website was valuable, but the execution cost was too high. Luckily, being “tech founders,” we thought of a way to automate the process.
A few weeks later, we’d finished cobbling together what, in retrospect, was a rough prototype of RocketBolt’s website tracking feature.
Then something strange started happening. Our website tracking tool was so effective at giving insights into our prospects that the people we were prospecting would wonder how we were anticipating their questions. When we would occasionally show what we’d built, they always said the same thing: “I’m not sure I need the thing you’re trying to sell me, but I’d love to buy your website tracking software.”
And that’s how RocketBolt was born -- almost by accident. It started because we wanted to solve a problem for ourselves: how can we know when one of our contacts is looking at our website?
Once we figured out how to answer that question, we began to grow RocketBolt by asking related questions: How can we know when someone reads our emails? How can we know when a company we’re selling into gets mentioned in the news? How can we know when one of our prospects posts something on social media that could help us close a sale?
True, all of these questions are easy enough to answer on an individual basis. You can constantly check someone’s Twitter feed. Or you can do daily news searches looking for updates about your prospective buyers. And, as my UTM code example above shows, you can even track individual contacts on your website by creatively deploying Google Analytics. In fact, feel free to steal the process and use it yourself!
The challenge we struggled with wasn’t tracking the activity of a single, important prospect. The challenge we faced, and the reason we built RocketBolt, was to help users scale this kind of comprehensive, 24/7 contact tracking across thousands of contacts.