Mobile and Tablet MarketingSearch Marketing

ChaCha’s Shift to Mobile was Brilliant

I (and others) never really understood ChaCha. ChaCha is a hometown hero in Indianapolis and has gotten a ton of funding behind it. I didn’t understand why anyone would throw money at a human-powered search engine. I thought it was too resource intensive and a waste of time… doomed to a dot com death.

I was wrong.

ChaCha did something that took me by surprise. They knew what they were good at – accurate search results the first time – and figured out the medium where it would be best put to use = Mobile. They had the advantage of humans on their side and utilized them to their fullest potential, voice-based search.

ChaCha Mobile Search

ChaCha has relaunched itself, voted best Mobile application by AT&T and launching both voice-based mobile search and SMS search that is fantastic.

I tested ChaCha myself, texting 242242 and asking

When and what hours are the National Restaurant Association this year?

Within a couple minutes I got back the dates, hours, and where it was being held – nicely formatted and easy to read on my mobile phone (Razr).

ChaCha has taught me some lessons

  1. Don’t ever underestimate a charismatic, energized leader. Scott Jones has over two decades of experience and is a veteran entrepreneur, inventor, strategist, and venture capitalist. I think it’s Scott’s passion and the talented team he put in place that willed this company to success. I wasn’t a believer, but they sure were!
  2. Just because a company isn’t doing well today, don’t count them out tomorrow. We live in a results-driven, impatient world, don’t we? I see a startup, look at their business plan, watch them struggle, and I assume death is around the corner. The fact is that a great company is a great company and sometimes they just need to find their way. ChaCha’s mobile move is 3M’s Post-It Note in my book.
  3. Great funding increases your probability of success. Too many people assume that, in this wild world wide web, anyone can become a dot-com millionaire. We love those stories and read them all over the place. The truth is that it still takes money to make money.

I’m suppose I’m a little jealous of the incredible funding that ChaCha has had from the likes of Scott, (Jeff) Bezos Expeditions and Simon Equity Partners. I’m pretty sure that, given the resources that some dot-coms have had, I could build a successful business with some of my friends and our ideas. How does an entrepreneur with no resources get an opportunity like these guys?

I hope I get to meet Scott some day and ask him. In the meantime, I’ll keep using my own muscle to drive my ideas to market slowly and earnestly. Perhaps I’ll get a boost from Cisco.

Or maybe I’ll text 242242.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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  1. Doug (and Todd, and Scott Jones),

    I sit on the MIRA Awards judging panel and was amazed as I read this years submission for the mobile search. Doug, I echo all of your comments – it is cool what they have done. I tested it as well last Monday as I hit the web trying to find out what time the NCAA final game started that night. When I couldn’t find it easily, I decided later to text it to ChaCha and had it back in less than 2 minutes! Wow, that was cool. I can really see this working as people travel, need instant relevant information, etc.

    Now, here is the question I want to ask Scott. How do you make money with this model? Where is the revenue stream? Who pays the guides?

    Lastly, I don’t know what value it provides, but I already had a ChaCha account and being able to go online, add my phone number, and then see the history of my questions and their answers was pretty cool.

    This one will be fun to watch.

  2. Great post Doug.

    I’ve followed ChaCha for a couple of years, and never really understood it. Human guided search – like you said is labor/resource intensive and thus, slow. I actually wanted to give it a unique tagline… “WAIT…. It’s Google.” Since nearly every time I tried it, it gave me the same results as Google… only is 10X the time.

    Anyway – once I read a few months ago they were ‘expanding’ to mobile – I knew the ‘announcement’ was coming that they were putting all of their eggs in this basket. Since then, I’ve enjoyed using the mobile version.

    My favorite response was to my silly question – “What is the meaning of life?” And I got back – “To tell all of your friends about ChaCha.”

    Now that is good!

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