It’s just four short years since we launched BIDBase. By ‘we’ I mean myself and my former colleague Sarah Rennie. We both worked consultancy part-time at Colmore BID in Birmingham, and had in fact just helped Colmore through their first renewal ballot to a magnificent result. Sarah in particular had a torrid time with the BID’s database system. We had all shared some of that pain, up to and including the BID’s Executive Director, but Sarah had felt the brunt of it in the months leading up to ballot and the pressured weeks of the ballot itself. I suggested that TWF might be able to come up with something better, and something that might be better for other BIDs too. That wasn’t completely left-field for me; I had built a database system in the ‘noughties’ for the UK road safety industry (UK-MoRSE) which had been well-supported by UK local authorities.
I took an early version of BIDBase to an industry event in Bristol in 2016 and showed it to a few people on my laptop, to encouraging noises from BID managers and other industry folk.
We had very little money for marketing around the initial launch. Colmore BID provided the kernel of the idea but promised only that they would be our first customer; they have never promoted BIDBase to other BIDs (until now), not even other BIDs in Birmingham. In fact our second client (pre-launch) was a BID in the far south east of England with no connection to us other than I’d met the BID manager at the Bristol event. We made a slow start in Q1 of 2017, but then we started to make an impression, word started to spread and clients started to arrive.
It turns out that BID database systems are a bit like buses (as so many things seem to be – except actual buses) in that when we launched, so did two other systems. One is still our main competitor (if you don’t count Excel, which is what most BIDs seem to start with). It was an interesting mix; they were expensive (in my view) and we were not as feature-rich as they were (also my view). They are now cheaper than they were and we are much more feature-rich than we were. That’s market influence benefiting customer choice, right there.
The other drawback to generic CRM systems is that most BIDs are not just marketing companies; they have place-making and place management roles that demand operations management tools, which are usually nowhere to be found in generic CRM systems.
I’m reasonably relaxed about competition these days. Our main competitor takes a quite different approach to the BID database problem to the approach taken by us with BIDBase, so people who ‘get’ their approach tend to go for them and people who like our approach tend to go for BIDBase. Our other competitors tend to be generic CRM systems, either ‘out-of-the-box’ or with some degree of mangled adaptation to the BID market. The tricky part for ‘generics’ is that for a UK BID database system to really unlock the power in a BID’s data it needs to be hereditament-centred, with businesses and people ‘orbiting’ that data. Most people outside BIDs and the property industry don’t even know what a hereditament is, let alone build database systems for them. The other drawback to generic CRM systems is that most BIDs are not just marketing companies; they have place-making and place management roles that demand operations management tools, which are usually nowhere to be found in generic CRM systems.
So here we are at BIDBase 3.0. Between 2017 and 2021 we added:
- street operations management tools (including the ever-popular BIDBase Street Ops mobile app);
- promotions recording and evaluation;
- event management tools;
- audit-friendly budget management tools;
- on-board emailing and texting;
- comprehensive ballot tools;
- tasking tools (including the option to task someone using the app from your desktop);
- integrations with LoyalFree and Meercat;
- comprehensive automated reporting systems;
- patch allocation and management tools;
- and now, with BIDBase 3.0 we’ve added the optional BIDBase Plus modules, which offer Business Crime Reduction tools and a simple members’ loyalty card function.
Almost 50 BIDs are currently BIDBase clients. It is humbling and gratifying that so many in our industry have shared our view of what BIDs need to help get the job done in their town. BIDBase 3.0 is the most powerful, best looking BIDBase yet. We still offer it free to developing BIDs, with no obligation to stick with us after a successful ballot and we still believe that offering the right tools at the right price with the best support we can offer is the best way to continue our onward journey.
If your BID is one of the 50 on our journey with us then thank you, we truly appreciate your support. If you’re not one of the 50 why not contact Lee Stirrup, the BIDBase Project Manager and ask her to show you how BIDBase 3.0 can help you show you mean business in your BID?