Spokane Journal of Business

Mother-son duo ramps up online marketplace here

PokeNLink seeks to foster relationships, founder says

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A mother and son here have launched an online marketplace, dubbed PokeNLink, that’s intended to provide a network of interactive communities and sub-communities where organizations, professionals, and peers can build relationships and engage in commerce.

CEO Rena McGill says the pokenlink.com website focuses on relationship marketing that she believes is lacking at major social media sites and provides a place where brand-related content, back-and-forth communication, and ecommerce are woven together.

“We think it’s really important if you can provide a marketing tool that is very affordable and provides an interactive environment to better engage your audience,” she says. “All we wanted to do was get back to basics, so people really understood the value of relationships. It’s so important for like-minded people to be able to interact and support one another.”

McGill and her son, Taylor McGill, 33, who is co-founder and chief technology officer for the limited liability company, are operating it out of her home and are its only employees for now.

The word PokeNLink, the company says on its website, means “to reach out or search curiously and connect/engage with your audience.”

Through the website, membership is free to people who want to belong to a particular “community,” such as members of a fitness club. However, users such as the fitness club owners who want to set up their own custom-branded communities and ecommerce stores pay $30 a month. 

Similarly, users such as individually contracted trainers at fitness clubs can create sub-community ecommerce stores for $15 a month. Store operators in the network also pay 2 percent transaction fee and a Stripe credit card fee, which together are less than 5 percent and substantially cheaper than the fees large ecommerce sites charge, McGill asserts.

In return, she says, those wanting to engage in commerce through the site derive the benefits of a place where they can engage with their customers in discussion forums, post events in a calendar that includes attendance response features, and drill down to learn more about their customers through profile information they post there.

“It’s all about getting to know your customer by face and name, so it includes personal profiles for people who join your community. You know their interests, social media profiles, and member information,” and can generate exportable email lists, McGill says.

For added connectivity, PokeNLink can combine members’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube feeds into one location, and includes photo and video albums, incorporating searchable and indexable features, she says.

Along with the fitness and sports industries, prospective users who likely would find value in the PokeNLink software platform include those in the entertainment and nonprofit industries, churches, independent counseling or special interest groups, and “influencers and personalities,” McGill says. She also counts as targeted users “any business or organization that has related or strategic partners or relationships.” 

The McGills founded PokeNLink in 2011 as an idea that originated in a fitness class, but it wasn’t until late 2014, using some family money, that they began to search for a development company to help them bring the concept to reality, she says.

“We endured some unacceptable programming, scrapped it all, and started fresh with an exceptional local firm in summer of 2016,” McGill says. That Spokane Valley firm, RocketGUI LLC, created the graphic user interface that PokeNLink now is using, she says.

“They’re amazing. We consider them very powerful strategic partners,” she adds.

With the user interface now fine-tuned and ready to go, McGill says, “We just recently launched with a focus on building very large marketing channels that will bring in a bulk of our customers in the first phase. We are very proud of our product.”

The McGills originally intended to focus PokeNLink on the fitness industry, but since then have greatly expanded their view of the markets they believe the marketing platform can serve effectively, she says.

To build its initial user base, she says, PokeNLink is working to build relationships with some organizations that have “national reach,” but she declines to identify any of them.

“We’re probably a month out from starting to generate a significant revenue stream,” McGill says, but she adds, “I think we could be at about 8,000 communities within a year,” with each community having 50 to 100 members.

Kim Crompton
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