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Keebitz founders Vincent Naigeon and Anne-Aymone Ferreira

Earlier this week, Keebitz, a service that helps dentists manage their referrals, celebrated its first birthday — and $4 million generated for its customers.

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Keebitz CEO Anne Ferreira

Keebitz, which participated in the Microsoft Azure Accelerator powered by Techstars last year, has built a simple system that rewards patients with electronic gift cards when they refer their dentist.

While the company hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel, Keebitz has modernized and streamlined the process of incentivizing referrals. Keebitz also makes the system more mobile and user-friendly. The result is significant gains for their clients.

According to founder and CEO Anne-Aymone Ferreira, this incentive system gives dentists who use Keebitz a 20-to-40 percent uplift in referred patients.

“We are talking about referral marketing here, something that most small businesses fail to do well for the simple fact that although 89 percent of people will say they will refer others, in reality only 29 percent do,” she explained. “That is a huge gap that Keebitz addresses by making the entire process simple for both clients and their customers.”

Ferreira brings a strong background in marketing to the table and fellow co-founder Vincent Naigeon is a tech-savvy former software engineer. Both Ferreira and Naigeon previously worked for Kelkoo, a price comparison startup that was acquired by Yahoo.

We caught up with Ferreira to learn more about the company for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Keebitz helps dentists get more patients by rewarding their patients with an electronic Amazon.com gift card for every successful referral they make.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We met a very successful dentist who is a marketing genius. He kept trying everything in terms of marketing. We looked at all his figures and saw that 80 percent of his new patients came from his referral program. His staff did everything manually. That’s when we thought that we could automate this process and leverage technology to accelerate the referral cycle.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap plus Techstars because we built a business with a revenue model.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We implemented the best practices of referral marketing into Keebitz. And thanks to technology, we were able to go beyond what can be done manually.”

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Inforgraphic via Keebitz

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Sell first and build later — what we learned at Techstars. We also integrate the dentists’ feedback. Our loyal customers are our product managers. They give us ideas that work. For instance, one dentist asked us to send an email to a new patient asking for a referral at the same time that we send an email with the reward to the referring patient. This feature incredibly boosted the patients’ referral growth. In this case, technology can help shy dentists who don’t like to ask their patients for referrals — Keebitz does it for them.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Failing to communicate enough about Keebitz and its benefits for both dentists and their patients.”

bezos4Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos, because he did so well at selling books first, that Amazon went viral in all the segments.

We want to service dentists well first, and then be so successful that other merchants also come to us.

That’s already happening, since we already have optometrists, insurance brokers, real estate agents, plastic surgeons and chiropractors. Also we like Bezos’ enthusiasm.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “Once we are market leader in the USA, we will conquer the world.”

Rivals should fear us because: “Our customers like us.”

We are truly unique because: “We are the only ones leveraging the mobile and social experience combined.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “To understand really the needs of the merchants and how they’ve been successful so far.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Find a way to make a profitable sale. If you can sell a service or a product in a profitable way, then you can grow your company.”

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