Date Night Angels: UrbanSitter Uses Emails To Link Moms And Sitters

Daisy Downs had a problem that's common to new moms.

It had been ages since she and her husband had a date night, but it was tough finding a babysitter for their one year-old daughter.

“Then I met Lynn Perkins,” Downs says. Perkins is the kind of person who “set up several friends to go on to get married, and you went to her if you needed a sitter,” she laughs. 

Together, they had what Downs calls “an aha moment”: Why not employ technology to link parents with reliable sitters?

That was the start of UrbanSitter, an online service and app that links parents and sitters. Perkins is CEO, co-founder, Andrea Barrett manages product, and Downs is in charge of marketing.

Great idea. But if you think finding a sitter is tough, try sending around tens of millions of emails a month to two separate audiences -- customers and sitters -- tailored to their geography, behavior and other specifics, and linking them up on a moment’s notice.



Again, through local networking, the new partners began to work with Mailchimp at the start of 2011. Since then, Mailchimp has helped UrbanSitter “onboard, educate, convert and win back customers” in over 60 cities, Downs says. 

That entails “hooking into the API so we can personalize those messages, from geotargeting to whether they’ve booked, based on actions taken on the platform and also in the in-app notification.” 

The result of this email program? A 260% conversation rate after deploying Mailchimp’s CRM automations to engage both sides. Downs adds, “we’ve grown with Mailchimp.”

UrbanSitter now has over a million email addresses in its database, roughly split between customers and sitters.

Of its total email volume, 40% consists of engagement campaigns, 33% is devoted to promotions, 10% to conversion campaigns, 7% to welcome series, 6% to surveys and 4% to other communications.

One recent email to parents shows a young couple dining. It says:

That new restaurant down the street? Become a regular. Find your next date night sitter with $35 to try UrbanSitter this month.

Another says:

Two ways to find sitters & nannies for any occasion. Whether you’re looking for a last minute sitter, full-time nanny, mother’s helper or date night sitter, UrbanSitter makes it easy to get started. 

Prospective sitters might get an email like this one:

Setting yourself up for success. 

(First name), check the Job Board regularly and you’ll find one-time, part-time or full-time jobs that parents post. Here are two tips wen checking the Job Board:

Those are typical campaigns emails. Then there are the one-offs. 

“If there’s a snow day in Chicago, we can email all parents in Chicago,” Downs says. “Recently, we had a teacher’s strike in L.A.”

The firm conducts A/B testing of subject lines, times of day and other variables, using Google Analytics to test within Mailchimp. 

The result of this email program? A 260% conversation rate after deploying Mailchimp’s CRM automations to engage parents and sitters.

This is a seasonal business. The high season is the back-to-school period in August and September, when parents need help and college students might be looking to make some extra cash. 

Downs notes, “We’re not using third-party data, but leveraging our own data. They tell us where they live, sometimes the ages of children, and pull that into Mailchimp to segment for each campaign.” 

All that is on the promotional side. For transactional emails, the company relies on SendGrid.

What would Downs advise new businesses?

“On the basic level, building up your customer email database is important,” she replies. “Once you’ve done that, you can start to personalize with their irst name, then get more sophisticate, with geography. You can work with developers to build into the API.”

Any mistakes along the way? 

“We’ve probably had minor glitches,” Downs says. One challenge was sending unsubscribe information to Mailchimp. “It was solved quickly,” she adds.

What’s on the wish list? Downs hopes to integrate very recent booking dates.

One final thing: Downs isn’t only a partner at UrbanSitter. She’s also a customer.



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