Zapproved’s Brad Harris shares insights on customer needs driving marketing and product design philosophy

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak with Brad Harris, the VP of Legal Products at Zapproved, a startup based out of Portland, OR. Zapproved was founded in 2008, initially focusing on an eponymous SaaS product that facilitated email notifications for accountable communication of compliance and regulatory information. Instead of an individual employee tracking dozens of email acknowledgements, the straightforward Zapproved web app is able to manage all aspects of the process, and keep a detailed audit trail of dates, acknowledgements, and responses. When Brad joined Zapproved in 2010, after several years of experience with the legal process of e-discovery preparedness in the technology industry, he and other early founders saw a huge opportunity for Zapproved to leverage the capabilities of their generalized communications management product to address a significant problem in the e-discovery space: the management of legal holds.

In a lawsuit, both parties are required to preserve many key electronic documents, files, and emails, and a legal hold is issued to notify all parties involved. Major suits have been lost because of the accidental deletion of seemingly unimportant documents that were actually covered under a legal hold. Before Zapproved developed their product, “Legal Hold Pro,” there were two main software products that existed to manage legal holds, but both were huge software packages that required a direct install on local machines, and thus frequent manual updates, and a significant burden on IT personnel, not to mention their huge price tags. Legal Hold Pro was a disruptive new web-based SaaS tool that managed the entire audit trail of communication for legal holds. It was more efficient, easier to use, and was a financially appealing option because pricing could be based on usage (loosely: more holds, more expensive). Furthermore, because the product is not a direct install, Zapproved has been able to quickly respond to customer needs, and frequently update their web service, which avoids putting a burden of a complicated update onto their customers’ IT departments, and also eliminates down-time for customers to wait for those updates to be delivered to them.

Just as Zapproved was preparing to launch Legal Hold Pro, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin published a widely-read opinion about a case in which improper management of legal holds had lost a pension fund their lawsuit. This news brought the importance of good legal hold practices to the spotlight, and because of his expertise, Brad co-authored several articles analyzing the impacts of these major changes on the way companies have to manage internal e-discovery preparedness. This emphasis on customer education is key to Zapproved’s philosophy: they believe that if their customers better understand the importance of proper management of legal holds, customers will be better able to make informed decisions about which legal hold management software option to pursue and will recognize the huge value in an efficient and effective solution.

Because any company or organization could find itself in a lawsuit (either as plaintiff or defendant), Zapproved reached out to heads of legal departments to better understand their legal hold needs, and offer information about managing the legal hold process. Through direct communications to email lists of legal managers, trade shows, and in-depth analytics about which people were expressing interest or interacting with their website, Zapproved has been able to learn about different potential customers’ situations and needs. Additionally, because Zapproved has expertise in the subject area, their direct emails provide potential customers with useful information, so even contacts that don’t produce an immediate sale are still successful at relationship-building.

Less than 4 years after its introduction, Legal Hold Pro is now the go-to product on the market for companies and other entities such as municipalities, who are seeking an efficient tools to manage the important communications in the legal hold process.

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