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Episode 20: Mike Moyer about splitting equity like Slicing Pie

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Episode 20: Mike Moyer about splitting equity like Slicing Pie

When you get your startup going  with a cofounder, a dificult question that often pops up is how to split the shares between founders and also early employees. That’s exactly the problem Mike Moyer was confronted with when he started his company. The simple answer (50/50) proved to be a bad choice ... but how do you split equity then? The Slicing Pie method Mike developed and described in his book may be the answer.

When Mike was in Belgium for a speech at The CoFoundry I took the opportunity to sit down with him for an interview about splitting equity, poker, marketing and life in general.

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The mission for banking in a digitally empowered the world

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The mission for banking in a digitally empowered the world

That the banking sector is facing serious challenges is nothing new. The impact of world events and economic trends, mixed with hyperspeed in communication and computer processing are turning the traditional ways of thinking on their head. However I am convinced that this is only the beginning. The true challenge for any player in the finance world is, and will always have to be, the customer. And that customer is now spoiled by amazing new technologies, alternative payment methods and even totally new digital currencies.

The development of the Internet over the past 20 years or so has taught us a number of things. Most important to me is, that digital has the power to overturn all the elements of a company. It is not just a communication tool or a new channel, it’s a force that has a profound impact on the relationship development between customers and service deliverers. Looking at the (retail) banking sector, apart from all the newspeak about ‘Fintech' and some improved communication channels, nothing has fundamentally changed in the way banks treat their customers. In order to harness the potential of the digital era, this is where banks will need to focus.

I would like to zoom in on three areas where digital disruption has a crucial impact on the banking sector

To redevelop a sustainable business in such a volatile environment, the banking sector needs to adopt a true spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.

First of all, innovation is unpredictable. That is why a lot of experimentation is done, lot of brilliant ideas end up not working, and a number of simple ideas become a hit. Also, the future needs off our customers are not yet known because they do not know them themselves. Digital innovation sprouts new opportunities, which can lead to new products that may answer needs that lingered in people’s minds for decades, but they never realised it themselves.
To redevelop a sustainable business in such a volatile environment, the banking sector needs to adopt a true spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. The complete company needs to be reorganised to get rid of old ways of thinking. They must open up all those talented bankers' minds for unbridled creativity, careful experimentation and smart ways of building businesses from opportunities. The type of organisation probably best fit for this mission is the platform. Over the past decades a number of successful digital companies have adopted the platform strategy. Amazon for one, was once an online store but has grown into a platform for e-commerce where all the elements that make up a successful retail operation are delivered by semi independent companies, attached to the Amazon platform. I am looking forward to the first traditional bank to adopt platform strategy.

The power of the new digital communication channels is an opportunity for the banking sector to turn around it's image for the good.

A second thing that has changed is the access to information. Because of this, customers have become much more critical for any brand or supplier. A bank used to be an institute of trust and it is now often perceived as an institute not to be trusted. Customers now know more or less what happens on the inside of the bank, and they found out that it's not always what the TV ads told them. But more than a threat, the power of the new digital communication channels is an opportunity for the banking sector to turn around it's image for the good. Developing a strong vision for your company is best done together with your customers and teams, a process for which social media offer numerous possibilities. And the positive story of your company's mission is one that can be passed along through attractive content marketing.

Close customer interaction, a flexible organisation combined with both functional and hands-on knowledge of new technologies is crucial.

Finally, a platform based company with a strong sense of purpose and value, that has build trust through modern communication channels, should have no problem developing excellent products, services and interfaces for their customers. I am not talking about a better online banking site or a fancier smartphone app, but real solutions for real problems of real people. This will require close interaction with customers to truly understand their needs and a flexible organisation that allows for experimentation. Those two, need to be combined with both functional and hands-on knowledge of new technologies. Ranging from back-office big data and blockchain solutions over Artificial Intelligence to customer facing solutions brought by API’s, mobile, Augmented Reality or conversation based interfaces.

So the mission for banks is to innovate bottom-up and outside-in, taking advantage of new technologies, devices and channels to bond with customers to deliver them exceptional value.

Read more opinions and insights on banking in "2020: Beyond The Digital Bank"

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Podcast episode 8 (English): A SXSW chat with Antonio Garcia about fear and loathing in Silicon Valley

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Podcast episode 8 (English): A SXSW chat with Antonio Garcia about fear and loathing in Silicon Valley

Attending SXSW this year I met up with Antonio Garcia. Antonio is an out-of-the-ordinary Wall Street 'quant' who turned entrepreneur. He founded a Y-combinater backed startup, sold it to Twitter and moved to Facebook himself. All of this and much more he recounts in his book 'Chaos Monkeys, an unfiltered memoir of life inside the Silicon Valley machine'. Not just another business book, but a true novel that trumps the famed TV series ‘Silicon Valley’ in giving a insight in how the tech scene rolls.
Some good news: the book will be available in Dutch in spring of 2017.

During this episode we discuss the book and Antonio's colourfull life, we pick up on fascinating learnings for entrepreneurs and get some pointers for great books. Enjoy the ride:

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What I learned at Launch Incubator in San Francisco

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What I learned at Launch Incubator in San Francisco

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Last July, while rain was pouring down in Belgium, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in sunny San Francisco. The first objective of my trip was to start building a network on the US West Coast. Something that can come in handy when some of the startups I help, want to expand in that direction. The opening of “Atelier in the bay”, Belcham’s coworking space for Belgian companies in San Francisco, was the perfect starting point for that.

Attacking a 9 hour time difference is not something you do just for fun. So in an effort to make the most out of my trip I contacted Jason Calacanis. I’ve been - digitally - following Jason for a number of years and I truly appreciate the mixture of bluntness, wit, insight and vision which are always grounded in solid experience (in life and in business). Opinionated is the least you could call him, but his claims are so powerful because they stem from a true conviction. His brain seems to process every experience in life into a yardstick for the future. Or simply put, he constantly tries new stuff, learns from it and moves on. And that’s what makes a great entrepreneur.
It took a bit of ‘growth hacking’ to contact Jason, but I did manage to spend an afternoon with him during a Launch incubator session. Launch incubator is Jason’s personal incubator where he preps startups (post-MPV) for launch and growth. The afternoon consisted of presentations (3 min) by each of the startups, feedback and voting by the VC’s present (so I was a San Francisco VC for 3 hours 😃 ), an update from one of the alumni (which happened to be Craig Zingerline from Votion, in which I made a small investment through Jason’s Angellist syndicate) and a stunning presentation about acquisition metrics for SaaS companies by Andy Artz from Social Capital.
My take-aways are not novel or revolutionary, but the experience did strengthen some of the convictions I already had. Here they are:
  1. US/San Francisco startups don’t have ideas that are better or more innovative than what we see in Europe or Belgium. One of the concepts (Betagig) is even based on a model that exists in France. To my shame I must admit I didn't know it. One thing incubee's have in common: all of the startups had a well thought-through offering, business model and pitch. That is something we in Belgium can still improve on.
  2. Clearly the commitment of the people I met is on average a lot higher than what I’m used to seeing at home. None of them was ‘trying to get something going while keeping another job alive’. They are all laser-focused on a clear mission to make their plan work within a certain timing. If that doesn’t work they’ll probably switch back to different mode of working (consulting or working at a company) until they feel the time is right to give it another go. So it’s like hopping from one train to another when needed, rather than constantly changing lanes in an attempt to start a company and keep some kind of a salary.
  3. Startups are not about IT alone, they are about science, technology and innovation. There is no need to have an app or a cloud application to be considered an entrepreneur. As an example, one of the teams in the incubator is working on an innovative housing solution. Which brings me back to the definition of entrepreneurship I used before: doing something new and learn from it.
  4. Finally Jason proved again that success in business is about people. The incubator coaches a maximum of 8 people at a time, allowing for a lot of high quality human interaction with Jason and the mentors. Feedback is given from person to person which means it’s customised to the needs of the entrepreneur and of high quality and relevance.
So I did not only meet Jason but also got to talk with some bright people, an afternoon more then well spent. Thanks Jason (and Jacqui) for having me!

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Why marketing must be useful in today’s day and age.

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Why marketing must be useful in today’s day and age.

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I’ve always been fascinated by the way consumers act and react. Whenever I teach to or talk with marketing professionals and entrepreneurs, I try to find out which journey their customers follow. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that people never really change. Consumers all go for what their feeling tells them. What has changed is the context in which these people operate. And that has a profound impact on how customers react to marketing. And when I say marketing, I talk about the broad sense of the word meaning: products, pricing, distribution and communication.

From scarcity to unlimited possibilities

Let’s take a step back. At the beginning of the previous century people were happy if they could afford the comfort of a bed, the luxury of a bath and food. The majority of people in Europe were working hard to just be able to afford these things that made life comfortable enough. There was very little time for fun & entertainment. Enjoying culture, sports or hobbies was not a priority. That changed in the ‘interbellum’, the period between the two world wars, and had completely flipped by the fifties. In a matter of years, living conditions evolved from harsh war-time to a new world of endless possibilities and with gadgets that made life so much easier. There were no limits to these new wonders of the world: washing machines, kitchen aids, transistor radio's, vacuum cleaners, cars, etc. And this has remained the case until today. I spent a good part of my career at Samsonite and the number of suitcases we designed and developed every year was astounding. Looking back at it, I sometimes wonder what the use was of launching 4 or 5 lines of luggage (with each 5 to 10 items in 3 to 4 colours) per year. Each version with a small, often mainly visual difference to cater to the consumers’ insatiable thirst for the ultimate product. Of course we would not have made those products if there was no market for them, but objectively speaking they were just variations of boxes with a handle and with or without wheels.

Retail controlling supply

When I said there were no limits in the 50ties, 60ties and 70ties I omitted one element however. The one hurdle that consumers had to take was actually obtaining the products. Launching magnetic tape recorders was a great innovation, but if consumers would have only been able to buy them at the factory in Germany, then very few people would have bought them. That is where distribution (retail) came into play. They became the curators of luxury and gave people access to products produced hundreds of kilometers away. And thus people were spending larger and larger parts of their income on luxury products. And if they didn’t have the money, banks would lend it to them. For a generation who had experienced war times (directly or through their parents), and for whom these products were novelties, buying and owning goods was something that made them feel good. Marketeers and sales people were catering to needs ranging from ‘It helps doing boring chores’, through to ‘everybody in my family has one’ up until ‘It will boost my ego’.
It reminds me of the ‘wonderpolish’ sales guy I used to see at the local market, the same guy that sold vegetable cutting tools the next year. Everybody knew this stuff would probably end up unused, but stil they bought it because the market-guy may not be there the next week.

The end of retail

Over the past 25 years something remarkable has happened. The context consumers operate in has changed considerably. The artificial scarcity managed by retail has completely disappeared. We can now buy anything from anywhere in the world with the click of a thumb. The ultimate illustration of this is the Wish app on your smartphone. Want to buy a smartwatch straight form China? No problem, three clicks, 6 euro’s + 1 euro transport costs and a few weeks later your high-tech bluetooth enabled watch drops in your mailbox. Amazing! There are truly no more limits.
This evolution has shaped the minds of the people into a new kind of thinking, a lot of the stuff that is served by traditional companies (advertisers, brands) leaves consumers with a 'been there, done that' feeling. Buying products or services from this or that brand no longer gives the same ego-boost as before. People would rather spend their money on something which adds something to their life. That could be sitting in a coffee bar with good music, fair trade coffee and high speed internet. They don't mind that the coffee is overpriced because they don't spend it on other useless stuff.

The future of marketing

The impact of this shift in consumer thinking has a profound impact on all area’s of marketing.
When developing new products and services, product marketeers need to think in terms of what people really need. Marketeers need to cater to genuine concerns people have, things that will make a difference in their lives, not just fill up the kitchen drawers. Very often this will be services. Services as such, or as a complement to a physical product.
The communications department has to look all the communication tools they develop as a service that is a relevant addition to the product. Content marketing is one example, but an entertaining TV commercial may also be considered valuable. Traditional brands often wonder how to become relevant on smartphones, where new brands like Uber have grabbed this territory and made it ‘usefully theirs’.
Sales people too must rethink their role. They are no longer there to push products into retail channels. Sales is now a service provider facilitating the adoption of what they sell. Why not merge the sales department with the service team?
Even the price setting process is impacted as customers are no longer prepared to pay for tools they may not use. Why buy a CD if you will only listen to it once or twice? They rather prefer to pay for the value they actually get and when they get it. People happily pay for a monthly Spotify subscription which they can stop whenever they don’t use the service anymore.
Looking at consumer history we see how buying has evolved from fighting to get what you need, to abundance of consumables and durable goods. A flow of abundance that was only controlled by marketing and sales. But that way of thinking is rapidly dying. The flow of information and goods is no longer controlled by retailers and marketeers. The only thing they can do is make sure that whatever they do, adds something relevant to the lives of people. More then ever, all the aspects of the marketing mix must be useful to consumers.

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Beyond Google’s Micro-moments

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Beyond Google’s Micro-moments

When Google launched their Micro-moments research early 2015 the idea gripped me from the first instance. The word micro-moments alone triggered my brain towards a number of experiences I gained implementing and teaching the digital marketing principles from my book (dutch). A key evolution I’ve been pushing onto the marketing executives and entrepreneurs I met over the past years is ‘mobile'. Picking up a smartphone at any given time in the day to communicate with friends, colleagues or family, quickly checking your mail while waiting for a cup of coffee or sharing an in-the-moment experience through snapchat, they all have become part of our daily life. i-want-to-do-micro-moments-sm

Many of these moments carry opportunities for interaction between brands and customers. Google calls them micro-moments. Whenever people want to learn something, go someplace, buy a product or do this or that, and they don’t know what, they’ll turn to their smartphones to ‘quickly’ look it up. There are three things that make these moments so relevant for marketeers:

  1. Intent: Whenever people pick up their phone, they have the intention to take action. They’re not busy reading mail or falling asleep on the couch, they are ready to make a move and that’s the perfect moment to attract them to your brand.
  2. Context: Smart phone technology offers us a unique insight in the context of an action. We obviously know at what time the action takes place (is your store open at this time or not?), often we know the location (in your office or outside?) and there’s a slew of other data that is gradually becoming available (air pressure anyone?, customer sentiment, ...). This allows marketeers to cater their message to the context the customer is in.
  3. Immediacy: Linked to the first point, during these micro-moments people want to act and act fast. They are in the moment of taking action, don’t disappoint them by slowing down their customer journey.

These Micro-moments to me are clearly the next level when it comes to ‘mobile’. We are no longer talking about more sophisticated phones or faster connections. Those are (geek-)subjects of the past. The only thing that really matters is that consumers are more then ever connected, always and everywhere. For sure through their smart phones, but also by means of tablets, smart watches of all sorts, connected cars up until virtual reality glasses. As a result we are collectively developing new attitudes and reflexes, we even experience new physical conditions like ‘phantom vibrations’. Micro-moments are part of a ‘digital reflex’ people are developing. An example: Last year I was preparing an adventurous motorcycle trip through Iceland (in Dutch again) and one night I lay awake running over the packing list once more. A USB charger! Need to buy a USB charger! Rather then opening up Evernote and adding another to-do for the next day I simply headed for my favourite online electronics shop, bought the charger and got back to sleep. All without leaving the bed. People have changed, are you ready to harvest their digital reflexes?

Now where Google focusses on micro-moments that are the result of people actively looking for a answer to a question they have, I like to take this concept one step further. Although search is one of the most important elements in the customer journey, it’s main impact is found in what I call the exploration phase. This is the phase where your customers are already aware of their need and look for a solution to a problem. But before that comes another important phase for many marketeers: the need phase. Especially when you are launching an innovative product or service (listen well startups!), your potential customers may not be consciously looking for a solution to the problem you adress. Heck, they probably don't even know there is a solution to their problem. Therefore we have to extend the micro-moments concept beyond the exploration phase and beyond search. We can find similar moments in the need phase, which is typically the domain of traditional (interruption) marketing and where there is an even more pressing need for marketing innovation.

The connected consumers are developing new attitudes because there is no more need to postpone any actions. We can now do everything, everywhere and at any time. What we see is that the complete customer journey is cut up in small pieces, it is atomised. No need to note down your shopping list for the Friday evening visit to the supermarket, just order online immediately, research your next trip to Amsterdam while commuting and book an Airbnb while you’re at it and test-drive a car from your living room by means of an oculus rift or a simple Google cardboard. What used to be chunks of actions grouped together for efficiency, is gradually evolving into a continuous flow of very diverse activity. The determining factor for ‘what to do first’ is no longer carefully planned but decided on the spot based on consumer intent, context and immediate access. Brands that are not immediately accessible will no longer be considered.

Now, we can even take it step further. Digital experiences do not replace every physical experience, in fact we see that when new channels become available they usually come on top of the existing channels (TV did not replace radio). So can we apply the ‘customer journey atomisation’ also physical experiences? I’m convinced we can. Any retail expert will tell you about the importance of every single step in the customer experience: open the door - walk into a shop - get greeted by staff - orient yourself in the shop - detect promotions - find what you need - be surprised - buy more - go to the checkout - etc. We should treat each of these steps as brand-defining micro-moments. At each step there are opportunities to cater to the digital reflex people have, and if you don’t your competitor will.

As conclusion, let’s have a look how we can digitally plug into the atomised customer journey at an early stage. You should ask yourself how you can hook into the daily life of customers while they are not actively looking to take action, when they are not yet conscious of the problem you are offering a solution for. In this phase people are probably scrolling their Facebook wall, watching YouTube movies, listening to podcasts or looking for a game. These may not be intent-rich moments, but contrary to those watching a movie on TV our digital entertainment seekers are in an active mode. Any relevant piece of content or entertainment will trigger their attention. Let’s call these “I-want-to-enjoy moments”. These moments can be captured in different ways, e.g. YouTube video or content on Facebook, games on smartphones or any other attention grabbing piece of entertainment you can offer. Ideally you have conquered a spot one of your prospect’s screens (smartphone, car, TV, …) which brings you as close a you can get to your target audience. Finally, make sure to focus your content in this phase on the WHY and HOW of your brand, leave behind the WHAT (for now).

Did this trigger you to get started harvesting the opportunities for micro-moments for your brand or startup? Contact me for a keynote speech, customer journey assessment or an interactive workshop with one of our teams.

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Bridging the death valley: on your bootstrapped way to first success

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Bridging the death valley: on your bootstrapped way to first success

My introduction for the session on "Bridging the death valley: on your bootstrapped way to first success" at Tech Startup Day 2015 in Brussels. Slides are at the bottom. So you think you can dance ...

You’ve been working hard on your startup idea, for weeks, months, maybe even more then a year. And after a number of pivots, you finally have found proof that your idea turned into a product has enough value that people will actually pay for it. Now things are getting serious, you have to start selling systematically.

There are a number of basics you have to nail down before you attack the market. Many of these things should have been fleshed out in the ideation phase. But due to the multiple changes you probably made in the solution you offer, the customers you target and the way you want to do this, your go-to-market strategy may have gotten a bit fuzzy. So it’s good to recap the fundamentals of your business. Re-iterating a Business Model Canvas (BMC) you made before could be the way to go, provided you are disciplined enough to ‘just write down the facts’. That may be a challenge as a BMC exercise is actually conceived to make you think about your business and question your assumptions. That’s why we recommend to cut down to the basics so you can move to an actual plan more quickly. You’re under time pressure, you’re running out of money and initial investors are getting impatient to see a systematically growing flow of buyers. So let’s not lose time!This is what we want to put on paper for once and for all (well, until the next pivot that is).

Your fundamental strategic framework: 1. Why are doing what you do? Why do you want to change the world the way you are planning to do? What’s your vision, your mission, your dreams and your ultimate objective? What does the dent you want to put in the universe look like? You may have read Simon Sink’s book “Start with why”, if not now is too late. But you should be able to spare some time for his TED talk: “How great leaders inspire action”, that’ll fix you up  in 18 minutes. The why question is often answered by an anecdote about when the initial founder came up with the idea of her/his startup.

2. How are you putting this dream to work? Starting from the why question, how do you put this in practice? That should immediately explain what makes your venture different from other ones with maybe similar products. This is where you walk the talk.

3. What do people actually buy from you? This is the easy part, clearly define what you are doing and selling. If you have completed your ideation phase you have all of this already lined out and you sold some of this stuff to people who are happy with it and are waiting for more.

Once you have the why-how-what crystal clear, it’s time to look at your customers.

Who are these people? At a very basic level you want to define whether you’re hitting a B2B or B2C market. On top of that, now is the moment to define more clearly who these people are who are willing to pay for your product. Think of the times you were talking to customers, be it to get them to buy or whenever you were solving an issue they had. Distill that knowledge into 3 tot 5 buying personas. When defining these personas make sure you don’t get lost in demographics and other easy to use metrics. In stead, focus on the problem you are solving for these people. What value are you adding to their lives? Define your persons based on actual problems your target group experiences, rather than what age or sex they are.

Now figure out how these potential customers are going to get to your solution. Map out the customer journey for each of your buyer personas and decide which hurdles in that journey you need to work on first.

  • Do your prospects know the type of solution you offer exists? Are they looking for it, or are you bringing a disruptive idea nobody has even thought of? If you have uncovered a true need (that’s the purpose of the ideation phase) but people don't realise yet realise they have this need, you will have to evangelise this idea. This could be expensive, so you may want to look for wealthy or powerful partners in this process.
  • So people are looking for solutions to the problem you solve? How do they do this? How do they explore the market and how will you make sure they end up on your property?
  • If the two previous points are covered, you just need to reel in those customers. This is where your website will probably be crucial. Unless you are selling person to person. In either case, conversion and how to realise it will be your focus.
  • Last but  not least, you want to take care of your existing customers. First of all, it’s much cheaper to keep existing customer than it is to make new ones. So keeping the churn down should be a number 1 concern. Secondly, happy customers are your best ambassadors, they will convince people looking for a solution to choose for your product.

Priorities and messages

While doing this exercise the priorities for your commercial approach will become clear. Set your priorities for the go to market strategy based on the outcome of your customer journey exercise.

The same customer journey priorities will point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing communication channels. Each step along the journey requires different communication channels. Starting with more intrusive channels such as advertising, PR or Facebook in the beginning of the journey, to blogs, Google and Twitter in the exploration phase and your own media (like your website) in the conversion phase and once people are customers.

Now comes the fun part. It’s time to map your why-how-what thinking to the customer journey priorities your defined. If you’re trying to make people aware of the fact they have an unadressed need, you will focus on the first phase and your message will be based on the ‘why’ of your company. When the priority is in picking up customers who are exploring the market for a solution, your focus will be on the how-story. How do you deliver a solution to their needs. And when they end up on your website and are ready to buy, you only talk about what you actually deliver. Existing customers are lifted back up again to the why level to boost their loyalty.

On bootstrapping ...

There’s good news and bad news in this stage. Let’s start with the bad: as of now you will have to start spending real marketing money. Not just the occasional designer for a logo or consultant to take a next step, but recurring cash-out that will have to bring in sales. The good news is, this is the first time as a startup you can start making real money. These are some thoughts on how to approach spending and making money in this phase.

Don't spend too much money, be frugal. Being frugal does not mean you shouldn’t spend money, successful entrepreneurs invest their funds wisely. Your guiding principle here should be ‘affordable loss’. You spend just as much money as you can afford to lose. Test a marketing approach with a few hundred to a few thousand euro (depending on your financial situation) and if it works, if the return on investment is satisfactory you step up the investment. If not, you try something else. You limit your risk exposure by taking small steps that will not kill you if they go wrong. Think in term of how much you can afford to lose rather then how much you could win if you happen to be right.

The whole growth hacking trend gives you loads of ideas and tricks to start winning customers without spending tons on marketing from day one.

On the upside, there are ways of making enough money to keep your startup afloat during this phases, when sales is not yet systematically rolling in. As an entrepreneur you build on your strengths and pick low hanging fruit you discover while defining your business and exploring the customer journey. During these exercises you will most certainly bump into customer needs that can be easily answered with your existing know-how and team. You may choose not to pursue this path as the final direction for your business, but it can be a simple way to make some nice money that will fund your marketing or other efforts. Think of short term consulting missions (at high rates) fuelled by the know-how you gained building your startup, ad hoc use of parts of your tool (a subset of the code that will make out the final solution) or quick sales to customers who are OK with a simplified version of your tool. If you get it right you can even prepare the path for future customers through these methods or market test parts of your solution.

Presentation slides: [slideshare id=45698411&w=476&h=400&sc=no]

Further Reading:

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9 differences between marketing managers and startup marketeers (or growth hackers)

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9 differences between marketing managers and startup marketeers (or growth hackers)

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9 differences between marketing managers and startup marketeers or growth hackersMarketing will always be marketing, and the general principles of this industry can be applied to any product or service.”. That is very of the the starting point for inexperienced startup marketeers to start building their marketing plan. Or worse even, they spend a disproportionate amount of their angel or seed money on an advertising agency that has never worked with an internet startup. Reality teaches us that the new, mainly digital, media and the highly volatile environments startups operate in, demand a totally different way of working and thinking. To make it clear and understandable for both traditional marketing managers and startup entrepreneurs, we composed this list of nine differences between marketing managers and startup marketeers or growth hackers.

1. The Context

Marketing managers are used to working in a relatively stable environment: product, price and distribution are known factors. Of course markets evolve and marketing plans have to be adapted constantly, but the word ‘evolution’ here says it all. Startups on the other hand, by definition work in an unstable, even unknown, environment. Most elements in the marketing mix are not fixed and the market is unknown territory. Today they may be the only player, tomorrow there are three competitors. Today customers pay for a service, tomorrow one of the internet moguls (Google, Facebook, …) launches the same thing for free.

2. Target Groups

In this unknown environments startups must seek out their customers, who they will be is mostly unknown. Every customer presents a small victory and teaches the entrepreneurs something about who might be the next one. Marketing managers on the other hand work with clearly defined target groups which they get to know better and better through market research.

3. Goals

A marketing manager is operating as part of bigger plan. There are clear objectives for the company and the marketing manager deploys the necessary means to achieve the goals of this plan. The startup marketeer knows the end goal (find customers and grow fast), but has very few intermediate checkpoints. That’s why he will test different channels and approaches without a clear roadmap.

4. Budget

Startups are forced to work with the means available, or better, they work with no more then they can afford to lose in case it doesn’t work. Therefore the goal is to launch the most effective actions with as few as possible means. It may sound as if this would be the same for any marketeer, but it’s not. The typical marketing manager is focussed on making optimal use of the budget he or she got allocated at the beginning of the year.

5. Planning

Marketing managers make a plan, execute it and report about how successful it was. Traditionally a plan covers a full year, in more agile environments a plan covers a quarter. Startups don’t have pre-set plans, they will test a tactic or channel, measure the results and build on what worked. The main difference however is the length of an iteration. In startup marketing and growth hacking we count in weeks and in some cases, say Google Adwords, days or even hours. Entrepreneurs manage their uncertain future by acting in much shorter cycles.

6. Stakeholders

Marketing manager work for marketing directors or vice presidents who want to see their plan executed. They are responsible for reaching preset goals with an agreed budget. Startup marketeers work directly for and with the shareholders (often themselves) and for their customers. Spending one euro on marketing means one euro less in the bank at the end of the month. Good startup marketeers involve their customers much closer, it’s as if they are part of the marketing team.

7. Competition and partnerships

Traditional marketing teaches you to focus on markets where you are market leader, or can reach that position easily. You look for a hole in the market and anyone who comes near that hole is considered a competitor that needs to be expelled. Startups concentrate on finding a market for the hole they discovered, working from their strengths and building partnerships with other market players. This may mean they have to adapt their business model, e.g. change their pricing strategy to get their income at a different point in the value chain. That is a degree of freedom the traditional marketeer does not have.

8. The marketing mix

Startup marketeer must apply their creativity to a much broader scope. Every element in the marketing mix, including the product, is subject to change on the road to growth. Marketing manager on the other hand focus their creative talent on bringing the message or launching the right promotions and much less on say the product itself or the distribution channel.

9. Market research

Marketing managers try to understand their customers through market research to then build a strategy based on that information. In the highly volatile environment in which startups operate, trying to predict the future through market research does not make sense. In a startup environment every customer interaction is a small market research, the first paying customers are their focus group.

Startup marketeer and growth hackers must have other skills and think and work differently from a marketing manager in an established company. They need to work in short cycles, and be on the ball. All aspects of the marketing mix are involved and they are much closer to the customer.

This also has an impact on the way of working with agencies and external advisors. They have to be prepared to take a deep dive into the startup’s world and share their knowledge. The focus will on coaching more than on service delivery, so the startup can grow to a fully integrated marketing approach. Execution will often be done by an internal team, with the help of external experts.

This post was originally published in Dutch: http://ibert.be/2014/01/06/de-9-verschillen-tussen-marketing-managers-en-startup-marketeers/ http://www.thinkwithpeople.be/de-9-verschillen-tussen-marketing-managers-en-startup-marketeers/

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Stop the conversation!

Times are not easy for companies selling consumer products or services. Brands are questionned or even attacked from all sides from the moment the make a suspicious move. A consumer simply wondering whether he or she has done the best deal, or someone not 100% sure of how a product works, they all share it with the world and expect an answer. They share it with their world on Facebook or the whole world on Twitter.
Therefore, the first phase in developing social media plans is to start listening to these remarks and conversations. And that's a step where nobody get happy. Either conversation is scarce, and then you have to start building a plan to stimulate positive buzz about your brand, or conversation is abundent and then you can start wondering how you are going to manage all of that. Tools will help you detect and organize conversations, but appart from some futile attempts to evalute the sentiment of social conversation, online discussions can only be harnessed and responded to by real people. And as we all know, time is money.
So what are companies up against? Thanks to digital and social media, communicating with brands has become much easier for consumers. But with that comes a desire or even expectation from consumers to get answers to all their questions immediately:
On a sunday evening I'm fooling around with a video editor on the iPad and it crashes. I want to know how to solve this, like right now. I paid good money for the app, so they should help me, now! My internet connection is down, there's a good chance that the problem is located with me, but still I want my service provider to come to the rescue as soon as I shout out my frustration on Twitter. 
Some of the more service oriented and digitally organised companies actually offer this level of service, but at what cost?
We can expect products and services to get more expensive in the future because of the extra support we demand through social media. Somebody will have to pay for it. But hey, I'm the guy that's always helping out the others when their gadgets don't work (that is, by the way, the moral duty of every geek). Why should I pay more? Not me! And if you do make me pay more, I'll expose you on Twitter!
Increasing prices for more service is probably not the correct solution. Instead companies need to find a way out of this issue that takes advantage of digital communication, rather then trying to patch up new problems with old solutions. So a call center full of digital natives is not the solution. They need to stop the conversation when cost tends to grow disproportionally. And stopping the customer service conversation is best done by integrating conversation in every step of the companie's value chain.
So here is what I suggest:
  • Start by involving your customers in the design process of you product or service. Get in touch with you existing customers or set-up a research community. By doing so you will better cater to the needs of your consumer base and reduce the number of questions and remarks afterwards.
  • Have your customers on board when testing out a new service. Detect what's not good early on and adapt. Appart from buying a lot of goodwill from the community, you will also reduce complaints and negative buzz at a later stage.
  • Stimulate people to consult their friends when exploring your product category. Make sure they convince themselves before they enter the store. It may even save on sales people time which gives them the opportunity to better service prospects and thus increase conversion rates.
  • And finally, in the customer support stage there is a lot to be done to help people online without a need for immediate person-to-person conversation. A simple support forum can do miracles, provided it's populated with good content and easy to use.
So an increased cost of customer support and conversation management may be a reality today. But by taking action to bring the conversation forward in the value chain you can enjoy the benefits rather only bearing the costs.

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Social media tools don’t buy happiness ...

But they’re very useful. Of course the essence of social media marketing and conversation management is not in boxing everything neatly in one or the other tool. Successful marketing and communication is more then ever about content, creativity, the message. Not software ... but it helps.

Those who still remember the days when the internet was associated with whistling modems must have another déja vue these days. Last century it was common practice to build your own tools to develop and maintain websites, which gave us loads of content management systems. Books were written about it, studies made and conferences organised, resulting in a landscape so complex you needed a consultant to guide you through.

Today they are back, the tools. Not to build websites but to shape your strategy and to be a good conversation manager. Solutions come in all shapes and sizes, as social media are a lot more complexe then your own websites. On one hand you need to manager different platforms and on the other hand you want to follow and interact with over 500 million people on Facebook alone. Not a simple task, so you’ll need more then one solution.

Now, how do we find our way in these hundreds of tools? Let’s split them up in a number of categories. This is - again - not as straightforward as it may seem because every tool seems to take a different angle to managing social media. I prefer to split social media management platforms along the logic of the steps that are often used to set out a social media strategy:
1. Listen
2. Engage
3. Act

In the “Listen” phase we first of all need social media tracking tools. This can range from a simple and free Google Alerts to a very advanced Radian6 of the recently launched Engagor. But also your own site analytics software (e.g. Google Analytics) falls into this category as it allows you to measure the effect social media on the visits to your site. And then there are also those sites that measure your performance in social media such as the Klout (which is in itself subject to much controversy).

Once you have clear view on the ongoing conversations it’s time to step into the conversation yourself. But there are many channels and many participants in the conversation both inside and outside the company. So a traditional content management system or a CRM tool will not do the job. That’s why we see a number of social media engagement tools appear such a Hootsuite.

Now comes the time for some real action. Claim, maintain and promote your own piece of social media territory. This is the least developed part of this emerging industry. There are a number of solutions that allow you to manage Facebook pages, and a number of existing CMSystems work on plugins to integrate with the large social media platforms. When it comes to tools for launching social media campaigns we look forward to what Spreadid wil offer, a soon-to-launch Belgian initiative (in which I’m a stakeholder).

But as already indicated in the beginning, tools are but a means to help. Succes in social media only comes with the correct message, the exact tone of voice and of course a smart strategy.

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My Tweetathlon for Music For Life #itweetforlife

Over the last days I've on a small Tweetathlon after my fellow-greyhound @guidooohh challenged me not to mention Square Melon during 40 (relevant) tweets and before the end of Music for life. And it has been a remarkable experience. Here are a few things I learned.

- It takes quite an effort to publish 40 tweets in about 3 days, but it's more the logistics of publishing them that was a drag (copy, paste, shorten message, shorten URL, get in the correct hash tags).
- On the other hand, findin inspiration was not so difficult. Although today (day before Christmas) the constant flow of content online seriously slowed down.
- I took pride in making all (well most) tweets relevant. Either by putting out a message or linking to an interesting online item. However, this is not a guarantee for a lot of reactions or retweets. Hence this tweet I sent out this morning:
Nihilism is the ultimate social media conversation magnet (hier net te plaatse in team bedacht) #36 #itweetforlife

But since I'm kind of proud of my work, here is the full list of 40 tweets:
http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
(*) Square Melon ... What will they think of next #hetwaswelmoeilijk #itweetforlife #mfl10 @guidooohh en de rest: Fijne Feesten Gewenst!

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
The Power of Twitter in Information Discovery http://ht.ly/3u6tX #39 #itweetforlife

guidooohh guido everaert
@ibert ok, ok, i av lost... Dokken dus...#itweetforlife #mfl10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
How Santa Lost Control of His Branding #37 #itweetforlife
http://ht.ly/3u4vh 

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove

My Pummelvision video is ready, enjoy my life in Facebook foto's http://ht.ly/3u4sL

#37 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Nihilism is the ultimate social media conversation magnet (hier net te plaatse in team
bedacht) #36
#itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove 
OK, one more Christmas video ... Tron! http://ht.ly/3u4iE  #35 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
The Star Wars Christmas edition to round up the list #34 #itweetforlife http://ht.ly/3u3Tn

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
And more Christmas mellowness, here are the Chipmunks? #33 #itweetforlife http://ht.ly/3u3KZ

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Stepping up the Christmas mellowness with some TV classics, do you remember Alf? #1987 #weep
#32 #itweetforlife http://ht.ly/3u3Hi

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Vind een vent zoals je schoenen kiest, franse dating site lanceert zich http://ht.ly/3u3wo
#31 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Schrik om te rijden in de sneeuw? Maybe the dog can help http://ht.ly/3u3mv  #30 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Cool app: Beluga helps groups of friends stay in touch. Vanavond eens testen rond de
feesttafel. http://ht.ly/3u3h2
 #29 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Een digitaal kerstverhaal ... http://ht.ly/3u3b9 #28 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Waar zit de Kerstman? Norad en Google helpen ... http://ht.ly/3u32P  #27 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Make the ringtone the message, great campaign from Guatemala (practice you Spanish) http://ht.ly/3u2Ua  #26 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove 
Looking forward to see my life flash before my eyes:
Pummelvision.com http://bit.ly/euIkdS

#25 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove 
Oudenaarde > Antwerpen - 75km - 1uur what's the
problem? #23
#itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Het heeft nauwelijks gesneeuwd in O-VL, je kan gerust de baan op. Snap niet waarom De
Lijn daar problemen heeft #22
#itweetforlife #radio1

guidooohh guido everaert
@VLRik mocht het daar stoppen, ik zou hem nog vriend kunnen noemen #goresmeerlapperij
#itweetforlife
// cc @ibert

guidooohh guido everaert

@ibert platte chantage kan eigenlijk ook hè... ik zou dingen kunnen vertellen over je, die

misschien wel 50 euro waard zijn #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Ted.com launches: Ads Worth Spreading http://ht.ly/3tAMY  #21 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Where there's a panic, there's an opportunity http://ht.ly/3tAD6
#20 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Beautiful experiments about Internet gifts and stolen pixels. #19 #itweetforlife http://ht.ly/3tAzQ

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Unconventional rules of post-digital marketing: don't share & encourage, incentivize &
convert #18
#itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove

Unconventional rules of post-digital marketing: don't just use the complete web, there's life

in the real world too #17 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Unconventional rules of post-digital marketing: don't make it easy, make it worthwhile #16 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Unconventional rules of post-digital marketing: don't stay in conversation at all cost, shut
up if not relevant #15
#itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Unconventional rules of post-digital marketing: don't offer tools, add value #14 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Wat worden de gadgets van volgend jaar? http://ht.ly/3tAeq #itweetforlife #13

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Die van Path komen toch altijd met een interessante insteek voor hun Social Netw
applicatie
#itweetforlife #11 http://tcrn.ch/fesmJz

guidooohh guido everaert
Beste mensen vraag @ibert nu eens hoe dat zit met Amphion en
ontlok hem het woord... Iets met square en lemon
#itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
We gaan eens een tweet demarrageke inzetten, wat geld uit @guidooohh
zijn zakken slaan voor #mfl10 #itweetforlife #11

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
Betaalt 1,5 EUR toeristenbelasting en vraagt zich af wat ik daarvoor krijg van
"A"
#itweetforlife #10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove

#9 Think I'm a Pussycat Doll fan, do you

still love me? http://yfrog.com/h092fcj
#itweetforlife #mfl10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
#8 About fruit & technology, and I'm not making a mistake here ... http://youtu.be/kAG39jKi0lI
#itweetforlife #MFL10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
#7 Is a bed in the Hilton big enough for me and my ego? #partytonight #itweetforlife #MFL10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
#7 Zijn dat de mensen van de helpdesk die die wishes inzingen voor Electrabel? http://bit.ly/hnxOgz  #itweetforlife #MFL10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
#6 Location based chat roulette (no video unfortunately) http://bit.ly/eRfM6n  #itweetforlife #MFL10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
#5 Some arty stuff to kick off the day http://aol.it/g7KLzk #itweetforlife #MFL10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
#4 Did you know Adam Curry is Podcasting cool music again? #itweetforlife #MFL10 http://bit.ly/eW5EPt

guidooohh guido everaert
@ibert zijt ge daar alleen of zijn er nog snaken van 't bedrijf? #3 #itweetforlife

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove
#3 Een specialleke voor #itweetforlife Veel volk hier! — at Het Glazen Huis http://gowal.la/c/3beaa

guidooohh guido everaert
@rik_lagey help mij,'t is hard tegen hard...hij mag niet meer vierkante citroen in
zijn tweets vermelden @
ibert #itweetforlife #MFL10

guidooohh guido everaert
@ibert excuseer, in het overigens goede artikel staat al een tag naar uw X,
gaan we zo beginnen?
#itweetforlife #MFL10 http://bit.ly/eaTYj0

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove

#2 Follow the WikiLeaks river of news (tx Dave Winer) http://bit.ly/ev52U0

#itweetforlife #MFL10

ibert Bert Van Wassenhove

#1 Zal ik eens beginnen met de trends van 2011, in't Nederlands #itweetforlife #MFL10

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You work with the internet, but don't understand the techies at your agency? Read this.

Google has build a nice little online book explaining web technology. Anybody in the internet industry should probably know all of this, but refreshing your memory never hurts. This is particularly interesting if you work with digital agencies (like us) and you don't alway understand why some things are difficult and others are easy.

Check out "20 things I learned about browsers and the web"

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In anticipation of the iPad launch in Belgium, my favorite iPad Apps

Over the coming months iPads will flood the Belgian market, and to anticipate the questions I'll be getting on "which apps to download", here is my favourites list:
- Amazon Kindle - ebook reading
- Air Video - stream video from a mac on your network
- Epicurious - interactive e-cookbook
- Evernote - turns your iPad into a notepad that syncs with iPhone and laptop
- Adobe Ideas - a cool sketch pad for the iPad
- Wired - the only real iPad magazine that get the concept
- Comics - in case you like comics
- Air Sharing - gives access to all your documents over the network (e.g. laptop) or in the cloud (e.g. Gmail)
- Gowalla - even more location based fun
- Goskywatch - who needs a telescope anyway
- Fish Pond - harmless entertainment
- Cool Hunting - man, I'm so trendy
- Pulse News - the coolest RSS reader around
- Soundhound - music maestro
- Aurora feint 3 - addictive game
- Alice Lite - the future of books

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