Start Up Blog

People Watching

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve never been ‘people watching’, then start up blog strongly recommends a session. For a lot of reasons it’s a cool thing all entrepreneurs should do. For one, all our revered entrepreneurs are champion trend spotters. And they spot these trends a long time before they are reported in the Sunday newspaper lift outs.

What’s next?

Go some where busy, go somewhere where there are zillions of transactions, go somewhere sans commerce, go where families hang out, go somewhere singles hangout, look for the subgroups, watch people looking at shelves in stores – guess their decision process, see if this process is the same for all or different for all, see what they wear, see how they move, how did they get there, where are they from, bring a notepad with you and write down ideas, go places you’ve never been before…. Watch people, guess their motivations, view their life in action and then we’ll be the ones gaining life experience…. Just go and watch.

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The funny thing about our world is that we are all in it every day, but very few of us are actually paying any attention to it. Step off the stage and become the director. Make it a habit to pay attention to what is going on in our world.

As entrepreneurs and marketers we are lucky. We can do our homework everywhere we go, and our start ups are the key beneficiaries.

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Theatre & customization – Active feet

I was recently enthralled by the in store theatre of local Melbourne sports shoe retailer Active Feet. In fact it was much more than theatre. It was service, theatre and attitude. The store is owned and run by podiatrists.

We walked in the store and the first thing the store assistant did was introduce himself, and ask if we’d been in the store before. When we gave the ‘yes’ response and name, he asked to be excused for a few moments and went out the back to check the computer. Upon his return the assistant asked how the flat feet were going, how the particular joggers purchased worked out, and even how boot camp was going. It wasn’t contrived, but I could sense in the tone of voice and body language that this guy cared. I could sense it. All humans can, we can sense people who are faking it.

After this we moved onto the walking machine to assess the feet with some pretty impressive podiatry tools. He then went onto recommend some shoes to try based on the treadmill assessment and a mutual discussion. All of which can be seen in some action shots below.

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How many companies have things like databases and valuable customer information that just sits on a computer somewhere and never gets reviewed, let alone used to great value for a returning customer.

Startup lesson: If we are going to collect information for our customers, then maybe we should use it, and not only use it but customize it.

Oh, we bought the shoes there.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

Brand Definition… kind of

Posted in Audience (Consumer), business, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, Ideas, marketing, Marketing Insight, startups by Steve Sammartino on December 4, 2008

An actual definition of brands here on startup blog would be both boring, and downright insulting to my readers… Instead something better; A bit of brand anthropology reverse engineering.

We use brands to tell our story, to make short cuts. To define ourselves.

That said we all have brands we use to define ourselves to others. Brands like the suburb we live in, where we were educated, the companies we have worked for, the job titles we have got, the past times we participate in, the beer we drink and the car we drive….

So then we must consider this; How would our people, our customers and our brand users feel if they had to define our brand as part of them?

Would they be happy to do so? To reference us as part of them?

If yes – we are in an awesome place.

If no – we have some work to do.

Opportunities

It’s oft said that opportunities in business arrive once we start looking. And startup blog agrees. It’s not really about opportunity though, it’s more about perceptive sentience, general awareness, and curiosity.

Today in Melbourne some opportunists scored big time. The weather savvy surfers got to surf in Port Phillip Bay which is usually as flat as a mill pond. For today we had weather which was as stormy as it has been it in many years…. (like the current share market?)  Maybe, just maybe stormy enough for ridable surfing waves to form on the City doorstep.

storm-surfing5

Ok so it wasn’t classic surfing conditions but the waves where there (revenue ?) for those with the aforementioned qualities (perceptive sentience, general awareness, curiosity) to find.

Most surfers who live in Melbourne, which is a 75 minute drive from the closest surfing location, probably just rugged up with a hot cup of cocoa and forget about surfing in the terrible conditions (market downturn?). Well they missed out. While they didn’t seek opportunity others got a special treat and rode the fun, albeit bumpy waves.

Tomorrow, the waves will be gone.

The surfers out there today are like the kind of entrepreneurs I like to hang out with. People with a curiosity to investigate new situations. To imagine that the current conditions might present new and different opportunities. (They had to consider the wind, imagine the waves may be breaking, drive over and check it out) The type of people who have their resources (surfboard & wetsuit) on hand when chances pop up. People who don’t care that others may laugh at them surfing crappy waves in semi-polluted waters. The type of people who not only win, but have a ball doing it.

See more of these shots of the surfers here on my Twitpic page.

Steve – rentoid.com

Asset Diversification

We diversify our asset portfolios to reduce risk. To reduce the risk of a particular asset losing value, declining, getting stolen, lost, or broken. We store our assets in safes and banks and put locks on them. We even insure our assets.

If information is the new ‘asset’ – Why do we keep all our assets in only 1 or 2 devices? Just a laptop, a brain, maybe an iphone or external hard drive. Why don’t we diversify their location, or even afford them other types of protection?

Maybe they should be shared instead, and not hidden or locked up. Maybe the sharing of the asset will stimulate it’s growth. Maybe…. But there is little doubt they ought be protected.

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image by Austin Kleon

words by Steve from rentoid.com

Nature or Nurture?

I noticed this morning that a particular area of my box hedge isn’t growing as well as other areas. See the two photos below.

hedge1 hedge2

In order to remedy the situation I thought about what the different things I could do:

  1. Ensure the poor performing area was getting enough water
  2. Make sure the soil wasn’t poisoned in that particular area of the garden
  3. Remove the weeds from the periphery
  4. Add some fertiliser to the struggling area
  5. Aerating the soil with a hoe
  6. Ensure the area is getting enough sun

In fact, I’ll try the methods above. What I wont do is ‘remove’ the box hedge. I really need it because it forms part of the garden perimeter. It provides the required symmetry. It’s an integral part of the garden. I will give it the extra attention it deserves, and talk to it. I won’t pretend it will fix itself, because I know that is just a fantasy.

So, why do we take the opposite view with our staff / employees or business partners? We rarely ask first what we can do, and most often just ‘cut them out’, get rid of them, or even chastise their performance, before we look at the reasons for it. Maybe they:

  1. Aren’t getting enough cash to do their part?
  2. Maybe their part of the organisation has structural issues?
  3. Maybe they have non functional ‘hangers on’ stealing time & resources?
  4. Maybe we need to invest in some training or programs to boost the area?
  5. Maybe we need to give them more space & freedom to perform?
  6. Maybe we are not providing enough reward & recognition?

You’ve probably noticed how many of our people problems have strong analogies to my box hedge. In fact, both nature and people, need nurturing.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

More on leadership

Leaders have to sell hope. That is their job.

So when we lead our team, partners, tribe, customers, family or friends, we know we’ve achieved something when their belief levels match ours. When this happens we’ve lead our crew to where ‘we all’ want to be. And belief is a key ingredient in achieving goals.

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It starts with belief. But this shared belief, is one small part of great leadership, it is by no means the only ingredient.

How solid are the belief levels in your startup world?

Steve – founder rentoid.com

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Your worst nightmare

From a competitive viewpoint, imagine for a moment that our worst business nightmare came true.

Maybe Google decides to enter our market space. Or the Coca Cola Company launched a beverage with the same consumer benefit we’ve been bootstrapping. Or large company X decided to compete against “us” head on.

nuclear-explosion

Well – you’d be surprised how that feels. How it makes us react, and how it very quickly changes our perspective on what is the most important element in ‘winning’. In competing effectively for our share of wallet.

All of a sudden many of the projects we are investing our time on seem far less important than they were yesterday. Maybe that front page redesign can wait, maybe the shiny new web 2.0 buttons are a little less important. Maybe our packaging will do for now and quite possibly every project we have on the agenda, excluding customer ‘centric projects’ can be put on hold.

Here’s an exercise worth doing with your team. Act as if. Act as if it has just happened. Have an ‘emergency session’ with your team on how you’d react if a more well resourced, financed and well known competitor came to play. Build your battle plan. Once your battle plan is drawn up – throw out your current business plan and work on that instead. Because they are coming, especially if your startup is in a fertile consumer territory.

After the intital fear, most entrepreneurs just get inspired, get angry and get on with it. A good scare never hurt anyone.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

Radvertising – Harley Davidson

While driving I saw a billboard advertisment for Harley Davidson. I didn’t get a photo… but we don’t really need one. I can explain it instead.

It had a big picture of a Harley with this copy line underneath it:

331 screws included

Now that is radvertising simply because these three words say so much.

Craftsmanship, Detail, Big, Hand made, Care, Tailored, Complete, Traditional, Customised... I’m sure you can add a few superlatives as well.

It’s a pretty damn good follow up to a recent campaign they ran which I do have the visuals of below.

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Steve – founder rentoid.com

Love & brands

In order to be in love we need to feel loved. Often we mistake love for other intense emotions such as lust, obsession and even fear.

So if we were to translate this to business parlance it might read like this:

If we want people to love our brand or company, we simply have to make our audience ‘feel loved’.

So then the next questions we should be asking are:

-          Will they love this product?

-          Will they love our value equation?

-          Will they love our guarantee?

-          Will they love our designs?

-          Will love our ‘contact us’ policy or phone staff?

In fact, let’s just start every audience related question with the words ‘Will they love….”

If we do this and focus on being more than good, more than liked and only accept moving towards stuff people will love. Then one day, they may just love our brand.

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