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.

shibuya-crowd

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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The Sandwich Man

Maybe you’re a great web designer

Maybe you’re a great coder

Maybe you’re a financial wizard

Maybe you’ve got a flair for industrial design

Maybe you’re a craftsman with unique skills

Maybe you’re great at managing and building a supply chain.

Maybe selling isn’t something you enjoy, like or even care about. Maybe making presentations is the part of business that really isn’t your thing.

Problem is this: There’s plenty of great ideas, businesses and people who never reached their full potential because the selling bit was missing.

Step forward the ‘Sandwich man’

Startup blog definition: Sandwich Man – a gun presenter and public communicator who presents the ideas and sells the dream on behalf of the business.

A sandwich man is called such, because he holds together all the good things like the bread does on a yummy sandwich. Without him all the ingredients, nutrition, ‘reason for being’ could all fall away.

A good sandwich man would start and close any business presentation to people like venture capitalists, suppliers, key accounts, customers and the media.

sandwich

Quite often successful businesses are run by a team where one of the members is the tech genius and the other is the Sandwich Man. Who then communicates the ideas and vision to get people on board. Rarely people are lucky enough to have both skill sets. Regardless of which skill set we have, we always need a sandwich man. We can even bring one into the team on a needs basis.

But without one, we may end up with a great product or business which never gets the traction it deserves.

Tough Love

My problem is…. I’m a really nice guy. Really, I’m reasonably nice, just ask anyone who knows me….

Actually it’s more I’m not as smart as I’d like to think I am. You see, often I don’t do people any favours by trying at all costs to be, Mr Nice Guy. Even if it’s at the expense of helping them grow. The interesting thing is that I usually get what I give, and that is, people are generally very nice to me. Even if what I need on occassions, is some home truths to help me grow.

What I really need is tough love.

Turns out my team also need some tough love too.

tough-love

Tough Love – Startup blog definition:

Having a team let each other know ‘in no uncertain terms’ when members are goofing off, at the expense of agreed upon and shared objectives.

It doesn’t mean we turn into nightmare colleagues or the boss we always hated.

It means that we have a culture where we don’t want to let each other down, but we pull each other up in tough times and provide mutual motivation. We give each other guidance when we need it.

Photo by Chuck Rogers

Words by Steve – 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

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.

harley1

harley02

harley03

Steve – founder rentoid.com

Belief – from ‘Tribes’

I took this quote from Seth Godins latest micro book Tribes:

“Do you beleive in what you do? Every day? It turns out that belief happens to be a brilliant strategy”

This resonates with me because it will motivate us to find solutions that ‘non believers’ will be too inept, apathetic or bored to uncover.

Entrepreneurs ought launch something they beleive in conceptually, not just financially.

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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.

Business relationships & startups

Entrepreneurs must build all types of relationships.

  • Relationships with our suppliers and the value chain
  • Relationships with our buyers & resellers
  • Relationships with our staff and business partners / investors
  • Relationships with our audience & evangelists

In fact, when we are small have little or no revenue, the only thing we can do is have conversations and build relationships. These will lead to action and revenue. While having dinner with a colleague the other night, John Colbert of Corporate Edge training he gave me his view on relationships.

He said:

There are two important factors in relationships – frequency & proximity.

How frequently are we engaging the other person? Where frequency, is any type of conversation, communication or interaction.

And what is our proximity to this person? Where proximity pertains to the physical closeness and real world interactions we have together. Do we meet in person? Are we getting to know each other without the use of technology? Simply meeting in the same location?

The more of the above two things we have the stronger our relationships come. If we for a moment think of who we have strong relationships with, we’ll see we have both Frequency and Proximity.


The reality is humans want to deal with people they like, trust and know. This is what relationships build.

So if one of our important business relationships (those listed above) is flagging, maybe we should have more frequent interactions, get closer or do both.

Frequency vs Depth

In advertising parlance we talk about depth and frequency. Depth being how many people we reach on each occasion. Frequency being how often we reach them.

It’s great to let zillions of people know about our start up as quickly as we can. We may even be lucky enough to get some kind of viral campaign working for our startup, we may be featured in the newspaper, on techcrunch or we might even be lucky enough get a TV spot.

After the event here’s what happens: People cook dinner, pick up the kids from school, pay the bills, kick the dog and get on with life. They have a life to live and they get on with it. Our start up doesn’t really matter to them… straight away.

Consumer awareness goes something like this:

Exposure 1: “That’s a cool idea / product / concept”

Exposure 2: “Oh, yeh, I must remember to check that out”

Exposure 3: “There it is again, might be worth having a look”

Exposure 4: “hmm, Ok – I’ll look when I’m shopping next / on line next”

Exposure 5: ….They finally act, and go look at, investigate, touch, feel, try….”

After many exposures we have “a chance’ of selling to them.

Sure some people check it out first time, some buy straight away, but the large majority need reminded, over and over again. It doesn’t mean – go out and spam them or do terrible interruption marketing. It means this; “have frequent and relevant marketing communications to the people who might care”.

It’s a lot like never noticing a car advertisement until we are in the market to buy one. They’re always there, we just have selective perception.

This is why Advertising frequency is king. No point having a big launch campaign if our prospective new customers aren’t looking on that occasion. For entrepreneurs, the big launch concept is a hoax – It’s unsustainable.  Like an exercise regime- it’s far better to do an hour workout everyday, than to do a 5 hour gym session on a Saturday.

The good news is we don’t need the superbowl budget of a large conglomerate to have the frequency we need. We just need to start a conversation which continues indefinitely.

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