Start Up Blog

It’s already been done

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 3, 2012

The first thing many entrepreneurs do when considering a new idea or startup is comb the market to see if it has already been done. The most common result is the realisation that someone thought of it, and even built it, way before we did. Beside the fact that this is a validation of awesomeness, it also leads us to make the rookie error of looking for a new idea. Instead we might consider these two questions.

  1. If it’s been done and we didn’t know about it, has it really been done?
  2. If they did it and it didn’t work, is it because the idea is crap, or did they do a crap version of it?

The only real way to answer these questions is to ignore the fact that it has already been done, and do our version of it anyway. While it is true there is only room for one stunt or advertisement using a particular idea, creating a business on a certain idea has greater complexities and nuance, all of which the idea itself represents a very small part.

If you’ve still got doubts, here’s a little known fact worth remembering: There  were over 300 video sharing channels when Youtube launched. What Youtube did was create a simple user experience and had the killer app of easy embed across the blogosphere and most other social web services.

Startup blog says: Build your version anyway.

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100,000 eyeballs for $8

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 8, 2010

If you want to know how to get your brand exposed to 100,000 people for $8 then we need look no further than what David did.

You may remember this post where David go his Jarritos soft drink van all branded up. Well, he took the next step in exposure and got to the AFL grand final early for a front row car park near the MCG for a measly $8. As far as I can tell it’s one of the greatest media investments of all time – there were 100,000 people in attendance. See photo journal below. Great startup bootstrapping David.

What they don’t tell you

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 4, 2010

It’s easy to get caught up in the brilliant stories of startups going viral to gain awareness, and the simplicity and usability of certain websites turning into large revenue streams. How cool the actual product is, the fact that the founders just built it and the rest just happened. This is the veritable entrepreneurial myth.

Here’s a few things to think about:

How many sales and business development people do you think Google has? Answer = around 5000. And we all thought their non human automated adwords system did it all.

What investment has Twitter made in Public Relations? You think Oprah and Obama just happened upon it? No they were pitched to heavily with a large investment in leading PR firms.

How many Youtube videos were posted by company created accounts? Answer = Hundreds of thousands.

Who seeds the quirky auction items on ebay? Answer = ebay started the game very early on and let the media know.

Everything is not as it seems. Push marketing is alive wand well, just the tactics have changed. It feels very organic and community driven, but the often the community is created by it’s founders and leaders. Nothing wrong with that, it is the job of entrepreneurs to invent said communities. But it makes for better business articles to talk of such things occurring naturally, so the real story is rarely told.

The question for startups is – what tactics can we employ to garner the same momentum?

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My new startup

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 19, 2009

I’m launching a new startup. For those who don’t know about it here are some of the key points:

  • The brand extension comes from an already successful enterprise
  • The partnership & legal agreements were entered into over a year ago
  • The idea is not an original one, rather a new execution of a proven formula
  • We didn’t pitch the idea or ask for permission, we just did it
  • It’s a brand extension
  • It’s a self funded project with no external capital. But we wont have ownership
  • We will give away the corporation, once it is cash flow positive
  • It’s a very long lead project
  • It wont be cash flow positive for more than 20 years
  • Estimated cost of the project is around $500K
  • We do expect to however, to yield emotional & community benefits very early after launch
  • It’s an industry we’ve never worked in before, but have a natural flair for it
  • Some of the product development will be outsourced to 3rd parties
  • Outsourcing will occur in 3 large segments of up to 6 years each
  • The most important product development will be done in house
  • There wont be any major advertising, brand awareness will be driven through family & friends
  • We already know it’s unique, but wont require any intellectual property protection
  • However, major security measures will be taken to protect the asset, especially in the incubation phase

My new startup is my baby due January 25th, and it’s the most exciting one I’ve ever been involved in. We’re involved in more startups than we think…

Startup Blog says: Let’s not define ourselves by what we own, but the cool stuff we do.

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Building your personal brand

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 13, 2009

One of the sections at Startup School is building personal brands. Which are of increasing importance in the entrepreneurial sphere. Once upon a time our business reputation built a personal brand. Recently things have flipped somewhat where our personal brands are used to build our business ones. Jay Z style… It just so happens that it works on a micro level as well.

Build a personal reputation, as a smart, caring,  and giving person in this new business context (or have some hit song and Hip Hop wars) and you’ll be on the way to building an external financial brand.

So here’s some nuggets from Startup School to get excited about:

Startup School

Update: Viral marketing – literally

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 12, 2009

I’m not sure if this is viral marketing but it is certainly cruelty to insects.

How else could your startup be promoted by living things other than humans?

Would you want your startup to be associated with cruelty – I wouldn’t.

Also a solid viewpoint here from Xavier Shay

Startup School

How to make a sales call

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 29, 2009

Today I was out making sales calls in my local industrial area where there are a lot of different rental companies. Idea being to get these rental / hire companies using rentoid.com to generate extra business. The timing is good, because we have a zero cost entry platform and times are tough in the B to B arena.

But the thing that really matters is how I’ve been making the sales calls. Firstly, these guys are B to B, trades focused guys. renting mainly industrial equipment. The last thing they want to some tech / web geek give them bullshit about how the internet is going to save them…. So here’s what I’ve done instead:

  1. I haven’t shaved for 3 days – got a good beard growing. I’m wearing jeans and boots with a fairly standard zip up jumper. When I walk in I look like a customer, in fact I look like they do. I’m less threatening and this is obvious with the positive greetings I’m receiving.
  2. When I drop in (remember it’s a cold call) I say, ‘You know I live around the corner, I drive past here everyday and I’ve been meaning to drop in for ages. You know I’ve got web business which is all about rental companies…..” And I do live close enough to use this line. It is genuine.
  3. The F Bomb – Yep, I’m dropping this one big time – for one simple reason – they are. I’ll use whatever language they use. If they like swearing, so do I. I’m matching their culture in dress and language.
  4. I know their business. I don’t walk in and say ‘So tell me about your business’ – I do my homework before I turn up. Granted I know enough about the rental industry now to adapt to different segments pretty quick. I know what matters to them and get the conversation into that area quickly.
  5. I don’t try and sell anything on the first call. We do have a free entry to rentoid – but we also sell integrated web technologies. But I don’t try to sell anything.  Just get them to like me in fact, I’m selling me. People buy things from people they like. Then they find a logical or business reason to justify their decision after they’ve already made it.
  6. I follow up with whatever I promise. Information, phone calls, data whatever they need. I try to show I’ll be a valuable resource.
  7. I get rejected too. It’s a numbers game, and each rejection is a lesson for honing my skills for the next call.

I’m learning heaps and I’m loving it.

Start up blog says – get out there and start selling.

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Difference between traditional & social media

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 25, 2009

This is the difference between traditional and social media in one simple chart (albeit a little fuzzy). Forget all the crap you have read on how social media differs to traditional media. This is it summarized right here on startup blog in terms which matter for business:

Difference between traditional & social media

I’ve made some notes above. Don’t believe what you’ve heard – old media isn’t dead – sure it’s more expensive for the return, but it still kicks but. When rentoid was featured on a nightly news TV show as a positive story, we had more hits that one day than we did for the entire year. And we had been and are investing a tremendous amount of time on new and social media. It’s been a two year effort.

If you want a few other qualitative ideas to take with you then here’s a few:

  • They work better together
  • Social media is incredibly slow but has a compound effect
  • If I had endless funds available for media, I’d still prefer traditional media (for now)

These comments are based on fact and real experience in Australia from my business rentoid.com which has had heavy exposure in both.

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The truth about viral marketing

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 24, 2009

It’s a crap shoot for any form of ‘commercial marketing’ to go viral. So I thought I’d summarize it with a tidy little Venn diagram.

Viral Marketing

Discuss & debate.

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How to generate media for your startup

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 4, 2009

Here’s a recent Article I wrote for Anthill Magazine:

When aiming to generate media coverage for our start-up or business, we often get one thing wrong. It relates to our training as marketers. We are too targeted.

In fact, we need to do the reverse and cast the media net wide – as wide as possible. What needs to be targeted is ‘the message’, not the media organisations we aim at. The message needs to be written for the forum. But, in truth, most of us have way more messages in our business than we have bothered to think about, or even invent. Yes, we can invent messages.

The message or pitch needs to be all about them, their readers and their viewers. Never us or our start-up. So before you pitch, work out how many angles you’ve got and you’ll be surprised what you can dig up. In fact, you’ve got to give a bit before you get anything – especially for start-ups, who can exchange a few learnings from the battlefield.

Here’s an idea-jam for potential examples of media angles for Start-up X.

  • Altruistic – helping people
  • Business methods you’ve used
  • Helping people make money
  • Saving money by using your products
  • Productivity improvements of staff
  • Web news – first of its type
  • Start-up stories
  • Technology used
  • Ecologically sound (no, we don’t mean carbon offset)
  • Green message
  • Making the web-physical connect – going beyond virtual
  • Helping the financially challenged
  • Help people connect with customers
  • It’s über new
  • It’s the old world reinvented
  • Vicarious living….

There’s more, but you’re bored already. I’m just showing what’s possible. Stuff like this equals free media. Pages/slots have to be filled.

Frequency vs Depth

While we know we need advertising or media exposure, the thing we need most is frequency. Advertisers 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 start-up – 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. 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, yeah, 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 check it out when I’m shopping/online 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 to be reminded, over and over again. This doesn’t mean you need to spam them or do terrible interruption marketing. It means you need to send frequent and relevant marketing communications to the people who might care.

It’s a lot like us never noticing an advertisement for a car until you 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 your prospective new customers aren’t looking on that occasion. For entrepreneurs, the big launch concept is a hoax. It’s unsustainable. We’re far better off being there all the time, in some way – then we don’t have to predict when people will buy.

And before you waste a shipload of money on a PR agency, the truth is the media aren’t listening anymore. Well, listening to PR firms…. Once upon a time, a PR agency had the secret access keys to journalists. That made them powerful. But things have changed. Now we can access anyone with a few Twitter messages and some Google magic. And the PR agency messages are very 1993. In an age of authenticity, we are far better off going direct. Developing a relationship with media contacts is far more valuable than wasting money on outsourcing PR. People want to talk to the person, and that person is you.

Want proof ?- check out the rentoid.com about page and scroll down to see the media we have generated – none of which has been paid for.

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