Start Up Blog

Maxibon Manchew – Radvertising

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 2, 2011

This is the best advertising I’ve seen so far this year. Really love the concept and the execution. Made me hungry.

If you’re going to advertise your startup then I reckon we can learn something form the radvertising above. And the lesson is this:

Don’t get lost in the middle. Go as close the edge as possible. Make outrageous tongue in check claims and be hilarious, or be 100% authentic and truthful. Everything in the middle of either of these two extreme edges is simply, wallpaper.

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A pharmaceutical mashup – Vitamints

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 7, 2011

Sometimes a startup just make sense. Logical in hindsight to the point where it feels like we should have done it.

Vitamints is one such startup. It is what it says – Vitamins which are also mints.

This Australian startup has taken some really clever insights to form the basis of the product format and it goes a little deeper than vitamins that taste nice. They found that houses were graveyards for half used vitamin bottles (I know mine is!!). The basic idea was to get vitamins out of the kitchen cupboard and into peoples pockets, like gum. So why not package it like gum? Why not make it taste nice? Why not distribute it in more convenient locations?

They did.

And aside from the fact that mints in convenience stores are almost the fastest growing impulse purchase, Vitamints taps beautifully into the mobile society we now live in. Your vitamins now live in your pocket people. Sounds a bit like a classic web mashup business, but in an old tired category. Once again industry incumbents need to take a lesson from an innovative new business – maybe that’s why I like it so much.

I can’t wait to read about them getting bought out by a multinational pharmaceutical company in 10 years time.

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It’s our audience, not a target

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 8, 2010

There’s quite a few bad words used in business and marketing. Words which quantify, extract and segment. They dehumanise business. I’d like to see them removed from our vernacular. Here’s two examples worth sharing.

Target & Consumer. I prefer Audience and People and here’s why:

A Target is something we aim for, shoot at, maybe even kill. An Audience is something we try to impress. An audience gives us a chance to prove our worth, they invest their time in us and we must respect it by trying to over deliver to their expectations. In the hope that, they throw flowers on the stage, cheer and ask for an encore. But we enter the stage knowing we may get rotten tomatoes thrown at us, if that’s what we deserve. The onus is on us.

A Consumer is someone who buys stuff. Their primary purpose is to devour whatever we provide. They are faceless, nameless and irrelevant. We want as many of them as possible to fulfill our financial needs. A Person however, is someone we know. A person has emotions, ambitions and meaning in their life. They have opinions which we must value, and a life which we need to enhance. A person is someone we hope to relate to on a human level. A consumer is machine like and undervalued.

The best startups and brands, know that they need to perform for their audience. They know that audiences are made up of people.

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How not to run a promotion – the Chef’s Hat

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 4, 2010

I had a discussion with Luke Waldren who had a very poor customer service experience from the Chef’s Hat in Melbourne. For those who don’t know, the Chef’s Hat is regardred as the premier retailer in our city for restraunters, cafe owners and hard core Foodies. They sell a range of appliances and all things related to food retailing – except for the actual food.

Luke went down to buy a a Kitchen Aid appliance, for which he knew there was a promotion at the Chef’s Hat retail store. The offer was pretty simple: Buy a Kitchen Aid blender and recieve a free Kicthen Aid knife worth $49.95. A nice bonus offer for consumers. The offer is below – which mind you is on the front page of their website.

So when Luke arrives at the cash register to pay, there is no mention of the free knife. He then proceeds to ask and says. “Hey, isn’t there a free knife that comes with the blender.” The retail assistant claims no knowledge of the promotion. But luke brings out the iPhone and shows the bonus offer straight from their website as proof. The retail assistant then asks for the manager over the load speaker to come and help. When the manager arrives this is the conversation that transpired:

Retail assistant: “Are we giving away knives with these blenders?”

Manager: “if we have to…”

The manager then leans over to a draw filled with said knives, grabs one and throws it across the table to give to Luke. As though he got caught out. As though he lost one of his precious inventory to god forbid, a customer who entered the store because of the promotion.

If you are going to run a promotion. You have to mean it.

We have to advise those who didn’t know about it. We need to share the benefit with delight. We have to share the message that we go the extra mile and create more value than our competitors. If we are going to act like we don’t really want to participate, then we shouldn’t. Or worse, if we are going to treat our customers with disdain, then we’ll end up on blogs like this spreading the bad word.

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Convention busting – retail

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 11, 2010

Long held wisdom in the retail industry is that items must be displayed on shelves by category. Idea being that we know what thing we are looking when we shop. But what if we’re just browsing? What if we don’t want anything in particular? Bring on Smiggle – stationary retailer who display their range by color.

Eyeball worthy…. I better go check out what they have in purple.

They aren’t the only ones moving towards it, as  on line retailer etsy also display their range on line by color, with an amazing interface – check it out. It just works.

What other conventions need to be busted in your startup category?

How to price your product

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 2, 2009

Pricing is a difficult thing to get right in the marketing mix. Often we get all other 3 P’s (product, place promotion) right and that wrong…. and instead of revisiting it, we mess with the product.

There is no hard and fast answer on how to price a product in a startup or a web service, especially as it pertains to pricing models. But there are two simple pieces of advice I can give.

1. If there is an established pricing method which is accepted and liked in the market, go with it.

2. If consumers generally despise how things are priced in the category you are entering, change the model, and let everyone know about it.

In the first example the ethos is this: It’s hard enough gaining cut through with our product without adding unnecessary complexity to the decision making process. Especially when you have a new and untested offer.

In the second example the ethos is this: The pricing model becomes the main feature. It’s the reason for the switch to you, other parts of the marketing mix will then require far less innovation to gain the cut through a startup needs.

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Simple startup advice – Ben & Jerry’s

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 25, 2009

Today I was fortunate enough to meet Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Jerry is not only a smart guy, but a nice one too. I asked him one simple question for entrepreneurs and here’s what he had to say:

(More detailed insight will be the topic of subsequent blog entries)

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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

Great learning environment

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 4, 2009

Our environment shapes our behavior. Inspiring places create inspirational events, and with that in mind I’ve booked an Incredible location for Startup School Melbourne. The uber groovy Lindrum Hotel. Where the coffee and ambiance are both inspirational. Click on the image to check out the photos I took while checking it out.

Startup School

At the event we’ll have Barrista style coffee (Lattes, Cappucino, espresso) all day – none of this McDonalds style pot of black muck. As well as great food from the restaurant. Even I’m looking forward to it. It’s also a nice space for a drink after and maybe a game of billiards together.

Still a seat for you. Click here to book: http://www.startupschool.com.au/ and join us in the mass corporate cubicle exodus ;)

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Risk Taking

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 30, 2009

As an entrepreneur I’m not afraid of ‘considered’ financial risk. Just like any Plumber or Electrician would guarantee their workmanship, we must provide a satisfaction guarantee. It’s a great way to reduce purchase barriers. Something most successful brands do…. here’s a little exercise for you: Next time you a buy a household cleaning product or chocolate bar, flip it over and read the fine print and *bang* you’ll see a money back satisfaction guarantee. We must provide that too.

I’ve also done this on my latest little project Startup School. Here’s a recent conversation I had with my wife over email:

ME: Hey check out my Startup School receipt – pretty cool huh? (below is a part screen grab of said receipt)

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Wife: As a law graduate of course, I would nervous about making guarantees but up to you… Like the poetry!

Me: One must embrace risk in entrepreneurial fields and guarantee work, or revenue wont happen. it’s that simple. It’s a risk I’m prepared to take.

Wife: I know….that’s why YOU’RE the entrepreneur!

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