I was inspired by a recent article from the Australian Anthill about making our business appear bigger than we are. But in the age of authenticity, do we really want that? Sure, appearing big can be a good thing depending on our audience. Certainly, the key point in the article to me was ‘How to appear professional’. But why should professional be inextricably associated with big? Maybe the strategy should be to appear as small as possible. The current market place is not short of large corporates who are starting to understand the importance of personal service again. An example that comes to mind is the Bank of Queensland moving to a franchised branch model – where local ownership is of strategic importance to customers. Especially in such a tarnished industry as banking.
So why would we want to appear smaller than we are? Here’s a couple of thought starters:
Service – it is implicit that service is better when dealing directly with a small group of people rather than a faceless corporation
Trust – Smaller companies are way more dependent on you as a customer. You matter more, so you can trust the fact that they will do all they can to keep you.
Underdog - People love to support the up and comer. The person having a real go. Being small should be embraced and leveraged. Often this might be the only reason people do business with you.
So in the spirit of small = good, here’s the startup blog top 10 list of how to act small. Regardless of our actual revenue:
- Have personal contact details of team members on your website. Email, Skype cell phone.
- Remove pointless gatekeepers from your office who insulate hierarchy members from real customers
- Use real language in all written forms of communication. Use a human voice not corporate PR brochure parlance.
- Be honest when you stuff up. Admit it openly and quickly. Don’t make decisions based on repercussions, but on what’s right.
- Write terms and conditions (if you must have them) in a language anyone could understand
- Never call your audience your target. Business is is not skeet shooting, it is about delighting. You are performing for an audience, who can get up and leave at any time…. or even throw rotten tomatoes.
- Give responsibility to individuals not committees. Give them decision authority. It’ll get done quicker and better.
- Don’t gag your people. Allow anyone to comment on the company and what’s happening. It’ll be the best research you can ever do to find out what’s really going on in your company. No ships will be sunk.
- Have a policy of common sense. Not written manuals no employee will ever read.
- Say, “Yes we are only a small company…. and here’s why we are better…”
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.
For those of my blog readers already locked and loaded for startup school – Good News.
For those thinking about coming long – Another great reason to join us.
The uber terrific Yvonne Adele from at Ideas Culture has just joined us for the 2 events. She will be facilitating and helping us out through the two days. But don’t think she’ll just be giving the intro’s and outro’s – she’ll be giving us her spin on creativity and ideas, as well as getting us pumped up, motivated and thinking. Which will also blow our minds!
So, if you’ve been on the edge of booking startup school. Time to get moving. The Melbourne event is about to close the door with only a couple of seats left. And Sydney is filling quickly.
Feel free to contact me if you have any queries and want to chat in more detail about it on 0438 779566. Steve.
But there are some deeper reasons why iterations matter so much. Iterations give us a reason to go back. To go back to the market ‘our people’ and re-engage in a conversation. It gives us something to talk about, stimulate interest and demand. To glean feedback from, regardless of who this conversation happens to be with. Our business is essentially a large complex set of conversations, and the changes we make facilitate them.
So who can we go back to with our iterations?
- Our customers who want to know how these iterations help them out
- Our employees who can get excited about the cool stuff they have been / will be working on
- Our suppliers who can get excited about the prospect of more business
- The media want to report on innovation, updates and the industry
Pic via Alex Figueroa
All of these conversations stimulate our business, our industry and ultimately the market place. Our iterations have a much bigger impact than we think. It’s far more macro.
Iterations are social, and we are social creatures. If nothing has changed or improved, then we move on. It is human nature.
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.