Start Up Blog

Nice idea, but what’s in it for us?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 28, 2010

I took this photo while shopping at Australian supermarket giant Coles yesterday.

I’ll start by saying not returning supermarket trolleys, or worse stealing them is not cool. It probably adds some cost to our grocery bills, albeit small.

But when I saw this poster up in my local Coles, I tweeted it and made the comment that it was reasonably amusing. Then Cameron Reilly, made what I thought was an insightful comment from a marketing perspective:

then I responded with this….

and Cameron finished it off with this 140 characters…

Which to be honest is probably the sentiments of most of Coles’ customers.

I’ll say it again – ‘Incentives shape behaviour’ – on this occasion there is no incentive for customers to care. How hard would it be for Coles to offer a shopping voucher for lost trolley returns? Or some other small incentive? In fact, it’s an insult to their customers to ask for help in a such a one sided manner. It’s very 1970’s marketing.

Startup blog says: respect your customers and reward the right behaviour.

Pro Bono marketing

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 15, 2010

This is the first of my crowd sourced blog entry ideas as suggested by Christopher Hewitt. Chris wanted to know whether providing services Pro Bono was a good idea for startups.

In a word Yes.

More important than the answer are the reasons. It says something about us as people or an organisation. It starts the brand personification process.

It says we give before we expect.

It says we have confidence in our knowledge and our skills.

It says we trust you not to take advantage of us.

It says we are prepared to a resource before we expect you to become one.

In all it creates an environment where reciprocity is likely. Reciprocity is part of the human condition. In addition, it’s the best way of providing a sample, when providing a small bottle of shampoo or a taste test isn’t possible.

Startup Blog says: Pro Bono is rad.


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

Production values matter

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 12, 2009

Sure we live in a mash up society. It’s acceptable to bootstrap. It’s OK to learn on the job in the digital arena. What’s not acceptable is to get worse. To not reach previously set quality benchmarks. In any business, no less your start up. All of the self made youtube stars invest time in the final production of their content. People expect a higher level of quality these days especially if we want to gather long term fans and loyal viewers. Production values matter. What was acceptable in 2004 in not acceptable in 2009.

The first thing you notice in the video output of these highly subscribed Youtubers is production quality: HotforwordsCommunity Channel, Kev Jumba, Happy Slip, Fred and others.

So when Miley Cyrus throws together a home made video of her leaving twitter seen below, we realize how much value her producers add to her usual output – seen underneath.

Home made Miley

Produced Miley

I myself, need to improve the videos I make for So I’ve recently been investing a lot of time learning how to use iMovie editing software.

The lesson for startups is to invest in our digital output. A little more effort in production can be the difference between gathering customers and looking like an amateur.

Twitter rules

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 2, 2009

These are the rules I have invented for myself for effective use of twitter. By the way, it’s pretty much the only social media tool I use these days. Mainly due to it’s succinctness. When it comes to Twitter this is how I roll:

- it’s my office water cooler. It’s the office conversations for us entrepreneurs

- it’s an advice forum where I ask my twitter friends (smart people I trust) questions I don’t know the answer to

- it’s where I’m not afraid to have an opinion even if it’s a bit risky

- it’s where I don’t do anything I wouldn’t do in the real world. The on line world is the real world

- it’s where I meet like minded people. First virtually, then physically

- it’s where I get last minute tips for restaurants, bars, coffee and traffic updates

- it’s where I document my life, verbally and visually via twitpic.

- it’s where my digitally inclined friends are. I’m glad they are there

- it’s where I promote my stuff occasionally, but this plays a minor role

- it’s where I share cool stuff I find, to the people who will care about it

- it’s where my reputation is on the line 140 characters at a time

- it’s where I won’t just make friends because you shook my hand (called following)

- it’s where I will become your friend if you engage in a conversation with me (called @ replying)


Startup blog says: Twitter is a friend of the entrepreneur.

How do you use twitter?


most important thing of all…

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 9, 2009

…… for entrepreneurs is this:

We must put ourselves in as many Yes / No positions as possible every day.

What’s a Yes / No position?

It’s a call to action.

It’s asking for something we need to get to the next step.

It’s asking for an order

It’s asking them to buy

It’s making an awkward phone call

It’s facing fear and rejection

It’s taking rejection straight into the ‘next Yes / No propostion

It’s putting momentum above all things.

The number of position proposals is directly proportional to our success – and our success rate as a percentage increases as the volume of propositions does.

That is all.


VB Regulars – new TVC is Radvertising

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 9, 2009

VB have just launched another advertising campaign titled ‘the Regulars’ – which is a shift from the 20 year old ‘Hard earned thirst’ campaign we all know the tune of….

Take a look – then I’ll give you my thoughts below:

I think it is excellent. If this doesn’t turn around the brand, then nothing will (FYI – the brand has had periods decline for many years now).

Why is it excellent?

Well, beer used to be a reward for effort type product in the mainstream beer category. Historically VB fit the mould for labourers, tradesman et al. As we move from a manufacturing to an information society,  hard earned thirst doesn’t seem to make sense, everyday people does. The current social climate has changed and the Regulars reflects this. The execution of the idea is an absolute benchmark and manages to integrate a bit of ‘celebrity’ without alienating the Regulars, in fact – it promotes the everyday man to the celebrity.

This is clearly Radvertising.


Business pulse

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 6, 2009

You have a pulse – it’s important it never stops.

Your business has a pulse – when it stops your customers assume your dead or dying.


This why the following elements are crucial for your business or startup:

  • Advertising frequency
  • Newsletter updates
  • Web page changes
  • Twitter feed on your homepage
  • Regular blogging
  • Returning phone calls & emails the same day
  • Speedy invoicing (guilty)
  • Product iterations and improvements
  • PR & media exposure
  • Team, fan, member, evangalist get togethers
  • Conversing with your people on line
  • Conversing with people off line
  • Acknowledging (not hassling) everyone who enters your office, retail space or workshop.

Let your customers know you’re alive, and they’ll treat you like you are. Let them think your dead or dying and they’ll ensure you die for sure.


Free – is not a business model

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 2, 2009

Firstly – I’ll start by saying I think Chris Anderson is an incredibly clever guy. I thought his book ‘The Long Tail’ was and is the future of business. But when it come to ‘free’ he has got it wrong this time. As has Seth Godin and all the other ‘free’ converts.

As Malcolm Gladwell correctly points out, they are forgetting many of the fundamentals in business, by getting caught up in the stale newspaper argument, which in the new digital economy, is the easy and soft target of who will disappear. The irony of this ‘newspaper’ argument is certainly lost in the broader economy. The non digital economies are a lot bigger than newspapers and other beleaguered digital industries.

Picture 15

So why is it that ‘Free’ is not a business model. Quite simply, any business without a revenue generation model wont exist over time. We only need look at the the dot com bust of the late 1990’s to see this reality. It’s also much too easy to get caught up in the success of Google and others which ‘started free’ to build demand. But many of the subsequent ‘Free’ offers like Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, Flickr may have been successful for the owners, only because they sold to a business with a large chequebook – not because the business itself was financially successful. The Google business model is not too dissimilar to that of Network TV – generate eyeballs, sell advertising….. Nothing new here.

The real question in the so called ‘Freeconomy’ is how many businesses can be supported by the advertising sales model? So why the idea of ‘Free’ is being touted as new is beyond us here at Startupblog.

Here’s what ‘Free’ really is – it’s part of the marketing mix. It’s the 4th P – Promotion. It always has been and always will be. Anything a company gives away for free is a promotional tool to sell something. If these businesses who use the so called ‘free model’ fail to sell something there are only two options for them as time passes:

  1. Go broke & run out of cash
  2. Get bought by large company who values what they have created, albeit ‘non-financial’

Whether it be Proctor & Gamble, giving free shampoo in letter boxes in 1957 or Google giving free search and maps in 2009. It’s part of the mix to attract potential customers, who will be converted into on going revenue. It isn’t free. Free is not a business model, moreover it’s sampling & promotion for associated revenue generating activities. So to call it the future of business as ‘free’ is absolute folly.

Sure Anderson can argue that digital stuff is becoming so cheap it may as well be free – as per the transistor example he uses. But the thing that really costs money is building demand and infrastructure – the kind of stuff that’s really expensive. The other point to consider is the example of some things which previously cost money (a newspaper) is now available free on line, doesn’t mean everything is heading down the free path. Rather it means that certain industries are dying – not that ‘paying’ will be a thing of the past. In fact there are just as many examples of items which were once free, consumers are now being charged for Education, Toll roads, Water, Seeds.

The advice I’m giving here is simple.

No business can survive without revenue. Free, isn’t free, but a promotional expense, the 4th P. If your industry is getting flooded with free – it’s on it’s deathbed – look elsewhere. Industries die all the time when the revenue dries up just like those trying to cope with the current digital conversion. Don’t assume you can build something awesome and give it away with the ability to sell it (the business) or something associated later – chances are you’ll run out of money before that.

The future of business isn’t Free, and the idea isn’t new, it’s part of a complex marketing mix. And if you want to own a startup to thrive, my advice is simple. Have a price which isn’t all zeros.


A real bootstrapper – literally

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 19, 2009

The other day I was in the RACV club when I ran into a business I had heard about.

shineshoeshine – which as you’ve probably guessed is a shoe shine business run by bootstrapping entrepreneur Kate Kay.


I had a chat with Kate who has a permanent shoe shine location in the Rialto Towers in Melbourne – a classic corporate targeted location. But also sets up in lots of temporary locations as can be seen above in the RACV city club.

There’s a lot to like about this business:

  • low startup costs (Some polish, foot stools, a chair…)
  • Reinvents old world values and personal service
  • Instant cash payments for service
  • Ability to be mobile

and my favourite part which I’ll talk about in more detail….

What Kate is now doing is offering her services as a promotional tool. Where brands & company’s can hire her services as a special offer to their staff or customers. The cool thing about this idea is that Kate can become your personal selling agent and talk to her ‘captive audience’ about which ever topic you choose, while her and her staff are busy shinning.

I think it’s a great idea, with a cool point of difference – You can contact her here.



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