Start Up Blog

Good service? Prove it

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 3, 2011

Yesterday I went to a well known cafe in Melbourne for breakfast. Yes, it had a amazing the decor of a restored warehouse and exotic free range egg combinations, but that wasn’t what impressed me. It was the way they served their ‘non-customers’.

By the time we where half way through our second java a line had started to build for people waiting for a table, which is pretty rare in a cafe centric city like Melbourne. Up until that time the thriving restaurant still had amazingly quick service. But the service I was most impressed with was the service they gave those who weren’t even customers. People waiting patiently outside were treated to complimentary cafe lattes and flat whites. I’m sure they were surprised and delighted at the good will gesture. The tone of the staff there also told me that they gave them coffee because they were genuinely sorry they couldn’t seat them immediately. They meant it, and it wasn’t a promotional ploy. Something we’d never see from a chains store or large corporate. They’d be more concerned with wooing ‘non-customers’ that rewarding their ‘sure bets’. I say they’ve got it back to front.

The reality of the complimentary coffee is that it sent out a good vibe, and cost very little to do. And the benefits? Well I’m already blogging about it and put it on my twitter stream which goes to many thousands. I’d also say that rewarding those you’ve already got, is a far better investment than investing in those who’ve never helped your business. Something all startups should take note of.

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Car smash marketing – Rebecca Black

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 20, 2011

I’m not about to make any comment on the song Friday, or about Rebecca Black. She seems like a nice enough kid having a crack at the music industry.

It is interesting how anything has a chance in a zero cost media world. Sure, not everything will cut through, but in 1991 Rebecca didn’t stand a chance. She had no where to put her song (Youtube), nowhere to sell it (iTunes) and no one to spread it (Twitter / Facebook ). The invention of all this infrastructure made it possible. The thing that is different about the infrastructure versus 20 years ago is that cost of entry has been removed. Extremely good and bad start in the same place. And occasionally something unusual makes it through – so long as it is extreme in nature. No-one has placed multi-million dollar media bets on selling Rebecca’s song, so the cost of promotion has been reduced to taking 3.48 minutes from our day, or typing 140 characters. It’s like a car smash, we can’t help but slow down and take a look.

The question it makes me wonder, is if there is a valid strategy in being the ‘worst’? And if there is, how do we make sure we qualify? And if we qualify, how do we then transform?

Love or or hate her, right now Rebecca has 100% share of voice.What that turns into is entirely up to her.

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Invest 5 minutes in glass

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 7, 2011

This is an amazing piece from Dow Corning on the future of glass in our lives. It really sets the tone on how they will through their products make our lives better. It makes me wonder why more startups and large brands are not creating films about the future, and how they will shape it in a positive sense.

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The worlds first disloyalty card

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 3, 2011

Prufrock coffee who created the worlds first disloyalty card.

The card to encourages their clients to sample the wares of quality coffee shops around their local region in London. Which is completely counter intuitive to sound business practice.

How does it work?

If a disloyalty member tries all 8 coffees on the above card , it will earn you a free coffee at your next visit to Prufrock Coffee. The interesting part is that it was conceived to keep ‘coffee customers’ out of the four walls of the ever encroaching Starbucks behemoth. The disloyalty card created a community of coffee lovers that could compete the ‘way of an artisan’. Something Starbucks could never do. It might just help keep them out.  In this instance the community matters more than the trader. This is the new collaborative world we are in transition towards. A community who vest their interests in each other.

What can your startup do to flip the rules and do what a bigger competitor never could?

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Good stuff is not enough

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 1, 2011

Making really good stuff is not enough. We’ve got to be good as well. Good people. We’ve got to have a DNA encoded into our business which shows we stand for something that is wider than what we sell. I’m not talking about any of that Corporate Social Responsibility crap, or even triple bottom line reporting. I’m talking about caring enough to leave good things behind us in our trail. For the things we touch to be the same or better after we’ve been there.  And most of all, we need to make sure our trail is going to be good, before we carve the path that takes us forward.

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The formula is love – Moby

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 6, 2011

I happened upon an interview with the musician Moby at SXSW in 2008 and he had something valuable to say about love:

The question was: “How do you recommend balancing yourself?”

His Answer:

“My advice first and foremost would be to do what you love. Um… because that way, if you do what you love, it increases the chance that you’re gonna have success with it. And even if you don’t have success, at least you spent your time doing something you love.”

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4 factors for webpreneurs – Guest Post

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 30, 2010

1. Technology is easy – getting customers to pay you is outrageously difficult.

When was the last time you heard about a web startup failing because the product didn’t work?  Almost never.  With the greatest respect to all the hackers and engineers out there coding away, making a product do what you want is simply a function of time.  Spend enough development time on it, and you can write code to do almost anything you want. Getting a customer to pay you some money for that feature you just added? That’s an entirely different proposition. The vast majority of web startups fail because they don’t find enough customers, at the right price and in enough time before they run out of cash.  If we spend as much time on marketing your startup as you do on writing and shipping your code, and we just might beat the odds.

2. Customers can always choose to do nothing

When pitching a prospect we are generally trying to convince them to do one of two things:
(i) Leave a competitor and join you
(ii) Stop doing nothing about their pain problem and join you

Who knew that getting them to leave a competitor was often easier than getting them to stop doing nothing? At least if they are using a competitor they recognise that they have a problem that needs solving! The truth is, many prospects are indecisive, stagnant, glacial, apathetic, unwilling, and unmotivated.  Demonstrating your product and then asking for the sale is just as likely to be met with a yawn and a scratch of the arse as it is with a chequebook. If you understand how difficult the process is, then there is a good chance you will approach it with the right amount of preparation and effort.

3. Financial models are fantasy
Their is one good reason to construct a financial model prior to having any real customer data.  Do it to prove to yourself that the fundamentals of your model will produce a profitable business over time.  Think of it as a sanity check. Once you are happy that the model works in theory, throw the spreadsheet away.  Never look at it again, and for christ sake don’t go out and try and raise investment funds off the back of it (guilty as charged!). Just launch your product and get as much real live data as you can.  Months later you can giggle about how wrong your projections were, but at least you won’t be making life altering decisions based on nonsense.

4. There is no replacement for quality user testing

User testing pays for itself many times over.  This doesn’t mean getting your mates over to play with your creation in return for a 6 pack.  It means getting real life customers/strangers to use your product while you watch. True story.  Our startup is an online event registration solution that allows customers to sell tickets and accept registrations for any sized event. Three months after launch, we sat and watched via web cam while a Canadian tester spent 15 MINUTES just trying to create an account. In one of our releases, we had cannily decided not to display a “register button” to anyone using Internet Explorer.  No-one using this browser  could get in and use our product, and it had been that way for over a week.  He eventually managed to get in, but man was he pissed!

What else do you wish you had known before you did your own web startup?

Post by Scott Handsaker founder of Eventarc

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Simultaneous radness

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 22, 2010

So how do we leverage a human revolution from a commercial perspective? It’s a big question. And even though the web has gone a long way in deconstructing power bases,  business and human evolution are still inextricably linked. So I thought I’d post a few things that matter in a digital world so all players (people and commerce) can create value for each other simultaneously.

Rules of engagement

  1. Authenticity pays. Be real, don’t pretend to be something, or someone your not. Brand respect comes from understanding the rules and respecting the on line world as the real world and vice versa.
  2. Speak with a human voice. We don’t listen to Corpi-speak. We listen to voices from people. We ten must personify our brands.
  3. Engage the crowd. They own our brands. You want proof. When they stop feeding our brand (buying) it dies. We must pay the respect the real brand owners deserve. It’s always been this way, but we didn’t know…. because we couldn’t hear their voices. Now they they have a voice, we must act on it. We have to let our people hijack our brands. User Generated Content and Crowd Sourcing is where it’s at.
  4. Compound effort. Benefits take longer to garner in the new world. It’s not like the old days of a large media campaign with instant results. We are moving from a low human capital, high financial capital environ, to a large human capital, low financial capital world.
  5. Learn on the job – it can’t be strategized. It’s too unorganized and changeable… the web is humanity in digital form. Then they only way to play is to embrace the chaos and be part of the conversation. It can’t be justified to a board room, but the companies and brands who choose not to play will be wondering what happened a few short years from now.

Most of all, have fun doing it.

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Helping your community

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 11, 2010

Blogger, thinker and all round nice guy Ben Rowe recently wrote a blog entry just for me. There was nothing in it for him, he just thought it would be nice to share his intellectual prowess for my benefit.

How it came about was pretty simple really. Ben wrote a great blog post on the importance of gaming and how it is starting to transcend currency. Within my comments on his post I spoke of how great it would be to think of a good gaming mechanic for rentoidA few days later Ben wrote this blog post with some ideas on how to do exactly that. It’s the kind of commercial world I want to live in. An ethic where people do cool stuff for others without asking, and not expecting anything in return. The corollary is that a a return does invariably happen.

Firstly, an emotional return from doing good. Secondly, a collective return from building community. And sometimes a financial one from those who return the favour.

The question for startup entrepreneurs is this:

What are you doing to build your industry community help and promote others?

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Blogs are a stadium

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 9, 2010

I was asked today about how blogs should be built and leveraged from a commercial perspective. It seems to be a regular question I’m asked. The giving element that is required in the blogosphere seems counter intuitive to the way our minds have been trained via the industrial complex. They often struggle with the fact that we just have to give, and the law of natural economics just kicks in. So I came up with this analogy which I think makes sense and explains how it should be approached philosophically.

Blogs are like a football stadium.

The game is played in the middle of the ground.

In blogs the middle of the ground happens to be where our posts are geographically placed.

This is why people come to our blog. To see the action. To learn from and be entertained by the actual game (posts)

But like all good stadiums we have related infrastructure around the edges. Our details, company, tweetstream, contacts.

If they like the game we play (our posts) they return. The crowd gets bigger, and they tell their friends to come.

Like the stadium the revenue comes from all the related elements like the concession stands, the parking and the sponsorship. The stuff that generally lives around the edges… both in stadiums and our blogs.

But we must never forget why they are here. To enjoy the game. They only ever return because the enjoy the game (the blog posts). So what we need to do is build our industry around the game, rather than charging for tickets at the gate. Charging entry just doesn’t work beause there is far too many games they can attend. (more than 200 million in fact)

So when someone asks you about how to make a blog work. Remind them of ‘stadium economics’ and that it’s the quality of the information and entertainment which earns us the right to sell them the occasional hot dog.

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