Start Up Blog

Forging ahead

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 11, 2014

When we are forging our own path in life and in business, doubt is the key enemy. It’s even bigger than fear. The reason it is a serious enemy is because doubt always happens before fear does. So when we sense self doubt, we need to fight it and forge ahead, or fear might just take hold. We must ensure we don’t stop what we are doing. We need to keep writing, keep coding, keep building, keep creating and just keep doing whatever it is we ought be doing.

Even when we are not sure of the next steps. Even when we can’t see where we are going – we must continue to move ahead. It’s a bit like walking in the fog – the path only reveals itself if we continue walking. If we instead stand still, nothing is revealed

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Trade Secrets

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 4, 2014

Once upon a time simple forms of industry knowledge were a significant competitive advantage. The little things we knew about our industry from working in it mattered. We had to earn expertise over long periods, and the release of that expertise to prospective customers. We traded in trade secrets. But now those days are coming to a close.

In a market where anyone can know anything about an industry (from the worlds experts) with just a few key strokes, then we need change our view on what creates an advantage. Knowledge of products, prices, places, who does what and who owns what are all knowable. We are quickly approaching a market of perfect information. And when everyone can know everything, and prices quickly level out, the only thing left is trust. And a great way to build trust is by sharing trade secrets. By being generous with our knowledge well before we want to do business with anyone. We need to share what we know so others can navigate the market and reduce their risk.

When it finally comes down to doing business, customers have a much higher probability of trusting those who gave them the most trust first.

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How a new brand can gain trust

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 25, 2014

This post by Seth Godin got me thinking about how to generate trust when we are a new brand or startup on the block. Here is what I think:

Building trust is simple. Create stories by doing things which exceed expectations. One customer at a time. When we do it, they share their good fortune to have done business with us. Trust never comes from the brand owner, but the interactions with the brand recipients. They then deliver that trust to others who buy the brand off them metaphorically. Thought they’d get X and they got X+1. They tell people about their win. We win by being generous.

Startup blog says: Generosity is the fulcrum of trust.

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Trust and my dad

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 3, 2011

My dad has an interesting viewpoint on the idea of trust. He says that it doesn’t need to be earned with him rather, he gives it out freely and automatically with anyone that he meets. He says that it is implicit in the human make up. He says that trust should be an automatic ‘gift’ in the human operating system.

Occasionally his trust gets abused – that’s the price he is willing to pay for it does happen. The upside of all the trust given far outweighs the few exceptions.

In startups and business, we’ve tried to de-humanize trust and replace it with forms and legal agreements. I really believe that we should trust ourselves and our gut just a little more. But I’m excited that new technology is making us more human again. The fact that digital footprints are largely permanent may even circumvent the need for mistrust and formal agreements. We can instead go back to trusting peoples word and enjoy the speed that organic development gives us versus making lawyers wealthy.

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The last industrial relic

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 31, 2011

You probably don’t know this but the office is a weird thing that only turned up when factories did. Sure Lawyers and accountants had them, but not in the corporate form they exist in today. The office was an addendum to where stuff got built. It was there by accident, it was there because the tools of the trade (office machinery) had not been democratized to the point where we could own and have them in our home. The strange thing is that, now we can work from home, the large majority of us still don’t. Not because we don’t want to, but mainly because large corporations lack trust.

Many of us would save time and money if they did not exist (both people & corporations)

I think it’s the last industrial relic. It needs to be radically changed, even the name office is wrong. It sounds ‘official’ and full of rules. Sure we do need to work together sometimes – but personally I’d rather do that in some kind of creative collaboration space.

If offices really add that much value, then why do startups never have them? It’s because entrepreneurs know they are expensive to run, out dated and redundant.

Jason Fried gives us his synopsis on this topic at a recent TED talk. Which I love – it’s 20 minutes worth investing:

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the cool thing about blogging

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 5, 2010

I’ve had to very quickly pull together a social media straetgy for a project I am working on. The timeline I had was a few hours. I’m certain that only due to the fact that I’ve been an avid blogger for a few years was I able to meet the deadline. Blogging creates great habits. It forces us to consider our chosen topic deeply and regularly. (startups & marketing in my case) It forces us to respond to our ideas quickly, to trust their value and publish them anyway, before tomorrow comes. It’s a personal newspaper and our readers want to know what’s new everyday. They’re not looking for perfection, but inspiration.

Whatver we do, are interested in and regardless of our industry, blogging is a must for those of us wanting to get better and faster.

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How to run a corporate Twitter account

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 8, 2010

I was writing a guide for a social startup Abbostford Biscuits on how to approach twitter. Here’s a little snippet I thought was worth sharing for anyone wanting to embrace twitter in their company.

The twitter account should be open to all in the Abbotsford Biscuits organisation. Anyone should be allowed to tweet on behalf of the company. This is important because the aim is to share the company culture and values, so that you can build a following. The reality of any culture is that it is the amalgam of all viewpoints. If the brand twitter account is just maned by one person, then the personality will be too singular to truly display the organisations values. It also adds variety to the output and creates more interest with followers.

The team should be given a set of guidelines and then allowed to tweet as they please. This will also help with frequency of output, without impacting the general responsibility of staff and workers. They can do it on their breaks, or any time in or out of the office. The chaos of this proposed situation must be embraced or it simply wont work. For a true social media engagement control must be relinquished. The voice must be human, overtly honest and omnidirectional.

Your thoughts?

You can’t control social media

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 22, 2010

I was recently invited to Social Media Club Melbourne to appear on a panel with Scott Kilmartin of Haul and Sahil Merchant of Magnation. The topic was Building Brand Buzz.

The three of us were generally aligned on our thoughts, with varied executions using social media tools given the differences in our businesses. I’m a big fan of Magnation, but there was one area in which Sahil and I disagreed, and that was that he preferred to control the output of social media. His contention was that he wanted a single voice to represent the brand personality. On the surface this sounds reasonable, even rational, but even a week later I really think it goes against what it is all about and here’s why:

The voice of a brand is the collective actions of all of it’s representatives. Not the CEO, the marketing director or the advertising they put in the market. Just ask anyone about their opinion of banks in Australia. It has nothing to do with the voice banks project, and more to do with the customer interactions. The voice is what the people hear & experience on a personal level, not what the brand stewards say.

Social media can’t be controlled. So why try? There is nothing worse than limiting the voice of your people. They will talk anyway. They’ll share links, write about your brand and talk about it on line and off. They will have real interactions with customers, and if what the authorised voice says (Sahil in this case) doesn’t match the reality of the brand in action, then it all sounds contrived and is useless anyway. It’s more likely to have meaning and be authentic if its the word of the people, not the king. So let your people participate. Give them their own Magnation twitter account, a sub brand of sorts. Be a collective. Be real.

Create culture, don’t control output. It’s an errant assumption to believe you know better than your people do. It’s often not the case. What we need to do is educate our people on what we want to be as brand, the persona. Give them some guidance and let them represent us, make mistakes and be human. People love dealing with companies who have a human voice and mistakes are part of the human.

Trust creates value. I find it curious that companies trust their employees with the key’s to the building and the cash register and not their voices. It’s best to approach it like a parent does with a teenager. Give a bit, let them prove themselves and then loosen the lead a bit more. Trusted people usually over deliver to expectations. People who are shut out usually react in the opposite. In social media context we need to trust the average human outcome, rather than block all for fear of a single bad outcome.

The key point to me is, if you want a controlled voice, then social media isn’t the right vehicle for a brand. More traditional media would be more suitable. The word social is the giveaway here, because social implies conversation, not lecturing or monologue. All our people should be part of the conversation if we want to create real value.

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Espousing others

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 7, 2009

In world of media proliferation it’s becoming harder to get someone, anyone, let alone our target audience to listen. A better way than blasting our own foghorn is to espouse others. Something I’ve seen a lot of smart startups do lately is become brand advocates. That is, take a lead role in communicating, promoting and essentially spreading the love for other companies whose values we feel aligned to. It’s even better if we all move in the same entrepreneurial circles. Though it doesn’t have to be this way.

When we share great stuff other people are doing it rubs off on us. Just like proper referencing does in academia. We need to find stuff other companies are doing that we think is worth sharing. Ideas we think rock and companies with cultures we admire.

This is my current love list of other Startups & SME’s

Some of which even loosely compete with each other. This is fine in my view as often the biggest challenge we have in startup land is market development. Helping our competitors, though counter intuitive, can also benefit us. It get’s more people interested in the space, generates mainstream media coverage and can increase market size. This type of thinking would have been a sackable offense in my old consumer goods marketing days. The world has changed.

We’ve always been told it’s better to give than receive and the on-line world is the greatest exemplar of this theorem. It’s also a super way build significant brand credentials and trust. When people trust what we have to say by introducing them to other cool stuff it gives us a chance at gaining our own momentum.

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