Websites & The Network Effect

I took this piece of copy directly from the 37 Signals blog. When it comes to websites, it’s what often the one thing we really need to break through. I also think it is why ‘free’ on the web just wont go away. It’s something web startups just can’t ignore.

The Network Effect: The network effect occurs when the value of a particular good or service increases for both new and existing users as more people use that good or service. It can also occur when other firms design products that compliment an existing product, thereby enhancing that product’s value. For example, the fact that there are literally millions of people using eBay is the thing that both makes eBay’s service incredibly valuable and makes it all but impossible for another company to duplicate its service.

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Famous to the family

Seth Godin has an interesting idea of being Famous to the Family. Which is similar to my definition of cool: the stuff that matters, to the people who care.

This short interview is a 5 minute investment worth making.

Next steps:

  1. Decide who your family is.
  2. Build them stuff they really care about.
  3. Enjoy doing it enough, to be able to continue without riches.
  4. Be patient.

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The truth about small fish

When starting out or chasing new customers on an existing business it makes sense aim for smaller players first, to build confidence, and get a few small wins on the board…. right?

The problem with thinking like this is that it makes life harder and less profitable.

The truth about small fish, is that they are harder to catch than big fish. They’re more elusive than the big guys and are often much harder to convince to invest their money in whatever we are selling. With the small fish the decision is often about whether they should invest their money or not. The advantage of the big fish, is that the investment funds are usually allocated, it’s more a question of doing business with company A or company B. From a  revenue perspective it’s far wiser investment of time to court a customer whose decisions to invest are already made.  A $10,000 customer is harder to get than a $1,000,000 one.

The other factor worth considering is our reputation. If we become successful selling to the small players, we’ll be seen as a small solution provider.  But if we land a big one it gives us a license to knock on other big doors. When the investment is time, its worth chasing the bigger reward, and the truth is that it’s often an easier sell job.

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The authentic phone message challenge

I’ll start by saying the concept of getting customers to “hold” on a telephone is a pretty bad idea. Then I’ll tell this story….

Today I was on hold for Optus telecommunications, which gave me a reasonably standard phone message:

“Your call is important to us. At this time we experiencing high demand for our telephone support staff, and we’ll be with you as quickly as we can. Please hold the line for the first available operator.”

Here’s what I seriously would prefer to hear:

“We’ve made a deliberate choice to only have X number of people to answer our phones. They are incredibly expensive and having any more than this would impact our profit too much. We’ve done studies which have worked out the number of people that hang up for waiting too long, and how much revenue the average phone call generates or loses for us. The number of people employed to answer our phones is just about optimal. We check this every few months. The average wait is about 5 minutes, so it’s a cool idea to put the phone on load speaker while you wait. Then you can do other stuff. If we answer and you’re not at the phone immediately, we’ll do you the the same favour of waiting a bit while you run to the phone to talk to us once we actually answer. We hope you appreciate our honesty. We reckon it’s better than giving you a load of shit that tells you how important you are. Cheers.

And so the challenge goes out to any startup or business is prepared to develop the worlds first authentic phone message be sure to let us know here at Startup blog so we can spread the awesomeness.

There’ll also be a prize for the best comment with a phone number to a company that has a message of this ilk – and the prize is $100 Amazon gift voucher.

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Convention busting – retail

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?

Web Success = Populate & Promote

I recently saw a job posted on a web developer recruiting website. It involved some people looking for coders to make a copy of my web business and livelihood www.rentoid.com. What was interesting was the lack decorum shown in the coder recruiting process where the person said – build me a replica of this website. Here’s a screen print of it below.

I was a bit annoyed at first. and sent out a tweet to assess the mood of my army of advisers on twitter. I tweeted the following:

Not sure what to think of this? http://bit.ly/cYR5FI A compliment or IP rip off with me and @rentoid as the victims? Help! Thoughts?

The responses were varied, but all were within the theme of this person clearly does not get what it takes. Here’s some verbatim of the tweet responses:

xshay don’t worry about it – we saw a guy offering to build redbubble for < $1000 once. A) not going to happen, B) not about the tech

shandsaker same thing happened to us. Just be confident that $750 and a 2 line project brief is $750 better spent on beer :-)

TimBull if they can only spend $750 to build it, quality won’t be there and they won’t stick it – betcha the coding was trivial part

BLKMGK01 Congrats man. Business must be huge if other people want to start ripping off ur ideas. U should apply to design the site! haha.

BrentHodgson Don’t let it worry you. You know that @Rentoid is more than the sum of its tech parts – & that it wasn’t a $750 job to create.

lukerides precisely…all about execution, so I would not worry…if they do a better job than you, they were always going to anyway!

I pretty much knew this before I tweeted the issue, but it did force me to think about web marketing success, and the success of rentoid to date and I came to the following conclusion. It’s not about the tech. In fact, the tech is pretty low down on the list of things needed for any website to succeed. And if i had to give my nemesis some advice on how to succeed in copying me it would be to do these two things:

Populate and Promote.

This is what needs to be done with any classified style website to succeed, and it takes a lot of time and investment. Investment in  financial and human capital. The problem with being 2nd, 3rd or later is that all the easy promotional opportunities like this are taken by the market innovator. And populating your website to make it meaningful takes a lot of boot leather, which is something many web entrepreneurs are afraid of.

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