Ready Fire Aim in an Entrepreneurial World

July 8, 2011

Now that I’m helping build a new business from the ground up I’ve got my entrepreneurial spirit back on over-charge. So when my friend Carlin tweeted this recent article in Inc.com it caught my attention.

It talks a lot about how entrepreneurs think differently, act differently, plan differently than people who excel is large corporate environments. It’s not necessarily saying one is better than the other. Just that the approaches are quite different.

Having lived successfully in both worlds, I agree. I love the quote of one entrepreneur in the article in particular. He/she said “I always live by the motto of ‘Ready, fire, aim.’ I think if you spend too much time doing ‘Ready, aim, aim, aim,’ you’re never going to see all the good things that would happen if you actually started doing it.”

And permeating the whole article is a theme I swear by. Keep in constant touch with your customers. Whether you do it via fancy research projects (as you are aiming and re-aiming) or rather ad hoc, keep you hand on the pulse of real, live paying customers. You’ll be glad you did.

Marketing on an Airplane

April 25, 2011

Last week I took my children to Florida for spring break. We had a splendid time, albeit the six hour delay getting there, compliments of our friends at Delta Airlines. The extra airplane and airport time got me thinking. Some of my thoughts should not be repeated nor written down relative to Delta. But it also got me thinking about who should market on airlines. My conclusion: it comes down to two specific and reachable target audiences.

1. Families travelling with small children: I am lucky. My children are of the age that they are easy and pleasant to travel with at this stage. With each flight I am reminded of how difficult it was when they were active toddlers, when they wore diapers, when they were babies and inevitably caught colds when on an airplane. I would have gladly paid money for a product or person that could have helped me figure out a better way to change a diaper on an airplane – a cleaner, more convenient way. Or, I would have gladly paid money for an activity kit to keep my children occupied while on the plane. Or, if someone had rented a DVD machine with Disney videos as I was about to step onto the plane – would have paid a pretty penny. Parents of small children have a high degree of pain on an airplane trip and are likely willing to pay big bucks to relieve some of this pain.

2. Business travelers: The second audience of note is the business traveler group. Because I’m one of these people I instinctively get them. First, they don’t really want to be on the plane. They either want to be getting their business done or they want to be home with their loved ones. Every hour on the plane is a wasted hour. And it’s also an hour when they are a captive audience. If you have a product geared for a business traveler, an airplane might be just the place to find them. You might advertise in the airline publication, on a sign in the airport or in some other clever way.

This may sound a little narrow minded. There are certainly more people on airplanes than business travelers and travelling parents but I choose these two audiences because, for one, they are captive and easily targeted audiences and secondly, they have clearly defined pain points.

Good luck and happy flying.

Hybrid Marketing and Fostering “Super Fans”

March 25, 2011

I love to find a smallish business doing a kick-butt job at marketing. And indeed I did find one (actually several) while at SXSW in Austin. I found Heyday Footwear who does a spectacular job of blending online marketing, social media, event marketing and good old fashioned face-to-face meetings to develop their following. At the end of the day, what do they have? A strong following of brand ambassadors they refer to as “Super Fans” who help passionately spread the word about the cool footwear from Heyday.

This article from MOO sums it up nicely.

How about you? Know any cool businesses using a full array of marketing approaches to build their brand? If so, let us know.

Will I attend next year? Perspective of a SXSW first-timer

March 19, 2011

I should’ve clued in sooner. About a week before SXSW I reached out to several former colleagues in Silicon Valley to see if they would be at SXSW. All of them said something to the effect of “never in a million years would you find me there.” I’ll circle back to this point of view at the end of the post.

Will I attend another SXSW? Perhaps. Whether or not I do will depend on whether I think it’s worth the investment (of time, money and energy.) So, before this year’s experience gets completely foggy, here are some observations of my first trip to the heartland of geekery.

1. You need a year to learn the ropes. I was in Austin only from Friday night until Monday morning. I felt it took me that long to just learn the ropes – where to get the shuttle, how to navigate the Convention Center and various venues, what parties were worth attending, etc. Although I had received good advice before going, you really have to live it to learn it.

2. If you go, stay at a hotel within easy walking distance to the Austin Convention Center. This was probably the biggest frustration of the experinece. I stayed at a hotel aboout 10-12 minutes from the Convention Center by shuttle but these 10-12 minutes made it near impossible to drop stuff off or pick stuff up, to take a short rest, to change clothes before an evening event, etc. Kudos to the shuttle company – they did a great job keeping the route moving and all the various drivers I met were friendly, great Texans. But still, the distant hotel location makes for a tough visit. (PS I still think buying a shuttle pass beats the option of renting a car.)

3. Bring lots of vitamins (Richard was right.) I talked about this in my “pre SXSW” post. I was warned people get sick at SXSW. And they do. You run yourself ragged, eat enough bacon and pork and beef products to last a year and then chase it down with vast amounts of alcohol. Not the most healthy atmosphere. Bring vitamins. I did and I managed to stay healthy. Yay.

4. Pick your parties wisely. There are parties everywhere and all hours of the day in Austin. It’s crazy. Frat party for geeks.

By far the party I enjoyed the most was the Small Business Web party – great venue, fun people and good food and drink. The venue allowed for a variety of activities and it was a nice mix of fun and business. I did not attend parties until the wee hours, but it’s my hunch and observation that it’s best to ferret out and get invited to some of these “offsite” parties to avoid the ridiculous crowds at the main SXSW events. I heard some friends of mine from MA stood in line for parties they never got in. That can’t be fun.

5. Dedicate time before you go to figuring out what sessions look appealing. Then plan strategically. I could ramble on for a long time on this topic. But I won’t. Summarize it to say the sessions were mostly packed and for some, if you didn’t get there early (sometimes an entire session early) you didn’t get in. This was highly frustrating, given what you pay for a ticket. SXSW could and should do better.

I was busy starting a new job before I left for SXSW so I didn’t study the schedule carefully. And once I got there I was busy from morning to night – again, no time to study carefully. So I felt I was winging it the whole time so the sessions I attended were hit or miss.

In particular I found it frustrating when some panelists (example: the authors of Content Rules) totally “winged it” and used their session to take questions from the audience. This was lame. One of the best moderated panels I attended was a session on Sunday on female entrepreneurs. It was moderated by Jessica Vascellaro of the Wall St Journal and all the panelists brought a helpful, engaging perspective to the session. Kudos also go to Seth Priebatsch of SCAVNGR who delivered an excellent keynote on Saturday that was a perfect blend of vision, geekery and story-telling. Very compelling.

6. Don’t miss an opportunity to eat Amy’s ice cream. Especially mexican vanilla. Enough said.

So back to my Silicon Valley colleagues and they’re snarky attitude about going to SXSW. My conclusion is they don’t really need to go to SXSW because they live in a SXSW-type atmosphere 12 months in a year. For the rest of us, it’s a good place to go, drink from the fire hydrant and take in a good dose of geekiness, industry trends and forward-thinking idea sharing.

So will I go next year? Time will tell.

Prepping for SXSW

March 8, 2011

I’ll admit it. I’m a SXSW virgin. But I’m gonna solve that problem in four days when I make my maiden voyage. Have been gathering advice along the way. Here’s what I’ve heard and remembered.

1. Wear comfy shoes

2. No need to be too dressy. Jeans and a favorite shirt will do just fine. (Still wondering why Michelle bought three new dresses in the last 24 hours, but we’ll see about that in Austin.)

3. Bring vitamins. Especially vitamin C. Make that lots of vitamins. Had breakfast with the CEO of my new company last week and he must have said three times, “be sure to bring lots of vitamin C. You’re sure to get sick as everyone does.”

4. Attend the sessions of interest but don’t be too anal about sticking to a schedule. It’s really about the networking.

5. Have fun. Major party event. Use this to network and have fun. (see item #4 on list)

6. And most importantly, don’t forget your business cards. Especially if they’re MOO cards.

I’ve heard other advice too that I haven’t remembered. Guess it doesn’t make the top 6 list.

See ya’ll in Texas!

Not bad at all!

February 17, 2011

Three posts since my declaration of intent on January 27. Not bad if I do say so myself.

This self-congratulation now comes to an end. Feel free to resume your surfing the net.

Taking Advantage of a Blizzard or Holiday

February 17, 2011

Want a good tip that can last all year long? Be on the lookout for opportunistic times to market your business. They’re all around us. Sometimes they are as simple as a holiday (even an artificial one like Valentine’s day) or they can present themselves as a a nasty snowstorm or other natural disaster.

To see how a couple of businesses have done just this, look no further than these blog posts:

A salon in the Philadelphia area offered discounts to fill appointments on snowy days in late January. Read about it in this post on the MarketingSherpa blog.

And my new favorite company, MOO.com did a great job of marketing “Love Cheques” for Valentines day. They motivated me to buy some and they were a big hit with my valentine. You can customize these cheques in any way you would like and MOO will print them to your specification. MOO caught my attention with this offer in a newsletter they sent me and they also talk about them in this recent blog post.

So put on your thinking cap and get creative. Those opportunities are all around us.

Marketing on Facebook – is it worth it?

February 3, 2011

Facebook recently hit a ginormous milestone. They now have more than 600 million users. And if those users are anything like me they are now checking their Facebook account more frequently than they turn on their television.

So, Facebook must be a marketers nirvana. Right? You should build a page for your busines. Right? Well, it depends. If you’re going to start using a Facebook page to market your business, tread carefully. Here are three things to consider:

Attracting visitors to your page and keeping them coming back
Setting up a basic Facebook Page for your business is not that hard. My friend Sally set one up for her art business in no time at all. The trickier part is getting people to “like” your page and to come back and visit often. There are ways to do this. Just know that it is best done with a strategy, requires some time to keep current and a good imagination and business sense to create the right content.

Support – Good luck with that
Facebook offers all their support online. They have a “Help Center” easily accessible under the Account menu in the upper right corner of their UI. They call it help and if you have time and patience you might be able to find answers to your questions. But if you ever want a human being to help you, good luck. I clicked on a link for how to “Promote your Facebook page or Website”. The content is clearly written by a technologist and not a marketer. So while you might see what button to push, it’s not necessarily going to get you the results you desire.

While they don’t offer a way for a human to help you, they do make it easy to find a “Contact our Sales Team” link. How considerate. Thanks Facebook.

Privacy and Facebook terms – always changing
Facebook has earned a reputation as a company that abuses their users privacy. And the privacy rules are ever-changing (and ever making people cranky.) On top of that Facebook is often changing their terms of use and one thing is for sure – the changes they make are for their benefit. Not ours.

Facebook has rights to all of the content you put on your business Page, including posts, videos, photos, viral campaign elements, etc. I’m not saying they’re going to do this but they have the rights to use this content however and wherever they would like. Says so right in their terms. Just be careful and be mindful that what’s yours is theirs too.

So creating a Facebook page for your business – is it worth it? It could be, but if you build one don’t assume they will come. You need to build it and have commitment to stick with it. It’s also a good idea to find a buddy who has already forged their path on Facebook. Your buddy can help you since Facebook doesn’t offer that option.

Back at it!

January 27, 2011

While I’m not a gal who sets resolutions for the new year, now that January is coming to a close and the non-stop snowstorms in New England are giving me a chance to reflect, I am commiting to blogging more regularly. My goal is once a week for the rest of 2011.

There I said it. Now I have to do it.

I started this blog about two years ago. Soon thereafter I started a new job that, coupled with an extreme commute, has pretty much consumed me since that time. When I started this blog, “it” was all new. First time blogger. New to Facebook and Twitter. Social media was new on the scene.

Now, two years later, I’m smarter, more experienced and more relaxed about the whole thing. This shouldn’t be stressful. It should not be hard to post once a week. Surely I have some new nugget of marketing insight to share. One thing you’ll notice is the tone of my posts will be a bit more casual. I used to be somewhat uptight about what I posted. I felt my post needed to say something meaty. Needed to be some incredible insight or piece of advice. But really, is that all you want in a blog? I don’t think so.

Sure, people read blogs for advice and insight. But they also read them for entertainment. For a quick snippet. For a reflection on a news trend. For a bite-size tip. For some personality.

They say if you commit to a new habit in public it’s more likely to stick. So this is my public statement of intent. Being back at it is good. Now I need to stick to it!

4 Reasons to Start Your Own Blog

September 21, 2010

This post is focused on why an individual may want to start a blog. I will follow with another post on why a company may want to start a blog. The comparison is pretty interesting.

Reason 1: Learn a new skill

The first reason to start a new blog is that you will learn a ton in the process of doing it. Today those learnings are quite valuable. The world of online communities and opinion sharing have become a new way of life. A way to make connections, become educated and make decisions. Blogging has become a valued skill in the professional world and building your skills with a personal blog is a good place to start.

Reason 2: It’s easy to get started

There are many popular blog platforms. Two that I recommend are WordPress and Blogger (now owned by Google.) Both are free and both can be up and running within an hour or so. For some valuable advice on blog platforms check this post by Problogger.

Reason 3: It focuses your thoughts

The third reason to start a blog is that it forces you to take time to bring your thoughts together in a cohesive manner. In today’s frenzied world, having some disciplined time for focusing our thoughts is a win-win, and another reason to start blogging.

Reason 4: Shares your personality with the world

The fourth reason to start a blog is that your blog becomes a centerpiece for sharing your personality and point of view with the world. Sure, you can do this on Twitter in small bites of 140 characters, or you can do it on Facebook, but this is often only shared with people who you personally know. By comparison, a blog enables you to to share your point of view with the world as robustly or succinctly as you would like, and you will be exposed to people you otherwise don’t know and may never meet.

Extra/Bonus Reason: It’s not hard to decide what to write about

Don’t overthink what your blog should focus on. You can write about work or a professional topic or you can write about a personal topic – your family, a hobby, etc. A friend of mine is living through a medical emergency right now and her blog is one that I visit most frequently. It’s personal, it’s filled with her personality and it comes from her heart. Perfect ingredients for a compelling blog.

In conclusion my advice is don’t overthink it. Get with the program and join the blogosphere!