Archive for February, 2012
Because Facebook is run by a bunch of 20 somethings they didn’t realize that when the over 50 crowd sees their timeline, they see the end of it coming at them one Status Update at a time. Not something you want to remind your customer of.
Carpe Status Update!
How well do you know your customers?
Kyle Weins is someone that I would love to have speak to class. He started “I Fix It” from his dorm room. He started out selling parts for MacBooks to make some money to buy a projector. While doing that he listened to his customers who were telling him that they needed manuals, so he and his partner wrote the service manuals. But a funny thing happened, even though his customers said they wanted them only 45 bought them. You see the customers didn’t think that they should have to pay for them. So Kyle made them PDF’s and put them online for free. He then got over 10,000 hits over a few days and business took off.
He realized that he couldn’t afford to write manuals for every product so they developed a Wiki tool that would allow their users to create and edit the manuals. This is an extremely elegant solution that they stumbled on accidentally. The internet is littered with companies that tried to create Wikis but no one ever came to them. I Fix It primed the pump by creating the first manuals and then as customers came to the site to buy parts they were able to enhance the Wikis, which makes them more valuable and gets more people to come to the site.
They have been in business about 8 years and are now doing over $4 million in sales. Andrew Walker, the host and founder of Mixergy, was asking Kyle in the interview about the early days and he used the phrase “Invent the life that you love” about Kyle and I Fix It. It resonated with me as it is what most Entrepreneurs are trying to do. It was inspiring to hear someone talk passionately about doing it.
Here are some suggestions for your first post.
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I listened to a great interview on Mixergy with a serial Entrepreneur, Paul Berberian. Paul is on his 7th company – Orbotix (you need to check out Sphero – I have 3, one for me and one for each of my daughters).
Anyway, the main point of the interview was about how one of his earlier businesses went through a whole series of iterations. Each were drastic changes and allowed the company to live another day and then eventually sell for over $100,000,000.
First they tried to become a better TV Ratings system to compete with Nielson. Next they tried doing closed caption creation which then lead to Video Streaming over the internet. This is where they first started getting revenue distributing training content for companies. Finally they iterated to doing conference calls over the web. This is the company that was sold. Believe it or not each business built on the work done at previous steps. When you hear Paul describe it, it actually makes sense.
As Nemo would say “Just keep swimming”. If you keep listening to what the customer wants, you never know what might happen.
In his new book “The New Expert” by Robert Bloom, US CEO Publicis Worldwide – Retired, the author states that loyalty is dead but that there are 4 Decisive Moments that you need to focus on and plan for to grow your business. Is this true? Is loyalty dead?
With smartphones and mobility and the new ways of shopping loyalty might be severely wounded but I don’t think that it is dead.
Loyalty is given to the company that uses these same technologies to satisfy the customers wants and needs to create a competitive advantage or a barrier. If you are selling solely on price, you can’t expect loyalty. But if you have another selling proposition that loyalty is within your reach.
Think about what happened to Netflix last summer. First they raised their prices by about 30%. Customers were very unhappy but they settled down and the defections were not that bad. Then, about 4 weeks later they announced that they were going to split into two companies – Netflix for streaming and Flixster for via the mail. This is what caused customers to abandon the service en mass. Customers walked because they didn’t want to have to manage two sets of data. Part of the value that Netflix provided to them was to manage their queue and their history and even to provide ratings. If the customer now had to manage that on their own through two different sites it was no longer worth it to them. So they dropped the service.
Luckily for Netflix they realized the mistake they made and decided not to split into two companies (although prices still went up) and customers have now come back.
Loyalty isn’t dead, but how are you competing on something other than price to earn it?
I was thinking about AJ’s discussion with the class and had a few random thoughts that I wanted to share.
First AJ was not the presenter that I thought that he would be. Please don’t think of this as criticism but here is a guy who works in marketing, is constantly speaking at conferences and schmoozing clients. I was expecting a loud and larger than life speaker. But he wasn’t. To me, he came across as quiet and sincere. And it worked for him. It just goes to show that you have to be yourself and not someone’s expectation of you.
The deeper reflection that I had was when AJ spoke about the number of decisions that you need to make to start a company. There are 1000’s of them and most you don’t need to sweat – what type of card stock do you want for your business cards. But the funny thing is that there will be dozens – not every day, but over the course of the company – that are make it or break it. Unfortunately, they don’t come with a sign that says “this decision is a big one”. Sometimes they are easy to recognize but it many cases you won’t recognize their importance until months or years later when you reflect back on what happened. Good entrepreneurs can intuitively sort out the 95% of decisions into critical or garbage piles and then worry about the critical and the maybe critical ones. They also have a tremendous ability that once a decision is made they move on and don’t look back.
It doesn’t really matter whether or not you made the right call, you have to deal with what is in front of you and not obsess about the decisions that were made in the past.