PR Tips for Startups » Harvard Business Review Innovative Marketing Strategies From Today Sat, 05 Oct 2013 06:32:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Innovative Marketing Strategies From Today Chikodi Chima: Public Relations, Content Marketing , Sales and Business Development Strategist no Innovative Marketing Strategies From Today Public Relations, Content Marketing, Media Relations, Business Development, Lead Generation, Public Speaking, Storytelling, Entrepreneurship PR Tips for Startups » Harvard Business Review San Francisco, CA Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs Tue, 23 Jul 2013 15:47:30 +0000 Chikodi Chima

Entrepreneurship is about being uncomfortable CC 1sock Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

[Note: This post is part of a Startup Edition series on lessons for new entrepreneurs]

“I sense you’re going to be very successful,” my cab driver said. As San Francisco afternoon traffic lurched forward, the conversation had gotten very personal, as taxi cab confessions often do.

“There’s something about the way you carry yourself, and how you communicate your ideas,” she said.

“Why do I feel like I’m bashing my head against a wall half the time?” I wanted to say. “The other half of the time feels like I’m punching sand.”

I bit my tongue.

“Thanks,” I replied.

Perhaps I should be applauding the fact that a nagging, ever-present sense of discomfort had an inspirational effect on a complete stranger. It certainly didn’t feel that way at the time.

I’m sure this feeling of disquiet and unrest is shared by many entrepreneurs. While things may appear “normal” on the outside, below the surface is a boiling sea of conflicting emotions. With so many mission-critical decisions to make it’s hard to recognize and celebrate incremental progress.

“Being succesful in entrepreneurship is not about intelligence, it’s about perserverance,” co-founder and CEO Sunil Rajaraman said on a recent episode of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast.

In spite of all the hype-making, entrepreneurship is the furthest thing from glamorous. If you aren’t making it on a or Pinteterest level, you’re fighting an uphill battle for survival.  And the biggest struggle is to keep yourself focused on the mission at hand. As I’m learning, entrepreneurship is about how to make peace with being uncomfortable.

While each entrepreneur’s journey is different, here are five pieces of advice I have for young, first-time startup founders and small business owners.

Starting a business is easy but it takes perserverance to be successful CC Jasmine Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

1. Starting is the easy part

Launching a business is exhilarating.

Pandora founder Tim Westergren recently wrote on LinkedIn about his heady startup days  back in 1999. Crammed into a studio apartment, and surrounded by whiteboards, he and his Pandora co-founders were confident they were going to revolutionize the music industry, and put artists first. They even raised money from investors who believed in their mission.

And then $#!t got real:

We began running out of money and wound up in a long, grueling fight for survival. It took almost 4 years, a few business model changes, and 348 investor pitches before we were able to raise another venture capital round. By the time we got to the closing in March of 2004, we had deferred close to $2 million of salary, racked up massive credit card debt, battled lawsuits and eviction notices, and experienced just about every other imaginable challenge for a young business. It was a wild process that by all measures we should not have survived. As I enjoy the progress of Pandora, those days are never far from my mind.

Do you have the grit to suffer through four years of the so-called “trough of despair?” That’s how long it could take to get real traction–if it happens at all. And the more audacious your vision, the harder you will have to fight.

Creating product-market fit is much harder than getting the ball rolling.

Entrepreneurship is a balance of passion and pragmatism CC Beniamino Baj Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

2. Balance passion and practicality

In order to make it as an entrepreneur you have to have passion, but pragmatism is the attribute that will get you much further.

“Make something people want,” Y Combinator founder Paul Graham says.

While you may think your idea is going to set the world ablaze, you’re not your customer. Neither are your friends and family.

Practice customer development to ensure you’re not going down the wrong road with a product or service no one needs. A fast and easy way to “get out of the building,” and get real feedback is to take your product idea or prototype to a coffee shop ask random strangers for their honest opinion. Even if you have to buy a few coffees, and hear some unwanted criticism, it’s a lot cheaper than building a full product no one buys.

Its OK to work for someone else before becoming an entrepreneur CC Fabian Mohr Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

3. There’s no shame in having a job first

Starting an entrepreneurial career as someone’s employee can be a safe and advantageous way to ease into startup life. You have a steady paycheck, and you get to learn from other people’s mistakes at no cost to yourself.

Fellow Startup Edition writer Jason Shah wrote:

I didn’t buy the, “Work on 0.0001% of a product that touches millions,” argument. The control-freak, narcissist in me wanted to own the damn thing.

After all, Jason had just sold his five-year-old company before graduating college. Not too shabby. But Jason admits he didn’t know how much he didn’t know until he started working for someone else.

When I worked on my own, I didn’t have analytics teams, useful dashboards, and a kickass in-house multivariate testing tool. Sure, you have Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and others. But Yammer has provided a 101 in the AARRR metrics and focusing on engagement, retention, and virality with a certain clarity that I didn’t have on my own. With millions of users, I have been able to measure things on a new level vs. the purely qualitative data I got from user testing with my other products that had much smaller user bases.

The most successful entrepreneurs are in their forties and fifties, running companies you’ve never read about on TechCrunch, Mashable or The Verge. With age comes experience. Working within an organization allows you to see its deficiencies, and to build up a rolodex of potential customers once you’ve launched a product.

And while tech acquisitions are rare form of exit, startups created by former employees to solve enterprise problems become juicy targets. Marc Benioff of Salesforce was a long-time Oracle employee before striking out on his own. And established players like Microsoft and Oracle often buy smaller firms for their customer relationships, and recurring revenue, or simply to snuff out a rival.

Today’s Salesforce would be a pretty rich meal.

Entrepreneurs Need Mentors CC arriba Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

4. Seek out mentors

Mentorship is a vital and increasingly-scarce form of career education. You’ll make plenty of startup mistakes of your own, but a mentor can help you spot many before they happen.

Priscilla Claman writes in the Harvard Business Review that you should seek out a “personal board of directors for your career,” a panel of expert mentors who can advise you across a range of professional aptitudes.

There’s no need to hold meetings or even inform each person of his or her status as a board member — but you do need to select the right people and stay in touch. Just like any good board, the people you choose should have different contributions to make to your thinking….The people on your board of directors should know more than you about something, be better than you are at something, or offer different points of view.

Sometimes you’ll have a mentor and not even realize it. That person you go to for advice could be the corner shopkeeper, or in my case a local restaurateur whom I jokingly refer to as “my guru.”

While it’s great to have a mentor who understands your business, it’s equally valuable to have a mentor who can provide you with valuable life insights. I’d say this is even more important than having an advisor. “The night is dark, and full of terrors,” as Game Of Thrones character Milesandra is fond of repeating. Recruit allies to your cause whose perspectives will keep your grounded, motivated and focused on the big picture.

Bonus: Podcasters are great mentors

You can and should listen to entrepreneurship podcasts to hear how other startup founders made it work, and to learn from their failures. Podcasts such as Mixergy, Entrepreneur on Fire, Foolish Adventure, The Lifestyle Business Podcast and the Web Domination Podcast are great resources, because you won’t always hear from the same handful of founders who dominate the mainstream news.

The process of entrepreneurship is the same, whether you aim for an IPO, or you just can’t stand working for someone else your whole life. Entrepreneur podcasts allow you to tap into the minds of fellow entrepreneurs and learn from a wide range of industries and perspectives.

The World Needs Entreprenuers CC Nomadic Lass Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

5. The world needs you

Even when you feel at your loneliest point remember that the world needs entrepreneurs like you. There are many time when you will feel alone, confused and aimless. It happens to everyone. And you may be building the wrong product, and have to start again from scratch. But the world is full of problems, and problem-solvers like you are in short supply.

“I’d rather see you fail at your own startup then succeed reading about someone else’s,” As Dave McClure from 500 Startups says.

Your time is now. The world needs you!

This post was part of a Startup Edition series on lessons for young entrepreneurs

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How Travel Site Hipmunk Uses Lean Content To Drive Revenue Mon, 27 May 2013 17:51:51 +0000 Chikodi Chima Hipmunk tags CC natbat 300x300 How Travel Site Hipmunk Uses Lean Content To Drive Revenue

There’s an adage in business, “Half my marketing budget is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” Today the old saw attributed to John Wanamaker is a rarity.

Marketing dollars and public relations campaigns can now be tracked with scientific precision that would make NASA blush. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

A few days ago a fantastic example of revenue-driving lean content arrived in my inbox. Travel site Hipmunk created a nifty infographic with the irresistible tagline, “How to Save $300 on Your Next Vacation.”

Hidden travel costs!?! Oh, noz!!!! I better see what I’m missing.

The infographic itself wasn’t anything earth-shattering. (It’s embedded below) Don’t park your car with the hotel valet, was one piece of advice. Another tip was the not to tip the maid who cleans your room.  You could save $20.

Screen shot 2013 05 25 at 5.43.18 PM 300x240 How Travel Site Hipmunk Uses Lean Content To Drive Revenue

But for all it’s frugality, the graphic was actually a well-executed Trojan Horse. The point was to grab your attention long enough so that you would scroll to the bottom of the email where a revenue generating search button was placed. If you search for and book a flight after reading the infographic you just made Hipmunk some money. So is this sneaky, or the new normal?

“Our thinking as marketers needs to shift from “Mad Men” to “math men,” says Mitch Joel of Twist Image in a recent Harvard Business Review post. ”This doesn’t mean that creativity, insight, and storytelling die. It does mean that we can use technology to make us better at how that our human-crafted messages convert to sales,” Joel says.

The infographic is part of a much longer conversation between me and Hipmunk. I’ve used their travel search to book flights in the past, and

We live in a quantified world. Whether I buy a flight through Hipmunk today, or in six months, their team knows I read their emails and a little nudge can get me to visit their site.

Hipmunk Referral Link 300x130 How Travel Site Hipmunk Uses Lean Content To Drive Revenue

When The link I clicked in the email took me to a custom landing page for newsletter readers. You can see evidence of this from the tracking code in the URL. More sophisticated tracking code could have taken me to a custom offer valid only for people who read the newsletter with the infographic. If I had come to the site from Twitter, or another social platform tools like Optimizely would allow Hipmunk to show me entirely different versions of their site. Such is the power of lean content in action.

How much does all this cost? Not much. To create two versions of an infographic could range from $500-700 for an external designer. Much less if the creative was produced in-house.

We’re entering into an era where it’s easier than ever to track the ROI for content production and public relations down to the cent. With greater cost accountability for content and marketing, startups and small businesses will be able to take more calculated risks, conduct experiments and do more cool stuff.  I’m all for lean content marketing, where ROI can be proven, revenue can instantly be generated and greater customer insight gained.

Total Cost of Travel Infographic How Travel Site Hipmunk Uses Lean Content To Drive Revenue

What examples of revenue-driving marketing content have you found lately? Sound off in the comments section below.

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