Thursday, January 29, 2015

My 6 Choice Pieces Of Advice for Entrepreneurs for 2015

I am always reading. Whether books, certain newspapers, magazines, selected content from the web, etc. I love to absorb all I can on what people are thinking and the great ideas and advice we can share among angels, entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses.

Usually I comment and reference the post of others - it's the easy (perhaps lazy) way to share, but when mobile so much of the time, it makes it so much easier to share the good stuff.  One of the drawbacks of that approach is that sometimes the article or post I find has a lot of content and doesn't get right to the points I specifically want to share. My apologies for that. I will continue to search for a mobile tool to make it easier to extract just that parts I want to focus on, and of course source back to the original for those that want to dig in deeper.  Any insights, or tools that work for you, please feel free to share...

So there was this post that I have been sitting on for a while, The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2014 from First Round Review.  It was full of great insights and advice for 2014.

I had a few favorites (#21, #29, #16, #13, #11, #5) and I'd like to share them as My 6 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs for 2015. I've skipped stuff about personnel, I will save that for another post.

1. Build an experience, not just a product.
There’s a reason FiftyThree’s Pencil is considered one of the most beautiful and revolutionary pieces of hardware in recent years. “The entire experience was crafted to naturally fit with how people work,” says hardware specialist Adam MacBeth, whose work has helped shape the iPod and Jawbone's wristbands. “Identify the points that will potentially be the most challenging or difficult for users to figure out. Identify where you have the opportunity to add the most value for users along their journey. The integration between hardware and software needs to be the tightest at those points.” The best hardware products lean on software to create an awesome end-to-end experience, MacBeth says. Any hardware effort needs to be multi-disciplinary, and software should take the lead. 
“The best new ideas live at the boundary between the real world and software.” 
Related: The Experience Makes the Product, Not the Features   
2. Pass the Bar (Test).
As a long-time project lead at IDEONicole Kahn often found herself presenting slides to clients about products, solutions, ideas — and much of her success came from telling a great story. This seemed to run counter to the number of boring, bland and ineffective presentations she (and many other people) regularly encounter. Her first piece of advice is to validate that you have a good story to tell by using what she calls the 'Bar Test.' “Bars are friendly, social places, sure, but something really important happens when you’re at a bar,” says Kahn. “You use really direct language. You make sure that what you’re saying is entertaining and engaging. You don’t quote tons of data. You don’t use overly corporate language — except maybe in air quotes.” With this in mind, she encourages presenters to tell their story ideas to people who don't know what you're talking about before they formalize anything. Observe them. Look for when they lean in or look away or reach for their phone. Take 15 minutes to figure out what resonates, and make that the skeleton of your presentation.
While you practice your presentation, pitch, whatever it is - keep a few things in mind

  1. Slow down - if you go to fast, people lose focus on the message while trying to
    keep up. If they're taking notes and you lose them, well, you lose them.
  2. Remember that what you take for granted about your product, your space, your market may be based on things you really really understand and are an expert at. Your audience may not be so informed.
These two combined is a double whammy. I would suggest that you make a video of your presentation and watch it with others from your team. Do one before the Bar test and after you refine it based on the bar test feedback. Practice Practice Practice Practice. Does your message come across the way it sounded in your head?  If not, revise again and Practice Practice Practice Practice some more.
3. Invest in marketing from the start.
Collection of Marteting books
A lot of startups — especially those that are deeply technical — are strapped for resources and don’t prioritize or invest in marketing until their product’s mold has been cast. Robbie Mitchell, head of marketing and communications for education startup Knewton, deeply disagrees. He believes that marketing and product should evolve side-by-side. He's seen tremendous benefits running Knewton's marketing group as its own in-house agency, complete with engineers, designers and product managers devoted to marketing objectives. “How can you know that you’re building something people want unless you try to sell it to them first?” Mitchell says. “You need to validate product-market fit as soon as possible, and the only way to do that is to figure out the value proposition as you’re building the technology.”
This message is a painful one. No one likes investments that turn into the greatest product never sold. 
“Even if your product can do a lot, you still need to tell people how it fits into their lives.” 
4. Nail your positioning for early success.
When Arielle Jackson started to develop the marketing and communications plan around Cover (the Android app quickly snapped up by Twitter), she brought experience from Google, where she managed product marketing for Gmail, Docs, Calendar, etc., and Square, where she led go-to-market plans for new hardware products. In all these instances, developing solid market positioning made the difference. “You need to position your product in the mind of your user,” says Jackson. “And that requires taking your potential users into account, assessing the product’s strengths and weaknesses, and considering your competition. There are so many products out there, and people are busy. You have to know who you are.” She offers a fairly simple formula that combines all of these criteria:
  • For (target customer)
  • Who (statement of need or opportunity),
  • (Product name) is a (product category)
  • That (statement of key benefit).
  • Unlike (competing alternative)
  • (Product name)(statement of primary differentiation).
For World Wide Web users
who enjoy books,
Amazon is a retail bookseller
that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books.
Unlike traditional book retailers,
Amazon provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices and comprehensive selection.
5. Patch leaks in your funnel.
Tamara Steffens has run business development for companies like Path, Color, and most recently, Microsoft acquisition Acompli. In doing so, she's become laser focused on user acquisition through all channels — including where they drop out of the conversion funnel. She's identified two leaks startups should pay extra attention to.  
The first is Day 1. How many users do you lose the same day they download the app? If your product is at all confusing or intimidating, chances are the average user will turn it off and trash it shortly thereafter.  
The fix: If users stop engaging with your app before they even see what it has to offer, take a close look at your signup process. If you’re losing users who have taken the time to sign up, then you need to scrutinize your welcome flow.
The second leaky bucket is the 6-week mark. How many users are still actively engaged with your app after six weeks? If you're losing a lot of them, your product may be losing its utility or novelty.
The fix: Listen intently to what your customers want from your product and iterate as fast as possible on this feedback. 
“Assume you have 90 seconds with a new user before they decide to use your app or delete it.”
6. Don't get distracted by a vocal minority.
English: Angry woman.
As Reddit's first community manager, Erik Martin presided over a site that now serves 5.5 billion pages to over 100 million monthly unique visitors, and he did it with a very small team. Knowing where to invest time became paramount, and one of the best ways to do this, he says, is to stop wasting time and energy on small bands of loud, angry users. This is something almost every consumer startup will face, and it can throw you way off track. “People express themselves much more often when things are going wrong,” Martin says. “But you have a lot more people that you're serving on a regular basis.” To make sure you're steering this macro community in the right direction, he advises remaining kind and courteous in all communications, recognizing patterns in the feedback you're getting and being responsive when you do. Express empathy to make it clear that real human beings are working to address users' or customers' concerns.


  First Round Review Post: The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2014
  Pass the Bar image via
  Pencil by FiftyThree Digital Stylus for iPad Air

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