Category: growth models

Word of Mouth Marketing

If you’re trying to market a product on a limited budget, you know what a challenge it can be. Why not harness the power of word of mouth marketing? Word of mouth marketing is one of the best forms of free advertising available to the cash strapped marketer.

To make word of mouth marketing work for your business, you must have a good product at a reasonable price. If customers are impressed with the value your product offers, they’ll enthusiastically spread the word to their friends and family. This is free advertising at its best! Here’s how to put the power of word of marketing to work for your business:

Girls with Goals Steps

1. When you sell a product, give your customers extra business cards or flyers to give to their friends and family. People love to share new discoveries with their acquaintances. Make it easy for them by giving them some of your sales literature.

2. Take brochures and business cards with you wherever you go. Pin them up on bulletin boards, put them into fish bowls at restaurants, and hand them to people you meet throughout the day. This is a quick and easy way to market your business. It’s a great form of free advertising.

3. Tell everyone you know what you do for a living. It’s said that every person you meet knows over 200 other people. By telling one person what you do, you’re reaching a large universe of potential customers. Use word of mouth marketing to spread the word.

4. If you get feedback from a particularly satisfied customer, ask if you can use their comments as a testimonial in your next brochure. Jot down their comments as well as their name and address. Before publishing their comments ask for their written permission by mail. After receiving their written permission, add their testimonial to your marketing brochure when you next update it.

5. Offer your customer a future discount for each person they refer to you. When your customer’s name is mentioned as a referral source, keep track of it in a notebook so you’ll remember to give that customer a discount on their next purchase from you.

6. When a customer buys a product from you, give them a coupon for a 10% discount on their next purchase. At the same time, give them several extra coupons to give to friends and family. People love discounts and will express their gratitude by giving you free advertising.

7. Always over deliver! Give your customers such amazing service that they can’t wait to tell their friends. Truly good customer service is rare these days. Go the extra mile and watch your sales skyrocket!

Isn’t it time for you to harness the power of word of mouth marketing to promote your own product or business? It’s a great form of free advertising. Give it a try and prepare for some great results.

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You’ve Created Your Winning Startup Idea ~ First Steps (2)

Hopefully you read the previous post “Create that Winning Startup Idea” and tried one of the following suggestions for coming up with your personal ‘Winning Startup Idea’.

Just as a reminder:

  1. Product Design New Application: Think of how one product or design can be re-deployed to solve other problems
  2. What If?: How could a great product or business be a ‘world class’ business? How does it need to change or improve?
  3. The Pissed Off Brainstorm: If only X did it this way….why couldn’t they just do Y?

Great!  Have you found that idea that makes sleep near impossible? THE idea that is now starting to bloom and grow in your brain whether you want to think about it or not?  If you are reading this and even now the idea is demanding attention then maybe you’ve found your own ‘Winning Startup Idea’.  Is that all there is too it?  Of course not. This is just the beginning but it is one of the most challenging elements…

The frank reality is that the idea you’ve just conceived is at the start of it’s life and I can promise you that as you move it forward, it will shift and change to the point where when it becomes ‘real’ you probably won’t even recognize it as the same idea.  That’s OK. Every winning startup idea grows up eventually when it hits the real world and spends some time with it’s initial customers. These initial steps are what this post is about.  Initial steps to take a fantastic and very personal winning startup and make it ready to be shared and experienced by it’s customers.

So here it is, your very own winning startup idea – what’s next?

At this stage I normally take a look at myself and examine whether I’m passionate enough about the idea to really grab a hold of it with both hands and push it forward no matter what.  No matter what! Any obstacle, any person telling me that it won’t or can’t happen.  There are always people who will tell you 101 reasons why your idea will fail.  If I’m only half hearted about it now then sooner or later I’ll run out of steam and waste time. My own time (forgivable) and other people’s time (unforgivable).  So this is usually the point where I decide to sleep on it.

OK, so I’ve slept on it and the first thought that pops into my head when I wake up is my winning startup idea…even while mentally sweeping out the cobwebs of sleep my brain starts to turn over the idea and look at it from different directions.  As I mull it over I start to see how it can be made better, how it could be not just a winning idea but Great one.  Yippee, this is one of those ideas – one of the one’s that even if I wanted to, I can’t push side.   That mental shot of near caffeine has happened again. Isn’t life great?

Next, I write the idea down and I don’t worry if its rough…I’m not going to use this document to raise money…just as a tool to develop the idea and test it out.  After getting every part of the idea down on paper I promise to give myself 24 hours before coming back to it. I cheat…I can’t help it, a few really interesting elements come to my mind an hour or two later and I have to add them to the document in case I lose them.  OK.  That’s it. 24 hours. Right.  So next day I read it through and see what other refinements or ideas come to mind. 

Yep, the document makes sense. So who do I know that has expertise relating to this type of business or perhaps know someone who does?  Let’s take the drive through whole food deli idea from the previous post.  Who do I know that has some business experience in restaurants?  Scratching my head the honest answer in my case is ‘no one’.  Damn! 

Lucky for me the internet has websites and forums such as Advisor Garage (http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community) with advisors with experiences across multiple industries.  So, my next step is to find someone that really understands this space and connect with them.  Keep your own reach out at a high level, give them enough information that they can get the gist of the idea without giving away the crown jewels. Remember, not everyone is ethical out there. But likewise, without some risk, this idea will remain in your head and will never become a reality.

OK, now it’s your turn – you’ve run your winning startup idea by someone who understands the space and if you’re lucky, they’ve given you some more ideas, some contacts, told you about potential competitors and if there aren’t any, have probably told you you’re mad.  Don’t sweat ‘mad’, so was Thomas Edison and Marconi in their early days. These are your early entrepreneurial days, take pride in mad…mad is better than bored and boring while watching TV. Sorry NBC!

If there was chemistry between you and your advisor, start cultivating that person as your mentor.  Be appreciative of their experience, let them know that they could be the key to your success – they actually might be.  If they have helped you identified similar business models or competitors, make it your first business to know everything about them. What do they do, how do they do it, what do they charge and most important, what do their customers think of their product or service? See any chinks in their armor? If so great!  This tells you what you’ll need to do better to start pleasing your customers, making money and building your market.

But one person, a winning startup idea and a rough idea draft is not a business.  You’ll need some critical elements and no surprises for what they are:

  • People
  • Money
  • Product
  • Initial Customers
  • Business infrastructure

But securing those elements is material for the next few posts…if you have thoughts, questions, comments or rude remarks about the above, let me know.

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

Create that Winning Startup Idea (1)

Want to start a business? Have the necessary passion to start a new business but are unsure where to start? Looking for that new, innovative, winning new business idea? Or perhaps you’re waiting for divine inspiration to serve up that winning idea like money from heaven before you actually get up off that sofa and GO FOR IT.  Sorry to burst your bubble – waiting won’t make it happen.  You have to ‘create’ it yourself.  But maybe it’s closer and easier to get than you think, maybe you can come up with that idea today.

Here are a few ways that work for me – so much so that they’ve become almost unconscious processes that happen on autopilot and better yet, their easy. Give them a try.

When asked where my ideas for new business come from I often joke that it’s a ‘disease’, something which is uncontrolled, being delivered in the grey matter between my ears without conscious thought or a process.  That’s close, but not exactly how it happens.

During my first interview for a role at Procter & Gamble fresh out university one interview question still sticks with me.  The interviewer passed a glass across the table and asked me to name ten uses for it.  Use number 1 was…a glass, she was unimpressed. Use number 2 was a paper weight, (better but still no cigar), number 3 was a lens to read small print in a document and before I knew what had happened, ten different and increasingly creative (read – crazy) uses had spilled out in the interview room.  That process is not too dissimilar from the process you could try. This redeployment of one product idea (in my case stackable Pringles) into another product category (Fire Escape Ladders) helped me come up with the idea for my first company, X-IT Products to produce an idea I’d had for the world’s smallest, safest, strongest fire escape ladder.

A refinement on that creative free thinking is what we’ll call ‘What if’.  Find a product, web service or business that is in the space that you are passionate about and really impresses you.  Thought of it? 

What’s great about that business? What do you really like about it?  Now think about what would make it even better? That would take it from being a great business and make it a world class business.  Write down every idea that comes to you….when you feel yourself drying up, read through the list and see if that squeezes any more ideas out of you.  Take a read through that list and see if any light bulbs go off in your head – any really obvious improvements or refinements to that already great business?

The third approach that might work even better for you is what I’ll call the ‘Pissed Off’ brainstorm.  Has a product, service or business failed to live up to it’s promise?  Maybe they over sold you or your expectations were mis-aligned with the reality of the business.  Maybe they screwed up or the product was faulty. Perhaps they don’t exactly meet your need.  But who cares? You do, because this is an opportunity to figure out what the business or product needed to do to deliver on it’s promise, to meet and exceed your expectations.  And if they aren’t meeting your needs because of some flaw, figure out what needs to happen to solve it. 

Let’s try an example, I’m driving from New York to Philadelphia – it’s lunch time and I’m hungry.  Watching the signs as I travel, what are my options?  Ah, here we are – McDonalds, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts and a few no-brand obscure Italian restaurants. More often than not if I’m hungry enough, I’ll drive through and buy something.  But just once, wouldn’t it be good if I could get something that was healthier.  It’s true that most of these places sell salads but then the light bulb goes off!  Before Whole Foods selling organic and more ‘wholesome’ food, most supermarkets were similar. Whole Foods changed the supermarket ‘game’ – what about a motor way food joint that changes the game in the same way as Whole Foods?  A quick, drive through that offers freshly prepared, all organic, non-greasy, non-salad food?  As of today, at least on the routes I drive, they would be the only food chain of its type. Talk about cornering an underserved market. Surely not everyone want’s a burger or a slice of pizza? Is this a winning idea? Who know’s but it could make someone a lot of money if it takes off. Don’t forget my percentage if you make this one a reality! 🙂

So, there are other ways that these ideas are created but hopefully these few are good as a start, so:

  1. Product Design New Application: Think of how one product or design can be re-deployed to solve other problems
  2. What If?: How could a great product or business be a ‘world class’ business? How does it need to change or improve?
  3. The Pissed Off Brainstorm: If only X did it this way….why couldn’t they just do Y?

Try these approaches and see where they take you.  Feel free to come back and post how you get on.  Maybe then I can write an article on some ‘what to do next’ steps for your new winning idea.  When you find your winning idea then you are already further along than most ‘would be’ entrepreneurs, now to go an make it a reality. Let me know if there’s any interest in those thoughts.

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

TableXChange: A $250K Virtual Investment

TableXChange is exactly what the name implies – a website that helps people secure hard to get reservations at some of the most exclusive restaurants.  Want to impress by taking a date to Il Mulino’s to sample the divine Italian food of Chefs Fernando and Gino Masci but didn’t think to book ahead?  If you’re lucky then you can buy someone’s existing reservation – the price for a secured reservation for two this Friday at 8pm is $35 bucks.  Not too outrageous when you consider that’s the cost of three jars of Pomodoro Pasta Sauce through Il Mulino’s website.

Business Model:
Sellers can list as many reservations as they wish on TableXChange.  There is a $40 cap on the amount that they can charge reservation ‘buyers’.  How does TableXChange make money? Simple, for every reservation ’sold’ TableXChange makes 12% of the agreed price.  If the reservation does not sell, no harm no foul, it was free to list and the failed ’seller’ does not owe TableXChange any cash at all. So, sell a reservation for $30, then TableXChange takes a $3.60 cut.  You get $26.40 – not bad since you didn’t actually pay anything for the reservation – just five minutes on the telephone. Even at AT&T rates – that’s still a pretty good deal! -)

Some Core Functionality:

  • Free to list and free to search by restaurant, date, time, neighborhood and price
  • Free to cancel the sale at any time as long as it’s not sold. 
  • No personal information is shared between parties – accept probably the name of the reservation i.e. Table for 2 for Smith but this only occurs when the reservation is sold
  • Only three (3) reservations max at the same restaurant per night allowed
  • Payment within 48 hours of reservation sale
  • Pay and receive payment via Paypal. Easy!

Likes:
A neat idea!  Could do favors to buyers, sellers and restaurants especially if restaurants fill more tables if reservation makers sell their reservations rather than being ‘no shows’.  As a busy married guy the ability to get reservations at the last minute at great restaurants could really help…especially for this special days when I know I should have booked 45 days beforehand, but let’s face it, who really thinks that far ahead?  

Dislikes:
Just a few questions/concerns:

  • As there is a $40 cap on the reservation price and a maximum of three reservations per restaurant per night, the very ’special’ restaurant, in high demand will not be at the real market rate and should be snapped up quickly. This means that the really great restaurants that should ‘drive’ the adoption of this site may not actually be on the site for too long.  If they are not there, why should I go?
  • At some point these guys should try to integrate into a larger site that offers users the ability to see if there are reservations available without needing to buy it through the system.  It would be plain annoying if I find I could have just called and booked direct for free.
  • One obvious one is that TableXChange is just New York City and the Hamptons at this time. More place please.

Suggestions:

  • Lost revenue opportunity:  Members need paypal, they refer people to paypal but don’t use a paypal referral number. Odd!  They could be making additional revenue from paypal for referals. This doesn’t cost members anything but is a ‘thank you’ from paypal.
  • The restaurant listings do not include restaurant website links, descriptions or reviews.  I know I should know every restaurant on the site by reputation but the reality is, I don’t! If I’m going to pay someone $30 for a reservation, I’d first like to check out the restaurant, the Zagat rating (here’s another potential revenue stream for TableXChange) and customer reviews.

My Virtual Investment:
With my virtual $1M, I would virtually invest $250K! Today New York and the Hamptons, Tomorrow the United States, and Friday the World! There are some obvious spinoff opportunities but I’ll leave that for dessert!

http://www.tablexchange.com

Andrew – Founder
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

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Building a Credible Brand for Your Small Business …

Building a Credible Brand for Your Small Business … Then the entrepreneurial spirit came calling again. This next move came about the same time that Sun Microsystems introduced Java, the programming language. As a software developer at the time, Burns knew that Java was the technology for which he had been waiting. So in 1995, Burns, together

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Interview: Some good advice – Andrew from Advisor Garage

Advisor Garage and the Advisor Garage Community is an online service for entrepreneurs to connect with Advisors, Angels, Venture Capitalists and other entrepreneurs. It was established by three people – the founder (Andrew Makunas) and two really fantastic tech guys. Another interesting interview from Loscreador. Let’s find out more…

The idea for Advisor Garage came to Andrew Makunas at Harvard Business School. He was guided by various advisors there who helped him realize his ideas and start his various businesses. Advisor Garage hopes to achieve that same goal, but for entrepreneurs all across the world.

Advisor Garage is still in the initial stage, but promises to be a huge success with the every increasing number of talented entrepreneurs and always helpful guides who want to help. Andrew has taken these both and created a wonderful combination.

In this insightful talk with Los Creador, Andrew tells us what he wants Advisor Garage to achieve and the journey that still has a long way to go.

Los Creador: How did you get the idea for AdvisorGarage?
Andrew Makunas: As an entrepreneur, I realized that one of the most challenging and time consuming tasks for entrepreneurs is the ability to connect with great advisors, investors and new team members. In my case, it took months to get everything lined up to get my businesses really thriving. Advisor Garage was created to make that process much easier and faster. Speed is critical when starting businesses because every day without revenue is a day closer to failure. If AdvisorGarage can help connect the dots for an entrepreneur then they are much more likely to realize their startup dreams and objectives.

LC: What’s Advisor Garage all about?
Andrew: Advisor Garage and the Advisor Garage Community is an online service for entrepreneurs to connect with Advisors, Angels, Venture Capitalists and other entrepreneurs. The core site allows entrepreneurs and advisors to search according to their interests and needs so they can reach out to people that can help them move their businesses forward. The newly launched Advisor Garage Community site gives members the opportunity to connect right now with other Entrepreneurs, Angels and Venture Capitalists members through the free blogs, forums and networking groups. They can build up their personal entrepreneurial network through a ‘linking’ system with private messaging.

LC: Skilled and experienced advisors would be the bedrock of AG. What is your plan to attract such people to your site? What do you offer them?
Andrew: There are multiple ways that Advisors find out about AdvisorGarage. Perhaps the most important is member referral or recommendations. AdvisorGarage has grown to include hundreds of advisors through word of mouth. In addition, the management team reaches out to their own personal network and alumni of their own business schools and encourages them to join. But the real ‘hook’ for advisors is to discover fresh new entrepreneurial talent and great new businesses. Advisors and investors love the idea of discovering new innovative people and businesses and Advisor Garage and the Advisor Garage Community are good channels to do this.

LC: How many people are involved with AdvisorGarage? Tell us a little more about them?
Andrew: Advisor Garage was established by three people – the founder (me) and two really fantastic tech guys. The interesting thing about the team is that none of us work full time on Advisor Garage – we frankly cannot afford to as we do not charge for the service and will not do so until much later. What we would ideally like to do is to take any revenues we make, when we make it and channel is straight back into product development. We have already mapped out where Advisor Garage is going and the services we would like to provide for our members. We would like to pass every dime the site (eventually) earns into improving the services and offerings for the members rather than paying expensive salaries. For those reasons, we build and manage Advisor Garage during our long nights and too short weekends. Part of the entrepreneurial journey I guess!

LC: What are your plans for the future of the site?
Andrew: Ah ha! If only I was allowed to tell you! What I can say is that now that we have the basic Community site live (http://www.AdvisorGarage.com) we would like to refine and improve it and from there we have another two or three key services that revolve around helping entrepreneurs with their key challenges at various stages of development.

LC: How did you begin your business networking?
Andrew: I don’t think I ‘business network’, I think I generally enjoy spending time with people and both new and old contacts. Its not a conscious effort, meeting and working with people is something I just plain enjoy.

LC: Which site do you visit everyday other than your own?
Andrew: Techcrunch.com

LC: Who are your idols in the IT space? What is it about them that you think is really great?
Andrew: There are too many people – if pushed it’s probably Guy Kawasaki. What’s great about Guy? He tries to give back to the broader entrepreneurial community and the upside of that is it also builds his personal equity and brand.

LC: What is the greatest challenge to your success? How did you or plan to overcome it?
Andrew: The greatest challenge to our success (and still is) is building a comprehensive member focused site that delivers the range of services that can really help them and their businesses without cash. Could we go out and get cash from angels or VCs? Probably, but we want to focus the business on our members rather than on the bottom line so we struggle every day to manage and improve the site from our own personal savings.

LC: What was the one main reason for starting something on your own?
Andrew: I can’t help it. I’m an entrepreneur! I basically come up with new business and product ideas on a daily basis. The shower is usually where it all happens! Some ideas ‘stick’ others disappear when the next idea comes along. I’m compelled to pursue the ones which stick. Advisor Garage was one of those.

LC: What is the one accomplishment till date you’re most proud of?
Andrew: Aside from the personal stuff, probably designing and launching the world’s smallest, safest fire escape ladder which is now a permanent exhibition in New York’s MOMA and being sold in multiple accounts. It feels good to have brought a product to market which saves lives.

LC: What’s that one big dream or accomplishment you are working towards?
Andrew: The next iterations of Advisor Garage and related services will be the next set of accomplishments. In terms of dream – to help a significant number of entrepreneurs build great and successful businesses world wide.

LC: Time to play soothsayer. What according to you is the next big thing?
Andrew: I’m not sure there is truly a next big thing – I thing all next big things come back to the consumers. If they don’t then they are destined to be the next big ‘has been’.

LC: Any advice for other web entrepreneurs out there?
Andrew: Whatever you want to try, give it a shot. Don’t worry too much about Business Plans, its better to get it out there and modify and build as you get customer feedback. Pick the right team members from day 1. Get some good advisors and leverage them until they squeal!

LC: How early in life did your relationship with computers/internet start? Tell us about your first few interactions with technology.
Andrew: This will show my age but my first ever computer was when I was about eight or nine. It was called a Sinclair ZX81 and that was closely followed by the Sinclair Spectrum, the Commadore 64, and the Apple LC…after that I’m afraid I sold out to Windows machines and so after that point the computers stopped being memorable.

LC: Which was the first company you worked with? What did you do there?
Andrew: The first company I worked for was Procter & Gamble. I was a brand manager for Cover Girl cosmetics – a bit weird for a guy but it taught me some good lessons on marketing and delivering great products to consumers.

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LC: Can you elaborate on your hobbies and what you enjoy doing to pass your time?
Andrew: Spending time with my family and martial arts – a combination of JKD, Muy Thai and mixed martial arts. It’s a great way to get your mind to switch to something aside from entrepreneurialism.

LC: Where are you based now? Any plans for the immediate future.
Andrew: I’m in New Jersey right now. Immediate plans for now are email this to Los Creador and go get some lunch.
BTW, please check out our new Community site . A shameless plug but as we have a zero dollars marketing budget I won’t apologize too much ;-)

Thanks for the interview…

Andrew

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