Lessons From a Failed Startup

I don’t usually follow startup stories, but I was intrigued by this one. With so much going for them – an interesting idea, interest from partners, interest from users, some PR, even some funding – they still had to fold.

And then I read Flowtab’s own account of how it went down. I am hardly qualified to criticize (but of course, I’m going to do so anyway), but some things leaped out at me. And these aren’t particular to this company (I don’t mean to pile on), but attitudes and activities I have seen in other startups as well.

Careless erosion of goodwill

Goodwill isn’t a trendy buzzword, but let’s talk about it anyway. Here are some of the tactics this company tried out.

Flowtab was an app that let you order drinks at bars. The founders spent months building the app, launched it on iTunes, and it was the #1 featured app for one week. But there was no service to back up the app. There’s no mention of how many people downloaded the app, but it must have been a good number. Many startups would be thrilled at having their app featured by Apple. But this one squandered their opportunity by letting users download an app they couldn’t use. That’s like having a big store launch, inviting customers, and then not showing up to open the store. If a thousand customers came to your door, that’s not a success. The fact that you couldn’t serve them is a failure.

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: Listening and Responding

Much of the marketing advice you read will be about conversations you should initiate: by writing blog posts, tweeting, or emailing. But what online marketing allows you do most effectively is listen, and you’re not doing your marketing any favors if you don’t take the time to do that.

As Tea Silvestre says:

There’s a LOT of marketing advice out there about how to reach more people. Get more fans. Build your list. And just plain dominate the world with your empire.

But there’s another way to grow your business, and it doesn’t require you to talk to anyone new.

And:

Are you having enough two-way conversations with the folks who are standing right in front of you?

Read the post to learn how you can listen better.

But why should you listen?

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: Facebook Changes You Should Know About

Photo comments, embedded posts, more text in your page’s cover photo… there’s so much you can do with the recent changes Facebook made.

Use photo comments to increase fans’ engagement with your page and to crowdsource contentFacebook introduced photo comments: Ask your fans to submit pictures!

Facebook introduced photo comments, first for people and now for pages. You can now add a photo to your comment just like you can add one to your status. This is a great opportunity for businesses: you can ask your fans to submit photos through Facebook comments! For example, you can ask them to submit pictures of them of using your products or eating at your restaurant, and say you’ll use the best photo as your cover for a week.

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Five Ways to Find Relevant People to Follow on Twitter

A common question business-owners who use Twitter ask us is, “How do I find relevant people to follow?”

In my last post, I talked about who you should follow on Twitter: now let’s look at how to find these people.

1. Twitter Advanced Search

A useful but rarely used feature of Twitter is Advanced Search.

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Five Kinds of People You Should Follow on Twitter

Twitter is a tricky medium for small businesses. You will find a lot of people saying it’s a waste of time and enough people who swear by its benefits. You need to build your following, but when you start out you have to focus on following the right people.

Here is a quick guide on what kinds of people you should follow.

1. Customers – existing customers or people in your target customer group

You should follow your customers to see what they are talking about — what they are interested in, what products/service they like and what they are complaining about. Also this is a good way of letting them know that you are on Twitter. If they are interested in what you offer, they might even follow you back.

But don’t start selling to them on Twitter, not yet. Listen, engage and offer help but don’t be pushy.

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: Marketing Tips for the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is the American Independence Day. If you’re marketing to customers in the U.S., don’t miss this opportunity of doing a special promotion or marketing message. I’ve put together some ideas from other bloggers.

This blog post has a ton of ideas on marketing for the Fourth of July, including special tips for bakeries, consignment stores, cafes, salons, spas and health clubs, tattoo parlors, florists, restaurants, or retail stores of any kind.

And here are some more tips just for restaurants.

This blog post has more ideas: all about offline marketing.

If you’ve noticed, all the posts I’ve linked to are heavy on the offline marketing. What can you do on social media? Watch out: I’ll do a post just about that tomorrow.

Mistakes Are a Marketing Opportunity

Mistakes typosMistakes happen. Someone mixed up a customer order or made up a bill wrong. You send out an email to the wrong list. There’s a bug in the rice. (This happened to me not so long ago.)

No matter how hard you try, how good your employees are, or how rigorous your quality-control process is, some things slip through the crack.

It’s how you manage after the mistakes where your company’s culture and customer support shows. How you handle the customer after she complains, or after you discover the mistake, determines whether you can manage to retain her.

When I got that tiny bug in my rice, the restaurant manager apologized profusely and when I refused another serving of rice, offered another dish as replacement. We were at a lunch buffet, but for the rest of the meal, we got served at the table. It’s been some months, and I still remember the incident, but I have mostly good feelings about that restaurant. In contrast, I’ve had many experiences at other restaurants where the wait staff made a mistake but were quite blasé about it.

So I found this recent email from the CEO of PowToon both amusing and admirable.

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5 Advantages of Being A Small Business

It’s Small Business Week in the U.S., a good time to write about my pet theory: being small is an advantage. Big businesses have big resources, what do small businesses have?

Small businesses are closer to the customer.

Hummingbird and flower

Small can be both beautiful and effective

If you’re a small-business owner or marketer, you know your best customers by name. You know why they are good customers — which goes beyond being just regular to being easy to work with, or maybe they give you constructive feedback. If you’re a B2B business, you know their business challenges. If you’re a bakery, you know Donna loves cheesecake and is allergic to walnuts.

Why is this an advantage? Because it makes it so much easier to tailor your marketing and sales to them. To tell Donna she might want to try the new mango cheesecake just in and that you’re baking a fresh set of nut-free brownies. Big businesses have to get sophisticated CRM systems to keep track of that stuff…  but small businesses can do it more organically and easily.

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How to Pick Your Target Customer Segment

Over on Search Engine People, I explain how to pick a target customer segment that’s right for you. I answer questions like:

  • How do you start with a basic customer profile?
  • How should your target customer segment affect your marketing?
  • How do you learn enough about your audience to target your marketing better?

This post was inspired by several questions at recent workshops I’ve conducted, and I know this is a common challenge that all businesses have to deal with.

Read the post here, and tell me how you like it!

Monday Marketing Mash-up: All About Pricing

Pricing’s something many of us struggle with, and is a really important part of marketing strategy. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about as we move closer to a paid plan for Markitty. So here are a few interesting posts that talk about how you should price your product.

Different kinds of greens in a market

Customers like options they can compare, even if they’re similar

Here’s why research or surveys usually don’t help you much:

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Closing The Loop: Merging Online And Offline Marketing

You probably have a Facebook page for your business if you are a restaurant or an established retail business. How do you promote your page? How do you reach out to the same people online who are already coming to your physical store?

Most businesses rely on their customers (or prospects) to find them online and like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter. But why not actively close this loop? Let’s look at examples of some businesses in Pune who are doing this.

1. apniChai asking their customers to like them on Facebook

apniChai is on Facebook

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On Focus and Taking Our Own Advice

Let's focusWe’ve been feeling like imposters for the last few weeks. You see, whenever we talk to a small-business owner or startup founder, we advise them to focus. To go after one customer segment. To highlight one benefit. To talk in one voice across their marketing channels.

How can you “focus” on more than one thing at a time? How can you “highlight” 37 services? How can you, with the constraints of a small business, manage more than one brand and ensure that your audience doesn’t get confused by conflicting messages?

But we’ve been doing all of this ourselves. We’ve introduced ourselves as “marketing consultants, and we also have a product” or as “we’re building a product, and we also do consulting services.” We’ve been dividing our time between servicing clients and working on the product.

If your feet are on two boats, what happens when the boats gather speed?

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Weekly Reading: The Power of Focus

Marketing FunnelWe talk often about the power of focus here on the Markitty blog and in person. This blog post explains better than I ever could why this is even more important for small businesses.

If you want 1% of a market, you need to get everyone in that market to at least visit your website.

This ties in with the marketing funnel in our “measuring marketing” presentation. Start from the number of customers you want to meet your revenue targets and work backwards to the number of prospects you need to reach out to. You might be surprised.

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Weekend Reads for Better Marketing: Get Involved with Your Community

I have been thinking about community a lot lately. Nilesh wrote on YourStory.in about marketing lessons from our Office Hours for the Pune startup community.

Contribute to the community you want to be part of. There are many ways of adding value – you don’t have to be in the organizing committee to do that. Reach out to the people who are running things and they would be more than happy to get a helping hand.

Find things you can do well – we knew that we would not be able to help much with organizing community events and we like more focused conversations than open ended gatherings. Office hours gave us that opportunity and filled an important gap.

Online Marketing Workshop with Pune OpenCoffee Club

Nilesh talking to participants at our online marketing workshop with members of Pune OpenCoffee Club

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Presentation: Measuring Marketing Performance

On Saturday, we conducted the second of a three-session workshop on marketing for small-business owners for members of the Pune Open Coffee Club.

Unmana presenting at Marketing Measurement workshop for entrepreneurs

We talked about setting marketing objectives based on the business challenges you are facing, and how marketing can — and should! — help not only with getting the word out about your business, but nurturing your followers and leads till they become customers, and nurturing customers and encouraging them to stay with you.

I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions we had: and if you were there, thank you for being an active participant! And here’s the presentation.

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5 Reasons I Like Buffer (the Company)

Buffer is one of my favorite tools, but it’s not just the application itself I like, it’s the company. So well, let me count the ways.

Simple App That Focuses on One Benefit

I love how simple and easy Buffer is to use (in fact, I liked the earlier interface even better, because it was more simple). I’ve tried a few social media scheduling tools, but this is the only one I stuck with.

Tweets scheduled on Buffer

One click on the text box, type in or paste your tweet, and you’re done.

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Weekend Reads for Better Marketing: Assorted How-to Advice

Assorted colorful donutsThis week’s round-up includes detailed tips on various things: contact forms, search ads, customer advocates, and productivity.

The best way to market is to encourage your customers to do it for you. Also check out my similar, old post with tips on how to do this.

Neil Patel puts together research about contact forms into a super helpful infographic. The most interesting things to me, are:

  1. Fewer fields get you more conversions.
  2. Dropdowns reduce conversions.
  3. Don’t ask for phone numbers!
  4. Use relevant text in the button.

What does Google AdWords’ Enhanced Campaigns mean for you?

I liked Joel Gascoigne’s post about how working with a partner makes you more productive. I’ve found that I’m much more productive when Nilesh is in the same room, partly because I am ashamed to be goofing off when someone is around, and partly because I can get quick answers to questions or get responses when I think aloud and it makes me move forward immediately instead of tabling the issue and starting on something else. Do you prefer working with a partner or colleague to working alone?

To see more of what we’re reading and sharing, follow us on Twitter!

Presentation: Defining Your Marketing Strategy

On Saturday, Nilesh and I conducted the first of a three-part marketing workshop with Pune Open Coffee Club. The first session was on defining your marketing strategy.

If you missed the session, here’s the presentation.

Want to work on the exercises in the presentation? Get the template here.

The Only Five Essential Elements of Website Content for A Small Services Business

In the last six months, I’ve reviewed over 30 business websites with a view to helping these businesses figure out how they can make their marketing more effective. Especially if you are a small services business — you provide software development services, or you’re a trainer or consultant or plumber — it can be difficult to figure out what goes on your website. Especially if you’re a consultant or freelancer, where does your personality end and your business begin?

Today I’m gonna help you figure out the five most essential pieces of information you need to provide on your website.

Promote your business on your website

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Our Best Posts of 2012

New Year fireworks

started this blog nearly two years ago, when I wanted a space to put down my thoughts about marketing. Better Marketing wasn’t a business then — it wasn’t even the blog name.

It’s this year, after we started as a business, that we actually started writing regularly — and this is the 60th post of the year.

We would like to end the year by spotlighting both our most popular posts — that is, the ones you readers liked best — as well as my favorite posts.

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