Tag Archives: startup

Monday Marketing Mash-up: Learning from Business Failures

Failure’s been on my mind lately. It started a while back, with this startup founder writing about the inevitable end of the business.

And of course, last week I wrote about another startup failure, inspired by the TechCrunch article reporting it.

So today I share some more stories of failure with you, hoping we can avoid their mistakes and their fate. The next three links are from this Business Insider article.

This entrepreneur started his business of selling condom key chains: he failed, but it’s a great story.

This blog post has some interesting insights, including this:

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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: Entrepreneurs’ Stories

I wrote this about my entrepreneurial journey, especially how we got started. I titled it somewhat provocatively, but the point is that I needed to reduce the distractions in my life to think clearly, to figure out what I really wanted to do.

The TV had filled our lives with noise. In the silence, we could hear our thoughts, our dreams.

Towards the end, I offer more tips on reducing distractions and improving your focus, something I struggle with every day. This post was also picked up by women 2.0.

I like reading stories and learnings of other entrepreneurs for motivation: it makes me feel less alone, it gives me hope that we’ll make it too.

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: Before You Start Your Business

Are you an aspiring entrepreneur or know someone who is? Read on for what you need to get in order before starting your business!

First, give yourself a reality check. #2 and #8 in that list look most important to me.

Here are some more things you should be careful about.

Next, get to work. I wrote on Women’s Web about 8 things to do before leaving your job to start your business.

Unlike what most people think, you shouldn’t wait to start marketing until you’re ready to launch. In fact, the earlier you start the better. I wrote on YourStory about marketing activities you need to start as soon as you start your business.

What do you wish you’d done earlier?

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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Common Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

I wrote on YourStory about marketing mistakes I find myself making repeatedly and see most often in others as well.

Here are some ways to avoid making such mistakes:

  1. Study the data. Be careful you don’t misinterpret it, but make sure you’re looking at it and can figure out what it means. 
  2. Ask your customers. Make sure you’re talking to them and know what they really think, and not just what you think they think. But of course, they need to be the right customers.
  3. Talk to people who’ll ask you the hard questions: be it a partner, advisor, or a friend.
  4. Don’t lose sight of your vision. Don’t change something just because someone suggested it: see if it fits into your vision of your business.
  5. Measure your productivity. Are you spending time on the right things?
  6. Question yourself constantly. Why are you doing [something]? Are you making the right assumptions? Is there a better way of doing this?

Tell me: what are the mistakes you try hard not to make?

6 Free Tools for Creating Product and Promotional Videos

Are videos part of your content marketing? If not, they should be. Be it a quick product demo, a walk through your facility or office, a testimonial from a happy customer,  a training video for some complex feature of your product or an introduction of your team – videos are a great medium for all of this.

But getting professional videos done is so difficult and costly that most of us shy away from it. We recently created a bunch of videos of our product and team, and in the process, discovered that it’s not as difficult as it seems.

There are a number of easy and mostly free tools that you can use to create different kinds of videos quickly. Don’t expect the production quality to be really great, but this will serve the purpose for the most part.

Take a look at the videos we created here, and below is the list of tools we used.

1. Powtoon

Powtoon - Create professional looking animated videos and presentations

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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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Getting Featured on TechCrunch and Other Startup Achievements: Interview with the Founders of AppSurfer

AppSurfer is a cool application that lets you try out apps before you buy them. The startup that built AppSurfer, RainingClouds Technologies, is in Pune. They recently got covered on TechCrunch for the second time.

We chatted with three of the Co-founders: Aniket Awati (CEO or Happy Co-Founder), Ratnadeep Deshmane (Geeky Co-Founder), and Amit Yadav (Business Co-Founder). Check out the videos below. (The audio isn’t good, I’m afraid, but I’ve added annotations that should help.)

How to Get Featured on TechCrunch

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Weekend Reads for Better Marketing: Advice for Startups

Woman jumping in airThis weekend’s links are all about starting startups and working in startups.

If you’re just starting out, Daniel Tenner has advice for you. It’s awesome advice — even if you don’t agree or decide to ignore it anyway, read it.

Leo Widrich offers ten myths about startups. I found #1 particularly eye-opening: but it makes sense that deadlines don’t work “when you’re trying to do something innovative and new; when you don’t have a manual to refer to on how to perform your tasks.”

Rob Heaton tells you to check that you’re wearing trousers first, that is, try simple solutions firstThis paragraph is key:

It’s a pleasant delusion to believe that all our problems require hard solutions. This way we feel interesting, get to do challenging things and become more attractive to members of our preferred sex. If you’re constantly feeling tired it’s tempting to become concerned about your iron levels, consider painting your ceiling a relaxing shade of ochre and look into buying a new pillow that fits your personality better. But you probably just need to go to bed a bit earlier. Perhaps on some level of consciousness we find it hard to believe that anything simple could possibly make a dent in our problems, which as we already know are of course really difficult and can only be solved by a super-genius such as ourselves. But there will always be simple things you are doing badly that you should look at first, especially in a startup where you deliberately ignore 90% of things so that you can do the other 10% really, really right.

Joel Gascoigne’s thoughts on building a minimum viable product (MVP) also made me sit up and think, especially as that’s in line with what we’re trying to do with Markitty.

Speaking of Markitty, if you haven’t yet read Nilesh’s account of our journey so far, do it now.

The Markitty Story: in the Hustler’s Words

Unmana wrote about how we decided to get started with Markitty: here is my account of the product development so far.

Gathering courage

I had done a bit of coding more than 10 years back, but since then my exposure to the technical side was limited to managing software projects, data analysis, and occasional experiments with SQL or Excel macros. Building a SaaS product of our own was a task I had never imagined taking up.

Outsource or build in-house

We didn’t have a lot of money to hire a great outsourcing vendor or to hire a senior technical lead. We did try looking for someone who could be a technical co-founder but that was not going to be easy.

Unmana and I had both worked in geographically distributed teams for a long time and understood the communication overheads and leakages that need to be dealt with in such a setup. So we were very clear from the beginning that we wanted to have a local team and dedicated developers who can work closely with us. Apart from the cost, culture was the biggest driver behind this decision.

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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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Marketing Objectives and Measurement Workshop on March 23 in Pune

This is the second of a three-part workshop with Pune Open Coffee Club. The first session was for business-owners to define their marketing strategy, the second will be about setting objectives and measuring performance, and the third will be about reviewing performance and using that to change what you’re doing.

We have a few slots open for the second session, so if you want to come, apply here. Participants who haven’t attended either the first or the second session will not be invited to the third. You won’t get much out of just the third workshop without the context of at least one of the other two.

Marketing Measurement Workshop Session

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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: Productivity and Product Development

Unmana is out of action for a few days due to a small accident so I am bringing you this weekend’s reading. This one is going to be a mix of personal and business: hope you will find it useful and enjoyable.

If you feel you are always busy but still stress out for not doing enough, you must read Rethinking Productivity by Amber Naslund:

“Productivity, at its essence, means being able to bring things about. But sometimes, making that happen is as much about what you don’t do.”

And similarly this old piece by Paul Graham explains why some of us feel our whole day is wasted even if we have to attend one meeting.

Don’t hate me for including this one in a weekend reads list: Joel talks about the need for hard work and uses some interesting celebrity examples.

Read this hackathon experience of our hacker, Virendra, if you haven’t gone off to work by now and are still with me.

And a replug of our earlier post if you missed the announcement — we are live with Markitty Beta. Go sign-up now and let us know what you think of Markitty.

Have a good weekend!

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.

Weekend Reads for Better Marketing: Sales and SEO

Little girl with make-up and rollers
This is about how fake I feel if I try to sell

Vijay Anand, the founder of the Startup Center and a well-known name in the Indian startup space, answers the question, “What will it take to build 1.000 Startups in a year?”

Tech columnist Farhad Manjoo writes about Facebook’s Graph Search (which Nilesh wrote about here).

You’ll immediately notice Facebook search’s amazing user interface and flexibility. You’ll also spot one glaring problem: The search results aren’t that good.

After just a few queries, I started asking the engine for more and more complicated things, just to see if it could keep up… It didn’t have any trouble.

I can’t wait to try it myself, though apparently Facebook is rolling it out “very slowly.”

Are you making these 9 mistakes on LinkedIn?

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