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Cool growth hack

I am currently assessing email marketing solutions and I just found out about GetResponse. Nothing very special about this service compared to the usual suspects so I was about to close the tab on my browser but just when my mouse approached the close button, the following window popped-up.

GetResponse

How cool is that? Of course when I tried it again the window did not pop up so they use cookies to make sure you don’t see the window over an over. After some quick research, it seems it is a relatively easy jquery command. I wonder why not so many startups use it.

Would you?

Transposing brick-and-mortar sales experience online

I come from a family of retailers. My parents, siblings and close family are almost all in retail. More specifically clothing. While observing recently how (good) retail salesperson interact with customers and close sales, I couldn’t help thinking about how we could transpose the brick-and-mortar sales experience to e-commerce.

I believe the retail sales process can be divided into 4 distinct steps: Greetings, Problem-solving, Up/Cross-selling and Closing.


Greetings

Retail storeWhen you enter a store, bad salespeople say nothing (and continue doing whatever they were doing), average salespeople come to you and ask if you need help (to which you usually answer “no thank you”) and experienced salespeople just smile and say hi (making it obvious they’re here to help).

She can start chatting with you. If you’re a regular, she recognises you and engage directly. This is human interaction at its best and it can hardly be transposed into e-commerce. That is one of the reasons why e-commerce will, I believe, never kill brick-and-mortar stores. You can’t virtualise human interactions.

Problem-solving

retailLet’s say that you’re looking for the perfect dress for saturday’s cocktail party. You enter the store and ask the salesperson about cocktail dresses. The average salesperson will show you cocktail dresses that you might like or dislike. If the latter, you leave. The experienced salesperson, might actually show you skirts or jeans that could fit you better than your initial idea. Again, this experience is hardly transposable to e-commerce as this would imply a 2-way, real-time, interaction between the customer and a (human or virtual) sales agent. In the case of a human sales agent, even if you provide 24/7 customer service or live chat (like Zappos), I doubt you can offer this service to all potential customers at the same time without drastically increasing your costs.

On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence technology is almost ready to put virtual sales assistant within everyone’s reach. Companies like London Brand Management, AI-Applied or Expertmaker already offer virtual shopping assistant enabling customers to get help in real-time (allegedly) the way a human sales assistant would have done it.

Up-selling and Cross-selling

cross-sell-up-sellUp-selling and cross-selling are sales strategy where the customers are provided an opportunity to buy related products or services when making a purchase. As the term indicates, when up-selling the suggested products and services are slightly higher priced than the one considered. Ubiquitous example of upselling is the offer to super-size in fast food restaurants. Cross-selling is simply suggesting additional items or add-ons to a customer making a purchase. The philosophy behind these sales strategies is that salespersons should not just passively take orders, but instead be active sellers.

Both up-selling and cross-selling have been used since the early days of e-commerce to drive more personalised shopping experiences and increase average order value. Now with the introduction of sophisticated web analytics and big data tools these strategies can be executed in highly nuanced and effective ways. On e-commerce sites cross-selling is offered for instance by providing customers ”better together” combos and up-selling by offering more expensive models near the shopping basket. Up-selling and cross-selling is a great example on how the retail salesperson example not only translates into e-commerce but is, with the help of data analytics, even better managed.

Closing

SalesAt the end, salespeople are here to close sales and make money. Whether you’re in the brick-and-mortar world or the e-commerce world, everything ends up at the counter (until next time of course). Depending upon the research source, the conversion rate for brick and mortar stores is at minimum 20% (much, much higher in the grocery category), while online is a maximum 3-5% (and some quote far lower numbers). Actually, the more time a customer spends in a store engaging with the retailer, the more likely they are to make a purchase. According to a Kurt Salmon study, 45% of customers who walked into a store, left within two minutes without ever engaging with the products or sales associates. But when customers were engaged by an asso­ciate or started interacting with the products, they were nine times as likely to try something on. And once they tried on a product, they had a 52% chance of buying it.

Here again, human interaction is a key element of brick-and-mortar success over e-commerce, to which you should add product interaction. As of product interaction, one way that e-commerce use to solve this problem is free shipping and return (some retailers that have stores, like Zara, even accept returns in the store of your choice). As of the human interaction, as we’ve seen before, it’s still very difficult to transpose online. E-retailers now mainly concentrate on retargeting practices to bring back customers that were about to buy but did not by serving ads related to what they were about to purchase.

Conclusion

May brick-and-mortar retailers rejoice, online has not killed the store! While many customers now shop online, e-commerce still cannot beat the human touch and expertise of an experienced salesperson. But new advances in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data and closing this gap. Maybe the stores will also get more and more connected?

Personal Branding

Brand Called YouIn a recent story from Fast Company, Douglas Friedman, an accomplished photographer, was having a meeting with a well-respected advertising agency in Los Angeles. But before Friedman could show off his physical portfolio, his judges asked him about a trip he took last Christmas. “They all followed my Instagram, and that’s all they wanted to talk about,” he told Fast Company. “And it’s what landed me a big advertising campaign.”

If you’re surprised about this behaviour than you’re most certainly not aware that more than 45% of HR decision makers already use social media tools in recruitment (see source). Said differently, if you don’t market yourself online, there is a pretty good chance that you won’t be getting this job you’re looking for.

Personal Branding?

Tom Peters, an American writer on business management practices, first introduced the concept of Personal Branding in a 1997 Fast Company article. At the time, Peters was claiming that, to stand out from the (professional) crowd, you should market yourself the way big brands market themselves. If the notion was cool at the time, it is now life or death. With an increasing number of college graduates and globalisation of education, there are more and more people with a background similar to yours, competing for the same jobs (or opportunities) than you, most certainly cheaper than you.

gary-vaynerchukOn the other hand, if you master the Personal Branding concepts, you can really catapult your business. Take for example, now social media consultant Gary Vaynerchuk. Back in 2006, he was already transforming is father’s liquor store into an Internet wine store named Wine Library but, at the same time, was realizing that customers coming to the physical wine store were mostly coming for his advices. This is when he had to idea of starting Wine Library TV, a video podcast hosted by Vaynerchuk, featuring wine reviews and advice on wine appreciation. The show was watched by more than 90,000 viewers and helped him increase the family business from $4M to $45M.

How does this apply to you?

I count 3 situations where Personal Branding applies to you:

  1. Personal Branding for freelancers: since your customers buy your skills (if you’re a designer) or your knowledge (if you’re a consultant), Personal Branding allows you to get more visible to prospective customers and increase your perceived value.
  2. Personal Branding for executives: Whether you’re looking to get another job in the same industry or change industry, Personal Branding is a way for you to advertise your expertise in your industry and be noticed by management and potential employers.
  3. Personal Branding for CEOs: brand yourself like Gary Vaynerchuk to raise awareness on your business and your products.

Where to start?

Online! Unless you’re an artist or designer, LinkedIn (or Viadeo) is usually the first step in creating your online identity. Then, depending on your field, choose the best social media to advertise your expertise, knowledge and skills. I will summarise in a future post which social media to use and how to use it for your Personal Branding.

Bud CaddellWhat to talk about?

I’ve found Bud Caddell’s definition of how to find happiness in business, a great tool to find what to write and communicate about online.

If you manage to find the intersection of what you do well (your skills and expertise), what you want to do (get a manager position, change industry, get customers) and what people are ready to pay you for (skills, knowledge), then you’re certain to get awareness and improve you credibility in your given field.

If you want to know more…

I strongly recommend LinkedIn Reid Hoffman’s TheStartupOfYou. I also talk about Personal Branding in my upcoming MooC on Growth Hacking (in French).

Inspiration of the day #5

Steve Blank
Steve Blank

How to build a startup

If entrepreneurship education had a pope, it would inevitably be Steve Blank. After 21 years in 8 high technology companies, he retired in 1999 and wrote a book  about building early stage companies called Four Steps to the Epiphany. It’s been called the book that launched the Lean Startup movement, popularised by Steve’s student, Eric Ries.

Steve now teaches entrepreneurship at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University, Columbia University, Caltech and UCSF. Together with the “Customer Development” model he developed, Steve has also merged Eric Ries’ Lean Startup and Alexander Osterwalder‘s Business Model Canvas into the Lean Launchpad course he now teaches around the world.

The Internet is full of material on the Lean Launchpad but I do recommend to watch the Udacity’s course. This is the most rational and practical methodologies ever realised to launch startups and it also applies to corporate innovation management. Watch it!

Inspiration of the day #4

Jab-Jab-Jab-Right-HookFor those of you who don’t know Gary Vaynerchuk, he became one of the e-commerce and social media pioneers when he grew his family’s local wine store from a $3 million business to WineLibrary.com, a $45 million business. His videos at Wine Library TV quickly attracted an average of 100,000 daily viewers.

He now helps Fortune 500 companies find their social voices and build their digital brands through micro content and other story telling actions, via his new company VaynerMedia. He is also an angel investor in companies like Twitter, Tumblr, Uber and Birch Box through his VaynerRSE fund.

In his last book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, Gary shares hard-won advice on how to connect with customers through social media marketing strategies that really works. The books gives you what you need to know about the most used social networks and how to leverage them to grow your brand.

Inspiration of the day #3

pretotyping_invent_investMake sure you are building the right it before you build it right.

The term and concept of pretotyping was originally developed by Alberto Savoia in 2009 while he was working at Google as Engineering Director and Innovation Agitator.

Since then, pretotyping has been spreading quickly and globally: Alberto’s book Pretotype It has already been translated into several languages, classes on pretotyping are being taught at Stanford and other universities throughout the world, etc.

You can watch a great video of Alberto teaching pretotyping at Stanford here, download his book here or order it on Amazon for Kindle. You can also find more resources on the pretotyping website.

Inspiration of the day #2

Startup of youIn this video registered at Stanford in 2012, serial entrepreneur and investor Reid Hoffman encourages individuals to become the entrepreneurs of their own lives.

Hoffman shares the importance of taking intelligent risks, building thoughtful networks and continually adapting your skills to navigate a fulfilling career path.

He also shares a lot of great insights from his last book, The Start-Up of You, one of my favourite reads of the past couple of years.

Inspiration of the day #1

Seth Godin Startup School

In the summer of 2012, american author and marketing guru Seth Godin, organised a 3-day startup school with early-stage entrepreneurs in New York. Most of the sessions were taped and you can find the podcast online here.

Even though the podcast is a bit long (around 5 hours), it’s full of great advices on sales and marketing from one of the smartest business thinker out there.

And if you prefer reading than listening, someone transcribed the full podcast on PDF. Check it out, it’s really time well spent.

Offline Analytics – Trace your flyers and billboards

FundingCircleTube

I came across the other day this billboard in the London tube from the peer-to-peer lending marketplace, Funding Circle. As you can see in the picture, in order to benefit from a “special” you need to go to “fundingcircle.com/tube” and enter the “tube” code. That’s pretty smart of them as this is a great way to calculate some kind of ROI on their underground advertising budget.

Actually when you go to “fundingcircle.com/tube”, you’re redirected to the following URL: “https://www.fundingcircle.com/utm_source=Tube_Car_Panel

&utm_medium=Outdoor&utm_content=HomePage&utm_campaign=TCP022014″

A quick look at the UTM trackers shows that Funding Circle is monitoring the type of advertising (“Outdoor”), the location (“Tube”) as well as the date (“022014″). In my opinion, it would have been event better to have one page for each underground line where the ad is displayed so Funding Circle can know which line brings the most prospects for their service.

Generally speaking, I think that all startups should measure their offline advertising the same way Funding Circle does it. In the early days of your startup, you generally don’t know very well your target customers as well as the best way to reach them. So, instead of printing out standard flyers or brochures, try to do one for each event or location you distribute them. You might think that the additional expense is useless, but it’s a great way to measure and adapt your advertising efforts. And you might discover much more than you think about your target customers.

Should you give away equity without financial investment?

While investing money in a startup is the traditional way of getting some if its equity, it can happen that individuals or organizations get startups’equity against education, networking or media.

Even though I can’t say I’m against these practices, I always remember entrepreneurs that equity represents the future value of your company. When you start, your company is worth nothing and 5% of nothing is a pretty good deal. But what will your company’s valuation be in 5 years? In 10 years? Millions? Well, 5% of millions is a pretty good sum of money.

Moreover, after giving away equity, you might be stuck with an unwilling fellow that has no power in your company but whom you have to continually chase to sign board meetings or investment papers (remember, he’s now an investor).

The rule of thumb I recommend in those situations is to really consider how much the non-financial investment you’re receiving is impacting the future of your company. Maybe this person or this incubator that helped you in your early days, put you in touch with THE customer that made your business happen. Fair. Or maybe he’s still, many years later, a trusted advisor that really helped you go through the roller coaster of entrepreneurship along the way.

But maybe, he only helped you for some time and is no longer involved in the company. If, 10 years after its creation, your startup is now worth 100M€ and you gave away 5% equity to a 6 or 12 months accelerator that you are no longer in contact with, you literally gave them 5M€.

As of media for equity, the same rule applies. If your business is highly media dependent (say you sell ringtones or on-line dating), then go for it full force! But if you think media can help you acquire customers, remember it’s only a channel (unless Google starts offering AdWords for equity).

In conclusion, always remember that equity is future value of your company and sometimes, it’s better to pay someone or an organization for the help they give you (e.g. giving away commissions on business they help you get).