Marketing

Inbound.org – The Community For Marketing Professionals

Ed: I Like Inbound.org , just like Growthhackers.com Inbound is a community site with a focus on the members helping grow each others businesses and learning from each others experiences.

Startup NameInbound.org
What problem are you solving? We’re on a Mission to Help One Million Marketers.
What is your solution?Together, we’re smarter, we can share more ideas and opportunities, connect with each other individually and stay on top of this fast moving industry. We want to build a hub for all marketers.Inbound.org is a community for Inbound Professionals to share and discuss the latest ideas and best practices with the inbound community. Together with our community events, groups and jobs, we’ve everything you need to excel at inbound.

Founded in February 2012 by Rand Fishkin at Moz and Dharmesh Shah at HubSpot, the community has grown to over 30,000 strong. Since November 2013, Inbound.org has been funded by HubSpot Labs, the experimental arm of HubSpot.

Target MarketConsumers
How will you make money?free, $250 to post a job for 60 days
Tell us about the market & founders, why is this a great opportunity?Inbound.org was started as a personal project by Rand Fishkin of Moz and Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot. Both founded successful venture-backed marketing software companies and cottoned on early to the practice of “Inbound” instead of interruption-based marketing.
Founders NamesRand Fishkin of Moz and Dharmesh Shah of HubSpotLauren Holliday
What type of funding has the company received?
If you have a press kit or image gallery please provide a link (optional)
Websitehttp://inbound.org
Twitter Handle@inboundorg
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The Developer Marketing Guide for Startups

Great idea, having built a few businesses and platforms, some moderately successful others total flameouts, I can tell you from hard won experience (I call it tuition fees) Marketing & customer acquisition is usually where most new apps and platforms fail, not tech and not funding initially.

Startup NameThe Developer Marketing Guide
What problem are you solving?Marketing to developers is notoriously difficult, this guide features methods and tools from some of the most successful Developer Marketers in the industry.
What is your solution?The Developer Marketing Guide is an open collection of the best resources for developer marketing. We want to encourage a conversation about what works, what doesn’t, and why, and openly share that knowledge with the developer company community.
Target MarketDeveloper Marketers, Marketers, Developer Companies, Developer Tools
How will you make money?Subscriptions/Advertisement
Tell us about the market & founders, why is this a great opportunity?Heavybit is a 9 month program for post-seed funded companies making developer-focused products.
Founders NamesTed Carstensen
What type of funding has the company received?Bootstrap
Websitehttp://www.devmarketingguide.com/
Twitter Handle@heavybit
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Cash Flow Crisis? 10 Ways to Kickstart Your Business

Ed: If you are in business sooner or later you are going to hit a Cash Flow Crisis. Its embarrassing and stressful but you have to take action to deal with it. This week Wardy of 3 Minute Angels shares what he did recently to solve a short term cash problem.

Can you really think through your own growth tactics objectively? This was the question I found myself asking myself last week.

Are you too close? Is this all too subjective for you? Usually people get consultants for this…

You see about a week ago I had a cash flow issue. I had more bills than income. I had over extended myself by working on my stable of startups.

There was certainly bad management on my side.

I’d also had my fair share of bad-luck events contributing to it. Including two deaths, a typhoon, two quick turn around international flights and bad man-flu.

Whatever the reason I knew I needed to liberate some cash and quickly.  Going to a sheet of paper and pen I jotted down what my massage company does already as business models.

For the sake of the story let me tell you about this business so you have a context.

I have been running 3 Minute Angels (one of the largest massage companies in Australia) for over 13 years.

3 Minute Angels had early success with pioneering a new pricing mode for casual massage. We introduced the “pay what you think it’s worth” pricing model to our customers which were typically delivered in short bursts in a casual setting in bars, airports and festivals.

This business was a lot of fun and cash based however  the hours were long and the margins low.

We then added a business to business offering for corporate wellness and reward for their staff and event massage for corporate promotions.

If you’ve worked for a big tech company  – you may have been the recipient of one of our massages in your offices, big companies such as Google and Atlassian use our team regularly.

The business to business market is better hours, better margins and now makes up the majority of work we do. It’s main weakness is fluctuating demand where month to month we see swings of up to $100k in sales.

Clients ring us,  they don’t want proactive sales for massage. In fact, they can only be attracted in and sold massage when they want to provide it to their staff.

We are an order taker in this market. Our product in corporate land has what we call low GAFF (give a f..k factor).

The business has revenues of just shy of $1 million (Ed: Thats a lot of massages) and gross profit of about 30% and ebit of 10%.

After so long running the business having a rainy day reserve for fluctuations and bad runs makes sense, but alas I’m the sort of entrepreneur that puts everything I earn to work.

So faced with only 2 things written down on a sheet of paper I challenged myself to think like a consultant and liberate my creativity on my old stalwart of a business.

3Minute Angels doing a Corporate Gig at Bondi Beach

3Minute Angels doing a Corporate Gig at Bondi Beach


Here is what I did

  • I smoked a joint
  • I went on the websites of overseas massage companies
  • I wrote a list of strengths and weaknesses of our industry
  • Repeated point 1
  • I then gave myself 3 minutes to write down 9 ideas *
  • I did that 8 more times

I went and removed duplicates and scored ideas on ease, cost. And time to test

I’ve now got 6 decent ideas including providing

  • Full body mobile massages with huge discounts for locked in regular gigs
  • Full body mobile massage quick turn around service
  • Retail massages in pop up areas of existing retailers
  • A return to pubs and clubs with an alliance with promotions going on for anti hangover pills
  • An alliance with concierges that sees our services listed with uber and other services people use in hotels
  • Expanding our airport operations beyond Virgin blue lounges


And then there’s the 60 other ideas I couldn’t do for free or in a single month. Or ones that require capital or ongoing time from my diary.

We then used the following free resources

  • Leadpages.net to create a’squeeze page’ (there are other firms like my landing pages, use what suits you)
  • I recorded a video on my laptop, uploaded to YouTube and embedded in the squeeze page template
  • I setup an exit grabber
  • and sent a well crafted email to my existing clients’


Less than a week later I am running the first test. And it seems to be ok. 2-days in and we have a$1200 sale and $3250 sale.

I’m excited instead of fearful about the business prospects and I’m back in the swing.

This was pretty easy to execute and didn’t take much time or cash to create.  It’s possible you have all the answers. It’s possible you are your own best consultant.

The real lesson here is not that consultants are unnecessary for objectivity – or maybe that’s too subjective for me to call – what do you think?

Check out our new test landing pages here – you may even like a massage for you and your team.

* the process of rapidly developing and assessing ideas is derived from blitz thinking which comes from Australia’s very own Dr Ken Hudson

Tripbooka – get a quote from multiple Travel Agents

 

The Pitch

 

Startup NameTripbooka
What problem are you solving?Traditional travel agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with larger online travel providers for new business.
With clients becoming time poor and more web-savvy, traditional travel agents now need to fund an online presence involving web optimisation, SEO, PPC, or digital initiatives which can be costly and impact operating expenses. For the traveller a lack of centralised online travel content and personalised online customer service makes it difficult for travelers to research and book tailored travel online.
Time poor travelers do not have time to liaise with numerous travel agents for the best deal, nor do they want to be hassled for their business.
What is your solution?Tripbooka.com.au is an online platform that connects travellers with travel agents during the travel research and booking process. The centralised Tripbooka platform allows travellers to seamlessly and anonymously submit all components of their desired trip in one place and gives them access to professional travel providers.Once submitted, the Tripbooka platform invites travel providers to quote and compete for these trips. Uniquely, Tripbooka enables two-way communication between the traveller and the agent before any personal details are required.
Why is this a great opportunity?Tripbooka isn’t pushing pre-packaged holidays – everything is tailored to individual needs.
Tripbooka doesn’t have preferred suppliers: It is a totally transparent and impartial online platform in which travellers can compare and select both the right products as well as the right travel agent to make their bookings. Mobility and flexibility: 24/7 anywhere, any time. More control and choice to travelers. Tripbooka does the legwork not the client.
Target MarketSemi Professionals – mostly females (24-34 years)
Small Young Family – Urbanites (between 28-40 years)
Parents of the Gen-Y (pre retirement)The market Tripbooka is operating in is a new market in itself. In a rapidly changing industry plagued by information overload, travel agents are often competing with the consumers for destination information.Typically the consumer is price sensitive and sees the traditional travel agent as a more expensive method of booking a trip. However there is still public concern regarding the security of online booking platforms, Tripbooka addresses this concern.Ultimately, there is no denying that the travel industry, like most other industries at this time, is driven by the end-user. Like the retail sector, the travel industry can also utilize online to keep track of consumer trends and preferences, and improve products and services to meet these evolving needs.
How will you make money?Tripbooka’s main source of revenue will be a percentage for creating the lead for the agent. Ultimately the revenue model has opportunity to grow and adapt into more streams when the site is properly launched and more integration has been done.
Founders NamesLuke Crawford
Websitehttp://www.tripbooka.com.au
What type of funding has the company receivedBootstrapped/self funded

 

Startup88 Verdict

Despite massive competition between online travel services, it can still be a pain in the ass to get a booking for exactly what you want (try booking a Premium Economy to San Francisco direct from Sydney, United is your only choice and you cant easily book it and its crap, worse than most other carriers economy class).

In my case trying to find the right trip a few months ago I ended up spending hours and checking about 10 online travel sites (most of them with differing results or ways of searching or displaying the data), with multiple windows launched per service. It was a bit of a nightmare.

So in my opinion there is a valid problem being solved. Despite all the automation booking travel is still an less than solved problem.

Given the massive uptake of online travel services, retail travel agents are being driven into specialist niches to survive, it seems unlikely that mainstream travel agents will survive in their existing form and number, the retail travel agent while still around is not as prevalent or as large as they used to be and even successful regional online travel players such as Wotif.com have found the competition so intense that they have decided to sell to larger competitors.

While I really like the idea of Tripbooka, given there are no automated results I would like to see a  stated service level ie get your quote in 15 minutes, as a service level wasn’t obvious.

My other concern from a startup perspective is the cost per lead of this business is going to be pretty high, in another life I launched a mortgage comparison site that could review the majority of mortgages on the market in real time, match them to the users financial situation and process applications but I found the cost of generating leads so high it was tough to get a return. I imagine travel sites has similar cost of customer acquisition issues.

In my opinion the only way they are going to resolve this is beautiful daily travel content marketing.

The good news is that travel absolutely lends itself to this, you could write articles on travel destinations with gorgeous clickbait photos all day every day but it is a longer term process to generate consistent lead flow (think 6-12 months).

My biggest concern is the fact that this is an industry which is moving away from the travel agent model, so even though they might get major traction amongst the travel agents, the number of agents are reducing.

Once a upon a time in Business School they used to teach a seminal case study called  (published by HBR its very long but absolutely worth reading) which 50 years ago described what we now call the disruption of industries and talks about whole industries which were wiped from the face of the planet by massive disruptive change, below is an excerpt about the Buggy Whip manufacturers who were wiped from the face of the earth in very a short time when the car came into existence.

The classical example of this is the buggy whip industry. No amount of product
improvement could stave off its death sentence. But had the industry defined itself as
being in the transportation business rather than the buggy whip business, it might have
survived. It would have done what survival always entails, that is, changing. Even if it
had only defined its business as providing a stimulant or catalyst to an energy source, it
might have survived by becoming a manufacturer of, say, fan-belts or air cleaners.  

So the lesson here for Tripbooka is perhaps being the most successful generator of leads for a flat or dying sector travel agents is not a great long term strategy.

Perhaps they should use this to gain traction initially but augment the travel agents with live data from other systems via APIs to be able to create immediate quote turn around and eventually become the agents themselves.

If they added API access to a booking engine to auto generate quotes or broker from another online solution they could also offer final review of your order by a certified travel agent with recommendations about how to reduce cost, improve the experience or any of the gotchas that you just can’t know about from an automated booking engine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Ways to Kickstart your Startup – Part 4 – Bootstrapping – Convince your first customers to finance your startup

Startup financing cycle

Startup financing cycle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people don’t think its possible to get a customer to fund your business, but it really is, especially where you have a product or service that is not a commodity.

Recently when mentoring a startup I suggested this and they were shocked, they didn’t believe it was possible, however some months later they had managed to get one of their new business customer to accept the idea of paying upfront for the still to be completed product (and the revenue arrived before the fundraising they were holding out for).

Many entrepreneurs are stuck hoping and wishing they can raise capital, truth of the matter is it can take 3-12 months to raise your first round (or never), customer revenue on the other hand could only be a few weeks away.

 

If you are solving a difficult problem and you can convince a few customers you have a compelling new solution (albeit with some rough edges) there is every likelihood that you can convince them to pay up front or pay to develop additional features that meet their needs (which hopefully just happen to be in your roadmap).

This concept is missing from the Startup Financing Cycle graph above and there is every chance that tapping your customers for finance will get you through the Valley of Death or at the very least reduce the amount of capital you need to raise and allow you to retain more equity.

 

Given you can only grow a business as quickly as you can turn cash (I will go into more depth on how to accelerate your funding later in the 10 Ways to Kickstart your Startup series) bringing revenue forward by getting customers to pay upfront is much more common than you might believe.

 

Kickstarter is the modern consumer incarnation of this method but it has happened for as long as companies have existed, Kickstarter has just found a mostly frictionless method to facilitate this on a global scale and connect non businesses or would be startups and consumers.

Kickstarter

Kickstarter

When I started my first business I would insist on payment in advance, we turned over $4m in our first full financial year so I simply didn’t have the cash to fund this and there was no other way for me to do business.

 

Surprisingly very few people actually rejected this, especially when you explained to them that you were growing so quickly this is the only way you could fund the growth. You have to be ready to be a bit embarrassed about this, but you have to suck it up as it may be the only way for you to succeed.

I am not anti Venture Capital, quite the opposite, however I tell most Startups I meet that their ability to retain their equity is a function of how much pain they are willing to put up with and they are better off turning to VC when they are growing so quickly they can’t fund the working capital required to support the growth, which is a fantastic position to be in.

So a few suggestions on how to do this (primarily for the business market)

  • If you are selling a new technology or type of product, explain to the customer exactly what stage you are at, show them the product, tell them what the risks are and what your plan is, assuming you meet their previously unmet needs and they trust you and they can see the product is going to work for them, ask them for a deposit or get them to place and pay for an order. If the tech guy tells the purchasing and finance guy this is the only way to get the problem solved then often they will simply pay you, it’s amazing to see this turn up in your bank account.
  • If you are selling an existing product and its a large order (above your financing capacity) ask the customer what you can do to make the deal more attractive, for example is there an extra service you could throw in if he can pay upfront, something that might save their team a lot of time but might not take your team much time, or can you coordinate a late night or weekend install/upgrade?
  • If you are selling a service ask for a commencement fee.
  • If a customer has a particular need, tell them you are happy to build it to their requirements if they can fund NRE (Non Recurring Engineering) costs. Ideally the feature you develop will be part of your roadmap and you have managed to get the customer to help fund your development costs.
  • In large roll-outs, get customers to pre-purchase and pay for large orders and release it from your stock as they need it. It’s pretty easy to convince them you will keep it ready for them and they don’t have to worry about delays, you get paid both for the cost of the product and your profit (if you are working with a distributor, place an order on the stock and get it secured but ask them to only part ship for you, that way you only pay as you use it, but you have the customers cash, I will give an example of a sophisticated version of this below with Dells supply chain)

Dell

English: Dell Logo

English: Dell Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the best corporate examples of this is Dell. Dell gets paid in advance for the majority of their orders.

When you place an order you pay upfront via the Website (which everyone thinks is normal) but they don’t supply the product for another 7-21 days.

When you place your order they usually don’t even own the parts that they will use to build your product yet.

Here is how it works

  • You place your order
  • You pay upfront
  • The order is sent to the factory
  • The suppliers are required to be within 50km of Dells assembly plants and have their parts and trucks ready to go.
  • Dell orders the parts to make the batch of product they are scheduling that day
  • The supplier trucks are all lined up on one side or outside the plant.
  • When the truck rolls across the plants threshold, Dell now owns the product (note, most companies are invoiced when a shipment leaves the supplier warehouse, not Dell, suppliers don’t get to invoice until it hits their assembly line).
  • They assemble the PC and ship it to you
  • They pay their suppliers in normal commercial terms of >60 days (according to an analysis of their accounts their average debtor days could be as much as 80 days http://www.mysmp.com/fundamental-analysis/days-payable-outstanding.html)

So if you can convince your customers to follow some or all off the above methods there is every chance you can get your startup off the ground and be doing business without seeking external funding. Good luck

As always I welcome questions and comments, leave a message below and I will respond

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10 Ways to kickstart your Start-up – Lead Capture – CRM and Regular Communication

Salesforce

Salesforce

Capture every contact and keep communicating with them regularly

Many new business owners are looking for customers to serve right here right now and if the prospect is not ready today the owner keeps moving and forgets about them. Later when they see the customer, they are often disappointed to find out that the customer did business with someone else. When they asked why often the response is that another business called or sent an interesting email or had a special offer. Very few people are

When I sold my business I had over 5000 business and IT contacts in the database, which had been through a series of CRM package upgrades as we grew from ACT, to Goldmine to SugarCRM to a custom version.

My regret was I didn’t start doing this consistently until many years after I had launched the company.

I tell all new startup entrepreneurs, keep a database or CRM from day one. Religiously drive your team to use it, create processes to ensure that all web leads, call-ins and emails as well as the source of the new lead are entered into the CRM for every new contact.

Often customers want to buy but they are just not ready yet, it’s not no, just not today. Depending on your industry and the customers stage in the purchasing process it could be days, weeks or even years before they are ready to buy.

The entrepreneur needs to build a process that encourages the prospect to give you permission to continue to keep in contact with them on a regular basis, telling them about new work or happy customers, developments in their industry, new products or services you offer or better ways for them to do business.

There are stacks of different ideas you can use to write a newsletter or depending on your volume of blog posts you could setup a system to email your prospects and customers when you update your Blog. If you religiously do this every month you will pick up the opportunity to quote to the dormant prospect or the existing customer who forgot about you (it happen’s).

To make this work you need a few components.

Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)

Good CRMs I have used over the years include

Salesforce.com – Very enterprise and customisable, not for the faint hearted, expensive in my opinion.

Highrisehq.com – From the guys at 37 Signals, one of the nicest Web apps I have ever used, good for small to medium businesses

Highrise

Highrise

SugarCRM.com – This has been around for many years, it’s key advantage was it was open source, 10 years ago when I first implemented it, that allowed us to write modifications to it to intergrate our billing and support processes. Now it has gone all corporate and wants to charge between $35-100 per user per month however there is still a basic community version.

SugarCRM

SugarCRM

Insightly.com/ New entrant looks great works with Google Apps

InsightlyCRM

InsightlyCRM

Getbase.com New mobile oriented CRM

BaseCRM

BaseCRM

Whatever CRM you decide to use you need to check the following

  • All your web leads, emails from websites, support emails need to be captured automatically into the system. Most CRM have web forms you can use for this, failing that you can use Wufoo.com to capture the lead and then sync it with your CRM, most of them have an API to allow 3rd party apps to write to them for this very reason.
  • Mobile ready with iPhone and android Apps available
  • Try to get Social Media integration so that you can track past and future social media conversations
  • Every team member religiously enters every new contact and updates past contacts activities and changes.
  • The CRM is set up to sync with a email newsletter system, good tools to do this include wufoo.com which offers a Form that syncs to both your newsletter system (such as Mailchimp.com) and your CRM.

Once you have a system to capture leads you need something to generate a message when you want to communicate.

Social media takes care of some of this, however the data shows that people share a higher % of interesting articles they receive via email with their friends than they share via social media.

Regular Communications

If something changes in your industry you need to be the one that tells your clients and prospects. To do this you need an easy to use system that can send updates to your clients. They might be in the form of a formatted newsletter or could be in the form of a blog post update that gets emailed to people on your list.

A few options.

Mailchimp.com handles all the un-subscribe, bounce management and spam requirements and allows you to create beautiful templates to insert your content. Only problem is it takes a lot of time every month to create a good newsletter.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp

If you are running WordPress you should check out a plugin called Wysija.com. This will send out regular emails either as a daily, weekly or monthly collection of all of your blog posts or as each blog post is generated. You can set it up to be automated so that it captures every story in the last time period (day, week, month) and then lays them out on a nice newsletter format (with many preformed templates).

It takes a bit to get it setup correctly but once its done it will send out a formatted email like clockwork. It is worth setting up a test version to send to yourself 6-12 hours before the main email goes out so that you can pick up any problems as given the automated nature of this system its easy to send out an email with problems unless you have some means of vetting what it will look like.

Wysija

Wysija

 

If you are running WordPress on your own site and looking for a simple option load up the Jetpack plugin from WordPress. This will allow you to email subscribers each time there is a new post and it will manage all the un-subscribes and bounces and gives a nice readable format to each email. There is also an option to allow readers to comment by replying to the email which is very cool.

For most people the Jetpack plugin provides 90% of what you need to run a business website.

http://jetpack.me/

Jetpack

Jetpack

 

Using APIs to connect your web, CRM and Newsletter

If you are running another type of website management system (other than WordPress) there are a number of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which allow you to connect one system to another and transfer or synchronize transactions across all the systems.

The key ones that seem to be getting the most traction are

Wufoo.com which provides a multitude of forms that can be configured to manage just about any conceivable requirement. You create a form and then embed the code onto your website or Facebook page which creates a form on the site and when a user submits one of the forms the data is stored at Wufoo but can also be configured to synchronise to other platforms such as your CRM, Newsletter and other systems or email or SMS you the form details. 3 Forms for free then a small monthly fee.

Wufoo

Wufoo

 

Zapier.com is a web services or API gateway to allow you to synchronise transactions between 150+ different web services. For example you could receive a new lead in your webpage via a Wufoo form and have Zapier synchronise all the details to both your Mailchimp account for your newsletter and your Basecamp account for your CRM that way you never lose data or have data stranded in “islands” where the data is maintained separately (or most of often, not maintained) and contacts end up having multiple versions of the same contact and business information across the various services you use.

ZapierZapier-Action

 

Do it now

So in summary, if you haven’t implemented a CRM do it today, start with a Wufoo form and send it to a Highrise or Salesforce CRM, start collecting every piece of data and try to only keep one master database rather than create data islands, it’s probably best that your CRM keeps the master records and you use Zapier or similar to feed data from your website and other systems to the CRM thereby maintaining consistency and integrity of your data.

As always if you have any ideas or tips for other startups, please put your tip in the comments and I will add it to the post (and of course give you credit)

 

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