Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

People still buy from People

July 29, 2010

The marketing, sales and PR mix has been rapidly changing over the last few years. Today, customers are hearing about and evaluating suppliers in different ways. With so many channels the traditional marketing techniques such as TV advertising are no longer working so well. The growth and ease of the Internet has meant there’s less of a need for sales people. Or at least a need for a different kind of sales person and PR message, using social media to get to know customers.

Would you Trust Him? (Danny Devito in the Roald Dahl movie Matilda, 1996)

However, even in this brave new on-line world, the old adage ‘people buy from people’ remains true. Customers want to like who they are buying from and feel that they can trust them. “People ultimately judge only one thing about you: the way the engagement makes them feel”. – Seth Godin. “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons”. The challenge is trust is not quick and easy to gain and it cannot simply be bought.

Customers are no longer listening to the megaphone PR and marketing approach. They now prefer to research themselves and share advice with each other. PR and marketing now pays an increasingly important role as a salesperson. More than ever before PR and marketing has to develop that all important trust. However, how do you trust in a faceless message and person you don’t know.

Blogs and micro-blogging now brings a new way to understand and get to know someone. But it has to be real!! A website has to pre-sell and become a friend.  The question is: how can you trust a blogger or a company website/blog? From all that I’ve leant to become trusted, a blogger needs to be consistent, open, professional and show integrity. Honest as Seth Godin says. The only way is to be real on-line! The draw back with social media is that it takes lots of time and persistence to build social capital (as discussed by Ryan Carson). But then sales take time too – with 8% of sales people get 80 per cent of the sales because they are persistent!

However, I believe for the individual and company to gain credibility, reference points also need to come from other trusted sources. This still relies on traditional channels including independent editorial reviews, peer reviews, customer endorsements, etc. These references remain powerful in an increasingly online world because they are persistent and can be found and discovered by the new clients rather than pushed at them.

People do still buy from people but the process is changing. Blogs, mico-blogging (Twitter) and video’s bring a personal touch to marketing and PR interaction but conversations have to come from the heart. Recent case studies are now showing that Social Media Is The Major Contributor To Lead Generation. So, if you want and need sales as most of our companies do – get blogging, tweeting, videoing right now!!

To Freemium or not to Freemium?

May 28, 2009

Call me old fashioned but shouldn’t a business make money? Seems obvious, but many Tech startups have been giving away Free services for years e.g  Twitter, etc. And they don’t have a fall back monetisation business model. Number of eyeballs first before a business model.. Times are changing with this downturn. VC funding is drying up with a US 61.5% drop. It’s back to bootstrapping startup basics and survival with a Freemium model. But not everyone agrees. There is much debate around the Freemium model.

freeloveThe best things in life are free, But you can keep ’em for the birds and bees, Now give me money, (that’s what I want) that’s what I want.” (1959)

The difficulty is “For the Google Generation, the Internet is the land of the free.” Some more mature web based businesses such as Salesforce.com don’t do free, offering only time limited trials. New startups like our Website Monitoring web app have to make a choice: Free; Freemium (the idea from VC Fred Wilson in ’06); or trials/premium. A free version is now almost expected in many markets to keep up with competition. Marketer Sean Ellis has gone as far to say Freemium will outcompete premium only offerings.

Its not easy to get the Freemium balance right. Give too much away for Free and you’ll have little/no revenues OR give too little away and the Freemium marketing model is ineffective. Dharmesh Shah of Onstartups believes the Freemium Model is challenging, (plus some of my own thoughts):

  1. Functionality Mix – Its difficult to decide the functionality that you give away on the Free version and hold back on premium version.
  2. Cost of Free users – Supporting a ton of free customers costs and there maybe not enough money coming in from paying customers to subsidize the free version. Support can also be a problem as ‘In the land of the Free’ users still expect a high level of support.
  3. Premium version pricing – Premium versions need to have multi-tiered pricing with a very low cost starting plan to tempt users off the Free versions.
  4. Poor conversion rates – From free to paid can be as low as 3% or at best 10% we’ve heard. Also users may try and work the system and share the free version between company users. Unfortunately many users will never pay for an app.
  5. Higher attrition rates – Freemium attrition can be unpredictable and higher than traditionally priced products with premium users switching back to free versions.

TechCrunch is still endorsing Free: “Rather than launching a service with a freemium model, I think it’s important to gain a large and passionate user-base first.” Some startups say: “don’t offer a free plan!” Andrew Chen of YouSendIt.com has blogged about his positive experiences of moving from Free to Freemium with his 5 lessons learnt.

Its not an easy decision. Free means lots of users but no revenues (or a little from Ad’s) but the potential of something much bigger if you hit on that killer app. A 30-day free trial only option will result in real users who demand a high value proposition. At least then you will know if your app can be monetised. The Freemium model offers a half way house to gain traction and the opportunity to convert some users, which is particularly helpful during the early startup days. However Freemium is full of pitfalls if executed poorly.

With any of the price plans marketing an app take alot of investment/money. Even with Free plans sooner or later money will have to come in to pay the bills. There is no escaping it – monetise!

The spirit of Entrepreneurship

May 19, 2009

This is a great video! It’s viral but worth talking about. Micheal Acton-Smith Re-Tweeted the link last week.  The video is very well made and makes some good points.

The term Entrepreneur has many different interpretations. Unfortunately academics can’t seem to agree on a definition. The press often put Entrepreneurs onto a heroic pedestal. They tend to focus in on the big risks and the big winners. Like the video I believe we are all Entrepreneurs. The essence of Entrepreneurship is about experimenting and learning. Which most of us did alot more of as ‘kids’.

Companies can also be entrepreneurial. Some organisations learn and adapt better than others. Universities can even be entrepreneurial risk takers. Employees don’t even have to leave their jobs to be entrepreneurial. Just as long as they are learning and growing. Why can’t an employee dream of over coming difficult challenges, making a difference and a better world? They can! However the problem comes when employers hold back employees ideas.

Unfortunately organisations often don’t let employees experiment and innovate. Business politics gets in the way of trying new things. Employees can then loose their individual entrepreneurial spirit and the job becomes a 9-5 routine. Being self employed holds a dream of hope for many. However the risks can seem just to high to leave. I’ve heard this so many times, “I wish I could have my own company”.   The answer in this video is that you can. You just need to be prepared to try out new ideas and learn fast.

Surfs-up startups: Where to be on the innovation wave?

April 15, 2009

A friend recently reminded me of Gartner’s Hype cycle. It got me thinking which part of the curve should  a Tech startup aim play in?

gartner-hype-cycle-july-2008Gartner 2008 Hype Cycle

Note Gartner  predominately focuses on the Enterprise business market. Although their right on the money in the consumer space with Microblogging i.e. Twitter’s rise to fame during the past year. The Gartner graph reminds me of  Geoffrey A. Moore‘s great startup book Cross in the Chasm and Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle graph. If your a tech startup and haven’t read it – read it now!

moores-chasmtechnology-adoption-lifecycleGeoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm adapted Technology
 Adoption Lifecycle graph

I think startups should try to take advantage of Gartners ‘Visability’ curve growth.  PR opportunities can be maximised with everyone listening/talking about what’s new/what’s hot. However funds may run dry if a startup is completely reliant on the hype growth and doesn’t reach a healthy exit before the wave crests. Ideally, startups also need to be selling beyond Moore’s “Chasm” into the ‘Late Adaptors/Early & Late Majority’ which is where the higher revenues lie. All this is easier said than done.

Where’s your startup on the wave?

Beginners guide to Twitter: Do’s, don’ts & etiquette

February 12, 2009

Yes, Twitter’s gone mainstream in the UK and USA, moving from geek to the street. The UK ‘s much beloved Stephen Fry now has 187,000 Followers!! The Web2.0 tech Superstar Kevin Rose 88,000 following is now looking puny compared to the heavy weight celebrities. Poor old Twitter is going to fall apart now with all this new traffic. They could’nt cope before!! I’m a Twitter newbie and want to know the Twitter do’s, don’ts and  etiquette.

stephen_fry_iphone_twitterer1
Mr Fry The Twit..ter

I’ve held back on Twitter for a long time, preferring the old fashioned Jedi way of Blogging. Even the die hards like my blogger friend Bill Ives are getting in on the Twitter act. Now I’m signed up on Twitter (http://twitter.com/nickpoint) I want to learn how to Tweet. Searching around I’ve founds lots of hints and tips to answer my questions:

twitter-bird

How do I get more Twitter follows?

Ryan Carson recommends: re-Tweeting; speaking at events; making new real world friends and write blog posts to increase your Twitter following. Easy, huh! Kevin Rose adds 10 more ideas: Fill out your Twitter bio;  put links to your Twitter profile everywhere e.g Digg, LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, etc; Tweet about your passions in life; tell everyone about your Twitter id e.g tell your Mom about Twitter.. 😉 ; Tweet pictures; Start a contest; watch and learn from other Twitterers; look for hot topics and track your results.

What’s a re-Tweet anyway?

‘”RT” or “retweeting” is simply taking a twitter post from someone else and forwarding (rebroadcasting) it to your followers. Retweeting can be a great way to add followers, as it pushes your @username into foreign social graphs, which in turn results in clicks back to your profile. Make sure to track your retweets using retweetist.’ Kevin Rose

What can go wrong with Twitter?

Apart from the frustrating down time, but hey it is a free service, Twitter can end up taking alot of time. More than your overflowing email box it seems. I read Jim Connolly’s Marketing blog. He’s got 23,000 Twitter follows and has just thrown in the Twitter towel. He’s been spending (‘wasting’) two and a half hours each day on Twitter! Most of this was Twittering with people he did not know. Like the chief techno geek Robert Scoble Jim is moving to FriendFeed instead.

Like email flame-mail Twitter can have a negative impact. Known as Twittercide!! The advice is don’t lose your temper and stay calm, try to defuse conflicts and look for a mediator when necessary. Unlike one to one email Twitter is open for everyone to view and judge. The marketing and startup guru Seth Godin warns people about using Twitter because it’s easy to be misunderstood.

How can I use Twitter as a marketing tool?

The mega marketeer marketing tool for his website. Click here for Guy’s advice. Companies like Virgin Blue have very successfully used Twitter for marketing. It looks like Twitter will turn into even more of a mainstream marketing tool over time now.

I think Twitter has great mainstream social and commercial potential. However, care needs to be taken on what is written , how much time is spent on Twitter and who is followed. Hey, you never know Twitter may even end up as the standard office tool and also replace SMS Texting in the future.

Sanity check your Web App dev strategy with Dion Hinchcliffe & co

February 11, 2009

Dion Hinchcliffe recently published a great blog post, ’50 Essential Strategies For Creating A Successful Web 2.0 Product’. Dion highlights the success of online web app’s coming from software architecture and product design. I know Dion and have featured Dion Hinchcliffe’s blog on our E20portal.com website. Dion is heavily focused on Web2.0 and Enterprise IT architecture. You only have to look at Twitters ups and downs to see the effect weak foundations can have on a web app. The challenge is should you prepare your web app for scaling now or worry about it later.

twitter-down-again-bad-architecture
Oh no, Twitters down again!!  (Febuary 2009)

We liked Dion’s post so much we checked his architecture/design recommendations against our startup web app to see if we’re on the right tracks:

  1. Start with a simple problem– Web infrastructure monitoring is a mature sector and we are focused on one simple solution.
  2. Create prototypes as early as possible – We built an inexpensive prototype late last year
  3. Get people on the network to work with the product prototype rapidly and often – We are trying v.hard to get our beta out as soon as possible.
  4. Release early and release often– As a SaaS provider releasing often is the norm
  5. Manage your software development and operations to real numbers that matter – We’ve already commercial identified key performance indicators
  6. Gather usage data from your users and input it back into product design as often as possible – We are very keen to do this but need to work more on click stream analytics
  7. Put off irreversible architecture and product design decisions as long as possible – Tricky to do
  8. Choose the technologies later and think carefully about what your product will do first – Yes, problem first platform second
  9. When you do select technologies, consider current skill sets and staff availability– We’ve chosen one of the big mainstream platforms/frameworks
  10. Balance programmer productivity with operational costs – A careful balancing act. Time will tell on this.
  11. Variability in the productivity amongst programmers and development platforms each varies by an order of magnitude– We have not hit the challenge yet.
  12. Plan for testing to be a larger part of software development process than non-Web applications – We already had Cross browser testing, usability challneges when building E20portal.com. We should load test The Aware Monitoring app – Thanks Dion 🙂
  13. Move beyond traditional application hosting– We defiantly want the benefits grid /cloud hosting can bring
  14. Have an open source strategy – We are using Open source 😉
  15. Consider mobile users as important as your regular browser customers – This is an important point to keep it in mind.
  16. Search is the new navigation, make it easy to use in your application– Again this is an important point and we need to be mindful.
  17. Whenever users can provide data to your product, enable them – We need to crawl before we can walk
  18. Offer an open API so that your Web application can be extended by partners around the world– I’d love to have an Open API but it’s over the horizon
  19. Make sure your product can be spread around the Web by users, provide widgets, badges, and gadgets – Excellent point! 🙂 One we have thought about.
  20. Create features to make the product distribute virally – As point 19.
  21. The link is the fundamental unit of thought on the Web, therefore richly link-enable your applications – We like linking 🙂
  22. Create an online user community for your product and nurture it– I’m not so sure about putting too much time into a full blown online community. Perhaps a forum..We’ll see..
  23. Offer a up-to-date, clean, compelling application design – Dion is spot on :), this is vital in the Web app space. Need to put in the time and effort
  24. Load-time and responsiveness matter, measure and optimize for them on a regular basis – It has to be!
  25. User experience should follow a “complexity gradient.” – Another good idea 🙂

We found reviewing our progress against Dion’s points a great sanity check. I’ll post the next 25 points another day. On our journey we’ve found lots of helpful advice including Joel on Software, 37Signals, etc. This link to a video from  Dharmesh Shah is very, very useful for new tech startups eager to learn from the mistakes/pitfall of others.

I think the challenge is  how much upfront effort do you put into the architecture, as most Web Apps ain’t going to sky rocket to rockstar status i.e. Twitter. Leah Culver learnt along the way with Pownce (now part of SixApart) and had scaling challenges. Feedburner put alot of upfront effort into the architecture design and produced a scalable stable app. Unfortunately architecture design costs time and money in the short run if you prepare for scale. However it also costs in the long if you don’t prepare and then have to re-architect. Its all a matter of calculated risks

Enterprise 2.0 Boston Day 1 – Tuning in to the thoughts of the crowd

June 10, 2008

How we listen and how we talk to each other is evolving because of Social Media. Face to face conversations remain much the same but group discussions and sharing information is becoming richer with individual expression and involvement.

For example, presentations are no longer a one way street where the presenter talks at the audience with only the brave or loud speaking up to ask questions during the session. The quiet, thoughtful or shy among us, who often hold the most valuable input, have a new voice to express their opinions. Instant Micro blogging platforms such as Twitter enable audience group discussions to be made during presentations under the nose of the speaker. Is this a bad or good thing?

It was in evidence today at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston (USA) and was even being encouraged by the organisers, TechWeb with their ‘Backchannel’, a Twitter type service. Conference 2.0 with two way communication as I called it out to Steve Wylie. It was like watching a voting system where the speaker and their content was reviewed in real-time. This can go very badly for the speakers as with the well know South-by-Southwest interview with Sarah Lacy or very well as with IBM presentation today I sat in on.

Unfortunately it did not go so well for Lawrence Liu, from Microsoft, who brought in real boxing gloves onto the stage he shared with IBM. It seems he was dealt a KO blow by IBM’s Connection product demo judging by the audiences instant blogging silent but strong conversations.

In fact several of the audience, including Susan Scrupski, said to me that the real-time discussion on instant blogging was the most valuable part of the session. It is interesting how the value is within an shared discussion and not what we are told. Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt for management and in encouraging innovation. Conference presenters hold a lot of power over an audience just as senior management do over organisational discussions. Both conversations need to be unrestricted and even nurtured to bring involvement and realise the power and value of many creative minds.

White lines that lead to Innovation adoption

March 28, 2008

winnersdontusedrugsimage.png
I would like to thank you, even though I don’t know exactly who is listening, for putting my blog on the Goggle map. My Nickpoint site is 4th on the list of 2150 hits with Wikipedia’s definition of Nickpoint holding the number one slot. What addictive fun this Internet stuff is..

nickpointin4th2.jpg

Teenagers, part of ‘The Y Generation’ and to be our future leaders, started heavily using SMS texting when it first came out. Do you remember the days when we did not have mobiles…email…..fax machines…………our own computers……………………..land line phones? Or the Internet, how did we survive without it! There are some parallels to be drawn between technology innovations, teenagers and the rest of us in this brave new world of Social Media. Enter twitter, another of the new wave of web technologies, which seems to have been adopted by the technology geeks for a coke max effect IM (Instant Messaging) on web enabled devices including new generation mobiles. Twitter sits somewhere in between frequent SMS texting and group emailing on a micro blogging platform and it is reputedly ‘one of the fastest-growing apps in the history of the Internet.’ says the influential Robert Scoble.

If we take a look at Rogers 1960’s innovation curve we can see how technologies such as SMS texting and the other technologies have moved through into the mainstream. In fact SMS texting has become so ‘ubiquitous‘, as our very clever friend Simon Wardly would say who writes alot about innovation and commoditization, that it is used and relied upon by many mainstream businesses for customer communication. For example, we now receive Texts from our credit card companies, gyms, couriers, etc. Twitter and some of the other new Social Media technologies have the poetical to move through into the majority just as SMS texting has.

rogerinnovationcurve.jpg

Yes I know this is a dusty old graph but it is still considered by many to be classic. I am reading Geoffrey Moore’s 1999 ‘Crossing The Chasm’  which is a classic book all about marketing software within the innovation curve and very useful for technology start-ups like ours.

Tom Davenport of Harvard University referred to the mob effect of Twitter at a seminar on his blog. Davenport generally questions the value to business of some of these Social Media technologies, however remains interested and optimistic. Web2.0 has certainly created an innovative testing ground based on free usage, ad funded and attracting users by making the application enticing, even bordering on addictive. However I do not know which, if any, of these new technologies will go mainstream and mainstream in business, I only ask the question. As Socrates said “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”.

So, in the words of Grandmaster Melle Mel’ White Lines…Visiondreams of passion….Blowin through my mind….And all the while I think of you….A very strange reaction…..For us to unwind..The more I see the more I do. ‘, for all those 80’s teenagers and Internet addicts.