Sunday, August 13, 2017

5 actually useful tips on how to grow your startup

How many startups launched last year? How many of them succeeded?
Some data suggests that up to 95 percent of startups fail, but it’s difficult to exactly pinpoint why it happens. Some of them fail simply because they didn’t create something people want, while great many vanish due to the wrong execution of their growth and marketing.
Growth is key, yet growing a startup is really hard and most founders struggle with it.
What makes it even harder is the overwhelming amount of tactics and the “one size fits all” hacks that dictate how we should be running our own growth and marketing efforts.
Usually these tips are meant to be an inspiration, but a lot of founders take them too seriously and apply them directly — regardless of the context of their product or customers.
I think this happens because many founders love “short-cuts” and fantasize about hockey-stick curves. Stories we’ve heard about Dropbox, Airbnb or other unicorns have led us to believe that growth is about chasing this one silver bullet that will magically change the course of our history.
However, we forget that what these startups actually did was to ask a single question: “What marketing channel(s) will help us find our dream customers?” This led them to establish a growth process that involved lots of experimentation, measurement and learning to get their growth machine up and running.
It might seem easy and appealing to talk about building a growth machine, but how can you start this process from scratch? These are the five lessons I have learned:

1) Don’t take hacks out of their context

One thing is clear, there is no silver bullet. No unicorn you’ve ever heard of made it overnight.
Dropbox was doing Google AdWords before introducing the “Refer a friend for more space”.
Hotmail was considering billboards and doing Radio ads (yes, believe me!) before introducing their wildly glorified viral loop “P.S. I love you, get your free email at Hotmail.”
They didn’t sit around and spend their time trying to come up with the one ‘hack’ that would save their buisness. What worked for others won’t work for you simply because your audience, your model, your customer decision process are different. Your business is different, plain and simple. To make the most of what you read, always try to understand the context of the hack that’s being discussed: What was the audience? What was the business model? What’s the customer decision process?
By answering these questions, you start making assumptions of why this might work for you as well. Comparing your business to the context of the hack is important in prioritizing what you work on.
For the hacks to work, your competition might be a good starting point to identify the patterns of success.

2) Don’t experiment with many acquisition channels at once

Focus always wins.
Almost all successful startups or companies get the majority of their scale from a single channel.
However, with so many channels to consider, most founders are tempted to try a bit of everything instead of going all in on one thing

Yet, doing so is equivalent to shooting yourself in the head, because it will require more time to learn from your experiments, therefore taking longer to decide whether to kill a channel or double down on it. As a result, you end up with no focus.

3) If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

No startup can find a sustainable business model without occasionally pausing to get directions, and these directions are derived from examining the right metrics.
As Head of Growth at my company, a big part of my job is to regularly check upon my metrics. In fact, we have a big screen in the center of our office hall that shows our growth metrics and their progress on a daily basis.
This sounds a bit stressful, doesn’t it? I might have been sceptical at first, but it turned out to be extremely helpful. Measuring my performance makes me accountable. I’m forced to confront inconvenient truths and always look for ways to improve the results.
It’s very important to define your growth metrics and measure them constantly. Customer acquisition without a clear set of objectives is just a random activity.
You’ll always track and review multiple numbers, but pick a minimal set of key performance indicators (KPIs), which you’ll track and report everyday. Capture everything, but focus on what’s important.
In the book Lean Analytics, the authors introduce the concept of OMTM — the One Metric that Matters. The OMTM is the one number you’re completely focused on above everything else for your current stage. It could be N° of customers per week, churn, N° of new active users, N° of paid subscribers, cost of acquisition — basically anything that has a direct impact on your company performance.

4) Do things that don’t scale

When your startups is taking its first step, by all means get your friends and family to use the product — and don’t stop there. Email your local community groups, get those blog mentions and engage with potential users over Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News or other niche forums.
Most founders know about this tactic, but they usually refrain from unscalable strategies. The reason is that the numbers seem so small at first and they start thinking “is it really worth it?.” This can’t be how the big, famous startups got started, they think. The mistake they make is dismiss the power of compound growth.
When you have a small user base, little things can drive a high percent growth. As Paul Graham, Y Combinator founder explains: “If you have 100 users and keep growing at 10 percent a week you’ll be surprised how big the numbers get. After a year you’ll have 14,000 users, and after two years you’ll have two million.”
The other benefit of using methods that don’t scale is the ability to get in close contact with your users. And everybody knows how crucial it is to engage with potential customers directly, especially if you are still working on a product/market fit. Getting in direct contact with the user can be an essential step way to learn if you have the right product.

5) Focus on a small niche

Who do we actually want to work with?
Most of us start with a product idea, never thinking about who we want as ideal customers.
Many investors give startup entrepreneurs this terrible piece of advice: “Your ideas are too small. You need to think bigger and go after a larger market.“ When you’ve found the unusual idea to base your startup on, don’t go too broad too quickly.
This may sound counter-intuitive because most founders fear that if they start small, they will lose potential customers on the way. Startups are more likely to accelerate growth by narrowing their target demographic, better understanding customer needs, building more focused products, and tailoring their marketing message to their specific audience.
Later on, after getting initial traction with a small audience, startups can grow their market and expand product offerings to go after bigger market segments..

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What If Famous Brands Make Unexpected Products

I guess not. Realizing how fun and crazy the idea could be, Ilya Kalimulin and other designers used their skills and creativity to photoshop 12 unexpected, somehow ironic products from well-known brands, and they’re showcased in this post. Have fun and let us know which one made you smile!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How To Turn Your Crappy Network Into A Better One

Wishing someone happy birthday on Facebook counts as networking–and might be more important than you think.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” You’ve heard that trite career adage before, and probably rolled your eyes because you don’t know anyone who’s well-connected enough in your field to hook you up with that dream job.
But while nepotism is real and elite institutions do open more doors, you might not be quite as screwed as you think. According to J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World, there are still a few things you can do to make your crappy network less crappy. It takes patience and consistency–but not a ton of effort.


Sometimes what seems to you like a problem with your network is really an issue of your own objectives, Hoey points out. The most common “knee-jerk reaction is, ‘I don’t have a network,'” she says, and “the second is, ‘My network doesn’t know anyone.'”
But you’re much more likely to think those things when all you do is hit up your network with blanket requests, like, “I’m looking for a new marketing job, any leads?”
On the other hand, “sending an email to someone saying, ‘I’m switching careers and I’m highly interested in a junior marketing position at Ford Motor Company and see you’re connected to someone there’ is going to be highly productive,” Hoey explains, adding that she got an email the week before last saying, “Do you know anyone in the auto industry?”
“I was like, ‘Did you look at LinkedIn? Did you follow the auto companies to see who in your network might be worth connecting to?”
Doing this kind of basic research, says Hoey, gives people in your network “something to target” so that they can think of something similar in the highly likely event that they can’t help you with exactly what you’re looking for. Being excruciatingly specific won’t narrow your options; it can actually widen them.



Hoey is aware, however, that making better networking requests won’t instantaneously enlarge or improve your network. But you can’t really make any type of request if you aren’t up on what your network is up to.
In other words, hit that “follow” button–on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, you name it. Hoey says that people tend to think of networking as an active undertaking, but most of it is passive.
Following people on social media may feel like the “empty calories” of networking, but it’s actually the reverse: “Being and staying connected to people through social platforms” takes very little effort, but it’s a crucial prerequisite “so you can leverage the data they’re putting in there” when it’s time to get your network’s help with something, says Hoey.
After all, your most influential contact is rarely “the person right in front of you,” says Hoey–they’re the “direct connections all your connections have.” The hidden power of “loose connections” has been a truism of network theorists for years, and it’s something that LinkedIn research backs up. By silently keeping tabs on your friends, you’re putting a down payment on future opportunities to be put in touch with their friends.


It’s possible to take this passive approach to keeping in touch with people, too. Many professionals look at networking “in such an immediate way,” says Hoey, that “they overlook the importance of maintaining and growing relationships with their peers.”
One Fast Company contributor recently described his habit of sending a quarterly email to his professional network with a few life updates. A mere four emails a year to maintain your network isn’t too shabby, but staying in touch can be even less time-intensive than that. When Facebook reminds you it’s that person’s birthday, Hoey says, don’t ignore it; the one-line birthday wish you share once a year is enough to stay “on the periphery” of their network–and according to that “loose connections” theory, the periphery is where it counts.
Hoey spoke not long ago with a senior partner at a prestigious New York law firm who’d served in the early ’90s on Harvard Law Review “with someone he described as the person who was clearly going to go far.” But after graduating and passing the bar, the two didn’t stay in touch. Around 2008, the partner reached back out to his former law school classmate–to congratulate him on being elected president.  In response he received a thoughtfully worded form letter signed, “Barack Obama.”
The point, says Hoey, is to keep an eye on what your friends and acquaintances do, starting even before you enter the workforce. If someone seems smart and interesting now, they’re likely going on to do interesting things later, so don’t wait until they’ve achieved something big before getting back in touch. Think more in terms of “Happy 30th, Barack!” than “Congratulations, Mr. President!”


Some people think joining professional organizations, nonprofit boards, and industry groups are smart networking moves. But Hoey says that’s only true when you commit to actually contributing to them. Volunteer, and not just once. Offer to head up a specific initiative you’re interested in, and see it through for the long haul. You can’t just add your name to a membership roster and expect an organization to deliver up dozens of powerful new contacts to you.
Hoey adds that it’s possible to be helpful in really small ways as well. “If you saw social media on this other person or discover that they’ve got a blog, just promoting somebody else’s stuff is a really great way to keep a relationship going”–and it takes no time. But the larger task of improving a lackluster network does. “There’s not a quick fix,” says Hoey. Small gestures, actions, and “cyberstalking in a good way” can add up, but you’ve got to keep at it.
People only really feel their networks have failed them when they’ve gone out with an ambitious request and come back empty-handed. But it’s those times when you don’t have a career crisis you need help solving that really count, Hoey explains. It’s not as hard as you think. “Just be a decent human being in your interactions with other people. Rinse and repeat.”