The IEEE Consulting Network of Silicon Valley continues its tradition of inviting world class experts on leading edge technologies to speak at their monthly meetings. On Tue-Nov-4-2014, Giacomo Vacca of Kinetic River will provide an overview on how flow cytometers enable a wide range of “Human Cell Analysis.”
Q: In your blog post “Four Presentation Traps to Avoid” (which drew on Mike Monteiro’s “13 Ways Designers Screw Up a Client Presentation” which I found overall to be very valuable) you highlighted his item 4 “Not setting the stage properly” which ends with “Start the meeting by thanking them for their time.”
I feel this puts you below the prospect or customer as a supplicant. Your time is just as valuable. It’s a minor thing but I suggest “I’m glad we could all find the time to meet today.” or something that puts you at least level with who you are presenting to in terms of the value of your time.
Mike Monteiro offered “13 Ways Designers Screw Up a Client Presentation–And One Weird Trick” in a Sep-13-2014 blog post: many of these are also applicable to entrepreneurs making presentations to prospects. The whole article is worth reading, here are my top four presentation traps to avoid from his list (I have retained Monteiro’s numbering scheme).
Entrepreneurial passion has to be based on a desire to create value, to be of service to a set of target customers. There may be many things you are interested in learning and room enough in your life for several hobbies, but pursuing a passion without regard to your ability to provide value in a way that is competitively differentiated is to pursue a hobby.
I took part in a great roundtable conversation at tonight’s PATCA meeting on “Low Cost Marketing and Advertising for Consultants” Here were a couple of suggestions that I made in response to situations or challenges that other consultants put on the table.
David Morse left a detailed comment today on my Sep-26-2014 blog post “Lessons Learned Blogging 1400 Posts in 8 Years” that I thought I would promote to a guest post that offers some practical tips about how to add graphics and video to a blog. Here is his bio on B2BSalesVP:
David Morse helps startup founders and sales teams achieve revenue nirvana. He is President of consulting firm B2BSalesVP and CEO of SaaS company Kindoo which is like a private YouTube for sales teams and sales training and development.
Excerpts from Paul Grahams’ October 2014 essay “Before the Startup” with commentary interspersed. This essay is in some ways less self-confident than many of his earlier ones. He seems to recognize more explicitly the limits of his ability to offer advice that entrepreneurs in the Y Combinator portfolio–or entrepreneurs applying to Y Combinator–will actually follow. The primary point he hammers home is the need to focus on customers and to realize that a startup a significant multi-year commitment.
You can follow @skmurphy to get these quotes for entrepreneurs hot off the mojo wire or wait until they are collected in a blog post at the end of each month. Enter your E-mail address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.
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“A holiday gives one chance to look backward and forward, to reset oneself by an inner compass.”
Uses as opening quote in “Labor Day 2014: Knowledge Work Productivity.”
Mike Silverman passed away Sep-13-2014 after a 14 month battle with cancer. He was an entrepreneur with tremendous energy and integrity. I will miss him. He founded Ops A La Carte in 2002 and built it up to a training, testing, and consulting organization providing work for dozens of experienced reliability engineers.
I am a big fan of Jill Konrath and her Selling to Big Companies book. She has good advice on closing the sale: it’s up tot the customer. If you are selling a product that requires consideration or a complex evaluation by one or more employees of your prospect’s organization the following advice is particularly appropriate.
This post is a retrospective look at my inaugural post in 2006 and lessons learned blogging 1400 posts over the 8 years since.
Q: I am bootstrapping a e-commerce web startup and working a day job to fund my business until revenue takes off. I am getting ready to launch but am worried how I can provide phone support for customer service issues and to close sales. Any suggestions?
Bill Meade (@BillMeade) is the Director of Data Science at Neal Analytics, a position he describes as, “Catalyst to a herd of genius cats, riding a machine learning cloud, into a business world about to discover analytical dreams can come true … easily. ” Bill has long experience with innovation, IP management, and customer development. He has contributed this guest post on schmexperts and welcomes other questions on customer development as topics for future posts: please feel free to leave your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments. Bill blogs regularly at RestartGTD, a blog devoted to practical understanding and implementations of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and also welcomes questions on “Getting Things Done.”
Q: I’m just about to get out of the building to validate hypotheses and start learning, but I have a problem with the business model canvas. I have been advised to develop detailed hypotheses before starting customer discovery. This is my startup and I have no idea how to fill in the business model canvas channel box or answer Steve Blank’s BMC channel/pricing hypotheses question on “the price at which half of the customers say yes.”
Javid Jamae (@JavidJamae) is a Principal Engineer at Tout, where he heads up the experimentation and growth efforts; he leads a team focused on growing the viewership for both local and nationally syndicated content. Javid authored this great guest post on finding early adopters through customer interviews before building a minimum viable product (MVP) and it is published here with his permission.
An MVP is Finished Only After You Have Early Adopters
Any time someone tells me that they have finished their minimum viable product (MVP) and now they’re looking for their first early adopters, a huge alarm goes off. It always seems like they have skipped a few steps. An MVP should not be a guess; it should be a carefully crafted solution that is:
- Viable based on what you have already learned from your early adopters,
- Minimum in that it focuses only on solving the core problems that they face.
One of the hallmarks of the entrepreneurial journey is diving in over your head.
At some point you have to commit fully to a new venture and at a later point you realize that, despite all of your careful preparation, you are testing the depth of water with both feet–or perhaps even head first. This is what can keep many up at nights or otherwise make life miserable.
I am rescuing a dialog on customer development and channel development I had with Ash Maurya from the comments to his “Lessons Learned in 2010” blog post. I am still at work on the “system of simultaneous equations” model and I think his new thinking on the “Customer Factory” is moving closer to iterating against multiple constraints simultaneously. I know with Theory of Contraints you should focus on the rate limiting constraint but after a few iterations everything can start to pinch.
I continue to work with the Okaloa team on Discovery Kanban and think that it also allows for the integration of option management into the next set of actions you are considering. This is still a work in progress and I welcome comments or suggestions for improvement.
Q: I am preparing to launch a website for my minimum viable product (MVP). It’s a few pages and has has some forms and a file upload capability. Potential customers will be able to explain a particular type of problem that they have and then upload some relevant files for review. I will review their situation and send them a link for payment if I can fix the problem. My concern is that if I don’t have pages for “Contact Us”, “Services”, and “About Us then a potential customer may not trust the website to actually start a purchase. Is it waste to add these pages? Would I be smarter to launch a very simple site with a form and file upload.
Build A B2B MVP That Inspires Trust
If the information you are requesting is not particularly proprietary and you are only looking to charge $10 or $20 dollars then the “put up a landing page and see who clicks” model may tell you enough. This is essentially an impulse purchase.
But when you write “I will review their situation and send them a link for payment if I can fix the problem,” I am assuming that you are selling to business and that your target price point is more than $100. This moves beyond the impulse purchase or simple consumer buying models for a $4 E-book or a $19/month service; if you plan to charge more than $300 then you are pretty clearly into a “considered purchase” and need to provide a richer context for the decision than a simple landing page. Also because you are asking for data that they may consider private or proprietary this makes it more of a considered purchase.
Q: What is the target allocation for each of these critical tasks in a successful startup? Here is my list of critical tasks in a startup and a percentage allocation:
- Planning 10%
- Execution 50%
- Ideation 20%
- Talking to Potential Customers 15%
- Recruiting 5%
What Is The Real Decision?
Can you clarify :
- At what stage of company?
- What time frame are the percentages averaged over?
- Is this just for the founders or total effort of all team members?
- What is the distinction between ideation and planning? Can you please elaborate on this?
How would you use or apply any answer that you get? In other words, what is the real decision you are trying to make?
Q: I am launching a new live chat service and trying to decide the best way to acquire new customers from cold calling, email marketing, social media outreach by posting content to Facebook pages. What would you recommend?
Technology vs. Business Model
A live chat service is a technology, what is your business model?
Who is the Customer? What Is Their Need?
In particular who is the customer and why aren’t they using one of the several dozen live chat services already available? To determine the best tool for acquiring a new customer you have to have a clear hypothesis for who the customer, their need or pain point, and how your offering is differentiated from other alternatives already available to them.