If “Cold Calling” is Your Answer Please Reconsider

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lead Generation, skmurphy

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.

Entrepreneurial Mindset: Create Value For Others

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, Thought Leadership

Creating value for others is the core of the entrepreneurial mindset. It enables the exchange of value that fuels entrepreneurs efforts to bring new ideas and products to market.

Dan Sullivan: Entrepreneurs Make Two Decisions

In “The Great Crossover,” Dan Sullivan offers the following insight on entrepreneurial mindset:

Successful entrepreneurs differ from other people–not in their abilities but in their mindset. They have internalized two fundamental commitments, by making these two decisions:

  • Decision 1: To depend entirely on their own abilities for their financial security, because they realize that the only security is the security they create themselves.
  • Decision 2: To expect opportunity only by creating value for others, because they understand that this is the only unlimited source of economic opportunity.

Guidelines For An Online Community of Entrepreneurs

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Q: I am starting an online community for technology entrepreneurs. Can you suggestion some guidelines I can use to help set newcomers expectations for what constitute valuable content and comments?

Here are some good guidelines and articles that I would start with, borrowing what makes sense and adapting it.

  • Hacker News Guidelines would be a place where I would start. In particular: defining what is on and off topic, how to write titles, and guidelines for leaving comments. Your rules may be different, your focus certainly is, but it would be a place to start.
  • The “Please Do” and “Please Don’t” lists on Reddit Reddiquette are definitely worth reviewing for things to include.
  • For “ASK BN” See Stack overflow how to ask a question for some specific suggestions worth considering for those posts

Entrepreneurship As A Calling

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, skmurphy, Startups, Video

A documentary on entrepreneurship as a calling that I found very compelling was “The Call of the Entrepreneur” produced by the Acton Institute. It addresses both practical and spiritual aspects of entrepreneurship from the point of view of three very different entrepreneurs:

  • Brad Morgan, a dairy farmer in Evart, Michigan who transforms a failing farm into a successful dairy and compost company.
  • Frank Hanna, a merchant banker in New York City who explains how entrepreneurship transforms the economy into a positive sum game.
  • Jimmy Lai who grew up in Communist China and then Hong Kong, emigrating to New York to found retail and media companies.

Why You Need A Logo

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, skmurphy

Q: What are logos good for?

An image is processed by a different part of the brain than a word or phrase, making it both memorable and evocative in ways that are distinct from the name of your company. Having a logo for your company or product makes it more memorable and allows you to suggest connotations that can be put into words.

I have put together a table of a couple of icons or logos that we used and the word or phrase that the replaced. The first version of the SKMurphy logo was just a text treatment as was the first version of the Bootstrapper Breakfast. You can judge for yourself if adding some simple artwork changed your opinion of what each represents.

Tristan Kromer on Testing Customer and Value Hypotheses

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Customer Development, skmurphy

These are excerpts from  Episode 9 of Outlier on Air: Tristan Kromer, A Lean Approach to Business.  They are in the same sequence the took place in the interview but a number of stories and asides have been omitted to focus on what I felt were some extremely valuable insights from Tristan Kromer on clarifying and testing customer and value hypotheses.

Lee Harris’ Insights on What 9-11 Means

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

Some excerpts from “Civilization and Its Enemies” by Lee Harris, with commentary on the implications of 9-11 for Silicon Valley.

We Have An Enemy

It is the enemy who defines us as his enemy, and in making this definition he changes us, and changes us whether we like it or not. We cannot be the same after we have been defined as an enemy as we were before.

That is why those who uphold the values of the Enlightenment so often refuse to recognize that those who are trying to kill us are their enemy. They hope that by pretending that the enemy is simply misguided, or misunderstood, or politically immature, he will cease to be an enemy. This is an illusion. To see the enemy as someone who is merely an awkward negotiator or sadly lacking in savoir faire and diplomatic aplomb is perverse. It shows contempt for the depth and sincerity of his convictions, a terrible mistake to make when you are dealing with someone who wants you dead.

We are the enemy of those who murdered us on 9/11. And if you are an enemy, then you have an enemy. When you recognize it, this fact must change everything about the way you see the world.

We face enemies who want to kill us and we need to act accordingly.

No Such Thing as a Random Sample of Five People

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, skmurphy

Q: I have 3D printed a couple prototypes of my product. I am going to get user feedback by letting security guards–my target market–test if for free for a few days. How many prospect should I have test it before I can determine if there is a market for the product.

Since you are 3D printing and can iterate I would start by getting feedback from five folks: see Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users by Don Norman for some research on why this is a reasonable place to start.

You will more than likely end up talking to more folks before deciding if there is a market or not but working with a small group at one time and testing iteratively will be easier to manage and teach you things more rapidly.

What Are Core Skills For Customer Development?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development

Q: What is the core mission for customer development at an early-stage start-up? Wat are the skills necessary to execute on that mission?

Customer Development Mission

Core mission is early customers, early revenue, early references. All of these reduce risk, demonstrate traction, and make subsequent sales efforts easier (and for bootstrappers, keep the lights on).

Ten Tips For New Product Demos

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, skmurphy

Here are ten tips for managing new product demos to prospects. While it’s always a good idea to preview inside the team and perhaps call in some favors for “friendly fire” review, at some point you have to bite the bullet and start giving new product demos to prospects. Here are my top ten tips (or lessons learned) for a new product demo:

Counting Your Blessings

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Silicon Valley, skmurphy

The next few weeks and perhaps the next few years are going to be awful. Keep counting your blessings anyway, remain kind, and continue to make a difference.

Peggy Noonan wrote My Brothers and Sisters on March 8, 2002 in the Wall Street Journal. She subtitled it “A report from New York, six months on” indicating it was a reflection on 9/11. I have re-formatted an excerpt as a meditation on the need for counting your blessings.

Second Sight: A Meditation on Silicon Valley and 9-11

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Silicon Valley, skmurphy

Michael S. Malone wrote “Second Sight” for the Dec-3-2001 issue of Forbes ASAP (a great quarterly magazine put out by Forbes and edited by Malone that no longer seems to be available on-line).  It’s also collected in his book “The Valley of Heart’s Delight: A Silicon Valley Notebook 1963-2001” as Chapter 3. It’s a meditation on Silicon Valley and 9-11. Writing in the aftermath 9-11 he reflects on the roots of Silicon Valley in the Cold War and World War 2.  What follows are excerpts with subtitles and hyperlinks added, intermixed with commentary

User Experience Research vs. Customer Discovery

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, Sales, skmurphy

Q: Why don’t you ever blog about User Experience Research (UX)?

The short answer is that we don’t do it.

Our Clients Want Leads and Deals

My clients come to me for help generating leads and closing deals, so that narrows my focus.

We don’t sell studies to larger firms that want a lot of fingerprints on the gun if things go wrong. If things go wrong for too long for my clients they are out of business. It tends to keep me–and them–focused very directly on revenue. We tend to focus much more on the “job to be done” by the product instead of constructing user personas.

Founders Want Leads and Deals

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lead Generation, Sales, skmurphy

Q: I have looked at your website and based on some of your blog posts you seem to provide a full range of tactical services–content, outbound messaging, SEO, videos, newsletters, demos, etc.. Why do you talk about “leads and deals” instead of focusing on the full range of services that you offer?

Founders Want Leads and Deals

We sell to founders and they pay for leads and deals.

Any tactics or strategies we propose we have to connect the dots explicitly to how this will generate new leads or help them create opportunities or close deals. There are many good marketing services firms who sell to the Director or VP of marketing. People in those roles tend to be measured on the number of “marketing qualified leads'” (MQL) that they generate and sometimes look to contract out tactical marketing services to specialty firms.

Nine Tips For Expert Public Speaking

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lead Generation, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Conor Neill has a great post up today on “a 9 Step Cheatsheet for Becoming a Public Speaking Expert” courtesy of the London Speakers Bureau. I am not usually a fan of  infographics but this is is exceptionally well done. Expert public speaking requires deliberate practice the same as any other skill. Here are some key tips I took away for entrepreneurs from the list but the entire infographic is worth a look.

A Great Demo Is A Conversation Driven By Mutual Curiosity

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, skmurphy

The best demo–a Great Demo!--is a conversations driven by mutual curiosity.  Your goal is to learn more about a prospect’s current situation and needs while they want to learn more about your product and services and how you can help them.

Mutual Demos

“Before I demo to you, why don’t you demo to me what you are currently using?”

If a customer has an existing software system, this can be a wonderful way to understand the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in their current system–particularly from the customer’s point of view. They’ll tell you what they like, what they hate, what’s missing and a range of other delightful Discovery information.

Additionally, this also inverts the traditional process of the vendor presenting to the customer, to one of the customer presenting to the vendor–an experience often remembered by the customer as remarkable and interestingly different!

Labor Day 2014: Knowledge Work Productivity

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in checklist, skmurphy

“A holiday gives one chance to look backward and forward, to reset oneself by an inner compass.”
May Sarton

I have not yet internalized the lessons from Daniel Cook‘s “Laws of Productivity: 8 Productivity Experiments You Don’t Need to Repeat” [PDF] so I find myself work–and now blogging–on a holiday. Here are my key take-aways from Cook’s roundup on knowledge work productivity and some additional thoughts on why they are so hard to put into practice. Do as I say not as I do.

Quotes For Entrepreneurs– August 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

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.

+ + +

“An early start beats fast running.”
Michael Bowen (@mdcbowen) “Cobb’s Rules

Used as closing quote for “Start with a List of Customers and Problems that Build on Your Experience and Relationships

Five Mistakes To Avoid In a Nurturing E-Mail

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lead Generation, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

I signed up for a free trial of a lean project management tool (I have changed the name of the tool to <LeanTool>). A few days later I got the following nurturing E-Mail.

Subject: Are you afraid to manage your project in a lean way?

We’ve noticed that you haven’t been signing into <LeanTool> for a long time and this is a sign that you are not really committed to being lean. Remember that 96% of innovative projects fail, will your project be one of them? I hope not!

Remember that just having a gym membership is not going to help you get better, if you want to improve you have to do the work!

Log in to <LeanTool> today and start validating your project.

There are a x problems with this:

  1. it’s not nurturing.
  2. It assumes the tool is flawless and the problem is one of my motivation. In fact the tool does not work.
  3. I signed up for a free trial but none of the three primary dashboards in <LeanTool> for hypotheses, experiments, and results actually worked.

So I replied:

I went to add a hypothesis and it said that I need to pay.
I tried to add an experiment and it said I need to pay.
I tried to record a result and it said I need to pay.

Can you please explain your model for free evaluation?

It’s like someone showing you free samples in the supermarket and asking “Would you like to try it?” When you say “Yes” then you hear “that will be a $1″

You advertise a free trial but it seems like it is more like a free product tour, you cannot actually do anything.

Anyway, if what you are doing is working for you don’t stop but it seems weirdly antagonistic and dysfunctional
as an approach to letting me evaluate your software. Do you have any fully worked out examples I can review?

I got the following reply:

Hi Sean, thanks for writing!

We have reviewed the website and realized that there is a mistake: previously, we offered a free trial, and we haven’t updated the text in the startups page.

Sorry for the inconvenience. We really appreciate your feedback and we’d like to offer you a 14-day free trial with all functionality available and a 10% off in our pricing plans.

It seemed a little flaky so I waited a few days and checked their website, it still advertised a free trial.

“Get 1 canvas + 1 user totally FREE (No credit card is required.)”

A day later I got another copy of the original “nurturing” E-Mail.

  1. Sending the identical e-mail a week later is definitely not a good idea.
  2. Not fixing the website announcement of a free trial tells me that they are in free fall.

Map Customer Buying Process Before Sending a Proposal

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, checklist, Sales, skmurphy

Map the customer buying process, needs, and situation before you invest time sending a detailed proposal. A quick request can mean you are column fodder.

Q: We are still trying to close our first paying customer. We have a website up and have talked to a number of people. More or less out of the blue we got a call from someone in a large firm who had looked at our website. They asked a few questions about our product and then said “Great! Send me a detailed proposal including pricing!”

At last a stranger recognizes the brilliance of your solution in just a few minutes of conversation! How often I tell myself that. How rarely it’s true, especially when you are just starting out with a new product or in a new market. You have to ask yourself:

  • Do they really know enough about what   we do to be able to start a purchase order?
  • Do I know enough about their situation to be able to calculate our likely impact on their business and their return on investment?
  • How can I justify the price to value in the proposal?
  • Have I addressed the critical implementation and proliferation roadblocks we will face from pilot to production use?

You May Be Column Fodder

More often than not you are actually “column fodder” or a makeweight needed so that they can prove to their boss or the purchasing/finance team that they did a thorough job and solicited three bids. Especially if you don’t know much about their situation and they have not asked for a detailed demo you need to proceed a little more slowly.

Map The Customer Buying Process

Before you submit a proposal I would ask your contact these questions to get a better sense of the situation, in particular you need to learn as much as possible about who will make the decision and how they will make it (the customer buying process).

  1. Can you describe the process for making a decision after we submit this powerpoint proposal, who else is in involved, what questions are they likely to have?
  2. Who has to make the final decision to actually sign a contract?
  3. Can you provide an example of a standard contract so we can understand your  typical deal structure and terms and conditions.
  4. Can you give some examples of other deals that your company has done in the last three years that might serve as a model for how our business relationship would work?

Understand Their Needs and Situation

You want to be easy to do business with but that requires that you have a thorough understanding of their needs. I would not send a powerpoint presentation, but ask for time to present it (if only via Webex/GoToMeeting) so that you can answer any questions that they have in the moment. I would also dry run this presentation with your contact if they are open to it. If they just default to “send me a detailed proposal” it’s probably not a real opportunity.

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