Archives for March 2013

28Mar

Ep#33: The Art of Getting the Sale for Small Businesses

The art of getting the sale – crash course in small business selling

In this episode I speak with Tony Manto; a business development officer from Adelaide about the art of getting the sale.

We cover

  • Knowing your target market
  • Knowing what their wants vs needs are
  • Understand the competition or current supplier
  • Defining your uniqueness
  • Qualifying the customers
  • Closing questions
  • Follow up process

Links

Video

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx6d6tigwG0″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

Use the contact form below to register your interest for Tony’s workshop or purchase the downloadable version.

Register Your Interest
[spoiler title=”Transcription” open=”0″ style=”1″]

Nick: Welcome back to Web Marketing Adelaide. I’m your host Nick Morris and this week we have a special guest with us, Tony Manto, Business Development professional, from Adelaide of course. Good day Tony, welcome to the show.

Tony: Good day Nick, how are you today?

Nick: Pretty good, thanks. How are you?

Tony: Yeah it’s fun, beautiful white light, where else would you want to be?

Nick: Absolutely. This week we’re talking about Seven Steps to Creating the Perfect Sales Process and Tony’s pretty knowledgeable about the subject and we’re pretty much going to go through the Seven Steps here that I’ve got written down and make sure we give our listeners lots of great information that’s going to help them sort of, improve their sales process. So, let’s, before we get started on those, I’ll get you Tony, to perhaps tell us a little bit about yourself and about what you do.

Tony: Sure, thanks. Nick, you know I’ve been involved in selling for over 30 years and I have a Diploma in Sales and Marketing and in those 30 years, I’ve come across lots of sales seminars and picnics, and I’ve spent a lot of time in my career in investing in programs and books. I’ve studied all the different techniques that are out there. I mean selling is a technique, it’s a process. It’s a lot like baking a cake, where you have all the right ingredients, you get a perfect cake.

Where a lot of people fall over is, they don’t understand those different processes and different steps and therefore, the conversion rate or the sales success is not as good as it could be. So, I spent a lot of time perfecting it as much as I can and I’ve collated and resourced so many different techniques so I do actually understand which one works best and which ones don’t and we’re here today to give you a bit of an insight on how that works.

Nick: Great, great. Yeah, that sounds good. Another thing I’ll just mention before we get into it is, I feel like a lot of people focus a lot on getting people in the door, especially with websites. With web marketing, they focus on getting the traffic up, so they don’t realize or really think about the fact that increasing their conversion rate can greatly increase their bottom-line without having to increase the traffic or their people in the door. So, it certainly can be a powerful technique.

Tony: 100% and the easiest way, the easiest metaphor I can share with your customers or your podcast viewers, it’s a bit like a date, a relationship. Okay, you don’t marry somebody on the first date. You have to get to know them, you have to court them, you have to take them on a date. You have to have a relationship over a period of time before you decide to get married. In sales, it’s pretty much like that and a lot of people don’t understand that process. The conversion is really after the 5th, or 6th or 7th or 10th exposure and that exposure could be via a web browser or a podcast as you’re, doing, which I think is brilliant, a sales letter, a brochure, you know. So, you got to have, people will make decisions, especially in today’s environment, where there’s lots and lots of information.

People do want the information before they make their decision. So, the decision process has been postponed and the exploration process has been expanded and there are 7 stages of making the purchase decision, which I do cover in my workshop. We’re not going to cover that until the 8th but there are 7 stages in making a decision and one of those stages is collecting and collating information and people, now, as I said have access to so much information.

So therefore, you really do have to take a slow one these days and give as much information as you can. Contact your customer as many times as you can, before they will be comfortable to purchase from you, and that’s where the internet marketing and website pages – so, getting customers to your web page, having a great web page is okay, it’s a good start, but that’s not where the success is. The success is always on the back-end and we will talk about that in our 7 steps.

Nick: Awesome. Let’s jump into it then. From here, step number 1, Knowing Your Market. Can you tell us a little bit about this Tony?

Tony: Sure, this stage of market is, or any market is broken into sub-markets or marker market. So a lot of people would say if this is a bookkeeper marker, the target is business owner but there are lots of different types of businesses, as a good example. So, you might target a trader, because traders, they’re very, very bad with their paper work but the trader is so bad with this paper work and so bad with payment, do you really want that trader? You might want to have more or you might want to target people that are more, have more compliance issues and so web developers might want to target someone who has an online shopping cart, because he knows there is more maintenance on the back-end with the shopping cart than having a normal web page.

So, although you might want to target certain businesses, you’re going to put your target market and define your customer and really identify who your customer really is and what your customer looks for and who is the ideal customer for you because within that market, there’s lots of different categories and the best thing to do is to, it saves on marketing costs and increases your conversion rate. Because you start to understand your true niche customer, and you might have two or three and that’s fine.

Niche marketing is where it’s all about but a shot-gun approach in marketing doesn’t work anymore. Identifying a target market is one, and then breaking them into sub-markets is where the key is. Identifying what each market wants and needs, which we’ll talk about it a minute, and before you go ahead and expending your resources and your energy in trying to convert that market. So, that’s what a lot of people probably don’t do as much as they should.

Nick: Great Stuff. Let’s move on to step 2, which you just mentioned there, which is Knowing What Their Wants and Needs Are. So, the wants and needs of your target market, what’s this one about?

Tony: Yes, sure, okay. This relates to your info, Nick. People probably want more traffic, they want more customers, but they need a good webpage to do it. They need good content to do it. So, rather than to try to sell them what they need, you need to identify what they want, and then sell them what they want and then provide them what they need because there is a tricky difference between wants and needs.

You might say, look you need a webpage but I don’t need a webpage, I need more customers. The web page will give them more customers. So, when you have your approach, you sell them solutions is probably the best way, what’s the solution? You talk about your solution and your product is going to provide you the solution. If you can’t quite sell them the product, then unlist it. They really want to see, they really want to hear how you could satisfy their wants when you give them what they need.

So, in your question technique, when you’re interviewing a customer, it’s very, very important to spend a lot of time and a lot of people just fail here, in interviewing your customer. Interviewing your client and find out what is it they really want? What is it they’re trying to achieve? And then you weave that language back into your sales presentation and then provide them what they need on top of what they want, if that makes any sense.

Nick: No, that makes perfect sense, and I’ve heard similar things in, with regard to sales in the past about perhaps in your sales cover you’re talking about the benefits rather than the features of a product and how it can help the customers opposed to what you provide and certainly with something like SEO, which is my core business. It’s fairly complicated, so I know what they need as you say, but just trying to identify more what they want, I think, is something that would be useful.

Tony: Yeah, good example. If you went through a technical jargon, you’d lose them. You’d complicate them and they lose interest and that’s a great example. When you say, you can achieve that, yeah, we can achieve that, what are you looking for? Yeah, we can achieve that and then, you’re really just scheming, either you’re sort of briefing how you’re going to achieve it by spending more time in convincing them or conversing the language that they’re looking for and giving them what they’re looking for.

Giving them the language back, I want more customers, okay. You want more sales, okay. So we can get you more sales by optimizing your web page by, but if you go in and say, oh we want to optimize your web page or we want to do your bookkeeping or whatever the trade may be, that’s not what they want to hear. They really want to hear, the easiest way is to provide solutions to their problems and that’s what you want to know.

Nick: Yep. Absolutely. That makes sense. Let’s move on to step number 3, I’ve got Understand the Competition or Current Supplier. Can you expand a bit more about this one?

Tony: Yeah, sure. Honestly, either you know the line, “It’s a competition out there.” And once again the book keeper may, or you know they may be targeting a certain customer or a webpage developer but they may already have a supplier. So, couple of things here, you have to understand who your competitor is, what their strengths or weaknesses are and then, that’s okay, that’s step 1, but secondly if you could find that out and you may find that out in your interview process, is finding out who their current supplier is.

Tell them, I want to talk to you about your web page developer, oh we already have a web page cart. So you do it in that order but if you understand what your competitor does, and more importantly what he doesn’t do, then you turn in what he doesn’t do, into your strategy and then turn around and use that as your conversational piece or your strategy when you talk to him, rather than going in there and targeting indiscriminately different companies, which already have a supplier.

You’ve got to understand who your market is, what they’re doing and what they’re doing well and what they’re not doing well. You’re really on the back port when talking to your customer and you’re probably going to convert more sales if you do understand, spend a bit of time researching the niche base and that is brilliant. You can go in there and they list all their services and you can see the best things for someone that’s got more technical – how they’re optimizing their web page and even your customer that you’re talking to.

You can go onto their web page and you can see all the links in the back-end there. See you can actually pinpoint what their current web provider is not providing them. So, once you’ve done that, you can then go in there and know exactly where you’re going to target, because you’ve already done your homework. So, basically, what I’m saying is, before you target particular customers, you really have to do your homework on who they are, who they’re currently using, and as much information about the customer as you can before you even start talking to them.

Nick: Yep, yep. That makes perfect sense. You really want to do your research and sort of know where you stand and how your products and services kind of compare to your, the ones that your competitors are providing. So, I think that makes perfect sense. Let’s move on to step number 4, Defining Your Uniqueness. What do you mean by this Tony?

Tony: Well that sort of leads into the next step, because once you understand who your competitors are, we’re all unique, we’ve all got our own strengths and weaknesses and if you don’t really have one, if you’re just a make do, you’re also going to struggle.

So you really have to, if you don’t have a strength you have to develop a strength and so you might turn around and say, well look I know that a lot of people who don’t do content management, as an example, in your field and I’m very good at content management. I understand copywriting, I understand the sales language. I understand how to link it on the back-end and I also link on it very, very strongly. So, once you get a view, a uniqueness, you have to portray that. Why should I do business with you compared to any other web developer or book keeper or hair dresser or whatever?

So, if you’re a hairdresser, it might be an international [Inaudible 00:13:31] in the competition. The strength is in streaking or hair extensions. So just to be a hairdresser, just to be a bookkeeper, you become what I call, a need to. So you really, there’s an old saying, differentiate or die and that’s probably the best way to put it. If you can’t differentiate yourself, you can’t stay there amongst the crowd and talk to, portray that information. You’re really just swimming in the ocean of competition and once again, your success rate isn’t going to be as high. If you can identify that, and once you identify that, that’s okay, but the secret is to portray that to your customer.

Nick: Yeah that’s an interesting one. There’s probably one I think that people might struggle with a lot, especially if they don’t have something obvious that they can just sort of say “This is my strength.” For some, for a businesses that’s perhaps in a position where they don’t really know what their strength is or they don’t know if they have a particular strength, is there anything they can do to try to discover this? Or should it be more about going back to their competitors, the stuff that we talked about before and figure out where there’s a gap and maybe making that their strength. Is there anything, do you have any tips on that?

Tony: Yeah, they need to come and talk to me.

Nick: Yeah, right. Someone perhaps that I can look at externally and …

Tony: I’m being facetious but absolutely is what I’m saying. Quite often we cast, or very often, most human beings, if you view consumer behavior and study psychology like I have, we can’t see our own weaknesses, we don’t understand them, and why having an external source, it could be you. It could be anybody, I’m just joking there. Most businesses, okay, here’s the answer, most businesses have customers, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. So, the easiest place to start is ask your existing customer why did you choose me? What do you think we do well? There are lots of ways to find that out. If you’re starting out, you do the market research, you do your competitive research and then you come up with what you think you do well.

A quarter of what you think you think you do well is not what your customers thinks you do well. So, you can do it, externally, absolutely you give them a mentor or someone that’s experienced in that and then once again, which probably relates to our next question or next topic is lots of questions that you can ask, that will uncover that and if you ask the right questions, you’ll get the right answers. Sometimes you get it through your customers, sometimes you get it through your market research, other times you just get it through friends and associates in the profession. So, if you can’t define that, well then, yeah, you need to get external sources to ask for input.

Nick: Great. Yeah. I think that tip about asking your customers, that rings well with me and that seems like a really obvious, now that you mention it, but perhaps it’s something that a lot of people would miss, you know, ask your customers. Why do they buy from you? Or why had they become a customer of yours? What do they see as your strength and then you can bring that back in and take that information on board.

Tony: And once you go up there, that becomes the first to mind, in it’s own right. So, you can then turn around and then use that as power, your self-process, like XYZ used us and it’s always better to use a third person than talk of yourself because they would think you are vain and you’re just perking yourself up. So, the best thing to do when you’re in your self-process, and this is a technique I teach is teaching or trying it as a third person and XYZ did this because of that, and WYB did this because of that, you know.

They tried it for this reason. So, that’s always a better position to take, than saying, we we’re the best, we do this well , we do that well, because if you sound like you’re, winding up yourself and that’s not what people want to hear. It is better to come from an external person. If you ask a customer, if you get a consent or whatever and then you use that as part of your marketing strategy or your sale strategy when you’re talking to your customer.

Nick: Yeah, perfect. Testimonials, I think can be very powerful, so that fits in well. Okay, step number five here, I’ve got, which we just discussed a little bit is Qualifying Your Customers. Can you expand on this a little bit?

Tony: Yeah sure. Excuse me. When you have a customer that you’re talking to, he may not be ready to buy. He may be waiting for his budget or he may be out of money, he can’t hire you. He won’t say yeah, he wants to do your work, or you do his great work, and then he can’t hire you. Or you may spend hours and hours of time, like, what I call gate-keepers, which are people that sort of protect the decision maker. So, you might be talking many hours to the wrong person. Now, you may be talking, spending a lot of time and effort sending the information to a customer that hasn’t got the funds to buy, that’s not ready to buy.

As I said, in the sales process, there are certain stages that they go through. Make endless talk about the information gathering stage, which is just one of the 7 tips. When you’re in the information gathering stage, you have a beginning and an end. If you’re the first person that person speaks to, you have to be very, very good to convert that person. You have to know where they are in the decision making process and in their buying time. When are you looking at doing this? Oh, we’re doing it in July. Oh that’s fine, we’ll come and talk to you in June. So you have to, how much money do you have to spend? What’s your budget? So, once again, rather than, if you don’t ask all those questions, and you put together a $10,000 option, you’re going to lose your sale.

If he turned around and said I’ve got $3,000 to spend or I’ve got $10,000 to spend over the next three months. We want it done in three stages, I have to get signed for Sydney, I have to get signed up for my partner, my wife’s having a baby. There’s lot’s of, by understanding that, you understand where the customer is in his decision making process and you understand whether to go in for the close now, or you’re going to the close later.

So, once again, it’s all about timing. You don’t want to start to close or put the hard sell on him now when you know that you just started the information process. So, if you started the information process you might say, let me give you a brochure, or can we meet up for coffee or I’ll call you up in a month’s time or whatever. So you’ve got to give them a bit of time to digest the information. If you know you kept three quotes and you’re the last part, well then your process, and the language that you used in this strategy you use might be a bit steep and made it a little harder, a little bit more aggressive in the close because you’re not, he’s fed up, and knowing that, you can change your strategy.

What have others got that you don’t, you know? You already know that he has three quotes, what did they say to you? And he’ll tell you, they’ll tell you. You already know you’re in the right position, because you already know that they provided me this and they provided me that and then he or she isn’t using that information. You know what they haven’t provided or where they’re [Inaudible 00:21:23] and then you’re in a better position to close the sale. So, by qualifying your customer, not only, that they can pay you, but where is it in the decision making process. Once again, it all adds up to converting more sales.

Nick: Perfect. That makes good sense as well and it seems to fit in with what we’re saying as well, which is great. Okay, step number 6 here, Closing Questions. What’s this all about?

Tony: Okay. In the sales process you have probing questions, which we’ve talking about and probing questions are information seeking, they are questions that are seeking more information and once I’ve got the information from you, now I know which cast to plan. Closing questions are basically qualifying questions or getting people to have little yes responses to little bits of your presentation. So you might turn around and say, are you looking for a shopping cart? Yes. Are you looking for a postpaid shopping cart? Yes. So you, that’s closed. You understand that he’s ready to buy a shopping cart, he’s ready to buy a postpaid shopping cart and when are you ready? So you’re ready in June? Yes. So that’s a closing question. So, basically shutting all the doors and you’re bringing the customer down to a close.

So, you can think of it as a funnel. So, the top end of the sales process, you’re asking all these informational questions and you’re qualifying him and qualifying him and closing question which qualifies him a bit more, a closing question, which is just really better to say, qualifying questions that get a yes or no answer. That’s a closing question and the best thing to do is ask questions that give you the response that you’re looking for because if you ask the wrong questions, you get the wrong responses, which takes you away from the close. So, it’s important to understand which questions to ask when and how to ask him and you just you narrow the customer down to a sale and that’s what’s called closing questions.

Nick: Right. Yeah, so now I’m down on the funnel that seems to make sense and kind of leading them where you want them to go with the questions. Yeah, that’s good. Let’s move on to the last step in the seven steps that we’ve got for this podcast, which is The Follow-up Process. This sign tells me that this is perhaps, this might be an area where I’m lacking a little bit, so I’m certainly interested to hear what you have to say on this one. Maybe other people as well struggle with the follow-up process. So let’s hear what you’ve got on this.

Tony: Absolutely, Nick. You’re doing [Inaudible 00:24:19]. You can be rest assured a lot of people or you know – there’s a lot of clichés that gets bantered around and people don’t understand them and one of the clichés is the money’s in the back-end. I don’t know if you’ve heard that one before?

Nick: Yeah, I think I have.

Tony: Okay, good. So the money is – so here’s my formula that’s always worked for me over 30 years. It’s 7, 30 and 9. Okay, let me explain it to you. People spend a lot of time say for instance, you’ve got a guy is coming in to give you a quote. He comes there, he measures, he tapes, he draws everything up. He puts together a nice presentation and he leaves it with you and you’re not quite ready to buy. It isn’t part of your will and you want to think about it, which is fine. He spends all that time, and he never ever follows you up. Now, why wouldn’t you do that?

My formula is within 7 days is the first contact. If he’s still not ready to make a decision, you may want to follow up within 30 days and if he still hasn’t made a decision, you want to contact them every 90 days for the rest of your life and this is where your online podcasting and marketing comes into work, because he may not be ready to buy but if you qualified him earlier like I said, you would know that, but having said that, there is still time to budget and follow-up. A lot of people put presentations together and never, ever follow up, or they just follow-up once and then they just forget about it. Okay. More recommendations follow up 7 days, 30 days and 90 days.

And even if they make a purchase, you’d still want to follow-up because that’s where you get, I think statistically 68% of people that aren’t happy with your service, just don’t say anything. It’s some statistic that’s floating out there, so, you want to know that and that’s where you get your writing fans, that’s where you get your clientele base that loves you might sell them something else, because statistically they bought something from you, they’ll buy something else from you.

So, the follow up process, is not only to close the sale, it’s also to get additional sales and a lot of people do fail or when [Inaudible 00:26:45]. All my success comes in following up, following up, following up and if there’s one thing I want to stress, that is where a lot of people will have more success just by simply asking questions [Inaudible 00:26:58]. You forgot to put a price on it, it happens you know or you forgot to give me your phone number, or I lost your phone number, I’m glad that you rang and [Inaudible 00:27:13]. That’s happened to you.

I mean it happened once before in a podcast you know, I couldn’t find your number. So, once again, if I don’t follow up, if I don’t give you all the information that you need and see that you love me and the you’re happy with my service, not only am I going to convert more, I’m going to get more arriving customers, I’m going to get more referrals and you’ll probably going to get more sales in the future and that’s where I’m thinking a lot of people fail on making that one sale and do you have a customer, or do you have a sale, because once, a sale is a sale. If you want success in business, you have to create customers and customers have repeat purchases, and that’s where the follow up in your podcast, in your online marketing and social media really, really fits in to what we’re talking about.

Nick: Great Tony, great tips to finish off. Everything you said there seems really great. Enough said there that my listeners should definitely make some notes on and should try to think about how they can bring that into their process. I like the follow-up every 90 days for the rest of your life because, as you say, I mean they may not be ready to buy now and you should have learned that earlier in the process but they may be ready to buy in 6 months down the track.

It might not be after the first 2 follow-ups, it might be months and months away and I’ve actually had that before where I’ve had somebody that I met at a networking event then eventually became a customer. I’ll see you later or something. On this occasion, I didn’t actually follow-up with him, he just sort of found my email somewhere and re-contacted me but I guess there could be plenty of people who don’t you know, get back in contact but I’m getting into contact with them, I can get that sale that otherwise would have been lost. With that pretty much brings us to the end of the interview. Thanks very much for coming on the show Tony, but before we go, do you have anything you would like to tell our listeners regarding what you’re doing about your course and stuff.

Tony: Sure. What I’ve done is as I’ve said to you earlier. I’ve put together a manual program which is basically, over 30 years is impossible to teach you in 10 minutes. There is a procedure and a technique, it’s a bit like a recipe for success in selling and there’s hundreds and hundreds of techniques that you can get in these solutions. So, what I’ve done and gone through in 30 years, all the sales courses, you have spent tens of thousands of dollars in my knowledge and I’ll collate it in all the very, very best techniques into a workshop, into a stand-alone manual. Now, what I want to offer your customers, or invite your customers to do is, we want to offer this to your customers or to your listeners as a download or a 2 day workshop.

With the 2 day workshop, you will spend two and a half days with me, we’ll go through this step by step. We’ll answer a lot of questions and we will tailor make these solutions to your business. The answers are in here, but without that one-on-one consultation, you might not get it quite right. Having said that, the download will put you far ahead of the game of where you are now. So we want to offer all this to your customers on your webpage as a download, or if they want to talk to us, to talk to me about a 2 day work shop, obviously, I need the numbers to do that.

I can’t do it for one person, so we can take expressions of interest and as we get in half a dozen people that may want to do a sales workshop, we’ll follow you up and we invite you to a workshop later on. Yeah, that’s over 30 years in the making and obviously, the best of the best is in there and I would just invite your customers to have a look at it and if they’re interested in investing there, because I do offer a 100% money back guarantee. If they can’t convert more sales by reading and applying this information, we’ll be more than happy to give them their money back. So, all the details will be in your webpage Nick and invite your customers to contact us through there.

Nick: Great Tony great. Sounds like a really course and downloadable as well with who would want that option. People can head to our website www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au and check out the show notes for episode number 33, which is this episode. I have all the details that Tony just mentioned, how you can find out more information, how you can register your interest for the 2 day workshop. We can also put it on our products page, as a link there. So if you just go to the website, click on the products link, you can find a link to the information as well from there.

Thanks again for coming to the show Tony. It’s been a really insightful chat and there’s certainly some stuff in here that I think I can apply to my own business, so it’s been a really interesting chat this morning so thanks again for coming on the show.

Tony: Thanks Nick, for having me.

Nick: Cheers.

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26Mar

Patrick Moody Interview – Founder of Themematcher.com

Here’s an interview I did with Patrick Moody, the founder of Themematcher.com which is a website that automatically creates a WordPress theme to match an existing website design to help developers save time and the less technical to get a matching blog without having to tinker with code.

 

Patrick also gave me a quick demo of how Theme Matcher works:

 

25Mar

25th March – News & Events

This Week

Next Week

Have a good Easter everyone!

19Mar

Social Startup 48 Adelaide 2013

This is a short video interview with Suhit Anantula, one of the organisers of the Social Startup 48 event in Adelaide.

Event details: ss48.org/adelaide/

Date: 26-28th April 2013
Time:

Friday 6pm-9pm
Saturday 9am-9pm
Sunday 9am-9pm
Location:

TACSI HQ Function Space
Level 1, 279 Flinders St, Adelaide

Application: Participation is based on an application process
Applications close at 11.59pm, Friday 5 April 2013
Click here to apply
Tickets: $70 per person
Available to successful applicants only
Bring: Laptop, charger, notepad/pen, snacks, water, business cards
Included: Dinner on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, snacks, drinks, tea & coffee

18Mar

18th March – News & Events

This Week

Next Week

News

See all of the upcoming events at our calendar: www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au/events

14Mar

Ep#32: Creating a Customer Community

Customers as Community – what does it mean, how will it benefit you and how you do it

In this episode I chat to John Baxter, communities and collaboration expert, about the concept of treating your customers as a community and some of the methods of building and fostering that community.

We cover

  • What do you mean by ‘customers as community’
  • What are the benefits of thinking of your customers as more of a community
  • What are some of the tools, platforms and strategies we can use to create these communities
  • Collaborate to Innovate events

Links

Video

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MldvM_Gb-uE” width=”560″ height=”315″] [spoiler title=”Transcription” open=”0″ style=”1″]

Nick: Welcome back to the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. I’m your host, Nick Morris and this week, we’re talking with John Baxter about Customers as Community.

Good day John, welcome to the show.

John: Hi Nick.

Nick: John’s joining us from Interstate today. He’s actually from Adelaide but he’s in Melbourne today, is it John?

John: Yep, in Melbourne.

Nick: Great. The topic we’re talking about, as I said, is Customers as Community, sort of a new way at looking at your customers but I’ll get John to explain a bit about that in a minute.

First of all John, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and a bit about what you do.

John: These days, I’m setting up the business, real ones about realizing the potential in changing the way that we work, which is, mostly, I’ve realized about tapping into potential networks. So, networks at the community level, supporting community groups, networks around organizations, say around business and customer networks and that sort of thing and between businesses [Audio distorted 00:01:29], so things like giving back and collaboration, cross hours and [Inaudible 00:01:30].

Nick: How about you tell us a little bit about this topic, Customers as Community. What do we mean by this, so what do you mean by this?

John: Well, I sat down this afternoon and think about it, and you’d have read Tribes by Seth Godin?

Nick: I haven’t actually read it but I’m pretty familiar with the concepts.

John: Well, Tribes are more or less, the same thing as community and in some context people use the word tribe slightly differently, and often a tribe is much larger and much less connected than a community but most of the things that Seth Godin was talking about in his book about engaging customers and leadership and that sort of thing, is pretty much is the same as with community.

Community, you might look at a more closely knitted group and tribes can be very, sort of desperate and people acting as individuals, community tends to be more inter personal interaction but then I know Seth Godin also talks about those sorts of things in Tribes and bringing customs together, and tribes and followers together so a lot of those ideas are pretty familiar to a lot of people.

Nick: Yeah absolutely. And I guess these days with technology and social media and all those sorts of things it’s become much easier I guess, to create these communities and to think about your customers in that way. Did these ideas sort of exist before the internet for instance?

John: I don’t know, to be honest. I know it certainly would have been, it wouldn’t necessarily be that productive to think about communities, that custom is because of the relative difficulty of engaging with them and being aware of their inter personal connections, I guess. It’s no use having a community of customers if you can’t see a type of connection and [Inaudible 00:03:34] and being a community if all you can do is put up billboards or something like that and broadcast that to them, then it’s just not that productive and I think that fostering communities means [Audio distorted 00:03:48] community. So it might be a relatively new concept, it’s relatively new to me. [Audio Distorted 00:03:55].

Nick: Cool. And what are some of the benefits of creating communities and thinking of your customers as communities?

John: It comes down to the way that target brings its net, organizations, companies, whatever it might be, it’s a vehicle for getting something done and if you look at your organization, you look at your company and you take the mission of that organization, fostering your customers as community enables you to involve them in the pursuit of that mission, of that purpose, enables them to step into participating in that, whether it’s through sharing information or contributing to your product development or whatever it might be. And also has benefits like customer attention, improve customer loyalty and things like that, that thrive on a customer level, and customers to keep in good customers. But also enable you to tap into them as a resource for doing things. So whether you’re running a social enterprise and your business is about raising awareness, then it is your customer community and help spread word about it.

Nick: Yeah. I think that makes a lot sense, especially trying to leverage your community for raising awareness as you just said and also the research or the product development idea that you can draw on the feedback from your community or your community of customers to get their sort of thoughts if you’re thinking of going in this direction or that direction or what do you actually want. That perhaps can be a difficult thing to determine. I was talking with Trevor Glen about sort of Lean Methodologists last week. We were talking about its important to do that customer research and make sure that what you’re delivering or trying to deliver is actually matching up with what your target market wants. I guess if you have this community well set up, that makes that process much easier.

John: Yeah. And especially if what you’re engaging the community is something that has a co-creation element to it, then it’s important that you understand their context and that they might be involved in the creation. So something like, Nike is a really good example of a company that is really supporting its community and its products. I mean, I’m not a Nike customer myself but I hear about them and the work they’re doing with their apps and their bit-git things and all that sort of stuff. And all those things just would not be possible whatsoever without the cooperation with their customers. So, it is not just about understanding how you can feed that information back into your development of products also being a [Audio Distorted 00:06:58].

Nick: Great. So let’s move on with what are some of the tools that people can use to create these communities and the platforms?

John: The sort of number 1 tools are being able to reach out and communicate in whatever form that might be, then number 2 is the social media platforms of any variety that’s where you’re customers are talking to one another because that’s what drives the community element, obviously being able to engage them and get customers engaged in your brand, in your mission, in your vision. And then number 2 enabling them to talk to one another.

I did a workshop with a friend earlier this week and as he put it, using social media intelligently, a big element of that is understanding the conversations that your customers want to have to one another, with one another and providing them the platform and the means to have those conversations. And that’s really what fostering community is all about, so it’s conversations, drive relationships to bring people close together around the mission and the next step is your brand in the business.

Nick: That’s an interesting part about the customers talking amongst themselves without you necessarily being there. Is this something you want to try and guide to make sure it’s to do with your products, or do you want to see what are the conversations that they might want to talk about first and sort of let that happen and help that or do you really want to try and make it more related to your business and your product or is there a way of doing that?

John: There’s really no need or purpose to restrain conversations to being about your business but you do want to, I guess keep the conversation in line with your vision I guess, and your purpose and potentially, depending on the form also can be in line with your values. So I mean, customers having conversation about your business, online say on Facebook, if they’re discussing your brand, associating with what you do with that mission, that purpose and that spread then that’s very productive. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a forum, you probably want to be more aware of customers that are acting inappropriately, whereas on Facebook, it’s only acting appropriately, mentioning your brand really doesn’t make that much of a difference to you, whereas on a forum, you have sort of have a responsibility for that conversation in a way that you’re doing otherwise but in general, anything that’s the sort of conversation that people want to have with one another around your community, around your brand, that’s brings people together and targets that community, is a good conversation pattern.

Nick: Yeah, that makes sense. You mentioned forums just a second there. From my experience, forums are really difficult. If we’re talking about forums that are hosted on a website, like a discussion forum, that can be really difficult to kick off. Is it a good idea for businesses to look at these forum ideas first or should they maybe release it to social media to sort of test it out first then maybe to a forum later?

John: Definitely don’t jump into trying to create platforms and bring people to platforms unless there’s a solid reason for it. It comes back to creating platforms and supporting your customers to have the conversations that they want to have and if your customers don’t want to go to a new forum, if they’re not that interested that they want to have conversations on a new platform without the customers, then really that’s no benefit to anyone in trying to start something up.

If on the other hand, you’ve got, I don’t know [Inaudible 00:10:55], they might not have forums but they seem to have a really strong customer and community base, they’d be the sort of institutions that would be another value added, supporting your customers to talk to one another about their habits and their achievements and that sort of thing. That’s the sort of conversations that customers in community are going to be interested in not travelling to another platform.

Outside of that, you wouldn’t want to start something until you have caught strong conversations going through other platforms like Facebook and that sort of thing, which in all other ways, you take note of what forums used to do sort of like ten years ago and anyway, and a pretty good enabling rich conversations without the need to support people somewhere else.

Nick: Yeah, I think that makes sense. You don’t want to force people to a new platform which may in fact lead to them not embracing the community aspect when you can engage with them on an existing platform like Facebook, when they’re already used to using that platform.

One thing I would sort of add, as perhaps a cautionary thing or something that people should think about is that you want to perhaps build in some kind of, another way of contacting people in case your Facebook page gets shut down or something like that, like a mailing list or some other way that you can connect with them so that you don’t lose all your hard work if something happens. Because Facebook, as big and sort of strong as it is, there’s a possibility that they could shut down a page or they could fall out of favor in the future, so you want to have some safety nets built in.

John: Yep. And then I have figured out, you’re probably a small fish as far as Facebook is concerned so they do something to you and you don’t like it, there’s probably not that much you’ll be able to do about it.

Another thing, as far as forums and independent platforms and that sort of thing, another thing that has come up is, if you’re hosting a platform for other people’s conversation, in general, you’re responsible for those conversations. So, that means you need to actively manage that in a way that [Inaudible 00:13:14] places like Facebook, you really don’t. If people start getting rebellious and that sort of thing on your website, you really need to crack down. It’s a resourcing issue in a way that conversations elsewhere are not.

Nick: Yeah, that’s another good point as well about the platform. What about offline interactions, perhaps events. Does this also fit into the model of communities for customers?

John: Definitely, sure. While the challenges would be having the density, maybe even a place to support face-to-face interaction and also whether or not that’s getting too far away from your core business. So you really want to be involved in it. You can do little things to support people, coming together, whether it’s a meeting you have on an online platform, supporting people to connect online and just making it easier to find people locally and that sort of thing but then at the same time, you have organizations like Yoke, which do a really good job of putting on events which try connecting millions and it’s a big part of the raising it, people really dig it and Yoke is [Inaudible 00:14:31] contains it, because they’ve fostered that community out of that [Inaudible 00:14:37] community with marketing things like face to face events.

Nick: That’s interesting. Events is something, I’m really interested in and I haven’t really sort of cracked it so I came to ask someone like yourself about what your thoughts are for someone like and me who’s in the marketing space, having events with small business owners and stuff like that, that’s really my target market so there’s a direct reason for that, whereas for another business that I have purchased which is B to C or even another B to B business, it may not necessarily be beneficial to run events. So I guess the key is making sure there’s actually a reason for doing it and not sort of just doing it.

John: If you can run an event that enables your customers to have the conversations that they want to have and do what they want to do, then that’s sort of what it comes back to.

Nick: Great. You mentioned that once you sort of get this community going or even to get it going, it can take quite a lot of work, and investment of time and investment of money to sort of promote it, especially the time thing is something that a lot of small business owners are going to be struggling with. Are there any good, best practices or tools or ways that you can minimize the work required to try and get something going and to maintain it?

John: I guess the main thing is just to be aware of community building and the people and conversations outside your business as part of your regular social media, communication strategy and that doesn’t necessarily require any more of it than just being conscious about it.

The second bit would be not to push it, but if you can tap into energies that your customers have, the interests that they have and pull on that and support them rather than trying to push it and get people to engage online, or engage face to face for that matter. If you’re pushing people to engage, then that requires a lot more resources and I guess the full method of identifying where there’s energy and doing that later on.

A change of techniques and specifics, because it’s so broad and a number of platforms have different methods of engagement, it’s hard to make any overall statements on that. The philosophy for efficiently using your time to get rewards and to generate good community engagement is to pull on the energy.

Nick: Do you have any tips for how businesses can discover where these existing interactions are happening and how people do want to interact? Is it just by sort of looking using these tools out there like social mention tools which you can see where people are mentioning your brand or related topics? Is that sort of the way to go or is there anything else?

John: I’m not really very familiar with social media tools that much, as sort of the concepts and that sort of thing, but if you do have a presence online, the first place to start would be the immediate conversations around that. So, who’s talking on the Facebook page, who’s commenting on the blog, all that sort of thing, the biggest majority of discussions around your brand in terms of tools to identify what’s outside of that, that’s [Inaudible 00:18:17].

Nick: No that’s fine. There are lots of people in the social media space, I guess, who can talk about those sorts of issues. I’m going to move away from the topic a little bit, and talk about Collaborate To Innovate, which is an event that you helped to organize. How long has it been going for now?

John: Wayne Darby and Vanessa Picker started it up. I think maybe about 12 months now, when we first met in Adelaide. Yes probably about 12 months, and they since moved on doing other things and so it’s now being 2 months of this year, since it started back this year that I’ve been meeting up and it’s going pretty strong.

Nick: Yeah, I’ve been along to just those 2 months so, I have nothing to compare it to but it seems to be going well from my perspective as well. Can you just tell us a little bit about what it is, exactly?

John: It’s a meet-up group, a regular monthly meet-up, people will meet face to face and a space where people want to take action. We’d provide speakers and a little bit of an excuse for people to come along and basically it’s a community-building sort of thingp providing people the opportunity to come along and have conversations they want to have and meet like-minded people.

Nick: Great, and given that you’ve only sort of leading it for 2 months as you say but are there any techniques or community-building ideas that you’ve applied to this group that someone else, we could learn from? What are some of the ideas for growing into group, is there anything specific you’ve been doing?

John: I suppose I’ve applied, I was involved with Lehman’s in this last year, sort of regularly having conversations about it and how it looks for a little while. Most of the concepts and that sort of thing meant to me [Inaudible 00:20:27]. One of the obvious sort of barriers that we’ve looked at in the last 3 or 4 months, particularly in the change over. Lehman was forming a team to support the return rate moving forward, which is getting into more of the details of this sort of community building, community cultivation practice.

I tried a few like this, but it’s about providing people, nurturing their steps, closer into the center of the community, providing open invitations for people to come along have discussions about future and to come along and join the team and have conversations about our week as it should be. [Inaudible 00:21:09] instead of being me and one or two other people actually to run it. We now have a team of about 5 or 6, fair enough and we are able to contribute, able to bring up ideas and connections and really a big core that supports the community as it reaches out and provide strong culture and make sure we have a good community of decent people and that’s the sort of thing.

Once you get into, know the details of thriving communities, having a structure that these people sort of, inner runs I guess and can simply [Inaudible 00:21:50] people that are more engaged who support the community. So, on the forum online, you’ll have the champions and get your posting of the day and then people would [File Distorted 00:22:01]. So we’ve just sort of made an effort to give people the opportunity to step into the middle of the support group.

Nick: Interesting. How often, that’s monthly usually or do you have some other sort of social events during the month as well, don’t you?

John: [Audio Breaks 00:22:20] And the more the way we’re looking at the moment is main marketing events and then the social greets for next week, so, if people want to catch up or if they can’t make the main monthly event, that’s just sort of their second reach [Inaudible 00:22:33] having a view and we’re also involved in a conference, I’m helping organize a couple other partners and community groups. It starts next month and that’s sort of the half [Inaudible 00:22:47].

Nick: Great. And if anyone’s interested in getting the dates and things for that, you can head to our website, webmarketingadelaide.com.au/events. I’ve got a calendar up there with all sorts of business-related events happening in Adelaide and I’ll make sure I’ll put up Collaborate to Innovate on the calendar there, but you can also go direct to the meet up group which is where you [Inaudible 00:23:16] the events from Adelaide.

John: Yeah the URL for that is meetup.com/C2IADL. Nice and easy.

Nick: Too easy, I’ll also put a link in our show notes on the website so people can click right through.

Just before we finish up, you wrote a book, A Book in a Week, I think it was late last year? Can you tell us a little bit about that project? First of all, what was the book about?

John: Well, the topic of the book was Openness. That’s something I sort of thought of pounced on in a few days before the book [Inaudible 00:23:58] wrote it. It wasn’t sounding out right because necessarily, a thought need to be written, sort of a bit of a back story on how to plan to write a book by the end of this year, by the end of 2013 and I went to Start Up Weekend at the end of last year, Start Up Week Adelaide and one of the teams sat down and wrote a book in about a day and a half. So, seeing there we had a year and a half timeline to write a book, while other people are writing a book in a day and a half and I thought, well it’s a bit silly if my first takes me a year and a half, I should punch out something a bit quicker.

So, I decided, well I will just set aside a week and before the week starts, I’ll work out what I’m going write about and you know, start a book. So I’m thinking about sort of some of my experience in networks, and collaboration and that sort of thing and what haven’t been covered. I found that the concept of openness and how that applies to working in general and connections and collaboration and that sort of thing. I really focused on that as a topic, this is what I can see and this is what it means to you and some tips about doing that. So, that came about that kind of topic and 7 days later, we have a book.

Nick: Great. Did you find yourself able to just knock it out? What were any challenges you faced?

John: Beyond the main challenge was having 7 days of relatively unstructured time that I was trying to feel – it’s very hard to sit at 8 o’clock in the morning and go, okay I’ll have two hours today, I’m going to write a whole lot of book, but not having milestones and not having a sense of exactly where that should be and [Inaudible 00:25:37], I spent a little bit of time actually procrastinating and just mulling around, writing, un-writing, rewriting, not doing all that much. Realistically, what I wrote could have been done in that 4 days, maybe 3 if I was really productive. So, that sort of an indication of how the went. It was 45 what pages in A4 which should be 60 or 70 in a book size, so it wasn’t too bad, but still a week’s work because I hadn’t planned it that well, and partly I think because I was working alone and didn’t have somebody else to telling me I should have written more by lunch time and that sort of thing. I could have gotten a lot more done, so that was the biggest challenge for me.

Nick: Interesting. I think just even going back to the Lean Methodologies Idea which I just talked about with Trevor Glen seems like a very lean way to test the idea of writing a book from the process perspective.

John: To be honest, the book is not that good. I mean, it’s somewhat interesting and I brought some interesting things up, but the good book will be Version 2 and the book that is really worth reading, will probably be a version 3. Version 1 is just a minimum viable product and so, along those lines. If I wasn’t embarrassed with it, it wouldn’t have taken too long. I’m a little bit embarrassed with it so I think it probably took me a lot of time.

Nick: Perfect. Perhaps I’ll hold off for Version 3 then before I …

John: Version 2 will be okay, worth looking into.

Nick: Fantastic, I will do that. I think we’ll finish off the interview there. Thanks very much for coming on the show and having this chat. It’s been interesting and I always like to delve into interesting people’s minds and you’re definitely one of those people.

If people want to find out more about what you’re doing and perhaps connect with you, what’s the best way to do that?

John: Checking out jsbaxter.com. That’s S for Slade, which is my middle name and there’s links from that page to other various things that are going on.

Nick: Fantastic. I’ll put those links again in the show notes for anyone who wants to go check you out there and thanks again for coming on the show.

John: Thank you Nick.

Nick: That brings us to the end of another podcast. For more information about this episode and all our others, head to our website www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au.

[/spoiler]
11Mar

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07Mar

Ep#31: Lean Methodologies for your Startup or Small Business

The basics of lean principles, how to apply them to your business and some mistakes to avoid – interview with Trevor Glen

In this episode I interview Trevor Glen, an Adelaide based software consultant from Sarugo about his experiences with lean principles and methodologies and how they can be applied to new businesses and new marketing initiatives.

We cover;

  • The ‘Lean Startup’ book and approach
  • Who can benefit from the approach
  • Some not-so-lean mistakes to avoid
  • The concept of ‘minimum viable product’?
  • How can the MVP concept be used to improve product development processes?

Mentions / Links;

Video from this interview;

 

Transcript

[spoiler title=”Click to reveal/hide the transcription”]

Nick: Welcome back to the Web marketing Adelaide Podcast. I’m your host Nick Morris and today, we are talking about Lean Start-up Methodologies. We have a special guest Trevor Glen, he’s an Adelaide based software consultant from Sorugo. Good day Trevor how you doing?

Trevor: Yeah, good day Nick, yourself.

Nick: Pretty good! It’s good to have you along for this video interview for my Podcast listeners to listen to the audio. I am now doing a lot of video interviews, so if you head to our website at www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au, you can actually see the video version of this interview, which would also be up on YouTube and I can see Trevor there ready to go so, I think we’ll just launch into this by – I’ll get you Trevor to just explain to us a little bit about yourself, what you have done to get you up to this point and what are you working on right now?

Trevor: Yeah sure, thanks, thanks for having me on today! My background has always been a software engineer at Motorola for a number of years and when they decided to shut down the software center, we had a team there that worked pretty well together, so we thought we’d start a software business. Along the way, we found a number of things that we could do well together as a team, some failings that we had as a team as well but most importantly what we’ve come across over the past few years, and specifically the outcome of the process of this lean start-up idea, and how a lot of the things that we did along the path that, perhaps at the time seemed like the right idea would have if I’d known about the lean start-up back then would have been a lot better.

Basically, we started a software company, from that, we decided to try and develop a product, and that product that we developed is an online backup solution that is distributed backup solution. So, rather than have a single server towards the back-up, they distributed around the network. So, utilizing spare how dispersed to a community of users. We made it, as a simply, made a lot of – we did a lot of great stuff, software that we made is fantastic software, then in terms of marketing tree strategy is where the lean start-up really, in my opinion, hasn’t nailed, the process that Eric Reese describes in his book as fantastic and I think a lot of it applies to what we could have done perhaps a little bit better as well.

Nick: Great! That was pretty good, just to expand on that, so the lean start-up sort of, lean start-up is a book by Eric Reese – I haven’t actually read it yet. It’s sitting over there on my dresser, that I need to read but it is a set of methodologies. Did he sort of invent them or did they exist before and he sort of popularized it? How did that fit in?

Trevor: From my understanding of the background and certainly, I’m not an expert on lean start up, it’s just my own reading of the book and my own understanding of the lean principles where I believed developed at Toyota in Japan and in relation to manufacturing. So, really what it is about it is cutting out a lot in the fat in the manufacturing process to ensure that there is minimum amount of waste and minimum amount of processing that occurs prior to them actually doing the manufacturing. So, in that regard, I think what Eric saw and what he’s applied and what others have applied even before him and didn’t perhaps give it that name, was a way of applying that to a start-up of a business and that can apply. I think it applies really, really well to software businesses and especially web start-ups. They can apply across the board as well.

Nick: Great! Let’s move on and start off the topic with, why don’t you explain a little bit about what the lean start-up approach is and what it is about?

Trevor: The way that I look at it, I guess my interpretation of the book and certainly, you say you haven’t read it and I’m sure most people haven’t to date but I definitely recommend you read it. It’s a great, it’s not a long book but it’s very well written and you can get the concepts pretty quickly. Lean start-up is really about developing what your minimum viable product is. What’s the thing that you can get out to the market as quickly as possible to start either making money ideally, but at the very least, learning what it is that your market needs before you can get to the point of selling it. So, a minimum viable product I was reminded – actually just this morning, I was watching the dropbox story, which is a great example of lean start-up, of an application of the lean start-up.

They’re actually talking in there, the founder was talking in the video about the fact that a lot of the lean start-up stuff that they did, some of it was delivered and some of it they actually just accidentally come across as well but in there, his minimum viable product was actually a video that he posted on Hacker News site, where he basically did a screen grab of him using the technology, using his product and invited comments from people and straight away he was interacting with the market and finding out from the market what it is that they would willing to buy.

So, what they bought [Inaudible 00:06:15] is getting a product out there as soon as you can and then from that, following the process of building something, measuring what you’re doing and learning from it. So, upfront you want to ask yourself some key questions. What is it that people gonna buy? What is it that people might buy that are in my space and start investigating that, and that’s not desk work, that’s actually putting something out there and getting people to, either put their email address online – another thing is having a landing page where people can actually go in and say yes, I am interested in this product when you launch it.

By doing that, you can actually see that there is an appetite for your product out there in the market. Having a landing page is where you are actually having different types of wording and finding out what it is that your market, the type of language they use as well. But at every step along the way, you want to be building something, measuring what it is that you’re building, measuring that and learning from it and in the book they talk about that, that in the early stages of a company, it’s not actually about the number of dollars that you have in but those sort of learning points that you have.

So, what is it that you have learnt along the way, obviously it all needs to turn into a business eventually where you are making money but along the way, it is actually you can be showing progress, not by how much you have sold but by how much you have learned and how closely do you rely to having something that is of interest to the market and what they are willing to pay for.

Nick: That makes good sense. Seems to be concepts that every business should follow but is it, specifically for technologies type businesses, start-up businesses? I mean, you mentioned that it can apply to other businesses too, can it apply to every business, in your opinion?

Trevor: Look, I think there are facets that can apply to every business. I think the build measure learn, sort of idea can definitely apply to probably every business in some way. The value of it to a technology start up of course is that you can get a web page up in 5 minutes. You can change the content of that web page in 30 seconds, so your time to market for and time to be able to react is a lot quicker than say, a manufacturing business, where if you were trying to get out and a build a widget and find out if people are interested in that widget, even just the idea of getting to a prototype stage where you might deliver a prototype to 20 different people and get their opinion on it.

That’s a lot costlier than getting the next Instagram created website for example. It’s a lot easier to do than software and technology. So, specifically software in the world, so our industry in that regard could be a better place to make the most of the ideas of lean start up but also – I think what they talk about in the book is that start-up doesn’t necessarily mean someone working out of their garage. The idea of this, it is really about a being a lean entrepreneur, an entrepreneur can exist within larger companies too you know.

The term entrepreneur is usually given to those sorts of people and those entrepreneurs can actually, given the right structure go out and do this process within a large company as well so if you think about start-up not necessarily in terms of a business but in terms of an idea and it’s about innovation and about applying those principles to taking that innovation to market in a way that actually gets the most customers quicker, quickest is really the end go.

Nick: That would make quite a bit of sense there as well. I guess the other thing with the web is that makes the measurement path easier.

Trevor: Exactly! That is exactly right, again going back to manufacturing example and giving someone a widget measuring that is hard. They play with it for an hour or 2 hours, they give it to their son and they play with it for 3 hours and measuring that is a lot harder with a physical device that as a whole industry around that process whereas you are exactly right on the web with tools like Google analytics and even tools like un-bounce is I’ve come across recently as a landing page tool, and there is a lot of them out just Google on the front but you can find that information.

Nick: Yep, definitely it is one of the advantages of the web. When I sort of first heard about this lean start-up approach, lean start-up methodologies, I was actually hearing about it from Podcast and things, whether talking about more from an established business who is launching a new product. I just want to get your thoughts on that, that its not just for starting a new business but it can also be used for an established business who’s launching a new product or perhaps some other new aspect.

Trevor: Definitely I think, to be honest the way that I see this and it’s sort of an innovation can be simply even a new process of how you do what you do. Following the lean start-up methodologies is a great way to do that, and it really is just about testing in a hypothesis in the market to see if it is actually gonna stick, if you want to put it another way and that can apply to any new business, to any new product, to any new process, to any new service. Any of those can take some of that lean start-up ideas and apply it to their business.

There’s probably going to be eco-system of support around that. In the book, they talk about , I think it’s Intuit is the name of the company. I might be wrong on that but basically, I think they’re pretty large software vendor in the U.S. I think it counts as a top software and they actually, they might be as big as 15,000 people. Whenever they bring a new product to market, follow this lean start-up idea or methodology because it’s a great way to bring a product to market.

So, around that, their management structure support and understand that there has got to be some give and take around dollars. It can’t be just all about next quarter’s results, excuse me because what you’re trying to do is get something out of the market and get some feedback around what it should be doing before delving too deep into product development.

Nick: Yeah, great! We will move on now. You actually recently gave a talk, I think it was at the lean start-up meet up in Adelaide and you wrote a blog post about some of the not so much mistakes you made but your business in which we want to perhaps talk about a few of them. The two I’ve sort of singled out, that I thought would be interesting were, one, listen to your market and two, expect failure. So, could you just talk to us a little a little about the listen to your market aspect.

Trevor: It comes back to the build measure learn thing. One of the things that I think the mistakes we made is that we thought we knew what our market wanted and went out and developed a fantastic piece of software that sold for that imagined market and as we got it out we realized that, there was a market for that, maybe they weren’t willing to pay as much as we needed to charge or they weren’t willing to use it in the way we thought they would use it, so, listen to your market. In my mind, it’s really about the fact that you actually need to be out there talking to the market every step along the way.

Don’t invest too much time in building this wonderful software or wonderful system that nobody’s ever gonna use. If you don’t know what the market wants and what the market’s willing to pay for, then it’s absolutely irrelevant how good your software is and really, that is the key part of that listen to your market, is to not only listen to them but actually explicitly go out there and solicit at their feedback as early as you possibly can. We did do some of this through you know betas and sure enough, but we weren’t asking the right questions.

The questions we are asking them about the market was, does this product work for you? Are there any bugs, when really what we should have been asking was would you be willing to pay money for this? And at that point what’s missing from it that would make you want to fork over your cash? That’s really, at the end of the day, for business, that’s what matters, is people paying for it not how many users that you have.

Nick: Yeah, absolutely and I don’t know if that thing relates to it is often described that people can say that they will buy a product but actually buying a product is a different sort of thing. So, if you can, I don’t know, are there any strategies that you are aware of where you can kind of bridge that gap between what people will say and what they will actually do?

Trevor: A great way to do it, obviously, it depends on your product, is to ask for a credit card number, so even if you don’t have a product to say or that your you know you’ve got a product that you don’t think it’s exactly 100% there, is to actually ask for a credit card, is to get people to pay for it now. What they are paying for and know that is something you can test, so are they paying for 2 years subscription or are they paying to get into the beta program? That’s one way around it. It is a tough one, it’s one that I don’t think there’s a catch or a solution for but it really, I think if you are solving their problems along the way, one would hope that the money comes with that.

So, if you are actually solving a market need, yeah you’d hope that eventually, that would relate into dollars, and so if you’ve got that right and you listened to your market and you know what is that they want, then you can find that out and then you can do some testing around that as well. So, even if you get the point to the product, the product will point where you are, yes, we are happy with this as a product in the market. You can then see a different product points and so okay, let’s try it at $300 a month and see what sort of results you get and using that information, we’ll be able to determine what the sweet spot for that particular market.

Nick: Yeah, that seems to work out for businesses when they’re not, before that when they are trying to speak to the market. What’s a good way to get out there and do that? I’ve heard mentioned before that you should do lots of cold calling to your target market and to get them on the phone and talk to them about their problem so you can really understand it. Is that a good strategy do you think or are there any others?

Trevor: I think it is. I think, certainly like occasionally like Adelaide is quite good in some look outs because getting access to some of the people is key decision makers in companies can be relatively simple because of the size of the network here in Adelaide. So, everybody knows everybody as you would know, so eventually, it doesn’t take you too long if you want to talk to the head of XYZ or the head of this branch. Obviously, that’s important the market you are trying to enter into, so, having those conversations is really, really important and especially if you want to try and find someone who can help you to develop the product to help you be your channel to the market.

Having early conversations with those sorts of people, and people who are actually talking to the market you are selling to day in and day out. So, they might be selling a product that’s similar to what you are proposing, maybe not a competitor but something that is complimentary. If you go out there and talk to them and find out because they will know you would hope, what their customers paying points are and be able to cover off a large set of customers with potentially one conversation. Look, other ways you can do it as well are surveys, again come back to the dropbox example with the video .

If your audience saw you know that you need to get earlier doctors on board, find the areas on the web where those people are having conversations. If you are selling, you’re selling something that relates to over clocking your motherboard well, there is an over-clockers website, a forum there, so go talk to those people there. So, being smart about it and using the internet to do, and social media is another great example of that and might get informed coming to social media in that regard as well just a bit different flavor of it, but going out there and using and finding out what your customers are talking, even if you are just watching the conversations that they are having there, you will find out a lot about what their talking points are by linking groups, now Google Plus communities, these sorts of environments now, utilize those to find out what it is that your market is saying so… It does depend on what your market is if you obviously if you sell consumer product, versus say an enterprise product will be different communication style. So, is and they would communicate in different ways and will have to ensure that you use the language of those different communities but generally find out what is your market talks and get involved in those conversations.

Nick: That makes sense, obviously. Another thing I’ve seen and I think you sort of briefly touched on it earlier on in the interview, was you can get these sort of email, captcha things that you put up on a website and then you just drive traffic to it perhaps by adwords or some other paid mechanism and it might be like a simple question related to some sort of product that you’re thinking of developing and then the idea is, what kind of conversion can you get to people putting in their email, address which is you know it’s not a payment but an email address is something that’s semi-valuable. So, people don’t just give it out. Yeah so at least you’ve got some sort of investment there. I guess that’s another thing that you can do. Have you had any experience, any ideas on using paid traffic?

Trevor: Another book that I would recommend that is along the same lines of the lean start-ups in terms of thinking about your business in a different ways is The Four Hour Work Week. I definitely recommend that as another book to read, it talks a lot about paid search and setting up a niche and I think really paid search is best search for a niche. Without product at one stage there, we had online back-up. As it turned, you’re looking at business, probably a couple years ago now, you are looking at $6 a click. So, if you are selling a product that is $60 a year and at $60 a click, you’re gonna need more than 1 in 10 people to sign up from clicking on your ads.

So, that might be an expensive way for you to get more traffic, however if you’ve got a niche product that people still search for but it’s not highly auctioned or what’s the term, bid on in the Google adwords infrastructure, then you’ve got a better chances of getting some conversions happening there and that’s but obviously, it has to make sense and that’s where you’ve got to make sure that you marry up your adwords content with the content on your website as well so, so definitely it can work. I haven’t personally been involved in [Inaudible 00:23:19] that have done it successfully but again, if you could read Four Hour Work Week, there’s some great examples in there of people who had just done that.

Nick: Yeah I just thought reach back and pull out the book of The Four Hour Work Week, which I do have, so yeah glad to say that I’ve actually started this one and like the lean start-up and sort of so good, it’s really quite well written and interesting. Let’s move on to the second point here, expect failure, can you elaborate on this little bit?

Trevor: In some ways, that’s the, our background as software engineers working for a large software organization quality was of the outmost and releasing anything that had a bug in it was a big no no, for a various reasons especially at that point in time. Once you got a mobile phone or a base station out in the wall, having to do patches on those to fix bugs isn’t that easy and could be quite costly if you can imagine a phone recall for an organization to bring back a mobile phone to be able to re-flash it and to fix a bug, is just not gonna happen. So, I get it, for an organization like that makes sense, but we probably took some of that, took too much of that methodology, applied it to our business where a back-up product has to work, absolutely no doubt about it but it has to work. But, it has to work for the things that people will need it to work for, so, getting it out there it doesn’t have to be perfect.

If people expect that things that gonna be wrong with software, sadly enough, it says if that is the case but what’s more important is that you put something out there knowing that something’s gonna fail because you wouldn’t have thought of every single moment that somebody’s gonna use your software. Again, if you’re doing a consumer sort of solution, I guarantee it will get it out there and someone will use it in some way that you never even thought of you know. They are still running Windows 95 or they’re trying to install it on their laptop, that’s only got 1 megabyte of space left, you know.

So, things like that that you’ve, you can’t even, you probably wouldn’t even think of before you released your software but what’s so important is knowing that’s gonna fail and being prepared for dealing with various failures. So, being responsive to people’s concern and one probably important thing from my personal perspective is owning up to them, not trying to hide the fact that this software has failures, and then once you’ve found those problems, releasing often and that is another important part of, I guess, the lean start-up is that you are always releasing new versions of your software, getting it out there, so that people can experience the new version and fixing bugs in that time.

Nick: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, I think that last point about owning up to them is something probably certain business owners, me included struggle with sometimes because you’re sort of so invested in it and you feel like it’s you know part of you so almost saying that it’s failing is almost a thing against you personally and it’s difficult to own up sometimes, having that at front of mine you should always be owning up and getting onto it quickly and making sure you give them good customer service.

Trevor: I think an important, there’s some cultural things that exist in Australia to around value. Australians generally whether be two puppy or whatever is it we’re not great on trying things and expecting something of it to fail. So, culturally, you have to deal with that as well and you have to battle your own internal feelings about this as well as others in the community or why are you doing this? It probably gonna fail anyway and that relates not only just to lean start-up and entrepreneurship, generally in Australia and it’s get them a soap box over here. In my opinion in Australia, this we are well placed, pretty better than many other places in the world to be entrepreneurs. The way that our system works where you can lose all of your money on a venture and still be able to feed the kids, have a house over here, have a roof over your head and still be able get health care, is better than 99% of the world. I think it’s a fact that we need to embrace that failure, embrace the fact that we are going to fail in certain things and recognize that when that happens you are actually in the best place in the world for failure to occur and not be end up living up in a car as we’ve seen happen for people who are not even entrepreneurs in the States and all around the world over the last few years with the financial issues.

People who thought they had a stable job, lose the job, can’t find any more work and end up out on the streets. So, in Australia [Inaudible 00:28:46] we’ve avoided most of that at a micro level. At a micro level, I think that people would just accept that they can and will fail at something and just have to go because it is so much more satisfying than just doing the 9 to 5.

Nick: Yeah absolutely, and a concept that I think relates well to this I’ve heard described, this fail forward, so trying to make sure when you do fail, you actually learning something from it, so you can re-apply that to your business or change something or fix something.

Trevor: Yeah definitely and I think it’s one of the things that, one of the reasons that I did the blog post and why I’m more than happy to spend the time with you today is because, there are some of those things, the mistakes that we made, I don’t want others to make those mistakes. So, I think, we’ve, a lot of what is happening in Adelaide in the last few years you know Silicon Beach, these co-working groups that they are setting up, there is a real vibe around entrepreneurship and start-ups now in Adelaide that didn’t exist in the past. So, I think it’s important that we all do work together to pool our learnings, so that we can all collectively grow this opportunity of Australia being, in Adelaide, be a great place to have a start-up.

Nick: Yeah, it really is interesting. I’ve been going to various events lately and through another project, I’ve just started what I’m gonna be interviewing various entrepreneurs in Adelaide. It’s really interesting thing that the community grow and concepts like, what we’re talking about today, like the lean start-up methodologies I think are really gonna be important for people who have that energy and have that desire to start something but want to make sure that you’re doing it in the right way.

So you’re not, it’s not much of a waste and so you listen to your market as you’ve said and coming up with solutions that are gonna actually solve some problems that make up, importantly pay for so you can fund your venture so that you can get some value out of it in the end. I sort of touched on briefly again the minimum viable product idea, you sort of explained, what it is to begin with and you sort of mentioned the dropbox video idea. Could you just expand on minimum viable product a little bit, maybe some examples of what a minimum viable product could be?

Trevor: It is, my experience today with minimum viable products has been its [Inaudible 00:31:24] for some people and in their industry they have their minimum viable product. It has to be quite complete before anyone would even consider using it. It’s probably in something like a – especially if you’re talking about technology where you’re traditionally working with technology where you’re working with lawyers and doctors because lawyer and doctors would be less willing to put up with bugs, less willing to put up with issues.

So, that doesn’t mean you don’t go out there and talk to them and find out what the issues are, and try to build that in but your minimum viable product that might be a lot more full featured, released, a well rounded than it might be for say something if you were targeting earlier doctors in the software industry who would know that things are gonna fail, know what the term alpha and beta means and what that would mean for this data, know that if you’re can using a service, they’re gonna have to back up their own data because it may fail at any point in time.

So, you do have to think about who your target market is what it is they might be looking to do but the way that I’ve done it recently is really just to develop a list of features or user stories that describe how the system should function and working with the market in terms of finding out what those features should be, is really just keep looking over those list of features and come back on what you think, now do we really need this for people to start using the product, for people to start buying the product and constantly checking your own assumptions about what it is that you think you’re gonna be building for people. And validating those assumptions with the market and getting it out there.

So, when it comes to a web based software, you know, obviously things like minimum viable product, someone is going to have to log in, someone is gonna have to do something with your app, whatever the key feature is of your app and be able to log out. If that’s what you need to do with your app, then that may be your minimum viable product but, in other cases, you actually may want to include in your minimum viable product, the acceptance of people’s money. If you think that you need to do that before you can launch, then that’s, again, [Inaudible 00:33:52], but again – so I think from my experience, I think, the two definitions of minimum viable product, one is sales based.

So, what’s the minimum viable product that we can release to people who are gonna start buying this solution and the other is, one in which and that was from the dropbox example, one in which people are actually just going to start providing you feed back on it. So, either of those could be determined a minimum viable product but it just really depends upon what it is that you are trying to achieve. I mean for the latter, if I could get something out there as soon as you can, that is going to extract some feedback from people and get some direct, so that you actually use your product and heading towards the goal of you buying it eventually, I think is a better approach than waiting too long until you have something that people are going to start using straight away and buy straight away.

Nick: I mean it’s probably not a perfect example but when I started, first started the Podcast, I had this idea and I had the idea for a while and then I was putting it off heaps and then, eventually I thought I would try and take a bit of a lean approach to this and I’ll just record a podcast and you know I just did it on my phone, which is probably not the best technology and then I thought I’d try to prove over time with the thinking that the main part of the product is really the content and not so much, even on a basic level of sound quality but there are sorts of bits and pieces that sort of surround that sort of extra bits which I can add later, where the minimum viable product is just the content and the sound getting out there.

Trevor: And that’s really good because see what I mean what you’ve shown there as well what you’re doing your podcast and the blog and all of that is not specifically a business, it’s about, you know, marketing sort of opportunity or marketing process that you are following to get people aware of you and to provide that content but you can still apply the lean start-up thinking to that and so, that’s where, to go back, I think to your very first question of where can it be applied? I think if you start thinking about what the methodology is teaching you or trying to achieve, you can apply in a lot of different facets of business and not just around the making of money.

Nick: Absolutely, that’s been a really great interview Trevor. Thanks a lot for coming on. I think this very useful for people who are looking to start a business but also people who are in business and they are looking to sort of improve their processes in relation to products or leaning themselves up. If anyone wants to find out more about you and sort of what you’re doing, where’s the best place to do that?

Trevor: You can obviously find me on places like Linked in, I’m on there and that’s it, sorugo.net is my company, so have a look there. I would love to help people understand more about their current idea for going into market and can help them make that happen.

Nick: Fantastic, I’ll have some links in the show notes for this episode with – to your blog post and then also to your website and your social profile where people can find you. Thanks again for coming on and have a good one.

Trevor: Thanks for having me Nick, take care mate!

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05Mar

March 3rd News & Events

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01Mar

Ep#30: Interview with Majoran Distillery Co-founder; Michael Reid

Interview with Michael Reid, cofounder of Adelaide’s tech startup coworking space: the Majoran Distillery

In Episode#30 of the podcast we have another video interview, this time with Michael Reid who is cofounder of Adelaide tech coworking space; the Majoran Distillery, as well as the popular monthly networking event; Silicon Beach. This interview is also the first episode of a new project I’m starting where I interview Adelaide entrepreneurs.

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The Majoran Distillery and Silicon Beach are sponsored by Ninefold – Cloud Computing Australia, Hosting & Storage