5 Offline Marketing Mistakes Your Business Could Be Making

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Marketing is the lifeblood of your business. It is the fuel that gives rise to business growth. It is the vehicle that puts your brand in front of your customers.

Without it, your business will grind to a halt. And yet, essential promotional activities are sometimes left to fate and good luck, rather than being managed and planned.

The online world has opened new opportunities and pitfalls for businesses. The power and influence of the digital world are such that many businesses assume that offline marketing – the printed marketing tools – are no longer of any use.

But, as Colour Graphics know, ignoring offline marketing can mean cutting off vital communication channels with your customers. Here we highlight the 5 most common offline marketing mistakes startups do. 

#1 Assuming Offline Marketing is Dead

Really?! Why would you think that?

The digital revolution has brought about massive changes in more or less every facet of life. It is now possible to connect with your customers, engage them with your product and brand. Social Selling has never been more powerful.

And that meant businesses assumed that offline marketing, the adverts, the leaflets and so on, were dead in the water.

The amount companies spend on offline marketing may be smaller than it was many years ago but big brands are still harnessing the power of offline marketing. If you are not, you are missing the chance to reach customers.

#2 Not Connecting Offline Marketing with Your Online Marketing

There is also a school of thought that is ‘one or the other‘ – you either spend on online marketing channels or stick with your favored offline marketing tools.

Breaking news – you CAN do both!

In fact, offline marketing can be used to connect your customers and fans with your website or social media channels.

By including your business website on your business card, you are connecting online and offline personas. By using QR codes, you are connecting online with offline and vice versa.

#3 Not Investing in Professional Design and Print

Yes, we know, there are some fantastic online design software pieces of kit, photo editing suites, and all kinds. And they can make an amateur looking poster or postcard look a little more appealing.

But, graphic designers study their art and their trade for a long time for a reason – it may look effortless and flawless, but to get a poster campaign or any offline marketing tool to look fantastic takes skill, experience and a heavy dose of creativity.

Frankly, for any offline marketing campaign to be successful, it needs professional design and printing to produce the quality your brand deserves.

#4 Not being Consistent with Branding

You have a logo. You have a palette of colors. You have a tone. You may even have a font all of your own.

These branding tools possibly cost you a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort. They are the foundations on which you will go on to build your brand.

So why is it, with offline and online marketing personas for your brand, you are not using them? Some businesses use them so sparingly that you can hardly see them. Other businesses don’t use them at all and if they do, they change the logo to something different!

Your designer will create different versions of your logo but use only small tweaks and changes so that the customer still recognizes it and associates it with your brand.

These logos, the colors, the strapline and the tone of your brand are all important tools in your marketing arsenal – use them!

#5 Not Having a Strategy

Great, you’ve printed 2,500 leaflets and have 5,000 business card sat on the shelf.

Now what?

Leaflets, pamphlets, brochures, business cards and postcards sat on shelves and gathering dust are not selling your business, nor connecting with customers.

We see it all the time: customers ordering fabulously designed and printed paraphernalia but with no real strategy or plan as to how they are going to use it.

For any marketing campaign to be successful, online or offline, there needs to be a strategy that drives it. You need to be confident you know who you are reaching out to, the best way of doing it and how you will measure the success of an offline marketing campaign.

In Summary

Offline marketing is not dead, and neither should it be executed in a vacuum or separate from your online marketing campaigns.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming your own in-house design efforts are ‘good enough’. Be consistent with branding and have a strategy, complete with review stages, to ensure the best possible chances of success.

4 Insider Tips On The Perfect Name For Your Startup

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4 Insider Tips On The Perfect Name For Your Startup - MyStartupLand
Your business plan is written. Funding is lined up. And your leadership has been chosen. There’s only one thing missing – the perfect name for your startup. While you may want to use the first name that pops into your head, this could hurt your startup’s chances of success before you begin.
 
With over 23,000 startups in Silicon Valley alone, your new business needs a powerful, evocative name to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other companies looking to become the next Facebook or Tesla.  Setting aside time and resources, finding the perfect name is one of the best things you can do for your startup.
 
Squadhelp.com has helped thousands of startups create the perfect name, and to help you on your startup naming journey, we’ve outlined below four things to avoid when naming your startup.
 

Don’t Bore Customers With Your Name

Today’s average consumer is overwhelmed with companies and products all vying for their attention and business. Often, brands only have a few seconds to catch a customer’s attention before they move on. In those few short seconds, you don’t have time to lay out the finer details of what makes your startup superior to your competitors.
 
Instead, you must rely on your name to help you stand out from the sea of startups offering similar products or services.  Your name could be what makes the difference between someone choosing your app instead of scrolling to the next one on the list.
 
Choosing a boring name puts you at a disadvantage from the start – people are going to be drawn to an evocative name, not a dull or standard one. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg decided to name his new tech company Zuckerberg Friend Finder, instead of Facebook!
 

Don’t Be Obscure When Naming Your Startup

A brand that’s clever or witty can be very appealing to the right audience. Yet, when it comes to a name, don’t go for an obscure metaphor that only a handful of your target audience will understand.
 
Obscure or complicated names are easily forgotten – we’ve all had those moments when we’re desperately trying to recall the name of a business. If we don’t remember it quickly, when we need it, then that business has lost a potential sale.
 
With the bottom line of your startup resting on the ability of potential customers to recall your name, choosing an obscure name doesn’t make financial sense.
 

Don’t Complicate Your Name

We’ve all come across a business or brand name that we have no idea how to pronounce. Unfortunately for the company, you will likely avoid mentioning the name to others to avoid embarrassment. You want your customers to be able to remember and pronounce your name, encouraging their friends or family to look it up on social media or online.
 
Organic customer referrals are one of the most rewarding sources of revenue, and creating an easy-to-remember name is one of the best things your company can do to drive those recommendations. Don’t miss out on potential brand advocates with an overly complicated or difficult-to-pronounce name.
 

Don’t Forget To Look At Legality

When naming your startup, keep legal implications in mind throughout the entire naming process.  Choosing a name that is already in use will not only negate your aim of being unique but may also cause legal trouble down the road.
 
Trademarks can be tough to navigate without help from an expert. You can check with the United States Patent & Trademark Office to find out if your desired name is registered as a trademark. However, we always recommend hiring a professional to help you navigate the legal issues surrounding starting your business.
 
While coming up with a great name for your startup should be an exciting and creative process, remember that naming is more difficult than most people think. Don’t let the wrong name hurt your startup before you get it off the ground. Putting time and resources into finding the perfect name is a worthy investment and will help you rise above your competitors.
 
What name have you chosen for your startup? Share it here below and we will be happy to provide feedback!

How To Control Stress Factors At Your Startup In 2017

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Control Stress Factors In Startups - MyStartupLand

Work is one of the primary causes of stress in most people, and stress levels can be particularly high in startups. This may be because some people feel the weight of the company’s success on their ability to perform well. Non-defined job roles and titles in a new company can also contribute to high-stress levels. Stress, unfortunately, can result in high rates of absenteeism, job dissatisfaction and increased turnover, physical illness and more. These are all factors that can ultimately have negative consequences on your company culture and the success of your business. What’s the best way to control stress factors? 

If you have determined that work-related stress at your startup is high, you may be wondering how to manage stress effectively for you and your employees. After all, the last thing you may want is a lack of stress management in the workplace to lead to the ultimate demise of your team and to sabotage your startup’s path to success. You should identify what the primary costs of stress are in your workplace, and you can employ some of these effective ways to moderate work-related stress in your business to improve the situation.

Create a Common Higher Goal

In many companies, the unfortunate reality is that those who are not working in a managerial position often feel as though their work is not important. This fosters ill-will and gives them the feeling they are simply spinning their wheels in a pointless job to earn a paycheck. As you might imagine, this breeds discontent and ultimately causes stress. If you are ready to learn how to control stress in the workplace, you must combat this problem head on by creating a common goal that all employees are working for. Each person should be able to clearly see his or her value in the organization and should see that his or her efforts contribute directly to the goal in a meaningful way.

Empower Your Employees With a Clear Organizational Structure

Some stress in the workplace may be generated through your organizational structure. When you have a complicated or fuzzy organizational structure, some employees may not feel empowered to make important decisions relevant to their tasks on their own. Constantly having to seek approval from the supervisor for routine activities can cause stress. In addition, seemingly overlapping structural lines can also result in stress. Talk to your employees about their concerns regarding organizational structure, and create a structure that results in the most effective workflow.

Review Your Compensation Structure

It is common for businesses to set up a compensation that rewards employees for their performance. This is particularly common in sales positions, but financial rewards are also common in other positions. This can cause individual stress in the employee as he or she feels the pressure to perform at peak levels constantly. In some cases, it breeds resentment and encourages verbal confrontations among employees who are competing head-to-head for the same type of compensation. An alternative to this type of structure may be to create a financial reward system that is based on team or department effort rather than on individual effort.

Nurture Your Employees With the Implementation of New Programs

Because stress is so common in many work environments, you may consider offering your employees compensation for stress at work in nurturing ways. For example, some companies will bring in a masseuse once a month to offer desk massage that targets the neck, shoulders, and back. Some will also incorporate nurture and wellness with team-building or socialization events, such as a happy hour mixer at a nearby venue or volunteering together as a group for a charity organization on a Saturday morning.

Leverage technology to protect and improve worker health

Healthy companies start with healthy employees. Thanks to new technology, companies are now able to monitor what their staff members are up to and how they are doing physically. They can determine whether their staff are tired or stressed. Are their employees getting enough exercise and sleep outside of work? Many companies are incorporating wearable technologies, asking their employees to wear Fitbit or Jawbone trackers, for example. Some companies track their staff member well-being as a KPI. However, you don’t want to go overboard with it, monitoring way too much and too serious can cause even a greater amount stress.

Prioritize Workplace Wellness

Another smart idea is to educate your employees about wellness and stress-relief. The reality is that many individuals can reduce their stress level on their own. For example, you can set up an educational program in your office that includes yoga instruction, mindfulness, relaxation breathing techniques and more. Employees may be able to do some basic stretches or deep breathing techniques in their work area when they are feeling particularly stressed out.

Final Thought

Stress may most commonly be associated with tension headaches and a rapid heartbeat or sweating, but it can lead to excessive tension, high blood pressure, weight gain, fatigue from sleepless nights and even heart issues and other serious conditions. Because stress levels can be particularly high in a new startup business, bosses should be aware of signs of stress in their employees. Stress management in the workplace should be a top priority.

There are many factors that can cause stress in your team members as well as your managers. You should identify the causes of stress in your office as a first step. Then, you can use some of these stress management ideas to improve the situation with long-lasting results.

Do you agree with these suggestions on how to control stress factors in startups? Do you have any additional advice? Share with us your ideas!

The Billion Dollar Club: Build A Unicorn Or Fail Trying

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Unicorn startup simulator - MyStartupLand

Do you want to join the “Billion Dollar Club“? Do you think you can really build a successful startup and get it valued at the magical figure of $1B? Do you believe to know what is the most appropriate decision to take to make your people happy as well as increasing revenues? Are you ready to build a unicorn or fail while trying?

Joining the startup wagon is becoming increasingly common. Many of us are tired of their 9-5 job and want to build their dream. Some others are not happy to make money for their boss and want to start building their own empire. But do you seriously think to have what it takes to be successful in the Silicon Valley?

Building a startup is no game. Or is it? 

Someone thought it would be funny (and rightly so) to create a game around entrepreneurial decision-making. Unicorn Startup Simulator by Toggl is just what you need on a lazy weekend, while your thoughts are around quitting your job and getting on that idea that you have been thinking about for while.

What’s best than testing your entrepreneur’s ability while playing a game?

Unicorn startup simulator - MyStartupLand

The game is highly addictive and I warn you now, you won’t be stopping until you join the “Billion Dollar Startup Club“.

Although a game, the creator smartly presents strange, sometimes crazy, but very realistic situations and you got to take a decision. Go big or go home! Is that the winning mentality? Or perhaps you need to be more conservative? Up to you to decide and see your startup get to $1B by the end of the year or see your employees revolt and run away.

It is a fine line between balancing employees happiness and making more money.

Are you going to please your investors? Or buy a standing desk for the whole company? Or even lose time in some useless events because “It’s FREE PR”?

Choose wisely and have fun!

 

A CEO Checklist On Leadership

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A CEO checklist – What leadership is - MyStartupLand

Leadership has been discussed many times. As well as the idea whether it can be trained or not. Having worked with many C-executives, I stick to the opinion that leadership comes from the inside, although a proper training will never hurt. But training is more like polishing a diamond, rather than creating it.

Here below, 4 dimensions on which I believe leadership relies on. 

What Is Leadership And What Does It Depend On?

Any job title. You can be a leader at any position if you take responsibility for what you are doing and contribute to the company, not to yourself, at all directions that you see possible. Progress comes with the answers to the simple question – what can be done better? Once you start taking responsibility beyond your current role, rest assured – you will be noticed.  Leadership is shining through any person who internally has it and honestly lives it.

… Integrity. Always check your assumptions upon which you are basing your decisions. Are you acting out of your center or shrinking yourself because of fear? Do you truly respect people around you or just trying to get something for yourself? Focus on long-term results and not on short-term gains. Short-term gains are usually turning into losses later on.  And remember – people around are monitoring you, although subconsciously sometimes. Respect is something which is earned, not imposed on.

… Leadership style. If you are wondering what leadership style to develop, remember, be fair and honest.  You can retain good relationship with people, without sounding too familiar or being great buddies with them. Otherwise, you can fall a victim of personal attitude which can prevent you from judging objectively and taking right decisions. This is why it is so difficult to work with your closest friends.

… Professional look. Some people think if they look professional they are professional. But the truth is – an expert will always see the difference between seeming and being. All these attributes of corporate world, like expensive suit and fancy graphs are a great complement to the package, but not a substitute for it. Never judge a book by its cover and never think that cover is enough, because somebody may be curious to read a book. Work at your substance thoroughly, as real leaders do.

The conclusion is as simple as all life wisdom – act out of your integrity, do not allow others to decide for you, be always honest and do not subordinate just because someone is more powerful than you are at the moment. This someone might be wrong – so question him and stand for yourself. And the crucial benefit of being your authentic self is that you do not have to think of how you come across – it will be just right.

True leadership is hard because you will be always encountering people who will try to let you down to their own level instead of trying to reach yours. This is nice and easy for them, it seems cozy and comfortable, like a grandma’s sweater on the attic, full of holes and dust. But this is a dangerous path, a road to self-destruction, and contributes to the deterioration of the whole world.

Be honest and faithful with yourself, stick to your best guts and breakthroughs, never allowing anyone to intoxicate you with an unreasonable doubt about yourself.

I am blessed in my life to know great and humble leaders, from whom I can learn and become a leader at some point. I listen to them and become better.

Do you think that leadership depends on other factors? Have you met in your life some true leaders who have inspired you to grow as a better professional?

Last Call To Apply For FasterCapital

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FasterCapital - MyStartupLand

In a crowded space where startup accelerators are growing like mushrooms after a rainy day, either funded by state or by corporates, it is crucial to find a winning model that attract the right entrepreneurs.

Startup accelerators or incubators are means for startup founders around the world to create their dream, especially in those areas where the startup culture is still growing.

What Are The Current Problems With The Startup Programs Models?

Most startup accelerators and incubators have the standard approach to target early-stage startups, give some funds and host them for 3-6 months (depending on the program) in a co-working space. Despite being a very wide-spread model, it still presents several drawbacks:

  1. Most of the startup founders tend to be tech-oriented, focusing on building technology rather a product.
  2. Young startup founders don’t have the right experience to understand what product could be “ready-to-use” by enterprises and tend to focus on consumer-oriented products, which are way more complicated to market and hence to make successful.
  3. Fewer startups are targeting the B2B space, although this is the best market where revenues can be generated more easily.
  4. Non-tech founders are usually ignored by many incubators because they don’t have the skills to build products; however, tend to be the few that have a stronger experience in defined industries and are able to spot “winning” ideas.

Is It Possible To Change It?

FasterCapital is trying to change the way things are done. This incubator is shifting the attention towards the beginning of the process, by becoming co-founder and co-funder. As co-founders, FasterCapital works on developing the software side of the startup (mobile, web). As cofunders, FasterCapial co-funds the startup from idea stage and until it can generate revenues. With FasterCapital the entrepreneurs are not left alone and the incubator is ready to support the startup and finance it over a period of one to two years until it starts to generate income.

As an incubator, they provide idea validation, feasibility study, market analysis, product development, help in sales/marketing, mentorship and financial help until the startup is cash flow positive.

FasterCapital offers two programs: “Acceleration Program” and “Incubation Program”.

In the “Acceleration Program”, FasterCapital will provide mentorship, access to capital and extra consulting services (legal, technological and marketing) to startup founders.

What distinguishes FasterCapital, however, is the “Incubation Program” which is targeting non-technical entrepreneurs. FasterCapital will become a (tech) co-founder and co-funder (as one of the first investors). It will provide technical development per equity (up to $500k for each startup). The “Incubation Program” might also appeal to tech entrepreneurs who seek some help in covering some of the early investment in the startup.

The last round of funding has attracted more than 1000 entrepreneurs from more than 60 countries. Now FasterCapital is again looking successful for startup founders from around the world to join their program. The deadline is the 18th of December, 2016. Here’s a direct link to apply for the program!

 

 

FasterCapital is a virtual incubator based in Dubai Internet City, UAE. FasterCapital has more than 18 graduated startups, 15 startups in incubation program, 164 startups in the acceleration program plus more than 115 regional partners and 72 offices worldwide. FasterCapital has invested more than 10 million USD since its inception in 2010.

Corporate Startup Accelerators Are Evil

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Corporate Startup Accelerators - MyStartupLand

Big corporations have long understood the need to be present (and acquire) new startups to either eliminate long-term potential competitors or get technology that are not able to develop fast enough.

Another way corporations are starting to play a crucial role in the startup world is by funding so-called corporate startup accelerators. These are pretty much the same as the usual startup accelerator, but in addition they:

  1. Are owned or sponsored (+50%) by one or more corporate entities, which have nothing to do with startups
  2. Have (apparent) different interests than the sponsoring/parent company

Usually, corporate startup accelerators pretend lower than usual equity in the startup invested or are able to offer higher initial investments. Some other of these programs offer a “no money no equity” deal, which pretty much translates into mentoring and guidance.

According to Corporate Accelerators Database, at the moment there are 71 active programs worldwide.

While all this seems like a nice fairy tail, it’s always good to keep an eye open and listen to different sides of the same story. I have experienced first-hand how an accelerator program can actually hurt your business instead of helping it.

Are Corporate Startup Accelerators Good?

While doing some research and filtering out all the promotional content that there’s online, I came across a very interesting video shared on Facebook by TheFamily, an incubator in France.

The message is clear.

When Oussama Ammar was asked whether it’s a good idea or not to join a corporate startup accelerator, he replied quite frankly with a “No. Corporate startup accelerators are evil and should not exist!

He goes on and states that “It’s like asking right-wing people to rap. You sound fake. You cannot“.

After all, we start a startup, because we want to be pirates. We want to disrupt old industries, where all these corporations are making billions and blocking innovation. We don’t want to work for the navy. As Ammar says, if you want to join the navy, do that from the very beginning.

Startups should understand what are the real reasons corporates want to get in the startup game. As a startup founder, you should not get in partnership with someone that is way bigger than you are (and will have control over you as a result of that partnership). If you do that, you’ll get a giant in your cap table. They will make your life impossible for “reasons you don’t even understand“.

It’s easy to complain about something. Very easy. But Ammar gives a real-life example that should make all founders think very careful about such decision.

He was involved as a board member in a startup that joined Telefonica accelerator. The startup founders, then, received an offer by one of Telefonica’s competitors for acquisition. Guess what? Telefonica did everything possible to stop the acquisition to happen. They had 6% in the startup (no investment made) but still blocked the possible transaction.

Ammar can hear your complaints, though. You are thinking that this makes no sense, after all, we are in business. Interests are aligned. If we get bought, why would Telefonica (or any other major corporate) interfere? They would also make money. The reality is that for them a 6% of a potential 100M acquisition (and we are going very high here) means nothing. Nada! Zero!

You are now part of a (bigger) political problem in which you have no influence. You are now part of Telefonica, one of their employees, “a great position to be in. An employee with no salary and no benefits“.

As startups became more accessible to everyone, and more and more people want to escape the everyday job to follow their dreams, external validation becomes more and more important.

Being accepted in a startup accelerator is a victory. It can also become a milestone. I had that in my startup pitch. I got accepted in an accelerator, it means I am doing something good. Sometimes, however, I thought about it “I got money with a 10 slide presentation and an idea. There is more money to grab around”, and then you end up attending every single startup competition or event and waste your time on what it seems to be working, but instead it’s just networking and you forget to build your dream.

External validation became more important that the actual work.

This 4 minutes video is very important for anyone out there thinking about getting in a startup accelerator. Think about why you want to join one and what value they really bring to your startup. Think carefully before deciding. The wrong decision can have long-term consequences.

 

Have you had a difference experience with corporate startup accelerator? Was your program able to give you a real added value?

The Ultimate Investor Blogs List To Follow Today

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Ultimate Investor Blogs List- MyStartupLand

The ultimate investor blogs list to follow is a collection of top VCs and angel investors blogs every startup founder should read.

As a startup founder, we are always on the look for answers to our doubts. We don’t know everything, and we know it, even if we behave differently. We live in this state of stress and fear (sometimes), thinking what to do next.

When I had my startup, most of the time, I didn’t have an answer to most of my questions, not to mention those of the people around me. However, I had to put on my “nice” face on and answer confidently about a possible solution. For this reason, when having questions or doubts on what next, I tended to avoid asking the close ones about advice.

We might venture out and ask our startup advisors. However, reality is that we need an answer by a person who has experienced, if not the same, a similar situation like the one we are living in.

Most of the times, we end up reading blogs of more experienced people, trying to find out how they crossed that moment.

With 152M blogs online (2013) pushing information to hungry readers, we tend to spend quite some time reading what someone else wrote. But how can we make sure that the information we get is legit? How can we trust those sources? How can we read everything?

There’s so much online and sometimes it can get confusing. I found myself lost more than once, overwhelmed with growth tactics, tips on how to approach investors, content strategy and just shit. Yes, shit. A lot of shit. Because there’s a ton of this online and it’s difficult to spot the proper stuff you want to be investing your time reading.

Being in the startup business, I believe it’s fundamental to collect top VC or angel investor blogs, where entrepreneurs can go and grab what they need. The list of investors who blog is very long. It took me a long time to pull together this list and I am sure I left someone outside. I focused mainly on U.S. and European investors, mainly because I know more this markets than the Asian and Middle East one. I voluntarily left out some company blogs that didn’t really seem to add much value.

 

1. Fred Wilson – avc.com

A VC since 1986. Working at Union Square Ventures, he writes daily on his blog about pretty much everything going on in his world, from the personal to the business  sphere. He encourages communication with the readers. As an idea, each of his blog posts tends to attract roughly 100 comments.

Follow him @FredWilson or @AVC

2. Brad Feld – FeldThoughts

Another experienced VC, active since 1987. He is founder at Foundry Group and Techstars (one of the world’s leading startup accelerators). He takes passion in mentorship and guidance. His blog posts are very insightful and interesting to read. He is also active with several non-profit organizations.

Follow him @bfeld

3. Jason Ball – Techbytes

He is the director of Qualcomm Ventures. He is very active in the mobile and online space. His blog is a concentrate of interesting and practical advice for startup founders. His style is short and direct to the point, making it easy to read and implement. An example is this blog post about The Perfect Pitch.

Follow him @jasonball

4. Mark Cubain – Blog Maverick

He doesn’t really need an introduction. He is probably one of the most well-known businessmen around (also for those outside the startup industry). He owns the NBA’s Dallas Maverick, Landmark Theaters, and Magnolia Pictures. The blog is about his perspective on  financial markets, but also about his experience as a businessman, entrepreneur and angel investor.

Follow him @mcuban

5. Tim Berry – BPlans

Founder of Palo Alto Software, he has invested most of his time on small businesses. He built his own website and shares stories about his own ventures and investments. The blog is practical and full of hands-on advice on business planning, startups, and business growth.

Follow him @Timberry

6. Chris Dixon – Cdixon

An entrepreneur from New York turned VC, he decided to move his blog on to Medium. He has invested in many great companies and likes to see things from a wider perspective, rather than the specifics. He looks at industry trends and sees the connections or implications with the startup world. His blog is particularly interesting because rarely you can find someone who has succeeded on both the VC and startup founder side.

Follow him @cdixon

7. Jeffrey Finkle – Fink About It

An angel investor who likes to give insights on his daily activities in the startup world. His blog is an important resource for startup founders as it is possible to find in-depth advice on investments, startups, and life in general. There are also quite a few podcasts that help the learning.

Follow him @jfinkle

8. Fred Destin – Open Source Venture Capital 

He was founding investor at Seedcamp and partner Atlas Venture, which focuses on early stage startups in the life science and technology innovation. His focus is on software, e-commerce, and digital media. He is an investor in some very interesting startups, such as Dailymotion, Zoopla, PriceMinister or Cinemagram. Since he moved to the U.S. he is mentoring at Techstars.

Follow him @fdestin

9. Jalak Jobanputra – The barefoot VC

Founding partner of Future Perfect Venture, an early-stage VC in New York City. She is been a VC since 1999. She is also a Techstars mentor. Being one of the few women in a white male predominant space, her blog is definitely a must-read. She brings a new perspective into social and impact investing.

Follow her on @jalak

10. Dharmesh Shah – On Startups

He is the CTO of Hubspot. The website is not properly a blog written by him, but rather a collection of different blog posts by different entrepreneurs. The idea is to have a place where you can identify situations where you might find yourself in as a startup founder. The website focuses particularly on software startups.

Follow him at @dharmesh

11. AngelList Blog

Blog of the well-known website AngelList. It is one of the best blogs around to find stories about early stage startups, that received fundings. Here you can find those “How I made it” posts that can give us some interesting hints and extra motivation.

Follow it at @AngelList

12. Christoph Janz – The angel VC

Co-founder and MD at Point Nine Capital. Prior to that, he was a successful Internet Entrepreneur (2 exits) and angel investor. His blog focuses on SaaS, Internet Startups and angel investing. It’s important to keep this blog in mind as Janz started blogging about startups and investments even before Social Media was a thing.

Follow him at @chrija

13. David Cohen – Hi, I’m David Cohen

Founder and Managing Partner at Techstars, number 1 ranked startup accelerator worldwide. He has been the founder of several startups in the Software and Web Technology space. As a person deeply involved in early-stage startups, he is an advocate and mentor of many startups. His blog is a must-read for every startup founder launching a new company.

Follow him at @davidcohen

14. Paul Graham – Essays

Co-founder of YCombinator, one of the top startup accelerator around. No list would be complete without Paul Graham’s. The blog posts are usually quite lengthy, but worth every minute the read. You can find a wide variety of topics, from seed-stage company facts, cultural trends, customer behaviors and more generally personal habits. One of his best “essay” is about angel investing.

Follow him at @paulg

15. Mark Suster – Both Sides Of The Table

Partner at GRP Partners, Mark has been on both sides of the table, entrepreneur and investor. He knows what he is talking about because he experienced it. His knowledge is quite vast, as he lived both situations as a startup founder, but also as a VC ready to invest in a company. He blogs extensively on a wide variety of topics, fundraising, industry analysis, sales strategies, and startup culture.

Follow him at @msuster

16. Dave McClure – 500 Hats

If you want to have insights by one of the most influential people in the startup space, you need to read Dave McClure’s blog. He was an early employee at Paypal (Director of Marketing) and after leaving, he started to invest in several internet startups. He is the mind behind 500 Startups founded in 2010. As the name of his startup accelerator might suggest, he has invested in more than 500 startups worldwide. This means that he has been exposed to quite a few stories about product development, fundraising, go-to-market strategy, building teams and so on.

Follow him at @davemcclure

17. Ben Horowitz – Ben’s Blog

Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. One of the most interesting author in the VC space. He is quite a character and you can see it on his blog. He starts every single post with a rap lyric. He has great advice on several topics, but the strongest ones seem to be team building, career development, hiring and startup culture.

Follow him at @bhorowitz

18. Nic Brisbourne – The Equity Kicker

Currently managing partner at Forward Partners. He started his blog in 2006 and since then the website has gained strong traction, becoming a reference for European startup founders. HIs insights and opinions are highly regarded also among other investors.

Follow him at @brisbourne

19. Bill Gurley – Above the Crowd

He has over 10 years experience as a VC as a partner at Benchmark Capital. Although he doesn’t write as often as others, his blog posts are full of insights and details. As a matter of fact, his entries are quite lengthy, but worth the read. He focuses on pricing strategy, mobile trends and metrics.

Follow him at @bgurley

20. Seraf Investor – The Seraf Compass

The blog is run by those behind Seraf Investor, a software company providing angel investors the necessary means to keep things organized as their portfolio grows bigger. The two co-founders have great experience in investment, so expect a lot of entrepreneurial language and details. This is definitely a good blog to bookmark to learn how to gain investments.

Follow it at @serafinvestor

21. Venture Hacks Blog

It is run by AngelList co-founders Babak Nivi and Naval Ravikant. The two of them are quite experienced as start founders, but also as angel investors (early stage investment in Twitter). The blog includes information on h

Follow it at @venturehacks

22. Thomas Grota – A Personal View On Venture Capital

He is an Investment Director at The Corporate Venture Capital firm at Deutsche Telekom AG. He has over 15 years experience in the IT and telecommunication industry. He is also a mentor at Seedcamp and HackFwd. The blog gives us insights on his daily life as an investor with insights on industry events and opinions on how the European VC landscape will look like in the future.

Follow him at @thomasgr

23. Tomasz Tunguz Blog

He is a VC at Redpoint. His style is different from many others. He writes short and punchy blog posts that get his point across quite clearly. In this way, it’s very easy to read and digest his entries.

Follow him at @ttunguz

24.The Gust Blog

Gust.com is another platform that connects startups with investors. The blog is a very useful concentration of stories on both sides of the table. There are stories about startups by VCs who decided to invest in them, and also posts about startups by entrepreneurs who run them.

Follow it at gustly

25. Jason Calacanis Blog

A serial entrepreneur, investor, podcaster, and writer, Jason Calacanis is a very well known name in the VC space, either because they love him or not. He writes about early stage investments and entrepreneurship. His views are not always following the general opinion.

Follow him at @Jason

26. Adam Quinton – A2A: Analyst To Angel

Founder and CEO of Lucas Point Ventures. His focus is on supporting diverse management teams. Not only he is active as an investor, he is also a mentor/advisor in several groups. The blog focuses on the inner workings of investment from an investor point of view.

Follow him at @adamquinton

27. Ciaran O’Leary – Berlin VC

With 8 years experience in the VC world, he is a partner at EarlyBird, a European VC firm focusing on technology ventures. He is one of the few (if the not he only) relevant blogger in the VC space sitting in Berlin, making him an unofficial representative of the “Silicon Alle” of Europe. Compared to other blogs, his is relatively new, but very interesting to follow, especially if you are interested in the Berlin ecosystem.

Follow him at @ciaranoleary

28. Joanne Wilson – Gotham Gal

Her blog focuses on empowering female entrepreneurs on different aspects of life. She started in 2007 with one angel investment, and since then her portfolio grew to more than 90 companies. The blog talks about her experience as an entrepreneur as well as an angel investor.

Follow her at @thegothamgal

29. David Teten – Teten

Partner at ff Venture Capital. His work focuses on identifying promising early-stage companies. Since 2008, he invested in over 90 companies for an aggregate market value of over $4 billion. David is Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of Greater New York, the largest angel group on the East Coast.

Follow him at @dteten

30. Leapfounder Blog

An Amsterdam-based company, providing a platform to increase access to investment opportunities for smaller investors. Their blog is based on stories by angel investors you can learn from.

Follow it at @Leapfunder

 31. Basil Peters – Strategic Exit

Basil is the CEO of Strategic Exit, a company that helps other companies getting an exit. His belief is that the most thrilling moment of being an entrepreneur is the exit strategy. The blog focuses on this topic.

Follow him at @basilpeters

32. Creandum Blog

A VC firm based in Stockholm and Palo Alto that invested in companies such as Spotify, iZettle, and TicTail among others. The blog offers a lot of interesting insights into the VC life as well as investment activities.

Follow it at @creandum

33. Pawel Chudzinski – Notes of a VC in Berlin/Europe

Co-founder of early stage VC fund Point Nine Capital. Before that, he also co-founded Team Europe. On his blog, you can find in-depth posts on what VCs like to hear and see in a startup and global vs (multi-) local startups among other interesting topics.

Follow him at @pawell

34. Martin Mignot – Unvalidated Learnings

Martin is an early-stage investor at Index Ventures in London. His focus investments are in SaaS, marketplaces, bitcoin and mobile businesses. He has worked on more than 50 transactions including Codecademy, Farfetch, and Just Eat. The blog covers a different array of topics, from personal commentary to business quotes and links to interesting tech reads.

Follow him at @martinmignot

35. Roberto Bonanzinga – Entrepreneurship at Work

In 2014, he moves from Partner to Venture Partner at European VC firm Balderton Capital to take on more activities as an angel investor. The blog is on Medium and covers a variety of topics focusing on VC struggles and Entrepreneurs’ activities.

Follow him at @bonanzinga

36. Albert Wenger – Continuations

He is a partner at Union Square Ventures, an NYC-based early-stage VC firm, focusing on disruptive networks. Before becoming a VC, he was the president of del.icio.us through the company sale to Yahoo! His blog focuses on market trends, financial markets and their impacts on startups.

Follow him at @albertwenger

37. Guy Kawasaki Blog

Guy Kawasaki needs no introduction. He is one of the most influential people in the Silicon Valley. He is Chief Evangelist of Canva. In the past, he had the same role for Apple. He is not only very active as a blogger but has written quite a few interesting books to help start founders.

Follow him at @GuyKawasaki

38. Hunter Walk Blog

Hunter is a partner at Homebrew and previously led consumer product management at YouTube. In his blog, he talks about building a new VC firm, his investments, and his hits and misses along the way.

Follow him at @hunterwalk

39. Sam Altman Blog

He is the president of Y Combinator, the very well-known seed-stage investor/accelerator. Sam Altman knows a lot of things and this is the place where he shares his knowledge. He covers broad topics from net neutrality to starting a company, touching on things like hiring and employee retention. His blog is a great read for both a VCs perspective on the tech industry and for insight into broad trends

Follow him at @sama

40. Charlie O’Donnell – This Is Going To Be Big

Partner at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures. Like other VCs taking on blogging, he talks about his investments and why he makes them. But, he also has great advice on growth strategies for early-stage startups.

Follow him at @ceonyc

 

Should you follow daily all of this? No, I don’t think that’s necessary. Perhaps it is a good idea to bookmark them and check every now and then when you have doubts. One of them might have the answer you are looking for.

Do you recommend any other investor blog that I should add to this list? Have you benefit from any of these blogs?

The Best Startup Accelerators in U.S. 2016

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Best Startup Accelerators - MyStartupLand

What are the best startup accelerators? 

A difficult question to answer, especially looking at an international landscape. The number of startup accelerators keeps growing almost daily worldwide. On f6s.com, the larger database of startup accelerators, it is possible to find a staggering 4148 results. But how to spot the best startup accelerators?

Depending on what we look at, a startup accelerator can have added value to one startup or another. But, what does it really matter in a startup accelerator?

Existing network, funding options (money vs. equity), mentors and alumni portfolio are characteristics that every startup founder considering a startup accelerator as a funding option should examine quite carefully. It is crucial to take this analysis seriously, as a bad experience can ruin the startup dream we might have.

Creating a worldwide ranking is perhaps impossible. Every region has a different reality and a different access to top-tier mentors or VCs. The most interesting market to start from is the States. Its cash availability combined with the high number of successful startups is a perfect ground for researches.

The 2016 Ranking.

Seed Ranking Accelerator Project is an interesting program developed in U.S.. It takes a look at data coming in from different startup accelerators, analyzes and summarizes it every year, since four years.

In 2016, the analysis has moved away from past approaches focused strictly on numerical ranking. This year, they decided to group startup accelerators by tiers (Platinum, Gold, Silver). The data taken in consideration is the result of fieldwork and interviews with several investors, startup accelerators directors, and alumni.

Important factors that contributed to the final ranking were:

1. Valuation – Mean and median valuation across all portfolio startups.

2. Qualified Exit – IPO or acquisition above $5M.

3. Qualified Fundraising – Raised funds above $200K.

4. Survival – Percentage of companies that are still alive.

5. Founder Satisfaction – Opinions by graduated startup founders.

6. Alumni Network – Number of companies graduated.

The startup accelerator industry is difficult to tackle. Most of these programs who define themselves as accelerators, do not actually meet its standard definition. To add to the confusion, the continuous evolving of many of these programs creates a complicated landscape to analyze and find data for.

An interesting data coming out from the study is that on average startup accelerators take 6% equity stake with a funding option of $39.5K.

The 2016 study took in consideration 150 startup accelerators country-wide. Here below the final results:

Startup Accelerators 2016 Infographic - MyStartupLand

 

Platinum tier: 500 Startups, Alchemist, Amplify LA, Angelpad, Chicago New Venture Challenge, MuckerLab, StartX, Techstars, Y Combinator

Gold tier: Brandery, Capital Innovators, Dreamit, gener8tor, Healthbox, Mass Challenge, Surge

Silver tier: Alphalab, Betaspring, Health Wildcatters, Iron Yard, Lighthouse Labs, Plug and Play, Zero to 510

 

It is understandable that some startup founders might find the ranking interesting but not actionable. After all, we are not all in the same position and do not have the same possibility to access top-tier startup accelerators.

The most important thing is to evaluate how the startup accelerator can actually help you achieve what you are looking for. Take the time to talk with people who are attending or have attended and look for signs that might be alarming. Past alumni tend to be relatively sincere and open. It is the best shot you get to understand what you can get out of the 3-4 months you might be spending there.

5 Types of Problematic Remote Employees (and How to Help Them Succeed)

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Problematic Remote Employees - MyStartupLand

Startup founders and team leaders know all too well the frustrations of managing remote teams. Even superstar hires can become confoundingly difficult in a remote work environment.

Why is that? The reasons could be many.

For one thing, working at home or from a cafe can be distracting for people who’ve never done it before. People sometimes have to learn a whole new approach to discipline and productivity — and this comes with a learning curve.

On the flipside, the employee might be responding to a disconnect he or she feels with the company. Perhaps you’ve failed to build enough rapport to get the chemistry right. Perhaps you haven’t set expectations for a healthy on/off balance, and your employee is trying to look conspicuously available at all times.

In truth, there are many reasons people struggle when transitioning to a remote work arrangement. That’s why teamfocus has put together the infographic below. It will help managers identify why remote workflows are breaking down and give them actionable steps they can take to get their team members back on track.

5 Types Of Problematic Remote Employees

5 Types of Problematic Remote Employees
Source: 5 Types of Problematic Remote Employees – www.teamfocus.me

How Poor Leadership Kills Your Team

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How Poor Leadership Kills Your Team - MyStartupLand

Poor leadership is poisonous. It creates a toxic environment where employees struggle to perform and it affects trust in management.

The entire organisation will be facing challenges as bad leaders take on key roles. As if this is not bad enough, it will reach beyond the company’s borders, creating a negative aura around the firm.

Picking up good leaders is a difficult and long process. Founders often mistake good managers with good leaders, but the two don’t always go hand in hand.

Managing people refers to work and tasks. Leadership, on the contrary, focuses on getting the best out of every individual for the benefit of the company as a whole. Similar in a way, yet very different. Great managers are key to a company success. Good leaders not necessarily, but they will help you build a long-lasting successful company that inspires people to do the impossible.

 

Leadership versus management table to compare the two(Source: The Leadership versus Management debate: What’s the difference?)

 

A question might be: Can success be achieved with good managers but no good leaders? Of course.

Good managers implement processes and organise tasks to get the best outcome. Putting it simply, they get shit done. Leaders work more on the motivation, inspiration, persuasion and coaching of employees to enable people to achieve greatness. Performance usually follows for leaders as well.

Ideally, one idea should not exclude the other. A good manager without the inspiring part is just executing orders. A good leader without the planning part is just a good talker. Although great leaders are usually good managers, the opposite is not always true.

Consequences of poor leadership are clear and can be disastrous for any corporation.

High Turnover

People leave managers, not companies.

We’ve heard this tons of time. Yet, we ignore it when it happens. Managers here refers to the management team as a whole, not necessarily the direct manager.

A bad apple spoils the whole bunch, they say.

If we place someone in a management position, who lacks leadership or, even worse, the skills to be there, it will be visible to the whole company. Trust will be lost in the management team and no matter how good the direct manager is, results will be equally bad.

We might think high turnover is normal in startups. This is the answer we give to those who stay. However, that’s bullshit. Let’s not fool ourselves and the people who decide to stay.

Employees retention is directly linked to company leadership.

Communication Problems

Poor communication leads to unclear instructions and unmotivated teams. Managers who spend most of the time away from their desks contribute to a feeling of uncertainty within teams. Despite what we might think, people need to be guided and it’s the leader’s role to do so.

Leaders need to be there for their teams. They need to inspire them to build new leaders who can take over. Managers who think the opposite are just looking for their own interests.

Unproductive Meetings

No one likes meetings. Everyone hates unproductive meetings.

Sitting in one-to-ones or just meetings where people are not engaged is a clear waste of time. Leaders should be the ones who keep people motivated and to the point.

Those who think is OK to read or write emails, check phone or jump from one topic to another without a conclusion are delusional.

If you sit in front of me and while talking you check your phone, I will think you are not interested, regardless if you can keep pace with the conversation. Stop being that person, seriously. You show no interest, hence the other side will think you have no interest in their problems.

Fear Of Feedback

Feedback is the greatest thing a manager can get. Positive feedback is pleasurable to hear, but negative feedback is gold.

We need to hear our team members, we need to understand them. I have seen managers getting furious because of negative feedback.

Addressing negative feedback is good. We need to understand how to improve.  However, addressing it to find out who said what (especially when anonymous), is in no way beneficial. Installing a culture of fear within the team doesn’t help anyone. Ignoring problems doesn’t lead you anywhere, or better, it leads you down a cliff.

Managers who tend to be like this, fail at creating an honest and trustworthy environment, where people can strive for success. Your team needs to trust you, they need to know you are the one who will have their backs in any situation.

If managers get negative feedbacks on a constant basis, the game is over, get rid of them.

Badmouthing About Or Lying To Team Members

No matter how bad someone can be, always choose the right words to communicate your opinion or the facts. People look at you and judge the way you solve these kind of situations. If you badmouth about someone on their back, you will lose credibility. They will think you will do the same to them. Trust is gone forever.

This often happens when someone leaves the company. I have seen and heard about it, and it’s just awful (and unprofessional). Not only this creates an uneasy situation for those who stay, it will add on a fear of being treated the same way once they will leave.

It’s All About Themselves

A leader needs to understand the concept that his team members come first and their opinions matter. Those who fail at understanding this, will not gain trust and loyalty.

A leader is only as good as his team. Ego, pride, and arrogance are not part of a leader’s traits. No matter how difficult it is, real leaders take the blame and give away all the credits.

Leaders listen, don’t talk.

Micromanaging

Interfering with someone’s tasks without asking is never a good idea. Micromanaging is common when trust is missing or pressure builds up over time. Controlling and double checking everyone’s activity creates a sense of mistrust within the team.

Leaders empower people to achieve great results by themselves. They support and enable teams, they don’t get in their way. Overruling decisions without prior discussion will lead to resentment and anger.

Trust your team members, coach them to solve problems and give them the tools to get what you need.

Lack Of Empathy

Empathy is probably the most important quality a leader can have. If a manager fails at understanding his team’s problems, then he or she won’t be able to lead them.

A great leader cares about the team; stops and talks with people, also about non-working related topics.

Have you ever asked someone in your team how’s their life going? Have you ever noticed someone being down and asked why?

Think more about your team members as people, not employees.

Peanuts Are For Monkeys

Give peanuts to your monkeys. Keep ’em happy and feed ’em when YOU think is the right time.

No matter how you see it, if you give peanuts, you will only deal with monkeys. Rewards (monetary or not) should be associated with achievements. Giving peanuts because someone threatened to leave or because a situation is tough to handle will contribute to a monkeys’ environment. Some will be monkeys for life, some others behave like monkeys to exploit the moment and then they will leave you anyways.

Achievements should be rewarded on a constant basis. Leaders let their team members understand that with each step they take towards success they have an incremental chance to get more.

Installing this culture company-wide is crucial. It should not be limited to certain departments. People notice everything, also things happening beyond their door. If the reward system is uneven, not matter how things are done within a team, people will be unhappy.

Leadership is a company-wide culture approach. It should not be limited to individuals.

…A Last Thought About Leadership Trainings…

You can train managers, you can’t train leaders. If we could train people to be leaders, we would have a world full of inspiring individuals leading… no one…

Qualities of leaders can be taught and shared of course. However, not everyone will understand and put them in place. Companies need to track how managers use those learnings on a daily basis and understand where there is an improvement. If no improvement is seen, remove those managers from that leadership role.

Leadership trainings should be focusing on coaching and handling difficult situations with real-life scenarios. Hence, it’s important to have stress-free environments where managers can share their thoughts without fear.

 

The morale of the story is that leaders need to be honest, great communicators and have a “serve those they lead” attitude. It’s not easy to spot good leaders in advance, but founders need to take actions when bad ones are in key positions. Not doing so, will lead the company into rough waters and your boat will eventually sink.

 

Do you think poor leadership can have other effects? What do you think are the characteristics of a good leader?

Why You Need A CRM Software

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CRM Software - MyStartupLand

Growing a startup into a successful business requires efforts and time. The more your company grows, the more process you need to put in place to align teams and departments. Some processes can be verbal, others need softwares to ensure efficiency.

Implementing new tools into a company structure can be challenging but also financially demanding. Although complicated, and often time tedious, it is important to have the right systems in place to ensure everyone can work in the best way.

Like any other department, sales requires a CRM software to track all activities. The more sales people you have, the less you can rely on spreadsheets and notes.

CRM tools allows sales managers or founders to track beyond the sales, to understand if a problem exists and fix it. Sales is not only about closing deals. Sales is about customer interactions, communication, and funnel analysis. Keeping track of these is crucial for a successful business to improve over time.

If you are reading this, probably you are already thinking about implementing a CRM software. However, it can be difficult to understand when is the right moment and why you need to do it.

1. The right moment for a CRM Software is now

You might have noticed that not all information is shared correctly among departments. Take a look at these questions:

  • Has communication among teams become complicated?
  • Do your team members subtly (or not) complain about information loss?
  • Do you have more than one salesperson?
  • Are you collecting leads from different sources?
  • Has any of your sales guys left the company and leads went lost?

All this is normal and every growing company faces the same issues. These simple questions though can lead to poor results, if we do not act. You can prevent this, by having in place the right structure that help you track what you need.

2. Inefficiency

Having to work on ten different spreadsheets at the same time it’s not ideal, to say the lest. You don’t want your sales team wasting time on (electronic) papers. However, managers sometimes ask to fill in yet another spreadsheet with information existing somewhere else.

Manual processes can create bottlenecks and slow down performances.

A CRM software can reduce drastically this time by automating data entry, repetitive tasks and avoiding paper printing.With the correct system in place, not only efficiency will increase but also sales. Stats show that with the right CRM, sales can grow as much as 30%.

3. Enhance Collaboration Between Departments.

Sales is the first point of contact with new clients. We often work on leads coming from different sources.

We might have a lead generation specialist; use a generic contact form on our website; have an “info@” email address; or just go to events.

Although not really relevant at first sight, we do want to understand where are the most profitable leads coming from. By comprehending this, we can:

a) Focus our efforts on best performing channels

b) Ask other departments to support our activities (events for Marketing; Website for Design/Marketing)

Efficient collaboration among different departments will help your company becoming more profitable.

4. Understanding Client Lifecycle

CRM softwares are not only relevant for sales teams. All departments dealing with customers should have a centralised database to analyse clients activities.

Account Management is an extension of the sales department, for example. It is crucial for every company to understand that every person interacting with the client is doing sales. This means that there is a need for a deep understanding and embracing of a CRM software at all levels.

By analysing communication and client lifecycle you will know how to address their needs and act upon them.

4. Increase Accountability Among Team Members

Salespeople are not so keen on taking responsibilities when a lead is lost. Sentences like “It was not my responsibility” or “I thought Bob would do it” can be common.

A CRM tool can centralise activities and provide a clear overview of responsibilities. No leads will be lost. Tracking clients interaction is crucial for sales efficiency. Although clear from a manager perspective, this can be perceived as a “pointing finger” system.

It is important to explain how everyone can profit from a clear and organised database to understand where there is room for improvement.

5. Data, Data, and Data

Data is important for every company. The problem is that we don’t often know what to do with the data collected.

We assume to know everything about our customers. We know when and how they want to buy. Yet, we might be missing tiny details that could increase sales.

A correctly setup CRM tool can help spot multiple points that we might be overlooking on a daily basis. On top of this, we can collect several data points and create customised reports for all levels within the company.

Remember that collecting data cannot give you an answer to an unclear question. Define what you want to track and then start collecting data accordingly.

Getting data on a monitor with some graphs that no one is looking at, makes no sense.

6. Pipeline Analysis And Forecast

Sales relies on pipeline analysis. Any trusted and professional salesperson works daily on his/her pipeline. Managers need to trust and act on it with the salesperson.

CRM tools provide an effective way to create clear pipeline reports to help salespersons be efficient. Having clear pipelines can also help salespeople forecast correctly activities and opportunities.

7. Selling different products

CRM softwares become handy once you have more than one product to sell to your customers. It is possible to easily control which product sells the most and to which client type or in which region. All this information can help your company profit in the long-term.

Once you add more services or product, a CRM tool can help you also in projecting correct forecast and doing retrospective analysis.

8. Growth It With Your Business

Understanding that you need a CRM software is not the end of your job. You came a long way, but there’s more to be done. You need to look at what platform is the best for your company size; what functions and reports you would gain from. There are quite a few solutions out in the market that you might want to consider. Take a look and ask your users to give you some feedback.

CRM tools are SaaS products, which means the product grows as your company does.

Implementing a CRM tool in a company can be demanding. Resources can be wasted on training hours and controlling. If your team doesn’t see the need of such a tool, you are failing at that communication. Take the time to reduce doubts and increase adoption.

 

What experiences you have with CRM tools? Which one would you recommend?

8 Ways To Improve Your Sales Email Response Rate

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MyStartupLand - Email Response Rate

Cold calling has been replaced by cold emails in many industries. We have less time available today and we are not willing to get on a call with a stranger.

Send me an email, if relevant I’ll get back to you“.

If you work in sales, you have heard these words at least once.

Getting your value proposition across in few words can be complicated. It might take time and effort to master this. We need to tell our prospect about our unique and fantastic product, and convince him to get on a call with us.

I have been in sales few years now and I have sent and received thousands of email. The goal is always the same, get on the phone and make the sale.

It’s difficult to come up with THE best way of writing an email. You need to continuosly customise it as well as thinking about who is on the receiving end. You need to spend time on it. Reality is, we don’t have time. We need to reach out to tons of leads. We need to close some deals.

Having a one-suite-all approach is not ideal. However, we can take in consideration few things to improve our email response rate.

First of all let’s put things into context. People spend on average 15-20 seconds reading one email. Another study showed that the “perfect” message has between 50 and 125 words. We don’t have much time to make an impact. We need to be effective and precise. We need a method.

Here below 8 ways to improve our email response rate:

1. Avoid complicated wording.

Stop using long sentences. Write short and clear phrases. Don’t use complicated words. Your prospect has no time. If he doesn’t understand, he will not waste his time trying to. You lost him!

Try to replace long expressions with shorter versions:

  • First and foremost” replace with “First
  • At this point in time” replace with “Now” or “Currently
  • For the purpose of” or “In order to” replace with “To
  • In the near future” replace with “Soon
  • Make an effort” replace with “Try
  • With the exception of” replace with “Except
  • In spite of the fact that” replace with “Although
  • In the event of” replace with “If

When thinking about complicated words, also try to avoid being redundant.

2. Introducing Yourself Or Your Company.

Never start the beginning of your email with your name and title. Who needs that? It’s a waste of space first of all, and let your prospect’s alarm goes off, because you sound like a sales person!

The same goes for a generic introduction of your company. Don’t waste precious words with useless presentation. When talking about your company focus on what is valuable for the prospect. There’s no need to tell your company is “the leading player in XYZ industry“. Who needs that? Everyone’s a leader nowadays anyway.

You can use your signature to give all those extra information. A link to your company website; to your LinkedIn profile; or to a TechCrunch mention should be more than enough.

3. Optimizing The Subject Line

Make sure your email title is clear and down to the point. No need of extra words. Tell your prospect what you want. Make him want to open your email.

Once you nailed the title, there’s no need to repeat it in the email body. The prospect has already clear why you are in touch with him. Now it’s time to focus on the real value your company can provide.

You might want to use some old sales trick, such as adding to your title “RE::” or “FWD::”. However, I am not a big fun of these as the prospect might feel tricked. We want to get him to trust us.

4. Use Some Type Of Reference.

Have you and your prospect attended the same event? Use it.

Did he share or write an interesting blog post? Use it.

It doesn’t really matter what type of connection you make as far as you don’t sound like a sales rep. Be aware not to sound too creepy, such as “I have seen on your Facebook profile…” that’s too way too much…

You need to create a relationship with your prospect and you have only few seconds.

5. Giving Too Many Options.

Your company might provide several services or have different products. Although your prospects might benefit from more than a specific one, you need to get your point across in the most efficient way. Try to stick to two points at most per email. Too many ideas will create confusion in your prospect’s mind.

If you shoot all your bullets at once, your follow up email will sound empty. Keep in mind that he might not get back to you straight away. Having some extra points to add later will make your emails sound less repetitive.

6. WIFM – What’s In It For Me.

Be clear and coincise. You don’t need to repeat sentences like “I am contacting you for…” or “I wanted to check with you about…”. Your prospect is aware of that. Get to the point as quickly as you can. Don’t waste his or her time. Let the prospect know why he should work with you.

Your prospect doesn’t really care about your company or who you are. He wants to know what’s in it for him if he gets on a call with you!

7. Including Generic Statements.

If you want to get your prospect’s attention within few seconds, you can’t waste precious time with useless sentences. You might think that jumping straight in to the topic might be rude, but you are acknowledging the fact that your prospect is busy.

Avoid phrases like:

  • Hope you are doing well
  • Happy [insert day of the week]
  • How was your w.e.?

Keep in mind though that this is true in Western cultures, while in some Eastern cultures, such as Japan, some etiquette in regards of the weather might be necessary.

8. Telling Your Prospect What’s Next.

Don’t end your email with a generic statement that leads you nowhere.

“I hope to hear back from you” or “Looking forward to your reply”.

No! Ask them for a call or include a call to action. Tell them a date and a time when they will have 5 minutes for a quick chat. You only need that to explain in more details how they can benefit from your solution.

 

Cold emails are not a replacement for sales. You should not aim at closing a prospect over email. You cannot cover all important topics and questions over emails.

Emails are a great way to start a conversation and initiate a relationship with your prospect. If you want to get more answers, write less and be more efficient.

 

Do you know any other way to improve your sales email response rate? Share it here below!

8 Aspects That Make You A Real Entrepreneur

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MyStartupLand - Email Response Rate

I am an entrepreneur” …

I am a co-founder” …

I have a startup“…

I loved to say these words. I loved to secretely and modestly brag about my status. I loved to described my idea and being admired for having the balls to making the jump. Oh yes, I loved it!

Let’s be honest, how many out there are ready to take this decision. Leaving a “normal” job for the uncertain waters of entrepreneurship. Jumping into a less than a 5% success rate story versus a stable monthly income. Gambling with an unsecure future that might destroy anything you have built until now.

Entrepreneurs are special beasts. 

If you have been there, you know that entrepreneurs have a special status-quo. You are risk taker, independent and brave. Everyone will recognize you that and you know it!

With the increasing availability of capital on the market, many more than usual want to be an entrepreneurs but few are actually one.

I was there and I wasn’t an entrepreneur. At least, not in the real meaning of it.

With startup accelerators and events (and tons of books), we are surrounded by mentors, experts and whatever else is out there. We seek answers; we seek guidance. We read books or blogs on how to best do something. We would love to have someone pointing us in the right direction, telling us the perfect process.

Is this real entrepreneurship? I say no.

I still remember the beginning of my journey. I was ready to start my own business. I quit my job and dreamt out loud. I thought I was ready, but I was not. Risks were not all taken in consideration and I didn’t buy them all. I looked for answers and help everywhere so that I would have someone telling me where to go, what to do, so that if something wouldn’t work out, it would have not been my fault.

I believe it’s natural, we all tend to find excuses for our own mistakes and perhaps sometimes it is someone else’s mistake. But we are entrepreneurs and we should be the only one responsible for our future.

If we are waiting to be guided, we are employees, we are not entrepreneuers. Here below are 8 differences between employees and entrepreneurs.

1. Lead vs. Follow.

Entrepreneurs are the one who leads the way and direct employees on activities. Usually, employees receive directions on a daily basis and act on these.

Founders needs to set their own objectives to be successful and reach the unreachable.

2. Security vs. Risk.

Income is something that employees feel very close to. They feel the responsibility to pay the bills and that’s why they choose to have a “normal” job. Entrepreneurs know the risk in what they are doing. Usually they tend to be less worried about expenses and know they will figure out something. They are more worried about the company success than anything else.

3. Reactive vs. Proactive.

Working as an employee allows you to be reactive to tough situation. You don’t need to think 10 steps ahead and worry about the unthinkable. Entrepreneurs need to be ready and are not afraid of taking responsibilities. They know that everyone will look at them and will hold them accountable for mistakes.

4. Do vs. Listen. 

Startup founders need to listen to their employees to provide the best working environment. They tend not to do things as their role is take care of people working for them. Employees instead need to do stuff and be focused on achieving what’s needed.

5. Specialist vs. Generalist.

If you work as an employee there is a need to become a specialist in your area. This will give you a edge in the market of employable people.

Entrepreneurs, however, need to know everything, not necessarily in details. There is a need to have a general knowledge about several topics because only in this way they can guide employees through the every day work.

6. Follow vs. Break Rules. 

To achieve greatness an entrepreneur needs to disrupt the market. There are no rules in the way, everything is possible.

To achieve success, however, you need people to follow your orders. There is a need for employees to follow the rules set by the founders.

7. Tasks vs. Plans

Employees are generally asked to take care of specific tasks that are relevant only to their area. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, need to take in consideration the whole picture.

8. Failure vs. Success. 

Failure is part of the entrepreneurs’ journey towards success. They are not scared of failing. They need to fail to learn how to succeed. Failure equals learning for entrepreneurs. Employees would rather not fail as it might mean losing job or their status.

 

If you are really considering to move away from employment, you need to be honest with yourself. Think about those 8 points and take in consideration what you want. It is often difficult to understand this in advance, but to be successful you have to be self-conscious.

Don’t be another wantreprenuer… Change your mindset and achieve greatness! 

How Office Culture Is Strangling Your Tech Startup

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Office Culture - MyStartupLand

The tech startup industry is booming; with more and more startups being created daily by wannabe entrepreneurs and unicorn creators, the need for having your employees surrounding you in an office is getting old-fashioned. The office setting is under pressure, with remote video calls, outsourcing, and workers in coffee bars on the rise, is it time to make your team remote?

When you hire employees — specifically those that may work together as a team on projects throughout the year — it is not likely that you envision one or some of them working remotely from home or other locations that are not the office. Of course, there are advantages to having all your team members in one place (positive office culture, just to name one) but within an office setting if one or two people are missing it can hold up production and progress. Thanks to today’s technology and resources, working remotely, even when part of a team, does not have to be a problem. In fact, it can even be more helpful than when everyone is together under one roof.

Back at Process Street, we’re a motivated and productive remote working team. We bounce ideas around, communicate and collaborate with each other without any problems and would love to share some things that make it work for us. There are many advantages to remote teams that you won’t get with an office; read on to find out what they are.

Offices Limit Hiring to Local talent

Having trouble finding local talent to fill up roles? If the job is something that can be done remotely, such as writing content or web development, then you can hire the best talent from anywhere in the world.

This is also a great way to find freelancers for specific projects that you might not need a full-time employee for. On top of this, on-boarding employees can be an easier process because they’re in a more relaxed setting.

On-Site Employees Cost More

Allowing several employees to work from home can result in big savings on your office expenses, and office space in general. If you do not have a large office to begin with, it only makes sense to allow some employees to work from anywhere, especially if they are only providing you with services part-time.

Employees have to commute to work and this can be expensive, especially if they live further away or use public transport. A horde of employees using the printer, using free coffee provided, using stationery supplies, and more which can add up and cost a lot! Yet, employees who work remotely will help you save significantly on expenses.

Offices Can Kill Happiness

A good employer wants their employees to be happy; studies show that a happy employee is a productive employee. Sometimes for an employee to be happy, that means getting out of the office. You may not want to admit it, but offices, especially large ones, can be toxic. With things such as office gossip, low morale, and a general feeling of being trapped can all result in an unproductive, unhappy workforce.

So long as an employee can work from home and still remain as productive as you expect them to be while in the office, why not let them do so and allow them to be happy?

…They Also Sap Productivity

One of the direct results of employee happiness is improved productivity. Sitting at the same desk every day, staring at the same computer screen, speaking to the same people, some might argue that it is just a part of work life in general, yet, it does not need to be.

Change up an employee’s work environment, and you may find that productivity actually improves. An employee that works remotely benefits from personal happiness, an environment they find more conducive to work, lifestyle they choose which subsequently produces better work quality.

Communication Is No Longer An Office Advantage

These days, we have a vast amount of ways to stay connected by phone and the internet ensuring that communication and collaboration aren’t an issue, even when you’re working remotely.

With wi-fi connections and mobile data networks available in many countries, coverage areas are expanding every day. Solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 mean that you can collaborate with colleagues on documents in real time, even if one of you is in the office and the other is at home. Slack is also great for general communication whilst Skype is great for holding voice call meetings.

As a fan of the remote working lifestyle, it has many benefits to it, for example; why on earth would I want to sit in boring meetings, meet face-to-face with people I hardly know and wear suits when I can sit in a coffee shop in a comfy tracksuit and still be as productive? My productivity levels have increased whilst working remote and I’ve actually learned more as I am comfortable in the environment I am working in. This in all saves money for tech startups which makes it a good reason to go remote.

Create An Amazing Value Proposition

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Value Proposition - MyStartupLand

Sales, marketing, pitching, creating power points – This is the skill you need to elevate

I had the exciting opportunity to build up global companies several times and if I could go back in time, I wish I could tell myself to learn the skill of creating amazing Value Propositions sooner.

The ability to create strong and powerful value propositions is important at all stages in your entrepreneurial process. Value propositions are used in the sales process, creating sales material, writing blogs, creating products, holding presentations, etc.

 

Give me 5 minutes to twist your mind – We hire products to do things for us.

University of Phoenix has created this amazing video where professor Clayton Christensen explains that we hire products to do things for us. Take 5 minutes of your life and watch it now. I promise it will be worth it.

In the video you will learn how one of the biggest companies did it all wrong

 

OK, great! I have your attention ;-). Your mind is challenged and your brain is trying to take in everything. Now let’s discuss Value Propositions.

Working with entrepreneurs, marketers and sales people globally I have seen the same mistake repeated over and over again. The mistake is the lack of customer focus. Let me give you an example that you have most likely done or experienced. Let’s imagine you are about to do a sales presentation. What slide do you start with? And how do you continue? This is the most common outline.

• Everybody around the table present themselves
• Sales person does some type of introduction
• Sales person shows first power point slide about his company: history, what they do etc.
• Sales Person shows more slides about the company and the product

So why is this wrong? Because it is an egocentric approach. All it says is me, me, me and me. I am sorry to say this but customers don’t care about you. They care about themselves. And you must think about this all the time. What customers want is to hire a product to do things for them and your job is to create an amazing value proposition that tells that story.

What is value proposition? It is a clear statement about the outcomes that an individual or an organization can realize from using your product, service or solution.

Key here is OUTCOME.

 

4 tools to help you create an amazing Value Proposition.

I have worked for companies with extremely complex solutions and customer outcomes where it has been really challenging to create great value propositions. But if you work hard enough you will find it. I have created this SlideShare to help you create your own Value Proposition no matter how complex environment you are operating in. It has helped over 20 000 people and I hope that you will be 20 001.

Digital Nomads & The Remote Work Revolution (Infographic)

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Digital Nomads - MyStartupLand

It doesn’t really matter how much you like your job, everyone, at least once in their working life, has wondered why they need to spend a big chunk of their life in an office, in front of a computer, somewhere inside an office.

Most of us face the reality that this is what we need to do to survive; to pay the bills; and be somewhat within the scheme of our society. However, and I wonder this on a daily basis especially during winter, what if we didn’t have to do this. What if we could just break free; work from wherever we want; be productive from a beach rather an office?

Working from home is nowadays more accepted than a couple of decades ago. There are definitely more freelancers who try to make a life at their own pace, working from a cafe (or at home) with their latte macchiato, rather than in an office listening to their boss all day.

Younger generations are embracing this trend more naturally; however, they might be driven by a sense of emptiness in working 40 years to enjoy a miserable pension.

In between freelancers and unsatisfied millennials, there are digital nomads. These are professionals who work remotely for companies, who are able to produce as much (if not more) from somewhere that is more suitable to their lifestyle.

Travelling and working at the same time, today, is more accessible than ever. We are always connected, regardless of where we are. We are all digital nomads (theoretically), instead of travelling around the world, we simply travel through the city and keep working in the same exact way as we would do in the office.

Few years ago, it could have been tougher to embrace this lifestyle, due to infrastructure limitations and connection problems. However, today, we see popping up tons of co-working spaces, literally everywhere, with decent enough internet connection and a vibrant community of entrepreneurs.

Startup founders sometimes forget that becoming digital nomads could actually help their startup surviving longer and get the right traction in local (and less competitive) markets. Cost of leaving in San Francisco or London are 10x higher (if not more) than those in Bali or Thailand. We, as startup founders, might think is better (or cooler) to live in bigger cities because of events, meet-ups, access to potential VCs, without realising that burn rate and employment competitiveness are considerably higher.

Startup founders need to understand where their startup is at and what they need, then take a decision. A digital nomad life is not for everyone and not all entrepreneurs are cut for this. The below infographic analyses this major trend and shows some interesting statistic about this lifestyle:

 

Digital Nomads & The Remote Work Revolution

Made by: BargainFox

The Pros
It’s easy to see the appeal. While some people love their jobs, the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world or spend more time with friends and family, is not something you’re likely to pass up. Surveys suggest the nomadic lifestyle improves health, relationships and overall happiness. When somebody is happy they are more productive and creative.
This is a key factor in companies and employers embracing the concept. The team behind the Firefox web browser is 60% remote. All 400 plus employees of Automattic, who develop the WordPress blog platform are digital nomads.
It also allows employers to choose from a much wider talent pool when the candidates do not have to live within commuting distance of the office.
“This has been amazing for the company in that we can attract and retain the best talent without them having to be in New York or San Francisco or one of the traditional tech centers,” echoes Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg.
There’s also a financial incentive. If you don’t have an office then you obviously don’t have to pay for office space, electricity and daily amenities, and perhaps even computer equipment (though many larger firms do provide this for their remote workers). These savings can then be passed on in various ways.

The Cons
That doesn’t mean there aren’t hurdles to overcome with a digital nomad lifestyle. Some people simply work better in a more authoritative environment. The freedom to be your own boss can slip too far the wrong way an effect productivity. Furthermore some people just aren’t inclined to travel and take on the adventurous side of the lifestyle. Working remotely without the natural impetus to get out and live can negatively impact people emotionally. Socializing is an in-built part of the office.
From an employer’s standpoint going partially or fully distributed is a huge step and cannot be taken lightly. This itself is enough to put people off. Office culture can also take a hit. Emails, messaging and Skype still do not fully replicate the bonding of face to face interaction and the speed at which information and ideas can be conveyed.

The Future
Just as technology gave birth to the digital nomads, some of the hurdles facing them are being overcome with further advances. Apps like Timedoctor and Slack can help boost productivity and time management. Specialized chat systems like Sqwiggle and Horn aid communication, and Caravanerai and Nomadlist help nomads sort out co-living and travel destinations.
Co-working spaces are also helping to solve the problem of productivity for those that cannot always focus by themselves. These specially designed environments are vibrant, fun and comfortable, and allows disparate nomads to come together and share ideas.
Technology making our lives easier is not just a cliché. The digital nomads are living examples of how we’ve come far enough that even work is being rethought.

Maximise Your Sales Calls Results – The Introduction

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Sales Call - MyStartupLand

Getting that sign on a contract that seals the sale is a long and challenging process. Startup founders often forget the importance of sales and focus on building products that few really want. Sales is as important as product development. Probably the biggest misconception about sales is that it can be easily done by anyone. Entrepreneurs need to realise what’s the process behind getting a client onboard and ultimately maximise their efforts to bring the best results in the shortest period of time.

Sales is about creating a process that can be replicated over and over successfully. Your team needs to become a “sales machine” that operates through specific and proven activities. There are several steps that needs your attention as a startup founder when thinking about maximising your sales efforts: lead generation, cold contact, introductory phone call, follow up phone call, meeting in person and so on.

Each step is very important. Each one of these has specific sub-activities that your team or yourself need to consider and critically analyse to increase results over time. In the same way you A/B test features on your website or app, you need to A/B test your sales activities. Test different versions of the same step; analyse which one works best; reiterate with similar variations to optimise results. It’s a process and like any other it takes time to master.

While some of these steps are more mechanical and easy to learn, “live interaction” with clients requires an extra effort because we all have different personalities. You cannot learn how to interact with clients by reading a blog post or looking at a video, you simply have to do it. However, you can master the process behind this interaction, minimising the margin for error.

Live interaction takes several forms. One of these is phone calls.

Calling a prospect over the phone is one of the factors that you can’t take out of the equation. You must interact with a prospect over the phone, either for the first time (cold call) or after an introductory email. What happens before the call depends on the industry you are in. There are some where cold calling is more accepted than others. Nevertheless, you need to be confident in picking up the phone and talk with your prospect. Anytime!

Picking up that phone, however, is not an easy thing to do. Not everyone feels comfortable in doing that. We hate when we get a cold call, so when we are the one doing it, we feel pretty bad about it. But this is your business, you need to overcome that fear and just do it.

What I highlight here below can be used in both cold or warm contact. This is a structure that can be adapted to any situation and industry, regardless of the prospect.

Remember: the first phone interaction is mainly to understand whether there is mutual interest

Tell Your Prospect What’s Going To Happen

The introduction is the most important part. You need to tell the prospect what is the call going to be about. Remember you called him and you set the pace, not the other way around. This will let your prospect understand that you are not going to waste his time. You have a plan and you are making him part of it. No surprises during the call.

The best way to approach this is to highlight main points you want to touch upon:

  • TIME: How long is this call going to be?
  • PURPOSE: Why am I bothering you?
  • PROSPECT AGENDA: What do you want to get out of this call?
  • SALES AGENDA: What do I want to get out of this call?
  • OUTCOME: How do we go with the next step?

 

TIME – Why do we need to tell the prospect how long is our call going to be? Won’t we be shooting ourselves in the foot?

Not really. The idea is to tell the prospect that you won’t take more than 10 – 15 minutes of his time. You have a plan and you will stick to it.

I know, you want to keep him on the phone for an hour and sell him everything you have. Moreover you want to get a commitment to buy. However, you need to change attitude. Remember that you are in the driver seat and you decide where the communication goes and how long is going to be.

The “trick” here is to set for a relatively short time-frame. 10-15 minutes usually works. Why? Because unless you don’t catch your prospect on the way to the toilet or at the beginning of a meeting, he will have 10 minutes to spare with you.

I can hear you though. You are screaming and want to tell me that you can’t possibly do this call in 10 minutes. It’s insane, you just can’t. You have so much to say.  Keep in mind that the time you set at the beginning of the call is to create comfort on the other side. Your prospect knows he won’t waste more than 10 minutes of his life if you have nothing interesting for him. However, if you have something interesting, either one of these two things will happen:

  1. He will give you more time to shine and talk about your product
  2. He will ask you to call him or set up a face-to-face meeting to go in to more details

That’s what you want! You ask for a small fraction of his time and try to get more of it.

In 10 minutes you won’t be selling your product, you are simply trying to get a commitment for more time.

Why is this technique useful?

  • You create a sense of trust with the prospect
  • The prospect knows that you are not going to bother him for 2 hours
  • If the prospect is not interesting for you, 10 minutes won’t kill your productivity

 

PURPOSE – Why are you calling the prospect? why is he the chosen one?

By going through this step you will acknowledge the fact that the person you are talking to is actually the right one. This is very important for both you and the prospect.

By quickly explaining the purpose of the call, your prospect will get a hint of what you are going to talk about during these 10 minutes. You can’t just jump into pitching your product straight away. What if he is not the right guy? What if he has no interest in your product whatsoever? What if he is about to leave the company and he is not the decision-maker anymore? This step is as crucial as setting a time frame for your call.

 

PROSPECT AGENDA – What’s in it for your prospect? What is he going to get out of this call?

Once again here you just go through some main points on why your prospect should be interested in listening to you. Very briefly you highlight how the call is going to eventually benefit the other side.

As for the previous two points, the major objective of this step is to create understanding between the two parties. Remember that the prospect is still unsure whether your solution is relevant for his daily business.

A common mistake that might happen in this (and next step) is to go into too many details. Remember this is just the introduction. You want to give an overview of why and how things are going to work.

 

SALES AGENDA – What do I want to sell? Why do I think my solution is worth your time?

You give an overview of your solution and put it into context considering your prospect’s business. You are giving out hints on how a potentially a longer call is going to be.

The idea in this step is very similar to the “prospect agenda” step. It’s just from your perspective. By explaining what you do and what you want to achieve, the prospect will have a better understanding of your business and if intrigued will let you talk.

Remember although you know that your solution is what the prospect needs, he is yet to find out. You need to present your agenda in specific terms but you still don’t want to start selling. The introduction purpose is just to highlight what is going to happen in the call.

 

OUTCOME – What happens next?

This might sound strange, especially if you think we are still in the introductory part of the call. Stating the outcome will create a sense of comfort from the prospect’s perspective. You have now given a full overview of what’s going to happen, included a possible follow up. Your prospect is aware of what’s happening, no surprise.

Talking about the outcome of the call is important because you are already telling your prospect what you want to get out of this call, being a follow-up call, an in person meeting, or simply understanding whether there is mutual interest or not. This step is as important as the first one. We often forget about this or are unconsciously scared of bringing it up. Don’t be scared, this is part of the game and you are the one dictating the rules of the game.

A good practice in the outcome step is to clearly state to the prospect that you don’t know whether your solution is the right one for him. This might be counter-intuitive but in a way it’s true. You think your service is needed in the prospect’s company, but you are just assuming that. If you are honest with the prospect and take this step, the other party will not feel threatened. You will not sell anymore, you will find out whether the two companies can collaborate. It’s a small step that makes a huge psychological difference.

 

These 5 steps in the introduction part will help you maximise your sales calls results. Introduction is crucial to success. Master this step and the rest will be about discovery!

 

Note: The process highlighted here is the result sales trainings and professional experience. 

 

Sales And The Art Of Closing

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The Art Of Closing - MyStartupLand

Closing in sales is THE most important (and probably the only) thing that really matters if we have a startup or a sales team that needs to sell our product. If we don’t close, we are not selling, hence we are not doing our job. It doesn’t really matter how many leads we generate in a day, how many people we call in one hour, we need to close, and we need to do it now!

Everyone involved in sales need to get a clear understanding of sales and the art of closing.

Sales doesn’t happen without closing. Closing doesn’t happen without understanding sales.

You might think that when I talk about closing, I am referring exclusively to getting that deal signed. No, that’s not only what I am talking about. Of course, signing a contract is going to contribute to our success, but before we get there, we need to understand the art behind it.

Everyday as salesmen, we get different responses from our prospects, some sound like these:

  • “I need more time to make a decision…”
  • “I have to talk with my manager…”
  • “Give me a call next month…”
  • “Send me more information via email…”

We hear these all the time and as good salesmen, we write down a note in our CRM system and move on to the next lead. After all we’ve got a response and we think there’s a next step agreed. But we are not listening. We are just ignoring the reality. We received a “no” masked as a polite excuse, but we think it as an opportunity.

Take a moment, stop and think about it as if you were on the other side of the phone. How many times have you clearly said no to someone trying to sell you something? Rarely. We don’t like to be rude or hurt the other person’s feeling. We come up with a nice excuse and hope that they will never call or bother us again. We act just like our prospects on a daily basis, but when we are on the selling side, we seem to forget about it. Why?

Salesmen are scared to lose opportunities. We are scared to lose a sale. We need to hit targets on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, we can’t let anyone run away. We live under constant stress. Our boss is on our neck or our business is about to close down if we don’t close that deal. If we send out 10 proposals,however, we feel a step closer to success. But we are wrong.

The art of closing is about understanding our prospect and their messages. We either close the sale or close the opportunity (and move on). Let’s not waste our valuable time chasing excuses. If our prospect is telling us to call him the next quarter and he doesn’t give us a (reasonable) motivation for that, is the “no” going to feel less painful in 2 months? I doubt.

The first thing we should do when we hear a “no” in any of its form is to ask a very simple question: Why?

“Could you please let me know why are we postponing this decision and we can’t agree on the next steps right now?”

By asking the right question at the right time, we are able to understand whether the prospect is really interested in talking with us at a later stage or he is just trying to push us gently away. If we chase the wrong opportunity, we might be losing on the right ones! As a salesman, it’s tough to say goodbye to a lead, but sometimes this can actually benefit our overall productivity and results.

It’s also important to understand that not everything that sounds like an excuse it’s actually a “no”. It’s our job to find out what’s behind this initial rejection. If this is genuine, for example the prospect has no left-over budget to test with us or they have an annual contract with another vendor, let’s proceed by establishing clear next steps and set a timeline with our prospect. Let him propose a time and a date, he will feel committed to it.

To make sure we get the most out of every interaction with our prospects we should follow these steps:

  1. Understand our prospect’s reasons for delaying the decision
  2. Mutually agree on a timeline for the next steps
  3. Don’t chase an excuse by don’t asking “why”

If we do these, we will be more successful and focus only on those prospects that are worth chasing.

Startup without VCs. Is it possible? – INTERVIEW

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marketing automation - MyStartupLand.

The Hungarian startup ecosystem has been developing intensively in the past few years. Many successful startups started here, like Prezi, Ustream or LogMeln. All these companies have their development center still in Budapest. Along with the internationally known Hungarian startups, there are others who are also having great potential, however, they are not yet internationally recognized. They are the Hungarian startup hopes of the future.

In this interview we talk with Gabor Koncz, who is the founder of a Budapest based startup, Automizy. This startup started as an email marketing solution. After that, it developed into a new marketing automation platform that can be used without a black belt marketer. Gabor tells us about how his startup is planning to enter the U.S. market, their primary focus for international expansion.

 

Automizy has been active only in the Hungarian market. Now you are directing your operations towards international markets, mainly the U.S. Why?

Gabor Koncz: In the past few years we were able to grow close to 100% in each year. It means that our income as well as the amount of emails sent increased tenfold in last 4 years. This can’t continue for so long due to the limitation of the Hungarian market. Moving out from our country, we’d like to target the biggest market, the U.S.A., more precisely, the whole English speaking market.

Our Hungarian customers on average send out around 35 million emails in a month. This is expected to increase only to 50 million emails monthly by the end of the year. Our competitors are at the pace of 2-3 billion emails in a month. This shows that the growth potential is still huge, without mentioning the low prevalence of similar kind of software in the market.

How does the global market for marketing automation platforms look like?

G.K.: For global marketing automation leaders is about 5%-10% of companies. These have already the knowledge to use these kind of complicated softwares. Our aim is to win the remaining 90-95% of the market. Namely, all those companies who don’t have a black belt marketer, but would like to enjoy the marketing automation advantages.

According to the IDC the marketing software space is expected to grow to more than $32 billion by 2018. International media outlets have been posting articles lately about how the IT leader won’t be the one spending the most for IT, it rather will be marketing directors. And this new situation is what we are preparing for with Automizy.

Isn’t it too difficult to enter the global market from Hungary? Especially with a product that already exists and have plenty of supply in the current market?

G.K.: The sales process does not happen face to face, it takes place online. So, acquiring and handling clients is not more complicated than expanding into a neighbour market.

What kind of strategy did you start the market acquisition with? What kind of tools and channels were you using?

G.K.: The whole strategy has been built up and based on our current clients’ problems. Of course, we analyzed the competitors as well. However, this spring I spent a week in the U.S.A. This gave me the most useful information for product development.

During the week I was in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, I talked with about 100 marketers from the SME sector. These were just short and rapid conversations and although they looked like only a chat, the scenario was well prepared in advance. My goal was to test our hypothesis.

We learnt a lot from these conversations. We based our acquisition strategy and changed the product concept because of this experience.

Let’s get back to the second part of the first question. After deciding the strategy what kind of tools and channels you picked for client acquisition?

G.K.: The center of our client acquisition is based on content marketing. We created content in English on marketing automation for marketers new to the topic. We built a base of returning visitors and later on created advanced, behaviour based content thanks to our technology.

If someone signed up for Automizy, that was when the on-boarding process started. This is not made only of an automized, behavioural based part. There is also a real person, our Customer Success Manager, that has the duty to help our customers.

This means that potential clients can meet Automizy for the first time on your English blog. What kind of tools have you been using to get visitors to the blog? For example have you been using paid channels as well?

G.K.: For the time being, we are at the client acquisition testing and “fine-tuning”stage. Until we don’t have a final “answer”, we don’t want to invest too much money for visitor acquisition. We tested social media. Surprisingly, Twitter is the absolute winner in the U.S.A.. This is where we were able to make the most with fewer resources. We run paid ads in these channels and the effort we put was not free either. However, the result was quite great! We managed to sign up more than 500 companies from 15 different countries, with no serious investment.

If I understand correctly, there is no venture capital behind the company. It is interesting because it’s not a typical startup feature. Wouldn’t you like to involve any extra capital to grow your company?

K.G.: That’s right. Our growing was organic and we financed it from our incomes. In Hungary nobody knew what startup meant when we started. Moreover, the Hungarian startup community didn’t really exist. We called ourselves a startup but we never thought of involving external fundings.

Right now, we are faced with a rather interesting situation. We are already out from the “startup stage” here in Hungary. So it wouldn’t be worth to involve any Hungarian investor. Our domestic growth is already self-sustainable, but at the same time our 100% rate of growth cannot last for long.

We cannot yet prove to have a lot of paying customers globally. Therefore no international fund would invest in Automizy to speed up our growth. Looking at it from the U.S. perspective, we are just a new startup that has a product tested in one market. Our American activities are still far behind compared to the Hungarian’s growth.

Considering this, an American investor would only participate with a very low valuation. This would be pointless for us at this stage. A small investment of 2-300.000 USD wouldn’t have any significant impact on our operations. What we would be able to do with that money is something we are able to do with our present revenue.

This amount could be pushed higher if we assigned more resources to this activity.  However, we are not trying to win startup competitions, we want users. We don’t want to pitch investors, we want to talk to potential customers. We rather put all our effort into customer acquisition. If we had enough customers and our growth would be quick enough, investors would come. Otherwise we will carry on with our activites and grow at a speed that our income can afford.

Obviously I’m not against any investment! Each company has a different situation. But for us, this is not our primary concern, as we are able to grow in this way.

In your opinion, do startups need marketing or can they wait until the growth phase after raising capital?

G.K.: One cannot start with marketing early enough. Once you have the idea, the first thing to do is to talk with potential customers. Sell the product or service, even if it’s not there yet. If it turns out your idea cannot raise any awareness, then nobody would pay for it and it wouldn’t be worth investing any effort.

I feel like most startups have the wrong attitude. They would rather focus on product development instead of finding out scenarios for product sales. They develop their “super thing” first and after that beg for money from investors. They think spending money for marketing will lead to hyper speed growth.

Startups rarely fail because of their imperfect or non-existent product. Without marketing, however, they almost always do.

My advice is unequivocal: once you have the idea and the team decides to start working on the product, then it’s also time to begin with marketing. Put the same passion and amount of energy as you do in product development. The result of marketing won’t come in the following day and neither the product will be developed in a few days. Both activities are a marathon, not a 100m sprint.

Ideally, by the time the product’s first version comes out, there is sizeable waiting list who wants to try it out already.