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TLDR GraphicYet another “Lessons Learned” post from a first-time entrepreneur.  Except this one is incredibly wise beyond his years.  The insights are so in depth and valuable that even the most seasoned serial entrepreneur would be envious. The sad part is, since the article is not one of those pithy “10 secrets to building a successful venture” posts, it will be lost on the typical reader seeking quick-fix advice.

 

Worthless Advice?

I have a deep cynicism when reading first-time entrepreneurs pontificating

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SWOT Analysis is not just a B-school exercise.  It is indeed a valuable tool for entrepreneurs – whether for internal planning and “reality check” exercises, or as a way of explaining the new venture’s prospects to investors and other external stakeholders.

SWOT1What is SWOT?

SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats.

SWOT analysis is a methodological tool designed to help workers and companies optimize performance, maximize potential, manage competition, and minimize risk.

SWOT is about making better decisions, both large and small. It can help you determine the efficacy of something as small as introducing a new product or service or something as large as a merger or acquisition. Again, SWOT is a method that, once mastered, can only enhance performance.

The Essential Guide to SWOT Analysis is a well-researched, well-written, and well-rounded guide co-authored by Justin Gomer and Jackson Hille from the University of California.

Give it a read!

 

I finally get Klout. No, I never had much clout in any kind of situation, but I finally understand the concept of “Klout” – the social influence metric.

Klout is like a credit score for social networking influence, calculating and assigning a number that depicts a person’s relative influence (clout) in the social networking universe – Facebook, Twitter, G+, foursquare, and just about every relevant social network out there.  I remember signing up for Klout several years ago, like I do with many online services.  After an initial period of fascination, it was relegated to the back burner of my mind.

Every so often I’d get an email telling me my current Klout score.  The Klout Score is a number between 1-100 that represents your influence. The more influential you are, the higher your Klout Score.  But like getting a credit score that no one else really reads, Klout had little impact, much less meaning, in my personal or professional life.   Klout was more like a vanity metric, or an attempt at “gamification” – i.e. trying to change my behavior based on my desire to get a higher ranking on Klout.

In May, I received a gift card from Coffee Bean just because I maintained a relatively high Klout score.   I didn’t think too much of it at the time; it seemed like any one of a number of direct marketing incentives we get all the time.

Whack on the head

Then, less than 2 weeks ago, I had an “aha moment” with Klout.

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There’s an age-old and ongoing debate about whether entrepreneurship can be taught or if it’s something that people are born with. Having both been a serial entrepreneur, and a mentor and educator in entrepreneurship, I must admit that I go back and forth on this issue often. As a mentor and educator, I suppose I must firmly believe that entrepreneurship can be taught — and this is probably the subject of a much longer blog post or article. However, after being an investor advisor and mentor for over 10 years is more than obvious that some entrepreneurs simply possess the gene without ever having really studied or ever having a role model.

Nothing so reinforces the “natural entrepreneur” theory than when I travel to different parts of the country, and abroad – particularly when I travel outside the major business ecosystems such as Silicon Valley (or other major metropolitan area). Often I will encounter a small business person or entrepreneur (there is a difference) who, not only naturally displays the attributes and behaviors of a successful entrepreneur, but also comes up with a unique and brilliant approach that would make their Silicon Valley counterparts a little jealous.

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I am pretty sure the business owner drew the window artwork out of more of a sense of cynicism and frustration than out of any kind of genius marketing insight. But that one sentence is worth a week of discussion in my entrepreneurship class.

Those few words embody the concepts of first mover vs fast follower and market ownership. Sure, Starbucks wasn’t the first – but they were the first to scale. McDonald’s wasn’t the first to sell a hamburger – just the first to scale and own the mindshare and market for fast food. How many industries are dominated, not by the innovator or first-mover, but by the fast-follower, and the company that scaled: Google, Microsoft, Facebook.

And then there is our local coffee shop. We’ve gone full circle. They are gaining some success by precisely not being Starbucks. Once the market is dominated for a time by one or two leaders, a new opportunity arises for niche players. These “latent niche leaders” succeed because once a market matures, there are now significant numbers who are willing to pay for a more specialized choice.

 

Even if you are under 30 or even under 25, most of us don’t realize for forget how much technology has changed our lives and society in such an incredibly short time. This video really makes the point with some familiar examples:

Killed by Tech via @equalman – YouTube