Entrepreneur Magazine Feature: Marketing Your Startup

The September 2017 edition of Entrepeneur features some marketing lessons we got from building WordStart and doing some client work. We often get so focused on clients that we forget treat ourselves and our startup as the client – or better. I know that things certainly fall through the cracks with focus sometimes all over the place.

This piece takes many hits and misses into account, as well as some experiments that we embarked on outside of budgets where we were able to collaborate and test some ideas.

I would love hear your what works for your marketing. What hacks do you have that we can learn from?

Entrepreneur magazine piece - September 2017 Get the September edition of South Africa’s Entrepreneur magazine, look out for page 59 and come share your thoughts. Or tweet me on @Mongezi.

Five startup lessons

Since everyone feels the need to offer entrepreneurial advice to startups, anywhere from motivational the odd motivational talk to how you should build, it’s hard to know what to take and what not to. The August 2015 issue of Entrepreneur magazine has a piece with some of the most timeless advice that I received from seasoned entrepreneurs. These continue to be relevant and some I wrestle with from time to time.

Have a look at the piece below and grab yourself of Entrepreneur:

Five Things To Consider When Starting A Business

Sunday Live, a talk show on SABC 1 recently me to talk about some of the pains and joys of starting and running a business. The viewers started calling in later during the show, some with valid concerns and the rest seemed to think money was their ultimate challenge. There is no getting away from the need for capital when you start, but in most cases, plans tend to not reflect the realities of growing a fledgling business.

Most things that contribute to growth can be learned, let’s get into some of the things that you can consider if you want to build a new business:

1. Capital is the least of your problems

Take capital out of the business idea equation, have you got everything else that you need to build on your idea?

 “Huxley Don’t make excuses and Don’t talk about it. Do it.” ~ Melvyn Douglas

In his book Art Of The Start, former Apple chief evangelist, co-founder of Garage.com – a seed-stage and early-stage venture capital fund – and now the chief evangelist for Canva, Guy Kawasaki encourages startups to bootstrap. His advice, which I also lean towards, is that entrepreneurs should consider starting as a service business while they build their offering and test it in the real world.

Art Of The Start - Guy Kawasaki

The notion that capital makes a business is one of the killers of many great ideas that never get to see the light of day. Don’t fall into that trap.

2. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle

In the movie Horrible Bosses 2, the side-splitting team starts a business and, following a TV interview, they get their first client. The client also happens to be a billionaire who gets them started with a huge order. Up to this point, this is the story that most of us buy into when thinking of starting a business. Aside from the great idea that we bet on, it’s also the notion that slot machines will pay out sooner than the usual salary run.

There’s another side. A side that does not get mentioned a lot. This alternative is seeing entrepreneurship as a journey, one filled with successes and some false starts. Part of the fulfilment is in building the idea and the value that it creates in the marketplace, not just the money that is likely to come in boat-loads. That is not to be confused with going against making a decent living, which takes us to the next point.

Are you ready for the change lifestyle which includes working late nights and early mornings in the early stages?

3. Put the mask on yourself first

How often do you ignore flight attendants as they take passengers through the all too familiar ‘pre-flight safety demonstration’? They tell you about the mask that drops if the worst happens and they mention that you should put the mask on yourself first, then help others – not vice versa. While this happens, most people send their last few text messages or check the time.

I struggled with this when I first started, I wanted to take others along with me and help them without realising that there was a fun and equally challenging journey ahead. A journey that needs the business owner to make a mask from nothing and put it on themselves first.

 

4. Build on an idea that you believe in

This seems easy enough when thinking about it. Of course you believe in your idea, you wouldn’t be thinking of taking this course of action if that weren’t true, right?

Wrong.

The sense of belief should be closer to a form of madness. This is what converts others to your world-view and how you do things.

When the iPhone 1 was released, there were mostly Nokia phones and other companies that did not have touch-screens. They were well known. They owned the market. Most of us had one of their devices.

Over time, for most of the world’s population who now use iPhones and Android, these were adopted. We all wonder how we coped before and forget that we thought the iPhone was a fad. Now people wait for the next launch and delay their upgrade.

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.” – Steve Jobs

As daunting as this may seem before you start, it’s something you cultivate as you build your idea. Before you begin collecting assets, no matter how small, check competitive business insurance quotes online as this will ensure that you have a sense of what you need to set aside to secure your assets in the foreseeable future.

5. Be prepared to ask for help

Building a new business without some of the resources that we are told we need is enough and it does not have to be. Find someone who has walked the path, someone who has built something meaningful in business, or an aspect thereof. Most people are willing to offer their insight and give guidance.Whenever it’s possible, find ways to collaborate which helps to strengthen your business offering and give you access to more clients and customers than you alone can find.

Helping Hand

There is a lot more this list and, at times, too much research can lead to never starting and building what the world needs. These are some of the things that I find to be true as I speak to many other people who have started and expanded their businesses over time.

What has been helpful for you? What took you from an idea to what you are working on today?

Build Your Business Idea at Lean Startup Machine in Johannesburg

If you’ve spent a few weeks (months or years) around the block working towards building an idea into a business, you might have also heard many business buzzwords. If not, don’t bother with them. It’s not the buzzword vocabulary that builds startups, it’s the work. Afterall, small business challenges don’t care for how much you speak of scalability or anything else that was used at a seminar this week.

Look below for most of the buzzwords that you might have heard before and ignore them as you read on. Deal? Go!

Lean Startup Machine Johannesburg

Business Entrepreneurial Buzzwords

 

The truth of the matter is that it’s nimble, lean businesses that start well and thrive for longer. In the spirit of steering clear of the flavour of this week’s jargon, the simpler you keep your offering and the quicker you test – the easier it becomes to prove your model and go to market. Or to fail fast and hit the ground running. These are some of the lean startup principles which gained massive traction following the release of Eric Ries’s book The Lean Startup.

Since the book was published in 2011, the Lean Startup Machine built a community to put some of its principles through real-world testing and proof. Part of the iAfrikan team have joined forces with other local minds to bring those principles to Johannesburg. Now you can you can pitch your idea, test it in the real world, with real potential customers and collaborate with would-be team members.

You can also test new ideas for an existing business, or use these principles in your business to build a day-to-day lean startup culture. It focuses on what’s important now to test if the idea is viable and enables you to take it to market – with the least amount of unnecessary fuss in the process.

Companies Google, Facebook, Dropbox and other global organisations use the lean startup principles. It’s a way thinking and executing work in your business.

Does this sound like something you would want to learn and include into building your next idea?

Is it something you would like to cultivate as a way of thinking in both your life and business?
Lean Startup Machine, Johannesburg
If not, this is where you read on before sending this piece to that forward thinking friend. To you, forward-thinking friend, click here to register and share the love. Let’s say you know another two forward-thinking people and all three of you want to attend, you can use the promotional code ‘flashfree’ to get one free ticket.

What you are paying for

The Lean Startup Machine weekend is not a conference, it’s a whole weekend of both practical learning and testing some of the new concepts. It includes both keynote presentations and being matched with a team of people who either gravitate towards to your idea, or whose ideas appeal to you.

The team that implements the lean startup methodology the best stands to win an incubation deal.

You will:

–          Pitch your idea for feedback

–          Work on a high level plan test your idea

–          Go outside to speak to potential customers and find out if the idea would work.

–          Build webpage that would showcase the product, service or idea.

It will be an interesting weekend that promises to far surpass most (if not all) conferences you’ve been to.

Are you in? Register here: http://ctt.ec/fM8HF+

If you buy two tickets, you’ll get the third one free by using the promotional code ‘flashfree’.

Hire like Instagram, Facebook and Dropbox

Apart from the businesses they are in; Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox and Zappos know how to source and retain talent. Online MBA sent me this video below, which in less than 2-minutes, gives you the lowdown into how successful startups hire.

Company culture is what makes them common and, if anything, we all want to work with people who are similar – in some way – to us.

Have a look and share the love with your friends as well.

Which startups do you think hire and retain talent in a way that is worth following for inspiration?

Letting go of passion projects that turn into monsters

Did you ever start something that was exciting at first, something you thought ‘well this is it’? That something, that project, then started eating away at your time. Or, you just downright avoid it because you’ve inadvertently fed it with expectations that turned it into an obese monster that foams at the mouth for more.

That is what I have been experiencing lately. I avoided writing on this blog because everything had to be perfect. The stars needed to align and inspiration? Well….when the stars align inspiration comes by default. In another post I wrote about how overrated inspiration is vs. being consistent. Raise your hand if you find it hard to take your own advice.

Let go

Letting go of the monstrous expectations we have of ourselves and the “projects” we dream up is akin to losing a great friendship that no longer serves its purpose. In the long term, you later realize that it was the best decision you ever made.

A friend recently posted something on Facebook about giving yourself permission to walk away from things that creep you out. Walking away seems simple enough, the challenge is walking away from the things you started. The ideas you breathed in to. Those are near impossible to let go of, but we should.

Be the villain

In Batman, we know who the hero is and the villain is the guy who reeks havoc on Gotham City. Bane, my favourite character in The Dark Knight Rises, is not Batman and in the end you want the hero to win.

What if the hero and the villain are both the same person? What happens when you have to cut ties with that small community project down the road, which helps cute little kids when your fledgling business suffers because of the time you spend there? The roles have suddenly changed, Bane is no longer someone external. It’s your turn to be Batman and save the day, but that might mean you may soon be unable to make a living.

Slay your monsters and get to work

Instead of my writing being the fun pastime it once was, it became a painstaking chore that had to be perfect every time. The more things compete for limited time, the less likely we are to do the ones we are not passionate about.

In ‘Do The Work’, Steven Pressfield talks about the resistance and refers to it as all the things we experience which prevent us from producing our art. That resistance for me was perfecting every post, it’s not putting something out there ‘til everything is perfect. That was my monster and I’m going out to slay it every single day going forward.

Do The Work is a book that shows you what resistance is and how to overcome it. Read a quick review here and go slay those dragons.

What are your monsters? What resistance are you grappling with and how are you dealing with it to keep your passion projects alive? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Run a startup, travel the world, defy convention: Q&A with Chris Guillebeau

[Here’s a Q&A I originally posted on Memeburn]

Building a startup on-the-go while you travel the world may seem unlikely. The status quo would have us believe it borders on the impossible. Thing is, Chris Guillebeau has done just that. Oh and he also writes books and evangelically spreads his unconventional ideas on entrepreneurship and startup communities.

The word “unconventional” is actually a pretty accurate description of Guillebeau. The American entrepreneur reckons you can build a startup for less than US$100 and even wrote a book explaining how. His popular blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, focuses on travel and personal development topics and meshes with his personal mission of helping people live life by their own rules using a “non-conformist” lifestyle.

We caught up with him during his travels and talked about his insights on building a startup, how he uses technology and where he thinks the next “big thing” in tech will come from.

MB: Building a startup while office-bound is hard enough, how do you build both a startup and a community as you travel the world?

CG: I’ve never separated travel from my work. For 10 years I’ve been actively travelling to 20+ countries a year, and for the same time I’ve been building online projects. I think it helps that I enjoy what I do. I don’t feel like I’m struggling because I’m motivated to keep working away.

MB: You are constantly building ‘Unconventional Products For World Domination’ and send blog updates, sometimes in airports, from the world. What are the top three things that go into building a new product?

CG:

  1. Understand what people really want. (It’s not always what they say they want.)
  2. Create a highly compelling offer. The offer is at least as important than the product or service itself, and most people save it for last. Don’t save it; design your whole structure around the offer.
  3. Ensure good follow-up and over-deliver whenever possible. Your customers will stay with you for life if you keep helping them.

MB: You recently released a book to help writers get their books published. What doesn’t the world know about self-publishing?

CG: The world doesn’t know that the break between self-publishing and traditional publishing is overstated. You can self-publish and traditionally publish. For me, I love both options.

MB: Can cheap, democratised technology overcome barriers in entrepreneurship?

CG: Sure, and we see that especially in Africa. In the future I think we’ll have more and more African entrepreneurs accessing a global marketplace instead of just buying and selling within Africa.

MB: In 2011, you embarked on your ‘Unconventional Book Tour’ which involved your blog readers. What three lessons can you share from that tour and rallying your audience as part of a cause for common interest?

CG: The book tour is continuing now and I hope to visit South Africa at some point. (I’ve been many times as a traveller, but never as an author on tour). Among other things, I learned that meeting readers is an excellent source of inspiration. After a meetup, I go away thinking about the people I heard from, many of whom are living remarkable lives of their own. It helps me to serve them better when I know who they are.

MB: What’s the most challenging tech situation you’ve ever found yourself in?

CG: I’m constantly searching for Wi-Fi access everywhere I go. Surprisingly, some poor countries have better access than some rich countries. It just depends on the country and even the specific area.

MB: What’s your latest book, The $100 Startup about?

CG: Two things. First, it’s the story of 70 “unexpected entrepreneurs” from all over the world who started businesses by using small amounts of money and the skills they already had. Second, it’s a blueprint for readers to do the same. The goal is to inspire a revolution of freedom, as more and more people choose self-employment over traditional jobs.

MB: What has changed for you since you built your first startup, which inspired you to write a book to educate entrepreneurs?

CG: I’ve learned to become more strategic. In the early days, I was primarily concerned with getting by and paying the bills. This was better than working a regular job, of course, but I wasn’t really building anything of real value. These days I feel focused on a clear goal, so it’s a lot easier.

MB: Where do you think the next big tech innovator will come from?

CG: I’m less interested in innovation and more interested in usefulness. Most of us aren’t going to make the next iPhone, but we can all make something that improves people’s lives. To me, that’s what entrepreneurship is all about.

The Kindle version of The $100 Startup is already available for sale.

 

WordStart is looking for a young sales rockstar

[Originally posted at WordStart]

WordStart is in search of a rockstar to join us, someone who can close deals and get large companies signing new campaigns. If Glengarry Glen Ross’s “coffee is for closers!” grabs you half as much as it does us, then you may be the person we are looking for.


About WordStart

We are a word of mouth startup, with a growing community of young upwardly mobile and savvy South Africans. We get cool brands and products talked about by influencers, through blogs and social media platforms. We also track and measure conversations for our clients.

We recently WordStarted Gareth Cliff’s book, which reached over 105 000 people through conversation and became a bestseller in 2011.

What we have

In the first year, we developed the business from an idea, to an early stage startup that is still at proof of concept. Now we are working on growth and that’s where you come in.

As part of our team you get:

  • Social media and campaign strategy.
  • Access to a network of early adopters and influencers.
  • Awesome internal campaigns that connect you with some of the coolest experiences ever.
  • Exposure through popular and industry specific platforms.
  • A constant flow of campaign ideas.

We are in search of a sales director who will be involved in early campaign ideation, setup our sales management and create new networks.

Stuff you need to know before taking the leap:

The first prize for us is the ability to learn and adapt rapidly.

  • You will facilitate access to networks, clients and agencies to collaborate with.
  • Sell campaign ideas and pitch for new business.
  • You need to think on your feet and be able to brainstorm campaign ideas.
  • Manage deal flow for new and existing campaigns.
  • You have basic social media knowledge.
  • Someone who can confidently ask for the dough.

Does this sound like sound like you, or someone you know? If so, make that call. Put that coffee down!

 

14 International Events and a Startup Exchange For Your Calendar

[Originally posted on Memeburn]

The last post I wrote featured seven, which later became nine, South African events worth attending to grow your startup. If you have started building a product or platform that you deem worthy of international exposure, which I’m sure it is, then you may want to attract the attention of investors, mentors and innovators worldwide.

Here is a list of 14 events and a startup exchange programme you may want to consider:

1. South by Southwest (SXSW)

One of the most talked about conferences is SXSW, whose focus is in music, independent films and emerging technologies. It is renowned for being one of the most viable launching pads for content that spreads and presents invaluable learning opportunities for startups.

It was held this year from March 9-18 in Austin, Texas. Register for the next one and stay informed.

2. The Next Web (TNW) Conference

The Next Web Conference brings together startups, investors, speakers, developers and even a hack battle to create an environment that puts you on an international playing field. Speakers this year include:

  • YouTube Co-founder and CEO of Delicious, Chad Hurley
  • Reddit Co-founder, Alexis Ohanian

The Next Web has 20 pre-selected startups that will launch at TNW2012: this could be you. The conference also has two Startup Rally presentation sessions, where startups get five minutes each to present.

It will be held in Amsterdam from 25-27 April and the organisers are offering discounted tickets if you book online.

3. Startup Conference

The Startup Conference provides a launching pad for startups and the first outdoor startup festival that will have a crowd of more than 2 000 entrepreneurs, investors and software developers. What could be better than launching in Silicon Valley?

If you are launching your startup, this conference also hosts a Demo Pit at its outdoor festival called Startup Village, which will have over 1 000 investors, entrepreneurs and journalists. If you are still working on your product and need to raise money, then you can enter the Elevator Pitch Competition where you stand a chance to pitch to a panel of investors.

The conference will be held on 2 May at Mountain View, California.

4. The Guardian Activate Summit

Some of the world’s most influential minds will convene in New York City on 3 May to discuss and examine the influence of web technologies. Their speakers include Executive Chairman of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman and Arianna Huffington, President and editor-in-chief at The Huffington Post.

5. TechCruch Disrupt

TechCruch Disrupt gathers some of the leading tech minds in New York, San Francisco, CA and Beijing who range from startups to coders.

This event kicks off with its popular Hackathon on Saturday 19 May running through to Sunday 20 May. May 21-23 sees this year’s first TechCrunch Disrupt New York, where the organisers also crowns the winner of the Startup Battlefield Competition.

DISRUPT San Francisco takes off from 8 to 12 September, where they host the Startup Battlefield and once again bring 500 coders to build something new.

6. Mashable Connect

Mashable connects its online community offline for the second year with its signature conference aptly called Mashable Connect. It has a wide array of speakers ranging from the Founder and CEO of Klout, Joe Fernandez to Hilary Mason the Chief Scientist of the URL shortening service Bit.ly and Mashable’s CEO & Founder, Pete Cashmore.

It will be held on May 3, 2012 – Saturday, May 5, 2012 at Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

7. TED Global

This year’s TED Global is titled “Radical Openness” and will address topics of increased openness ranging from open source to open science. TED conferences present learning and networking opportunities like none other.

The conference kicks off in Edinburgh, Scotland and runs from 25-29 June 2012.

8. 500 Startups

500 Startups is a fund for early-stage companies that provides funding from $10k to $250k through seed investment. It also has conferences throughout the year that bring together VCs, startups and advisers.

Its Demo Days stand out the most, from a startup’s perspective, and are invitation-only events. It has two coming up in July; the first in California on 17-18 July and the second in New York City on 23 July, 2012.

500 Startups is a fund for early-stage companies that provides funding from $10k to $250k through seed investment. It also has conferences throughout the year that bring together VCs, startups and advisers.

Its Demo Days stand out the most, from a startup’s perspective, and are invitation-only events. It has two coming up in July; the first in California on 17-18 July and the second in New York City on 23 July, 2012.

500 Startups is a fund for early-stage companies that provides funding from $10k to $250k through seed investment. It also has conferences throughout the year that bring together VCs, startups and advisers.

Its Demo Days stand out the most, from a startup’s perspective, and are invitation-only events. It has two coming up in July; the first in California on 17-18 July and the second in New York City on 23 July, 2012.

9. DEMO

Are you looking for a place to launch your product? DEMO is the conference you should attend, where you can also meet people who are likely to transform the tech scene as we know it. The popular CRM software Salesforce was also launched at DEMO. Will yours be next?

The next the DEMO in Silicon Valley takes place from 17-19 April followed by another from 1-3 October. It also hosts events in Asia, Brazil and China.

10. Seedcamp

Apart from being an early stage mentoring and investment program, Seedcamp also hosts events that bring together prominent entrepreneurs, investors and startups. Its events are held in New York, Berlin and Paris

Have a look at the Seedcamp calendar. Or apply to attend one by clicking on the event.

11. Wired Business Conference

Wired brings together some of the leading minds in business and tech to discuss some of the most disruptive business practices. Speakers range from Yancey Strickler, the Co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter — the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects; the New York Times bestselling author of The Lean Startup, Eric Ries and Shantanu Nayarean, the CEO of Adobe.

This conference kicks off on 1 May, 2012 and offers discounted tickets until April 27. Have a look at the rest of their speakers and book your tickets.

12. Techweek Conference

The Techweek Conference takes entrepreneurs from Idea to Scale in a five day event that connects startups, VC’s, Angel Investors and has talks by some of the world’s most successful tech entrepreneurs. This conference takes place from 22-26 June in Chicago.

Within five days, you will learn how companies like Groupon, 37Signals and Threadless emerged from idea to scale. The CEO and founder of 37Signals, Jason Fried will give a keynote on new business and lean startup methods.

13. TechCity UK Entrepreneurs Festival

2011 saw the launch of the Entrepreneurs Festival in London, which was hosted during the Global Entrepreneurship week in November. It included mentorship, pitching and connected entrepreneurs with both VC’s and established business minds.

They haven’t updated their website with details for the next one yet, but keep an eye on the site and be the first to know.

14. The BarCamp Tour

 

BarCamps are community organised events where people post what they want to do a session about and attendees check what sessions they would like to participate in. The BarCamp Tour kicks off on 14 April in Florida.

If you would like to attend one, or host your own, go to this website for details and guidelines.

Startup Exchange

The Startup Exchange provides you with opportunities to test your ideas and concepts within an incubator, and gives you access to international mentors. The Startup Exchange doesn’t take any equity from your business, while giving you 2–3 months of incubation and mentorship in a foreign European country.

Visit the site for details and to apply.

What are your favourite tech conferences? Add them in the comments.

Inspiration is overrated: Be consistent

Many moons ago, when I started my first blog, the idea was to write about anything entrepreneurial I stumbled upon. That ranged from local innovative businesses, to starting a monthly business networking talk called the Netweb Event and later NetwebTV.

The idea behind these concepts was to work on every single one consistently whether I had earth-shattering ideas, or not. They were started as concepts that one could say were borne out of inspiration. They weren’t, in and of, themselves a guarantee that I would be inspired every week.

Simon says: Do It

Some of the top bloggers, authors, entrepreneurs, artists and speakers I follow have a simple formula and that is ‘Do It’. They all advise people to do it, and do it daily. Do it consistently.

So whether you are an entrepreneur, artist or a writer, the only way to summon more inspiration quicker is to stay on course. It seems we are all waiting for that one moment the clouds will part, and suddenly out nowhere we will take the world by storm.

Wikipedia describes inspiration as: Creative inspiration, sudden creativity when a new invention is created.

Enter consistency

The idea of doing something daily, or as often as possible, ensures that you (a) get better every time and (b) you get more innovative ideas to improve yourself at it. That enough to summon more inspiration, more often.

In my experience, you are more likely to get an earth shattering idea when you do something regularly. When I wrote daily, the ideas came more as and when I wrote more.

How do you summon inspiration? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Image by: photosteve101