Many #Startups don’t get sales or users because they don’t hustle hard enough

Startups need traction. Startup themselves are defined by their rate of growth. Speed is of the essence. It’s all the more surprising then to often find Founders or founding teams reluctant to sell. By this I mean, sell hard to their customers.

That might be selling a product, that might be simply getting someone to sign up; either way ultimately you’re trying to persuade someone to enter your engagement funnel, whether you charge them at the end of it for a product/service or not.

Startups get frustrated that they don’t get the growth they want. Yet it’s being bold enough to relentlessly push your product or service which will result in “sales” (and remember that sale could just be a sign up).

It’s surprising then when I am often able to sit down to mentor a startup or work with one of my portfolio companies and find that there’s a big list of things which haven’t even been tried – and these are often not onerous or expensive in development terms.

Give me an example?

This isn’t the blog post to provide an exhaustive list of what you can do to engage users en general, but I do want to give one example of what I mean by being relentless and hustling to get people in to your funnel, in this case specifically using a blog post as an example (the same by the way, applies to email newsletters).

I often see startup founders investing in time to write a blog post; but traffic on their blog is often low and the ROI of the time invested unmeasured. Worst still, there are seldom enough (sometimes no!) call to actions. So, what’s good practise? Well you can Google that to find exhaustive articles, but in short make sure:

  • the blog provides value to the reader
  • the blog is appropriate (and the value aligned) to the target audience of your product or service
  • that the blog is not a one-off and that you have in place a system to regularly* deliver that value as part of an ongoing persuasion campaign to on-the-fence potential customers
  • but most importantly that you provide comprehensive call to actions 

 * unlike this blog which has been woefully and sporadically updated!

Just take a look at this example from CBInsights, the tech industry data platform:

Startups publishing blog posts and even web pages often don't optimise for customer engagement and consequently rarely provide a good ROI. This example from CBInsights does.

Startups publishing blog posts and even web pages often don’t optimise for customer engagement and consequently rarely provide a good ROI. This example from CBInsights does. (ignore the blue menu bar half way down, that’s an error from screencapture)

  • items marked in pink are opportunities for readers to share
  • more importantly items in red are calls to action to funnel people into a sales process.

Why does this happen? Often because startups are under focused and under resourced. If you have minimal resources you can only do a few things well. Refocus ruthlessly, not doing ANYTHING which doesn’t move the needle on your sales or growth; then you’ll start having the time to pay attention to the detail of your sales or user engagement funnel, test, measure, interpret and iterate – and your sales/signups will go up. Simple as that.

So, still wondering why your sales (or user signup) pipeline is not working? Take a leaf out of CBInsights book and get selling, relentlessly.


Blackberry! I Feel The Need For Speed

One of the reasons I believe Blackberry has been lagging in the mobile application download numbers is very simple: speed.

While for some people, the less snazzy interface, a lack of touch across most devices, a poorer selection of apps are the reasons not to use a Blackberry, for many this is not an issue.

In fact:

  • a tangible tactile keyboard
  • and bundled international data roaming

..are the two factors which keep me firmly a loyal and loving Blackberry user (RIM take note: do NOT break either of these things for me, although I appreciate the second is in co-operation with the carriers).

The Blackberry App Store hasn’t actually been at all bad, even since version one. Yes it has had fewer apps to choose from, but in reality most of us spend 80-90% of our time using the same handful of apps. The biggest problem with app stores in general remains discoverability and nobody has done a good job on solving that problem with their app stores.

Maverick’s supersonic – be there in thirty seconds

Speed of response and interaction is an often under-rated factor when building internet or mobile software products. Speedy interaction can mean that an otherwise average user flow, does not necessarily damage the user experience. An extra click or tap here and there doesn’t matter as much if the response is immediate and you still feel progression through whatever task you’re doing. With a fast UI user engagement can be increased. Of all people, Google Search knows this well and it remains a cornerstone of Google design.

I’ve been using the current flagship RIM device, the Blackberry Torch, for 6 months. I have a love/ hate relationship with it. The main problem (apart from the keyboard being far less awesome than the previous Blackberry Bold) is that it is underpowered. Either it has a processor which is too slow or it has some very inefficient software – my bet is the former.

Application downloads are all about instant gratification: see it, want it, install it. Rinse and repeat. This addictive process is broken on the BB Torch, because although the software supports concurrent downloads the hardware can’t cope. The dreaded clock timer appears frequently, browsing for other apps becomes sluggish (and impossible if downloading 2 or more apps in parallel) and when you come to install an app the entire phone is unsuable, with a permanent ticking timing to entertain you instead. Worse, it can sometimes take 5 full mins to install the app then another 5 minutes while the phone reboots.

Contrast this with iPhone or Android where I can upgrade or install multiple apps and happily carry on browsing.

Android can download and install multiple apps without it slowing the device significantly

RIM’s new operating systems may even run Android apps (so goes the rumours). This may confuse consumers as much as it makes some happy – that is another discussion – but one things is for sure: we live in an impatient, want-it-all-now world. As consumers, our expectations are incredibly high. A flagship modern smartphone needs to be passing the instant gratification finish line at full speed, if it wants to win in this market.

Maverick, call the ball

Blackberry is currently failing to feed our glutinous consumption driven side. That is a pity, as for a long time it was the only smartphone which would truly multi-task and it was fast. I loved my Blackberry Bold all the more for that fact; flipping between apps which would maintain their state was a joy.  I could beat my friends on their iPhones and Android devices to a Google Maps place at a cinch. I laughed at the early iPhone users as they swapped back and forth re-opening their email or messaging apps, but I’m laughing no more.

Let’s hope whatever the new range of Blackberrys look like, they put powerful enough processors inside, without compromising famous Blackberry battery life, which still remains best in class.

..apologies for the gratuitous Top Gun references 😉

Qik Mobile App Install: A Example of Best Practise

I rarely feel compelled to write a blog post because an install process for a web or mobile app is so good, but Qik has triggered just that compulsion. Qik allows you to easily record or live stream video from your mobile phone. The list of supported phones is growing fast; and you can expect the rate of engagement to explode once the iPhone 3GS is cleared for takeoff with Qik (currently you have to jail break your phone to get it working).

The point of this post though was to highlight the process they use to install onto your phone. In brief, you have the choice of being sent an SMS (supporting multiple countries), downloading it and then installing it via your PC (or “side loading” as the industry calls it), or visiting a WAP site (a mobile website) to download from a link.

However, the important bit comes once the install process starts on the phone. I click to receive the SMS, received it immediately; I think clicked the link in the SMS, it started downloading to my phone, but crucially, updated the page automatically to tick the box that install had begun, it then confirmed when install/download had completed and then when I had fired up the app.

Qik have an excellent mobile app install process from their website, closing the loop between PC and mobile & ensuring users complete the install there and then

Qik have an excellent mobile app install process from their website, closing the loop between PC and mobile & ensuring users complete the install there and then

This might seem simple but it is VERY rare this process is used; normally the site just sends you an SMS and you go on your merry way.  Closing this loop, provided you can guarantee speedy delivery of the SMS, encourages if not subtly forces the user to install the app there and then and to log in – making them feel comfortable and hand-held in the process to confirm that things are happening as they should.

A clever and slick way to help users get your mobile app onto a users handset.  When we have resource to make improvements to the Rummble website, my start-up which takes the vast majority of my attentions these days, we’ll be following this user experience as its one of the best I’ve seen yet. Well done Qik!

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