business

We Can All Go-Pro

A couple years ago, when I’d first heard of GoPro, I assumed it was something used exclusively by hardcore outdoorsy people or extreme sports enthusiasts. It may have started out that way, but after watching a 60 Minutes segment with Go-Pro CEO Nick Woodman the other night, it seems like this product has morphed into a household name. I felt pretty inspired by the whole thing.

GoProLogo

An Entrepreneur at Heart

In particular, Woodman’s entrepreneurial spirit captured my attention. Here was an almost 40 year-old guy who seems a LOT younger. This is not solely based on appearance, but use of words like “stoked” (which I love), his high energy level/exuberance, and clear passion for what he’s created. (As an additional disclaimer, I’m terrible at gauging other people’s ages). Go-Pro was by no means his first business idea. In the early 2000s, when he was 24 (my current age), he started a business called Funbug, which didn’t take off.

Everyone loves a comeback story.

Instead of giving up completely, Woodman retreated (abroad and then in his VW van) for some personal reflection, and came back with GoPro. The power of example here doesn’t just lie in the idea of perseverance. Sure, Woodman was wildly successful on his second go-around with innovation, but what struck me was how his approach changed. The idea and prototype process for GoPro started around 2001, but it took another ten or so years before it really took off (check out this timeline from Forbes for an in-depth look at GoPro’s story).

Video Sharing for All

But just why is something like Go-Pro so popular? Besides setting itself apart from regular cameras, or their rivals-the smartphone (it has been referred to as a “rugged gadget,” which seems accurate), GoPro found itself “in the right place at the right time.”



Video sharing, as discussed in a few of our other blog posts (like this one on SEO and online video), is becoming increasingly prominent in the online world. We have sites like Upworthy, YouTube, and Vine, which all rely on video content. GoPro offers a way to create and star in your own video, whether your idea of hardcore is slack-lining between skyscrapers or taking a swig of milk straight from the bottle (don’t act like you haven’t done it).

Example Footage:

Along the lines of the “every day,” there’s this video of the baby on a skateboard. People enjoy it because it’s cute, simple, and accessible. There wasn’t a huge amount of skill required for this particular video (although this baby would probably disagree), so people get the sense of “Oh yea, I could maybe make something like that!”

Other videos are a bit wilder. These take you on a different kind of journey, perhaps in a plummeting-to-the-ground-in-a-freefall sort of way. They’re fun to watch because many of them give you a sense that you’re there, too. You get to see what’s going on, from a safe distance, and who knows- maybe you’ll want to go do something bold, too. For those who enjoy skydiving, surfing, taming grizzlies, running with bulls, or that sort of activity, GoPro offers a way to document it and say “Hey, check out this thing I just did!”

Kudos to GoPro for showing us how marketing, perseverance and passion can help a business flourish (even if it takes some time). Who knows if I’ll ever go skydiving or do that crazy flying squirrel thing, but if I do, you can bet I’m getting it on film.

 

Tech Thursday: How to Avoid Shady Web Developers

This week’s video is all about weeding out the wrong sorts of people to work with (in terms of web developers). But, how do you tell if a web developer is shady? Interestingly, the signs are similar to dating a shady sort of person. Does he/she nag you about your site’s appearance or overall function? Is he defensive or secretive about offering examples of past work? And, finally,  does he only have ONE client that he seems to mention all the time?

The moral of the story: If someone gives you a weird vibe, do you really want to trust him/her with your business? Don’t settle!

Is It Worth Your Time?

Sometimes, with any task in life, it’s easy to wonder (out loud or otherwise): Is this worth my time?

While I can’t answer that in every instance of your life, I can help you with the internet stuff. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you do something:

How many eyeballs are looking at this?

For example, I’ve been wanting to improve the ‘clients’ page on this website for about three months… but I had to pick between working on that page or updating my ‘events’ page. The events page gets more traffic (plus we had two workshops this month to promote) so that took precedence.

You can do the same thing in real life. Should you spend your money upgrading your lounge area or bathroom? Asking yourself how many of your customers see each might clarify where your priority should be.

Who is looking at this?

As important as the number of eyeballs to think of is who is looking at this.

For example, if you just sent out an email newsletter with a link to a page on your website you want your subscribers to see, you know that people you care about are going to be looking at that page from the moment you click ‘send’… so make it beautiful and functional before you do.

If less people are looking at something but they happen to be important people to you, it’s worth prioritizing.

What does it matter?

Now there are people who make a living dissecting words on a page. Should you be using ‘hair stylist’ or ‘beautician’? Should you put the customer quotes in the middle of the page or have them scrolling on the side or the page? Is the 14 point Helvetica really better than the 12 point Veranda font.

This is minutia, people, and you know it.

Also, all these questions can paralyze you into doing nothing.

When you have a slow news day, that’s when you can implement what you’ve learned in Copy Hackers to optimize an important page. That’s when you decide it’s time to overhaul all the slides in your slideshow. Make a list of those things you’d do if you had time and you can knock them out over the course of a few months.

What matters?

1) Up to date information (hours, menu, pricing, etc.).
2) Nothing weird/off putting (a slide that won’t load, a button that links to a social media page you haven’t updated in a year, the top of your favorite employee’s head cropped off).

If you have an hour or so to devote to this a week, spend it first on that critical stuff.

What’s gravy? The best wording possible. New photos. Trying out that font. Social icons that match your brand.

You can spend an infinite amount of time online but asking yourself ‘What’s worth it?’ will let you still do what you need to do online and run your actual business.

Why Too Many Choices Are Paralyzing Your Customers

When I was showing Kassie around our Google Analytics the other day, I couldn’t believe what happened when I drilled down into the data. Over 50% of people are leaving off the homepage. Here’s what it looks like:

homepage

Holy crap, people have no idea where to click. I mean really neither do I. Too many choices!

When you overwhelm people with choice, it turns out you overwhelm them period (there’s a paper all about it from Stanford and a book on the subject that came out recently.)

Here are some fun facts about choice:

  • Americans make 70 different choices a day on average.
  • 77% of people with nine options used an elimination strategy while only 21% used an elimination strategy when given three options to make a decision.

Not only do people not like a lot of choice but things like sleep and food effect the decisions that are made.  Check out this graph that seems nuts but actually makes a ton of sense (click on it  or here for the original source and full article):

1394664403-stop-making-bad-decisions-now

In other words, the more choices you give people, the more paralyzed they become and the poorer their decisions. These poorer decisions are increased when health and other conditions are not ideal.

So when you wonder why someone isn’t buying what you’re selling; isn’t going beyond a certain page of your website; isn’t making that choice, you may want to ask yourself if you are giving people too many choices… or if maybe they just all need to go eat an apple. 😉

There are some amazing articles I’ve read on this topic recently. Here are some worth checking out if you are also interested in this topic:

Mequoda’s indepth article about how Scientific American’s four subscription offerings could work better with less choices

Here’s an article summarizing why people don’t like so many choices and how it effects your website visitors. 

A Globe and Mail piece with some examples about how improving customer service (versus giving more choices) actually increased revenue.

Here’s a TED talk about how to make decisions more easily (you know, in case you need that sort of thing).

An article from Fast Company about how to make better decisions.

Now please excuse myself while I take 10 of the average American’s 90 decisions a day off the homepage of my website.

Snapchat for Businesses: Pros & Cons

forrest-gump

Last summer, the following conversation occurred between a good friend and myself:

Me: “I got an iPhone! In no way am I qualified for this much technology!”

Friend: “You have to get Snapchat. NOW.

And, since I lack the forces necessary to counter peer pressure, the app was on my phone less than 5 minutes later.


For anyone who is unfamiliar, Snapchat involves taking a picture or video, adding a caption and/or drawing on the picture, and sending it to friends (who you can search for or add right from your contacts). The catch is you can set the viewing time between 1-10 seconds, which adds the urgency of “THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN…”  The premise resembles a social experiment where  people  live free of consequences, and the ability to screenshot functions as a vague force that keeps (almost) everyone in line. Plus, you never know quite what to expect. When I explain this concept, some people  react as if I’m chatting up the sketchy guy standing alone in the corner of an already questionable basement party (I promise, it’s not that bad).

Business_Snapchat.jpg

Snapchat boils down to these basics:  it’s fun, easy, and at times, totally inappropriate. What’s not to love?

In the past months, businesses large and small tested Snapchat as a marketing tool. My knee-jerk reaction was Why would anyone want to get snaps from businesses? Well, after taking a bit of time to ponder the issue, I came up with this list of business snap pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Exclusive, One-on-One Connection with Customers:   Snapchat provides a new way to engage with customers on a personal level. For example, some use it as a way to take customers “behind the scenes.” For smaller businesses with a close-knit customer base, this might be a fun way to communicate. All you need is a cell phone number (or, give your company’s profile name to customers, and let them add you). Roughly 63% of people use the internet on their mobile phones , and most likely check e-mail and Facebook. Snapchat doesn’t get tied up in that stuff: it’s a different thing altogether, which means more room for your message to be seen. Plus, unlike e-mail blasts or status updates, snaps are sent to individuals who can’t see the other recipients, making it feel like a message meant just for them.
  • New Medium for Contests and Giveaways: For example, 16 Handles is recognized as one of the first businesses to implement Snapchat as a marketing tool. The giveaway went like this: customers added the company on Snapchat, sent them a snap (which had to be a picture of them at a 16 Handles), and in return, a snap was sent back with a coupon (with anywhere from 16-100% discount). In order to redeem the coupon, customers had to wait until they were at the register before opening it. Sure, this could’ve worked with a different medium. I’ve seen department stores mail coupons that get scanned or scratched off at the time of purchase to reveal the discount. Using Snapchat instead reaches a different age group altogether, and saves the trees.
  • No One Else is Doing It: Well, that’s an exaggeration. But in the grand scheme of social media, Snapchat is still considered emerging. Discovering how to implement it in an entrepreneurial way remains a challenge, but it may be rewarding for the businesses who try.




Cons:

  • Junk Mail Potential: Most people assume that if businesses start using the app, they’ll constantly be sending spam snaps, and the whole experience will lose its appeal. One person’s “Oh that’s fun!” is another person’s “Stop marketing to me!”
  • May Not be Worth the Time: The 16 Handles Contest, while innovative and successful, made the customer do quite a bit of work for slightly cheaper fro-yo. While it doesn’t require Herculean amounts of effort, the snapping back-and-forth might feel cumbersome to some people, and thus not worth their time to participate. For businesses using it as a way to send “behind the scenes” or what have you, if they see people aren’t opening the snaps, or otherwise engaging, it may make sense to either try a different approach or scratch the snaps altogether.
  • It Leaves No Trace: In terms of meaningful forms of communication, Snapchat a few steps below texting. The whole appeal is that the content doesn’t last. It’s fleeting in nature. I get a Snapchat from a friend, open it, laugh a little, and go on with the day. Depending on something that lasts 10 seconds (at most) to build a consumer base seems like a recipe for failure.

So, whether or not you decide to try Snapchat for your business, I definitely recommend it for entertainment purposes. My only example is this snap below, from last December. Could I have e-mailed or texted it? Yes, but I wanted to spare my friends the burden of having “Wrecking Ball” stuck in their head all day, so I sent the type of message that cleans up after itself.

Wrecking_Snap

A Yuletide Miley tribute.

Accountability Partners: The How And Why

 

Accountability is key! Image from: http://hauterepublic.com/blog/

Accountability is key! Image from: http://hauterepublic.com/blog/

As part of a business program I am doing, one of the challenges proposed was to get an accountability partner and check in with them once a week.

Initially, I thought of this as one more meeting I had to go to but sighed and said I was in. (My usual strategy to something I think will be good for me is to try it at least, even if I think it’s lame.)

I got paired up with A, a photographer and graphics designer in Atlanta Georgia. (A random matchmaker in the group paired us up based on being in the same time zone.)

It’s kind of funny to have gotten to know A as I’ve gotten to know her. Normally when you meet friends, you get to know each other slowly. Maybe you exchange some small talk in the break room.You might send them a “Happy Birthday” message on Facebook or be pleasantly surprised to run into them. But in general this friendship is built over time and starts off casual.



An accountability partner is kind of like getting right to the ‘best friend’ part of the relationship. It’s happens fast because it has to.

A and I had a first conversation (about two hours) on the phone where we spent an hour telling the other our respective back stories. While you might think this might not be adequate time, it was relatively intense and, at least speaking about me summarizing my whole life in about 50 minutes, I can say A knows enough about me from this conversation to be friendly but more importantly to be helpful.

As I write this, I am not entirely sure where A went to college or what religion she is (though I could easily look that up on Facebook because we’re friends or ask her the next time we talk). It’s not really the point.

So if you don’t share anything in particular (even an arbitrary interest) you might ask ‘Well what is the point?’

After the first getting to know each other conversation, we set our 3 month, 6 month, and 12 months goals. We wrote them in Google Docs and shared them with each other. As stuff gets done, we cross it off (no deleting- we want to track progress). Every week (well most every week), we have a check in phone call.

What’s hilarious is that despite taking up an hour every week in my life, this has actually been pretty useful. Talking to A about what I’ve done and not done makes her part supportive friend, part impartial third party, part tough love.

And tough love, I mean asking me the questions I should be asking myself. We didn’t I email that person I said I would? Oh right, because I’m scared they won’t want to work with me. She’s never pushy, just inquisitive. We all need nudging and I’m glad she does it.



Because A and I don’t have lots of time together, we don’t have time to tell each other stories or think of false excuses. We get right to the point. Sure we vent sometimes but it is never long winded  when we do.

The relationship I have with A is unlike any relationship I’ve had with anyone. It’s useful to both of us and, while I’m sure we’d be actual friends if she lived closer or we shared some interest together, it’s kind of better that we aren’t. I don’t have to run into A after admitting to a petty thought. I don’t have to tell her why I am so frustrated that I gained three pounds last week. Her being friend, impartial third party, and nudger in one means she is also not one of those things. She can acknowledge, give an idea, and move on. And I do the same for her.

Now you might ask yourself, how do I get an accountability partner?

First off, it helps if you are set up. The program I’m in does that but your alumni association, business course, or some other group you belong to might be able to set you up. Several places online seem to be able to help you if you are willing to pay a bit of money (my program costs money). The only free one I’ve really seen is this Reddit group.

But ideally this person is someone you don’t know well but someone you can trust whose perspective you can appreciate. If A and I after hearing each other’s backstories didn’t see some common values or ideas, I am sure we would have both opted for another accountability partner option. While I would have probably been offended, I know it would be better in the long run to work with someone you are very compatible with. This isn’t just someone you go hiking or drinking with; this is someone who knows things about you that lots of other people don’t so choosing the right person should take time and effort.

If you want something more intense, this is one of the coolest articles I’ve read this year about an accountability group (It’s a long one but worth a read).

And as a third and final alternative, if you like the idea of a group but want something a bit less intense and a bit more short term of a format than The Elephants, you can always start or join a goals group. 

So while I didn’t invent this idea, I did want to let you know that it’s not hokey or weird. It actually has been working really well for me! Accountability can sometimes be lame (or maybe a little scary) but having someone to be it with makes it much less so.



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