EPISODE 5: What Is The Sales Environment.
This is one of the issues all business owners contend with is building a consistent and dependable operation while being reactive to changes in the market and its impact on the business.
The first systems that need attention in a startup are financial, marketing & sales, and developing the first product and service for the market.
I’ll skip over the financial piece because that should change over time except on the softwares capabilities. If you select well, like Quickbooks, you should be set for a long time - like $10 million in revenue.
Now let's get to the 2 that determine success or failure: marketing & sales, and product (service) development.
Starting with the Marketing part of component you have to start with the basics:
Although this is a marketing conversation, how to build awareness, create excitement, and generate traction is based on getting this formula right.
Since most of us start with a product or service idea - what to sell in general terms is decided. However before going all out to develop the offer the issue of who and how must be solved.
Given this general analysis of the demands of the startup phase, I’ll discuss our decisions and what we learned.
Giving our experience with both in front of the mic and behind it, we had some sense of the radio business. Given it was a terrestrial station broadcasting in a well defined area the lessons learned were not totally transferrable to the internet space.
Based on research we did, the following were exciting statistics:
EPISODE 06: What Worked
Given our initial approach was global, we didn’t break the world down to the level of detail required. We had to contend with time and broke the world down into 4, six hour markets: Australasia, South Asia, Prime Meridian, and North America. Our goal was to broadcast only during the work hours in each market and set the times.
We further brokedown the day into 6, one hour segments with the focus on starting the business, achieving growth that maximized their current capacity, after reaching the limits of what was possible with the current structure and resources - how to reinvent the business and go the the next level, and for those owners looking to exit, how to do that and maximize their return on years of sweat.
The last breakdown, and this was driven by making the programming easy to understand and access was to have a theme for each day. Using our experience with Balanced Scorecards we decided that Monday was Finance, Tuesday Operations, Wednesday Customers, Thursday People with Fridays dedicated to the owner and how to up their game.
F = (O + P + C)E
There is no decision up to this point we regret. All of our experience working with billion dollar and hundred thousand dollar companies shows this is where to start. Where we failed was to isolate high potential markets and target those instead of just putting the programming on the air.
We made the same mistake of most startups - had to get started and generate revenue. We couldn’t spend months of research speculating on what the customer wanted because of low capitalization.
EPISODE 07: What Didn’t Work
Although I have not detailed exactly what was being delivered, our MVO (Minimally Viable Offer), this level of detail sufficient to discuss our failure to truly understand who and how for the sales formula.
The first challenge was Awareness. You have to know we exist and what we offer will help in order to get listeners, and here is the major lesson.
There is no macro model for large markets. If you intend to reach potential customers, you must show up where they are. Our approach was to produce a Listener Guide and then use social media to create awareness. We created accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn, started groups on those respective platforms and waited, and waited, and waited.
When that didn’t work we purchased ads on Facebook and waited without much success. The question that kept crossing my mind was our offer right for the market we seek to penetrate? And because we didn’t target our approach there was no way to answer the question.
What we should have done, in hindsight, is look at each market and select not only a country, but an area in the country where entrepreneurial activity was the highest. An example in Australia is not focusing on Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Or not specially targeting Singapore, the new Hong Kong, and we totally ignored Indonesia and Malaysia - the fastest growing economies in the Pacific Basin. How dumb!
The same can be said for South Asia and not focusing on high entrepreneurial activity in India and Pakistan. The same can be said for the Prime Meridian market (UK, Scandinavia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa). Given current economic conditions and the use of English, our efforts should have been focused on Great Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. Additionally focusing on a country was not enough, where is the highest entrepreneurial activity in those countries and how do we reach them?
EPISODE 08: The Pivot
It is now apparent that we made some of the same mistakes as most startups. We were in a rush to get the product out the door. We failed to address the marketing & sales issues, not exactly who we are selling to and how to reach them.
That means we are overhauling the entire marketing and sales process. Before moving on to the solution I need to make something clear, we had no choice but to go to market and put the product in front of the customer. We understood that at the beginning - the risk we were taking. Our mistake was being slow to recognize and instead of doing more of what was not working but to rethink the whole thing.
The answer to the question is to Segment, Segment, Segment.
The question is how.
Our approach is to engage the target market to increase understanding of their problems and segment those lessons into solutions; to build a coherent offer.
Given our expertise from the days of large corporate consulting, we are confident building simple assessments that capture the information. The challenge you have with this process is that the survey must be easily understandable to gain the intended answer and do so as fast as possible. Remember people are doing you a favor spending their time, what’s in it for them?
Once you have surveyed the market, the information necessary to build smaller and targeted surveys to understand benefits they seek and match that to the features of your products and services. Your goal is for each product and service in your offer to have a definitive profile of the perfect customer. At this stage generalization is deadly.
Now you have an understanding of what to sell to whom and how to do it. From here it is testing to further refine your match of features and benefits. The testing occurs by marketing using their language promoting the features identified. The goal is to 80% right on the first pass, 95% on the second. The third time should be as close you can get it, then run it until the results begin to decline.
Now you have qualified leads for the sales funnel.
Just in case you wanted to know, IBGR is testing this design in Richmond Virginia on our local entrepreneurial market. Before BIFY (Building In Front Of You) ends in September I’ll give you an update of our success.
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