Wednesday, 6 January 2016

IoT Enabled Smart Parking Meter

IoT Enabled Smart Parking Meter #bluemix #IoT

IoT Enabled Smart Parking Meter

IBM Technical Rock Star Program

Three Quick Tips To Get Too Many Customers For Your Startup

Every product is not adopted by the entire market at the same time. We know from Classic Adoption Curve that the first set of customers who adopt your product are called innovators and they comprise of 2.5 Percent of the total market. 

We also know that this group could be massive and could run into millions of customers if your startup is producing a Twitter productivity tool like “Tweepi” or “Hootsuite”.  Here is the link to my previous post where you will get to know more about classic adoption curve, and innovators segment of the market. 

Now in this post I will list first three things that you should do to bring first few customers to your startup. Remember there are millions of them, so it’s worth taking a structured approach to it. 

1.  Create Customer Persona: Creating Customer Persona appears to be a very difficult and exhaustive. However it’s best if you could start with answering three questions mentioned below and keep expanding it over a course of several days or months. 

a.  Who are your innovator customers: If you are building a tool like “Hootsuite” to enhance productivity of Twitter Users, then you may find your innovators on Twitter, using hashtags like #Social, #SMM #SocialMediaMarketing, etc. These are the people who use Twitter really heavy and will explore your new product. Apart from these anyone with a massive following but isn’t a celebrity, will most likely be part of your 2.5 Percent Customers. Different products will have customers using several different keywords. The goal here is to find out who are they and list a few keywords to find or identify them.

b.  Where do they go for information: Everyone goes to a certain place for seeking information?  It could be Twitter, Reddit, quora or any other speciality group like stackoverflow, github, cognoise etc. You have to find such places, shortlist one or two of that list, for you to get started. There are over 90 Social Media sites, don’t try to get to all or many of them. Stick to one or two at a time. 

c.   Which tools they currently use: You might find that there are several people who do not use any tool. These people are your low hanging fruits. If you are building a twitter productivity tool. I can tell you with great conviction that you might find several thousand people who are not using any such tools. I myself was not using any such tool until a year ago. At that time I already had over 10K twitter followers, and I was a massive twitter user. In every sector you will find several such customers who are still wild and playing very hard.

2.  Create Content: You may choose to create blogs or Vlogs. The first Twitter productivity tool I used was Tweepi and I learnt about Tweepi through a YouTube Video. Whether you choose text, video, images or infographics, make sure you measure how they are performing, and what kind of results they are bringing home.  

I suggest you begin with text blogs. After a couple of days if you want to edit some portion of your blog or add more content to the blog, you could easily do it. It’s not easy to edit and change the videos or images. 

You could pick up your best performing text blogs and convert them into Images. You could use heat map and see which part of the text is being clicked, highlighted, copied etc and then accordingly you could create images with appropriate captions in it. It will be more resonating to your audience.

Infographics is all about presenting statistics. Acquiring statistics, acquiring reproduction rights for statistics produced by Marquee companies is expensive. So it’s better to not to produce infographics until you have your own customer data, about how they are doing, how quickly they moved from Level A to Level B using your tool. 

Best performing videos, images and infographics could be combined and turned into video. You could however consider producing video tutorials on how to use the tool well in the beginning and distribute it. Some amount of deep thinking has to be applied while creating content.

3.  Create Content Distribution Plan: You may or may not have a massive network. Irrespective of your network size, try to leverage others network and reach. Once you have acquired the innovator, and early adopter segments of your market, you will anyway find lot of people automatically writing, and speaking about you the way I am doing in my post for “Tweepi”, “Hootsuite” etc. 

In the very beginning phase of your Go To Market journey, you will have to plan and get shout out from others. Because at this time it will not happen naturally, hence you need to plan and get many people to shout out for you. If needed you should consider hiring a Social Media strategist or consultant to help you plan content distribution strategy. 

Remember your content won’t go viral, so don’t expect miracles to happen. Plan and distribute your content as good as possible with the limited budget you have. 

Be prepared to do all of these three steps again and again, even if it means bringing more funds and more investment. While doing all of these things make sure you pick up the learnings and improve. 

It’s very rare that someone gets the formula right on the very first attempt. Be prepared to fail, learn but don’t spend all the money. Do it small, take small baby steps, measure, and improve take a little bigger step, so on and so forth. 

This journey is difficult and that’s why there is so much fun, and great rewards too if you get it right. If you don’t get it right, someone will get it right! Why not you? 

All of this is as good and as certain as driving a car. You push the right button you will get what you want out of the car. Businesses and startups are also exactly the same. If you do the right thing you will exactly get what you want. It’s that easy and simple, so go for it!

Designing mobile apps: Is multichannel right...

Designing mobile apps: Is multichannel right for your organization? #mobile

Designing mobile apps: Is multichannel right...

IBM Technical Rock Star Program

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Finding First Few Million Customers For Your Startup is Not Hard

“It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right.” - Mark Hunter

There are abundant opportunities to sell, all you have to do is handle them the right way. 

You can handle anything the right way only if you care to understand it as best as it is possible. Statistical Models have always helped people understand everything as best as it could be understood.

Startups have to sell their products, is there a statistical model that will help them do it better, quicker and faster? The answer lies in product adoption curve as shown in the picture below.

Image courtesy Firebelly

Let’s understand it using a fictitious example. Let’s assume your startup is building a product for Twitter users. Your product is meant to increase the productivity of twitter users like other famous Twitter Productivity tools as in “Tweepi”, “Hootsuite”, “Buffer”, or “Tweetjukebox” etc. 

The goal of your startup product is to help Twitter users do more of what they love to do on twitter in less time with greater impact. Twitter has over 400 Million users. This is your target market. The size of your target market will increase as Twitter increases its user base. 

Now as a startup you cannot and should not aim 400 Million users. Once your MVP is ready you should target “Innovators” segment of the market. 2.5 Percent of 400 Million is about 10 Million Users. That is all you should see and target.

10 Million is a massive number. Will all of them sign up? What percentage of them will sign up? Will they pay? Answers to these questions will help you decide your further course of action. You should find answers to these questions from your user data and not by searching online. 

Innovators are people who would want to see your product, see how it fits in their existing product or strategy. If it is complementing or adding value to them they will embrace it, and pay for it. If it is falling short, then they will give you feedback, they will wait and see how you turn around. This is the time and opportunity for you to turn around quick and impress them, and inspire them to shout out for you. This is an easy and cost efficient way of making inroads to the early adopters segment, riding on innovators reach and trust.

Innovators figure out how to use your product to accomplish their goals. Remember not every-one can solve puzzles. Expecting laggards to find out how your product can help them solve their goals is a waste of time and money so don’t target them right in the beginning. You spending time and resources on educating laggards on how to solve their puzzles is not a wise thing at this point of time when your resources are very limited. 

Innovators don’t only look for solutions they also constantly stumble on more problems than the rest others. Since they are so good at measuring everything, they identify far more problems (opportunities) to improve and hence they are constantly looking out for newer, easier and more effective solutions, such people could easily look into your pitch and product. 

Your startup idea or product can get a great deal of traction, appreciation and adoption if you manage to get in front of innovators (2.5 percent of the total market size). Now that your budget is limited and you have limited time (if you take too long to get traction your staff will start fleeing) your best bet is to target and focus on innovators segment of the market.

It’s a proven methodology built after studying several hundred products and companies. It will work for you like it has worked for many other startups. Many successful companies have tried this and it has given great results. Facebook started with university students before becoming mainstream product. Twitter targeted geeks and developers before reaching out to the rest of its market segments. 

Remember you may not find agency sales or channel sales partners when you are targeting innovators. Channel sales partners generally come into picture much later maybe when your product is reaching early majority segment. 

Remember sales team on the payroll may not be able to do a good job when targeting innovators. Sales teams think and know that selling is their work and not finding ways to improve the product. It’s only the core group of entrepreneurs who own the product development have the ability and power to engage and sell to innovators.

Remember that every startup has a very high chance of failing at this stage of recruiting innovators. If partners, employees or freelancers are failing at this stage do you know who is responsible for this failure? It’s you who have positioned them to fail. Be very judicious about everything you are doing and expecting to happen. 

Since innovators are very limited and few, your planning has to be very detailed and precise; otherwise you will end up wasting lot of precious resources. Their limited number works out to your benefit because you don’t need a huge support team or a response team to respond to them. 

Now that you know how your product adoption will shape up, you understand how your market is segmented, how it will respond and behave, you are better equipped to plan and execute your customer development/market development activities. I wish you make the most of the opportunities out there in the market. I am closing this post with my best wishes for you.