Patrick Vlaskovits, arguably the sharpest modern thinker on Lean, visited us at the Innovation Warehouse last week. Patrick has recently published his new book, The Lean Entrepreneur. He spoke to us about growth hacking, which is a new way of thinking about marketing (within a startup or innovative company environment). Growth hacking is the application of the mindset of a hacker to the challenge of growing the demand for a product.
Patrick has reverse engineered what causes rapid growth in some disruptive products but not others. He’s pulled together thinking from advertising, marketing, lean and even black-hat affiliate marketing. The key (to Patrick) is that the Medium is the Message (a quote from Marshall McLuhan). Disruptive ideas need disruptive marketing channels. To get an innovative idea to spread quickly, it needs an innovative communications medium.
Using a company’s initials, in lieu of the full name, is often convenient for the internal team. But using both the initials and full name together in your branding can be confusing. Your company’s initials are like a personal diminutive. It’s usually best to introduce yourself with one name and then allow people to adopt a diminutive (as they get to know you). It’s a bit like introducing yourself as Jennifer and adding in the same breath that “my friends call me Jenny”. Leaving your new acquaintances wondering which is the right name to call you. Introducing yourself as two things at once just confuses people.
If you introduce yourself with a diminutive, the name that people use day to day will never revert back to your full name and eventually you’ll be known by your diminutive only. I tell clients not to lead with their initials unless they are willing to eventually abandon their full name. Few people remember what BP, IBM or CNN stand for. Furthermore, for a startup, the initials won’t be meaningful to your audience so you lose the benefit of your chosen name. Even BP and IBM started out using their full names and only evolved to using their initials after market awareness was established.
Stage two of the Innovation Warehouse rebranding is to audit the existing brand. We have been asked by the Innovation Warehouse team to share the process publicly so that the community can have input and so that other startups can learn from the experience. Personally, I find that the brand audit is always a slightly touchy phase because it’s early on in the relationship and we’re still getting to know the client. For the process to work, we have to be brutally honest and hold a mirror up to the client and show them what they look like from a customers’ perspective.
The full brand audit (warts and all) is included below with permission from the Innovation Warehouse to help make the branding process more open (and to allow other startups to learn from the process). Some of it is complimentary, some critical and some harsh. But it’s all in the interest of building a solid platform for the new brand. This article is a summary of the management team meeting where we presented the findings of the brand audit. We had identified the key priorities during the briefing in Stage One.
Lots of business people secretly hate marketing. And technical people tend to see marketing as a necessary evil. Developers and engineers are particularly cynical about marketing and design. Personally, I come from a family of engineers who still aren’t quite sure what it is that I do for a living.
My background in venture capital and management consulting has made me cynical about marketing, but I’ve also learned the hard way just how important marketing can be. Without someone to buy your product, you don’t have a business.
Brand strategy is the foundation of all good marketing, advertising and PR. A good brand will help you win customers, raise capital and attract co-founders. You need a minimum viable level of clarity to move fast and adapt your brand as your startup evolves.
Recently I’ve been helping more startups and entrepreneurs with their initial brand creation. What I’ve found is that the challenges that you face starting your own brand are surprisingly similar to the work that I do rebranding multinational companies. A few years back, I put together a new framework for creating a brand strategy. It’s called the Brand Bowtie because it puts together an internal brand architecture pyramid with an external communications pyramid.
The elements of a successful brand are a vision, values, attributes, tagline, stories and key messages. The internal brand architecture is your little secret, but it will inform everything that you do. The external communications framework is an external tool that you can pick and mix from to build websites, social media and marketing collateral.
Social Media is a naked communication medium. There is no ad agency making your adverts, no journalist writing an article about you. It’s just you and your customer, staring straight into each other’s eyes. If you are growing your own e-commerce website then everything you do will be focused on increasing conversion rates, basket sizes and margins.
There are lots of practical things that you can do to improve these metrics. Many of which are ordinarily covered on this blog. But what I want to discuss today is how people are attracted to your site in the first place.
Choosing a tagline looks easy, but choosing a tagline that works well for a technology startup is surprisingly hard. There are several common mistakes that new startup team make when choosing their tagline. These are easily avoidable if you know what to look out for.
I’ve been helping a software startup recently with their search for a new tagline. Like many bootstrapped startups, they don’t have enough cash for a full brand strategy project. Even so, to create a tagline that works you still need more strategic thinking than just jumping straight to the whiteboard by yourself to pull a tagline out of your a__.
As social media and digital communication accelerate, the impact is being felt beyond mass-consumer advertising and bursting into all part of the business world. From large B2B companies to your local cafe.
In a social media and digital space there is nowhere for bad service to hide. I’ve long argued for the business value of design and creativity, but what does this mean in the new digital context? The answer starts with the increasing volume of your customer’s voice.
The whole of your business model can be analysed by imagining one widget at a time. Usually, design thinkers and product managers want to wait until a new product is in the market before testing the financial impact that it has had on the business.
I’m proposing that for your new product development projects that you include an accountant in your early team and that as part of the story-telling process you include financial models of how the new product would work for the business.