Gemma Sole

About Gemma Sole

Gemma Sole is a Development Analyst at Redstar Ventures, Boston Startup School alum, and co-founder of 19th Amendment - a fashion design portfolio and manufacturing site. Prior to relocating in Boston, Gemma worked as a Senior Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton doing strategic communication for the Department of Defense. Previous gigs include founding a professional services firm in Rochester, New York, economic and social policy research in London, and digital project management at Ogilvy and Mather in LA.

Learning to win straight from Seth Godin

Above photo by Skyscope Creative.

Here is some advice captured from the event (from my scribbled notes and not verbatim so apologies if I missed anything juicy)…

General advice:

  • There are a lot of different winning formulas so there is no secret ingredient, just different ingredients.
  • Business models are under analyzed and not innovative – so find a company with the closest business model to your startup and see what they did and how they did it. Answer he question “who came before me with this business model?” and study them.
  • Getting funded is not a business model.
  • No other company has Twitter’s business model because Twitter has a natural monopoly – it only works because there is one place to tweet and we all want there only to be one Twitter otherwise it wouldn’t be effective.
  • Find early adopters and make sales calls so you get used to being rejected and learn what is wrong with your product.

Rhoost, a modern, stylish, baby-proofing products company, wants to figure out how to get more distribution and become a leader in its product category:

  • It is crucial for a product to be present at the right moment – the time when the problem the product solves is front of mind.  It is your job [as founder/entrepreneur] to figure out when and where that is and how you will get your product there.
  • How do you do that? Talk to your target demographic (for Rhoost, this is mother’s with 6 month-olds) every day and get their feedback.  Also figure out the most important google ad words or choose a brand with which to co-venture (such as Roost baby corner protectors and a high-end stroller company).

Video-making app Directr wanted to know how the new guy breaks out:

  • You need to build an engine of growth into your app to make it viral by nature.  For example, Twitter grew so rapidly because people made all their friends join to make the experience more fun. (For Directr, Seth suggested they only allow people to co-direct films with friends – it doesn’t work if used by itself).
  • You can either be a ‘Wandering Generality’ with virality built in or by a ‘Meaningful Specific.’

Promoboxx, providing co-branded online campaigns with retailers, asked how to get more leads and close the sales cycle:

  • A B2B sale is not a pitch to the company that they will make more profit – person buying doesn’t care about profit; he/she only cares about impressing boss, making the boss happy, gaining more respect, and making their job easier.
  • Every big brand has a guy that runs the early adopter budget where they get limited ad spend to see if new channels work (such as Campbell’s ads on parking meters) – you don’t want to sell this guy because he only tries each new thing once.
  • To sell, must address the problem – it (Promoboxx) needs to be a cheaper, turn-key solution or Promoboxx needs to figure out how to get on more podiums and invent a new category so they can create a pain and then make it go away (like Yahoo did with Prime Sponsors).

Kickstarter-launched, bedhead-hair-correcting company Morning Head asked to what extent they should take their naughty name and marketing ideas:

  • Acknowledging that culture is getting coarser, you first have to decide what the goal of the company is: 1) company becomes a marketing engine for coarser products, 2) company is one product and will sell as much as possible, or 3) company will make products for the initial customer base they were able to attract.
  • With option 2 (Morning Head chose 2), it is a hard sell because there is no repeat purchases for the product and very few people will talk about the product if marketing is too dirty – keep it light and smart so people can share the utility of the product and then are able to buy it. Your scarce asset is your humor so keep the joke but lower expectations.
  • Everyone should realize what their scarce asset is early on.

Prospective Plus, a gateway for job seekers and employers that is trying to introduce a common application, needs to think about how one side of the two-sided market benefits so that they can go after one side first.

GrabCAD, a free CAD model library and engineer community, is trying to move from hobby usage to professional usages in daily workflow:

  • The main problem is it is different customers, different stories, and different problems. With a community, face-to-face becomes critically important so it may be worth it for GrabCAD to start a business as a face-to-face connector.  Software is the excuse to build a community and get people to come together.

Wordstream, a company that helps makes Search Engine Marketing more profitable and successful, asked how to get its marketing and product teams to work better together:

  • Product design and marketing should be the same thing or at least work together, even switch jobs to a day.  At least move their desks together.

Smarterer, a skills validation platform, asked about who to service and which direction to take the company:

  • There are two options: 1) to continue growing the audience (free model) or 2) to be profitable (have people pay to take the tests). (Brining up Twitter again…) Twitter is free but it is valuable because people spend hours of attention on it.  It is fearful to pick one thing and stick to it but you need to do that in order to optimize the product for one person.

And lastly, 19th Amendment, an interactive portfolio tool for fashion designers to showcase their work, while empowering consumers to critique and purchase exclusive designs, asked how do you prioritize who to go after when you have four potential stakeholders (partners, designer, consumers, and buyers):

  • You have to be an Etsy or a Dribbble – you can’t be both. Partners and designers end up being the same because the schools are only doorways to designers. You don’t need a lot of designers but you will have to curate the pool. You do need a lot of buyers on board to make it an attractive proposition but make sure you are mindful of their time and work to conserve it.

Can’t wait to put some of these words to work and get it done! Want some more Seth advice? Check out an older Seth book, Bootstrappers Bible, free online.

Special thanks again to Seth for his time and insights and to Sarah Hodges, Dave Balter, and the team for bringing this wonderful event to Boston! Always learning to win at the 500 Harrison location and this was no acception!

This post was originally published on Wondering on Wandering.

How to Create Brand Positioning That Breaks Through the Noise

Marketing is a conversation about value. Developing compelling brand positioning and messaging for your company that conveys this value is crucial to success. Forget the bells and whistles—features, competitors and anything that doesn’t focus on the core value your product brings to the table is just a distraction when your crafting you’re crafting marketing content. A simple framework is all you need to position your business and convey your strengths to prospects and customers.

When building a marketing strategy, the most important question to answer is, “What do customers need?” Consider both expressed (readily clear) and latent (under the surface) needs of your customers, there are two core tools you can use to build out your messaging and positioning: your brand essence and your product messaging brief.

Brand EssenseBrand Positioning

Brand essence encapsulates the vision, promise, attributes, and emotion of a brand. For a company like Apple, for example, where the vision is simplicity and the promise is a seamless, almost magical user experience, it’s no surprise that customers have had such strong negative reaction to the unreliable nature of the new Apple Maps.

Product Messaging Brief
To translate your brand essence into effective product messaging, you can follow a simple formula.

Brand Positioning

After you’ve articulated your brand essence, identify your category. Minor brands or products can inherit the vision, promise, emotion, and attributes of the larger brand. For example, Google starts with a whimsical brand name and matches it with a literal product category name such as Google Docs – the user understands both the product and the larger brand connotations.

Once users understand a brand and category, the next steps is to convey the product benefits. After you’ve explored your market and discovered user needs, make a list of customer needs and a separate list of product features. To develop a list of product benefits, come up with high level promises that bind those two lists together.

Aside from perfecting your positioning (check out Geoffrey Moore’s Positioning Statement), the most important piece of messaging is your 25-word, plain English, description of what your company does. This needs to be one to two sentences and easy to say so everyone in your company can repeat it as they talk to potential clients, customers, or partners.

Consistent and insightful positioning and messaging can be one of the most difficult challenges for any company. The Brand Essence and Product Messaging Brief provided here are great tools for new and established companies alike to form the cornerstone of a marketing strategy.

About the Instructor
Adam Berrey is an entrepreneur and startup executive. He began his technology career on the founding team of Allaire where he led product marketing and management from the company’s beginnings to an IPO, $2.5B peak market cap, and $125M in annual revenue. In 2005 he joined Brightcove (BCOV) and led marketing and strategy from inception through $25M in revenue. Since 2009, Adam has done stints as an EIR at General Catalyst and North Bridge, co-founded a smart grid company, and advised executives and entrepreneurs at a wide range of firms from early-stage startups to public companies. View Adam’s slides here.

How to Design a Mobile App for Early Adopters

In today’s increasingly competitive space, mobile apps live and die by whether early adopters engage with them. But adoption doesn’t happen by accident, it is conscientious choices by the product designer that cater early versions to appeal to the gatekeepers of the app world.

Swimming In The iPool

Make it easy for early adopters to take a dip in your application.

Design your application (app) for the first 1% of users, and millions will follow

Everyone wants to get millions of users quickly. The trick to this is designing your app to appeal to the first 1-5% of users who will ultimately pick up your product (or the early adopters).

There are three key traits of early adopters are essential to consider when designing your product in the first phases of its evolution:

1.     Early adopters like to try new stuff

Don’t make it hard to explore your product. Your own user registration and authentication is a must, but provide Facebook login as option. Ask for as little information as far down the workflow as you can.

HINT: Never ask users to confirm email or password twice in an app – it is annoying and will cause drop off.

 2.     Early adopters like to brag

In this case, bragging is a good thing! Think about how you want early adopters to contribute, not just consume. Focus on a fun process for contribution, whether it’s a motivating User Experience (UX) or the gamification of contributions.

HINT: There is a delicate balance between easy contribution and content quality – make the desired action you want your user to take obvious.

3.     Early adopters like to connect and share

Make your app easy to share and inherently viral. This helps early adopters spread the word faster, but be sure to consider how they engage with their network. Sharing needs to be built into your use case, but, if social is not there, don’t force it.

HINT: Do not ask for offline processing unless absolutely necessary – this takes up precious time.

Considering these traits as you begin to build will be key for your app’s success. Remember to keep it simple and fun and your early adopters will help do a lot of the promotional work for you.

Image JD Hancock via Compfight

About Instructor Saad Fazil

Saad is a senior product manager for Nokia’s Location and Commerce group and previously co-founded VentureDive, a technology incubator. He blogs at  View slides from Saad’s class here.