Ep4: How do you decide what to charge clients for a services-based company ?

In this episode, I look at the BANT framework by IBM as a way to think about pricing your service, we discuss focusing on value and not falling into the trap of cost-plus pricing. I run through an adapted version of Peter Laurie’s pricing model strategy, and finally, I talk up the benefits of project-based pricing.
In the second half of the episode I cover the classic ‘adoption of innovation’ curve, Simon Sinek’s ‘why’ and a little time is spent on creating great copy.
I finish the episode talking about the false economy of not accepting Amex cards.

If you’re an Apple user then you can subscribe to the podcast here Apple iTunes Podcasts

If you’re on Android then you can find us on Stitcher here

If neither of these work then you can just use Sticher through your browser

and remember, if you do have any questions you’d like me to answer on the show please just leave them in the comments here http://fractal.com.au/questions

Lessons from a Coworking Space

A workplace is a delicate ecosystem where success and culture ebbs and flows with the provision of home-made cake and water cooler chat; even more so in a co-working space.

In a co-working space, you have the same shared bathroom experience, but with the added dynamic of varied companies, agendas and business cultures – all under one roof.

Today marks my final day in such a workspace- a final day, I hasten to add, that has only come about, because of my own logistical challenges (school drop-offs, family time etc) and not at all a result of the experience!

Reflecting on the past few months, here are some lessons learned that I thought I’d share with you*:

1) Headphones are the co-working space equivalent to an office door. If the headphones are on, the door is shut. You can still knock, but the barrier is up. Noteif your co-worker is wearing “cans” consider the door opaque.

2) Ask for help. Seriously, I have been amazed by how ready, willing, and able my co-working space “colleagues” offer up help, advice and support. If you have held back from such an environment because you thought different ventures under one roof would create competitive or guarded space, think again.

3) Introduce yourself. That dreaded moment where the teacher makes you stand up to ‘share a little bit about yourself’ is a recurring nightmare for many, but in a co-working space there’s no dedicated HR rep to walk you around on your first day for a meet and greet; so don’t expect the world to come to you. Say hello. Introduce yourself and enjoy the friendships that you make in an environment where like-minded people have gathered for their own adventure.

4) Introduce others. So while I agree introducing yourself can be a little hard; take a load off your co-working space buddy and make sure you introduce them to the other people you know. Double points if you can give a quick CV; and straight to top of the class if you can find a common area of discussion. This is grassroots networking.

5) Find the quiet achievers. They’re the ones who are head down, working away without anyone ever realising they invested in X, founded company Y or once worked on Z. While the squeaky wheel often gets the attention, not everyone is a natural self-promoter. You never know who is sitting next to you and what invaluable business acumen they actually possess.

6) Garner advice from the non-experts. This one sounds a little odd; but everyone has a story to tell and experience you can learn from. I’ve found that the collective experience of the co-working community is usually a good gauge of a general direction. Thinking about a double sided business model? By the time the seventh person winces, you start to get the idea it might be hard. Live and learn.

7) Pay it forward. Don’t ask what your co-working space can do for you, ask what you can do for your co-working space. But seriously, give first, it might not come back directly, it might not come back at all. But all the old adages come into play here; be nice to the people on your way up, cos you might meet them on your way down; be the co-worker you’d like to have at the desk beside you; and as I find- doing good feels good. A shared experience goes both ways.

8) You are the culture. From friendly colleagues to bounce ideas off; to the celebration of a professional milestone, the people around you make the culture of the place; and you are part of that. Don’t wait for someone to make it happen for you, you get out what you put in – even if you’re a total introvert. Join the morning teas; go for a coffee; chat on slack or leave notes for people. Or if you’re like me, join the Easter egg eating competition and go so hard you feel sick for the rest of the day – that’s just part of being a team player, right?

9) Make up the numbers. If someone is going to host an event, talk, lunch, anything. Don’t leave them talking to a room of three; If you can, go along and show your support. You’ll be helping out a colleague, sharing an experience and who knows you might just learn something! As with the note above, if someone is helping build the community, help them out.

10) Be respectful. You will make your mark, in one way or another, so make it in a positive way. As with roommates; group holidays and traditional office setting s- do your dishes and don’t stink up the office with tuna; keep the music in your headphones and your phone calls to a dull roar. Say good morning; and thank people when they help out. You might not be working for the same company, but you have the same goal= success and productivity in whatever form that happens to work for you. So do unto others and good luck to all.

* The lessons below depict the experiences of the author and may not reflect yours. The author’s personal attributes, both physical and personnel have probably impacted the experience and the results of the egg eating contest.

If your vision is authentic, it resonates

In this Guest Post, Emily Haydon founder of The Talent Connective shares some honest insights gained since launching her recruitment business.

I never believed I had an entrepreneurial gene. But life can change a person’s drivers. And at some point, my desire to create something outweighed my fear 1000 to 1.

I now believe, if your vision comes from a place of authenticity & you’re truly adding value, it resonates.  You seem to find yourself in alignment with your ideal customer, and people will rise to support you.

Starting a business has been the most humbling experience of my career.

It’s meant stripping away some of the facades we can often tell ourselves are important, like portfolio size, title, company perks, and really stripping back to what’s important at the core.  For me this is:

 

Creation and an unyielding need to build something from a place of authenticity

Contribution, legacy, meaning. It took me years to work out how to combine my career with social contribution. Now that I’ve done it I genuinely believe any product or service model could be structured as social enterprise.

Time – only through this exercise have I truly learned the meaning of work life integration.  Mumpreneuring through school holidays just turned all of my corporate conditioning on time management on it’s head. But I wouldn’t change it.

Challenge. Big goals move mountains. And the road ahead is very, very exciting.

 

Brisbane is undoubtedly a city with a big heart for supporting start-ups.  I also think this overwhelmingly positive response so early on comes from there being a driver within us all to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. Social entrepreneurialism gives people an option to do that through their business purchasing decisions and change the lives of communities everywhere.

 

Emily Haydon is the Founder of The Talent Connective, Digital Talent Acquisition in Brisbane that supports micro-finance loans and financial literacy courses in India, Africa and Bangladesh.

 

What question would you ask Richard Branson?

What would you do if Richard Branson was willing to help your business, and you had one hour with him?
I’d argue that you’d struggle the get the value that you assume would come.

There’s no doubt Mr Branson is a marketing/brand/business legend with a track record, knowledge base and life experience that’d be hard to beat. But how could you benefit from that?
The chances are that Branson has minimal domain experience that is relevant to your business.

I’m guessing your most pressing needs are quite specific; you have server load issue, you can’t get facebook engagement or your failing to find a product price point.

The reason I use this example is that as a founder you will do better to create an army of specific mentors to help you, rather than seeking out the one almighty mentor who you might think has all the answers you need – or a silver bullet solution.

In reality, every person in the world is more experienced at something than you, and as such could help you out in some way. Why would you seek one mentor when you already have hundreds ready to help you?

Try it now, take a look around where you’re sitting. The first person you see, what are they better than you at?
Maybe they have a long-term loving marriage, maybe they used to work triage in a hospital emergency ward, or maybe they race motorbikes on the weekends.

The point is that each and every person in your life is a potential mentor with experiences that you could adapt to help your business. Sure, they might not think of themselves as a business mentor, but most people like talking about themselves. I know I’ve personally been too quick to dismiss people.

As a digital marketer my ability to get attention quickly and then convert that attention into a mental/emotional response is critical.
Yet, the people who could teach me so much might be the very people I walk past each day …

So start asking more questions of those around you. See everyone as your mentor and harvest up all that advice.

A word of caution. Make sure you keep your army of mentors focused. People will quickly take a soapbox and start to bestow advice on you in areas that they have no experience.

Anyway, back to Richy B, if I had an hour, I’d focus on the founder/entrepreneurial mental stuff. I’d make sure he did most of the talking, and I’d ask him to share this post 🙂

For everything else, I’ll go back to my army of relatively unknown mentors and ask for help.

4 Reasons why Founding a Startup is like ‘The Lego Movie’

(I have this face 50% of the time running my startup…)

I found myself watching ‘The Lego Movie’ with my kids on the holidays and couldn’t help but notice some key similarities in the storyline with my experience founding my startup, BenchOn. Here are my 4 reasons why:

 

  1. Everything is Awesome! You know the song. The song your kids sing until you lose your sanity… To me, that is the anthem promoted by corporations to remind all of the workers how happy they are following the status quo. I can just see an HR Manager getting staff to sing that in the annual employee engagement seminar before they tick off the box saying that all employees love their job.

    To get back to the story though, our hero, Emmett, tries everything he can to be happy in this status quo world yet no matter how hard he tries, he just doesn’t fit in. He does everything by the book but he just can’t make it work. He intuitively knows something is off about his world yet can’t quite put his finger on it. Until one day he stumbles onto something that breaks all of the rules and he can’t help but go down the rabbit hole to find out where it leads.

    All entrepreneurs will be familiar with this in their lives. We do the right things, go to university, get a job yet we intuitively know there is something else out there for us. Then it hits us, the idea, the holy grail of ideas, the one thing that we have to have a go at otherwise we would never forgive ourselves – and so it begins.

 

  1. Building by instructions VS the Master Builders. In the Lego world that Emmett belongs to, everything is built using instructions (think Processes and Procedures). No deviations from the plan – it must be perfect (Bureaucracy doesn’t support agility or out of the box thinking. Even when they do set up another ‘Innovation Department’). This perfect world is constructed by our villain – the evil Lord Business (they are making this really easy for me!). But Emmett soon learns there is another way – The Master Builder way where you make it up as you go along and build something with nothing else but your imagination and hard work (Let’s call this the ‘Innovation Boom’).

    It sounds easy enough – if you can think it, you can build it. And that is what many of us as entrepreneurs are trying to do. We have lived for so long in the comfort of our employer’s set processes and procedures where all we had to do was follow the bouncing ball, but with a startup, none of that exists! You make it up as you go along and with unlimited configurations and options, it can become extremely overwhelming to deal with (which Emmett found out very quickly). This can lead to conflict, anxiety, feeling lost or not feeling like you are good enough and it was as scary a realisation for me as it was for Emmett.

 

  1. Under constant attack by Big Business. Throughout the movie, Emmett is continually chased, harassed and attacked by Lord Business and his evil Business Bots (Side note: I thought the ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ character was the perfect example of an Executive Assistant – the gatekeeper to Lord Business who can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Ha!). Surely this point doesn’t need much explanation. As a startup, you are constantly looking for competitors and you are continually asked by investors what your plan is to stop other businesses doing what you do. It is a constant battle that plagues you most days and is one of the big reasons why you find yourself awake at 3 am. Unless Batman works for you…

 

  1. Surround yourself with a team who have done this before. Emmett survives the ordeal and achieves ultimate success because he found people along the journey with a variety of skills that helped him through his trials (Batman, Wyldfire, the Wizard etc). Without them, he would have failed or if he chose the wrong companions, he would have failed. He survived because he was mentored, trained, guided and supported by those that know the Master Builder life.

    This too is an obvious comparison to the advisors, mentors and employees that you collect along the way. Choose wisely and use their experience at every opportunity. Choose superstars that believe what you believe and can open your eyes to things you may not have thought of. And trust them! Just because you didn’t think of it yourself, take the time to understand their advice and make your decisions based on all the facts.

 

Never fear though – if Emmett can do it, then there is hope for all of us! Trust your idea, trust your team, work hard and watch the credits roll after you have changed the world.

 

Written by: Tim Walmsley, CEO and Founder of BenchOn

Slowing Growth? Lies, damned lies, and statistics

During a conversation yesterday an Investor/Director questioned a founder about their “slowing growth”.

This didn’t sit well with me but I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Then I realised that the idea of ‘slowing growth’ is damn close to an oxymoron when taken in the wrong context. Take a look at the chart below …..

The chart above represents a company who obviously had fantastic YoY growth early from 2009-2011, and since then has seen that YoY growth slow rapidly heading towards zero. Taken in the context of ‘slowing growth’ this looks pretty damning.

However, I built the above chart using data from this tweet

To quote Mark Twain who incorrectly attributed this quote to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of liesliesdamned lies, and statistics.”

I don’t think the same Investor would be upset if they’d invested in AirBnB in 2011, yet out of this context, they are willing to question a founder with the same line.

 

Facebook video remarketing – turning passive viewers into customers

After slaving away on a great piece of new video marketing content, you upload and boost it on Facebook, then watch the views climb –  while the likes and comment trickle in slowly. Sometimes you’ll meet with colleagues and friends who’ll tell you they loved your video, yet they didn’t like, comment or share it. We’ve all been there, right?

You’re not alone. Unfortunately, while some content is ‘like bait’, other content will always struggle to attract the positive social signal we need for increased distribution. Often it’s the more instructional and educational material that people forget to like.

Facebook now offers you an amazingly powerful way to reach out to these people, video retargeting. Now you can re-market to all those people who are passively viewing your videos while taking no action. The best part for startup founders/marketers is that this strategy is incredibly cost-effective as people willing to invest their time to consume your content are self-identifying and creating an affinity with your brand.

I’m going to make a few assumptions here. Firstly that you promote your videos on Facebook, and secondly that you’ve used Facebook ad manager.

You can navigate directly to the ‘Audience’ section in ad manager here https://www.facebook.com/ads/manager/audiences/manage/

Next, you want to click on the blue button labelled ‘Create Audience.’

From the options listed you want to select ‘custom audience’.

On the next screen, you’ll want to select the ‘Engagement’ option

Finally, on the next screen you can select ‘Video’.

This feature might be buried deep in the Facebook ecosystem but you’re now using one of the best marketing tools that turn ‘window shoppers’ into real shoppers.

On the next screen, you can select the video you’d like to target viewers of as well as the time they have viewed the video for.

What you select here really depends on the length of the video you uploaded and also how perfect you want your audience to be.

If you uploaded a three-minute instructional video then anyone who watched more than 50 percent is probably engaged.

You could limit this to people who have watched more (say 95 percent of your video), but in my experience, this will produce a target group that is too small.

If your video is shorter, say 15-30 seconds then you will want to push the targeting closer to the 95 percent side as it requires much less commitment to your content to watch 8-15 seconds before skipping on.

After you name your audience, Facebook will take a couple of hours to generate this new audience group for you.

Once ready you can retarget any future posts or ads to this audience.

The best part is that once you’ve generated this audience facebook will automatically keep the audience updated.

What you’ve achieved here is a classic marketing funnel.
Your carefully crafted video content is now gaining the attention of potential customers, and as people watch more than 50 percent of your video, you can retarget them with slightly more aggressive posts with a stronger call to action.

There is a vast variety of ways to retarget on the web. However, most of these options require the target users to perform some kind of positive action, typically a click.

Facebook video remarketing empowers you to retarget users who self-identify with your content not through their clicks but through their time, which I would argue is far more valuable than the token like.

If you have any questions or thoughts on the above please do reach out, I’m always happy to help.

How to look big while spending small in Adwords

So here’s the scenario, your Startup has entered a market with a dominant player. You have your USP, but with the classic innovator’s dilemma, it’s hard to market a product or feature people don’t know exists.
You can see your target customers conducting generic searches on Google. However, the dominant player is in there already, and they are bidding aggressively.

How can you possibly compete in this market?

The long strategy is to bid low, take up the long tail search terms and wait for the conscientious consumer to find your brand, weigh up the benefits and make an informed, rational decision.
The wrong strategy is to bid head to head with the dominant brand in blind faith that the lifetime value will cover the crazy Adwords bills.

What you want to be doing is using ‘Retargeting List Search Advertising’ by Google, or RLSA as the cool kids call it.
RLSA is an advanced Search Engine Marketing (SEM) technique that is typically employed by specialist SEM agencies or full time in-house digital marketing staff.

So what is RLSA how does it work?
RLSA works with Google dropping pixels on your website that tag all your visitors. Google can then identify these people when they are searching online and offer you the option to change your SEM bid strategy. In other words, you can treat these people that have already been to your site once, twice or a particular part of your website differently.

As a founder of a startup you’re always hustling, pushing content, working social media and attending a networking event. Anything you can do to draw attention to your business. Every visitor is hard won, yet mostly once they leave your site, they are gone forever.

Now there are two techniques I recommend once you’re tracking your website visitors. One is display and social re-targeting, and the other is RLSA.
While retargeting is fantastic it assumes your website visitors are ‘in market’, and because you’re hustling there is a good chance many of your visitors are not yet ‘in market’ but merely curious about your business or an article you’ve written.
This is where RSLA is the king.

RLSA waits until one of your previous website visitors conducts a search that your bidding on and then up-weights your bid. In other words, the previous visitor self-identifies as being ‘in market’ and this is the time you strike, but now you’re striking with a little more information because you’ve seen this person before.

For example, right now one of my clients has an RLSA list that is performing 100% better than the generic campaign. So we can afford to bid twice what we usually do.
For the audience that we hustled to get to our website the first time, we’re now outbidding the market leader.

The logic in the above-increased conversion rate is that this searcher already has some affinity with your startup brand. However, they have probably forgotten your name, what your company does or even that it exists. But with that small prompt in the Google SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages) it all comes flooding back.

All of a sudden for a small group of people you’ve become a big fish in a small pond. In their world your the top result in Google and you’re killing it. You no longer need to bid on every person that is searching, just the ones where you have a competitive advantage.

As you’ve no doubt already worked out, for the above to work, you’ll need to drive people to your website in the first place. But that’s what Startup hustle is all about.
This is also where content marketing is the key.
Remembering one of the reasons you have to compete against the established market dominating leader is that people don’t know your unique solution exists.
With content marketing, you can attract the attention of a demographic first, and convert them when they are ‘in market’.

For example, you could produce lots of content around dogs, attracting the attention of pet owners, then when the same person is searching for home contents insurance, you could use RLSA to market your discounted home insurance for dog owners (because thieves are less likely to rob a house with a dog).

So the task from here is simple, get those RLSA Google pixels down on your site today. Every day you delay you miss adding website visitors to your RLSA list, and you can’t go back and capture them later.

Is there such a thing as a maximum viable product?

If you’ve been in the startup world for a while, you’ll be familiar with the phrase ‘minimum viable product’. Logically, if there’s a minimum then much must be a maximum right?

For me, a maximum viable product is the most of a product the market is willing to accept. Therefore it stands to reason you could create more than a maximum viable product. You could develop features that the market doesn’t require, need, or desire, and as a result, create a feature for your core product that had no impact on its perceived value.

The most likely time you’ll exceed the maximum viable product is when you realise that you are the market leader. It is at this time that panic sets in from a desperate desire to defend your market leader position. It is also at this time that you’re likely to create a feature that has not been demanded. If you’ve followed this path, you’ve invested in a feature that has added no value.

Does your car need 10 kW of more power? Does your laptop require 10 gigabytes more hard drive storage?

It’s not a negative to have either of those things, but neither is it a necessity or something that would change your purchase behaviour.

Instead, the trick to Innovation is not to continue to add features to a product or service beyond that of the maximum viable product. It’s to pivot and find a maximum of a new position to strive for, a new standard set within the market for the competition to follow.

The pivot and expansion is a lesson learnt from companies like Facebook and Google – even Microsoft has been able to recently reinvent itself.

Amazon (another great example), rather than adding more features to the process of buying books has added new products like the increasingly profitable area of cloud computing. Amazon reached maximum viable product in online book buying and so expand their business to new services, rather than adding features that are not yet required when purchasing books online.

A maximum viable product is not the most that we could achieve with our product; it is the most that the consumer sees value in. There will always be a need and a desire to improve on the maximum viable product, to push beyond the limits, to see what can be achieved, to do what no one else is done before, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to a more profitable product or business.

In reality, very few of us will ever achieve a maximum viable product. We will remain way back in the realms of ‘minimum viable product’. For us, the goal is not ‘maximum’ but ‘lovable’, the ‘minimum lovable product’. This is the minimum we need to achieve for customers to start to love, rave, refer and recommend our product.

Of course, as a marketer, I also appreciate the value of exceeding the maximum viable product. This pursuit is a fantastic way to attract publicity, for example, the Louis Vuitton skateboard at a bit over USD$8000 or the Tiffany tennis balls at USD$1500. Both products are excessively beyond the maximum viable product, but both fantastic pieces of PR and brand positioning for both Louis Vuitton and Tiffany as rich almost unobtainable luxury brands.

There is a place for the product that exceeds the maximum viable solution; it’s just not at the heart of most sustainable business models.

So do you think there should be the term ‘Maximum viable product’?

The Introvert’s conference Cheat Sheet

I’m in Startcon.com in Sydney (I live in Brisbane ) and I’ve been really excited.

So what? I hear you say… We’ll I’m an introvert. I work from home and love it. I recharge my batteries in my own head, and the idea of being in a group of five or more people without a structure or discussion topic genuinely strikes fear into my heart.

But Startcon is different. Startcon has structure. Startcon has deliberate topics. And at Startcon, we’re all there for the same reason, more or less. We share a common interest and want to learn.

So as an introvert, I’m going to share a few tips that I’ve found work well for me at large scale networking events where you don’t know many people.

1) Know at least one person. I call my person my conference buddy and I’m pretty upfront. I need this person as my fall back. I might find myself two or three people deep into networking, but when the anxiety strikes, I’m heading back. (Jen- I’m looking at you here).

2) Ask questions and talk about the other person. You’ve got two ears and one mouth, as I often stay to my eight-year-old daughter – or as she has put it ‘smart people ask questions and dumb people talk’. OK, so that overly simplistic but the basic concept holders true, you’ll learn a lot more if you’re listening than talking. As an introvert, this also means you do less of the talking and more of the listening. So when you’re introduced to someone, ask questions, keep them coming and work out what this new person’s interests are and get them talking.

3) Offer to help. When you’re inevitably asked what you do, keep your story short on succinct and then turn it around quickly. For me, I’m a marketing expert so I might say. I’m a marketing consultant with 20 years online marketing experience and three start-ups of my own….. how could I help you with your business?

The trick here is that I’ve now aligned my credentials with the answer to their business issues. If the conversation flows then everyone wins.

4) Oh s&*! , I’m struggling. That moment you realise this networking movement has moved into an awkward position. Enter the business card. When I realise that the conversation has moved into small talk and I’m struggling, I go for the business card ‘get out’. “I’ve actually got to go now but here’s my business card, let’s connect on Linkedin and keep this conversation going.” This isn’t me being rude I swear! I’m just well outside my comfort zone and really need to leave.

5) Self-deprecating humour. I try not to take my self too seriously and find that if you want to break down the communication barriers, removing yours first is a strong first step.

I can talk about my upside down head (my beard stubble compensates for the thinning hear on my head) or that I’m really not in shape. It’s amazing how revealing a vulnerability can be a powerful disarming strategy.

6) Don’t over expend, making one solid connection is worth 10 passing connections. Don’t stress about the number of business cards or LinkedIn connections you make, focus on the quality of those connections.

7) Smartphone crutch – there is always something to do on your phone. You might be in the real world, but when you’re stuck it’s OK to report to the online world and tweet. Taking a break and writing down your thoughts not only gives you a free pass but could potentially lead to new connections.

 

So there are my seven tips for an introvert and a conference. So if you’re reading this, and you meet me this week you might recognise me using one of these seven techniques. It’s not you; it’s me. I’m not trying anything deceptive or calculating; I’m just dealing with a few thousand people and a billion different potential social situations. And, I honestly do want to help you.