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 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.