The Uncertain Startup

Startup Marketing: The Reality

by Josh

In 1989, there was a film called Field of Dreams. It starred Kevin Costner, who acted as a farmer who hears a voice that tells him ‘If you build it, they will come’. He gathers this voice hinting for him to build a baseball pitch, so does exactly that, despite every thinking that he’s nuts. And as with all nice, happy Hollywood endings, they did come, with old legendary baseball players reuniting for a game of modern baseball. 

Startups and entrepreneurs often think of themselves as building their own Field of Dreams when launching their business. However, as opposed to what Hollywood would have you believe, even if you build it, they might not come. Without any marketing plans or strategies, or the foresight to have a marketing budget set up, this could lead to catastrophe. 

A lot of startups raise only enough seed capital to build their product, and leave nothing in the bank left for actually driving customers to the product. By the time they they realise, they’re out of cash, and have to start approaching venture capital community (read: Dragon Dens) for the money to help get their product launched into the public eye. The problem with this though, is venture capitalists don’t tend to fund something unless it has sufficient ‘proof of concept’ already built around it. This means a website that is generating a lot of traffic, a bursting customer pipeline, revenue, or some other metric that indicates that people want the product. Keep in mind that venture capitalists want to get their money back, plus profit. They will often go for concepts that have been proven to work before, or a concept that is already showing huge demand. They will not hand out money for people to ‘try something out with’. 

Many businesses and entrepreneurs learn this the hard way. They burn through all their cash before they have had a real shot at success. This is often a mistake that they cannot bounce back from. Keep in mind that most entrepreneurs have to work without a wage for many months, and it could be many more months before their product starts to get noticed, and even more before it starts generating revenue. If these businesses had thought ahead and integrated their marketing into the initial budget, chances of being able to secure an investor would be much higher, as would the chance of getting the product to take root. Another factor to consider as well is that to build a successful product is to get proper feedback from users. If no-one is using the product, it’s hard to gauge what would actually make your product successful. So if you have no money to market, and investors won’t invest because people aren’t using your product, and people aren’t using your product because they either haven’t seen it, or they’ve seen it and they don’t like it…well, it’s a vicious cycle. 

So don’t try to build your own field of dreams. Don’t get enraptured by the by the siren calls of success stories. Very few startups go the way of Groupon or Pinterest. The reality is launching the product and initial customer acquisition is very difficult, and without proper planning, can get very expensive. While it is important to build a great product, find some time to really work out a proper marketing budget and strategy to make your concept successful. [Forbes]

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Throwback Thursday: How NOT to use social media

by Josh

As 2013 winds to a close, it’s a great time to take stock of the good, the bad and the plain ugly that happened throughout the year. Here at 8i, we definitely want to celebrate the success stories, but sometimes, it’s just as useful (and entertaining) to learn from mistakes that others have made.

While even the most hardened PR professionals might take the wrong approach to crisis management, there was one particular incident that had the whole world cringing and laughing at the same time. Back in May, Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, an Arizonian restaurant that starred on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, had started to receive some flack on their social media platforms for their poor attitudes on the show. These guys then took matters into their own hands and…well rather than us telling you, let us show you. This is PR crisis management 101 on how not to manage your brand. [disclaimer: there is offensive language. Images are sourced from Buzzfeed]

It started off badly.

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And then it escalated quite quickly.

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They then discovered a reddit forum that had been tracking their posts.

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Then somehow, things got worse…

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…and worse.

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They even started to fake comments on reddit so it looked like authorities had contacted posters.

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And still the statuses kept coming.

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The next morning, in the aftermath of destruction they had carved out of their brand, they may have realised a little too late that they had dug themselves a giant hole, so they posted this.

ImageSince, their Facebook page has been wiped clean of all of these, and the restaurant still appears to be operating. After this epic meltdown, many people seem to be turning up just to see the couple who absolutely lost it. So, what takeaways [pun intended] can be gotten from this?

  1. Deal with feedback kindly and quickly. This doesn’t mean you have to start apologizing for everything; it doesn’t even mean you have to immediately take blame, especially you’re doing social media on behalf of someone. Just say that you are sorry that the experience wasn’t quite right, and that you’ll shoot them a private message to help sort out their problems. You never know, with the right attitude and approach, often the most passionately furious person can become the most passionate fan
  2. It might be obvious, but going straight to becoming defensive, (or aggressive offense) is not a good idea. Remaining calm and collected looks much better. DON’T FREAK OUT.
  3. Don’t overuse caps. It’s unprofessional and obnoxious.
  4. Don’t feed the trolls. It’s very tempting, but the more you feed them, the bigger and more confident they get.
  5. Seriously. Don’t feed the trolls.

[Source: Buzzfeed]

How To Get Promoted

by Josh

Recently, I had lunch with one of my mentor-like figures, Kenny. He had worked for many years in a multitude of financial advisory groups, so he had become familiar with corporate ladders and dealing with the higher ups and he shared with me his philosophy about hard working and promotions. After I told him of my aspirations to grow our business, he nodded sagely and asked me what I thought was a skill that got people promoted. ‘Working hard?’ I asked. He shook his head.

People who got promoted were the ones who didn’t necessarily work hard, but the ones that made themselves indispensable. He told me a story of a guy he knew who worked the night shift at KPMG, and that this guy would be rostered to start at 7PM, but he would routinely come in a 5PM and start working…without pay. He start firing off emails everywhere, probably did the most amount of emails out of anyone and sacrificed his family life, all in the desperate pursuit of a promotion. But as the years went by, this guy never got promoted. So he worked harder and became more desperate until eventually he couldn’t hack it anymore and he quit. And someone else got promoted over him. The moral, Kenny said, was that it wasn’t because the guy didn’t work hard, or wasn’t good at his job. It was just that the guy who did get promoted, he was the guy who constantly kept trying new things, expanding his horizons, taking on new projects and trialling new ideas. The guy who got promoted made himself a bigger asset to the company, showed the company that he was adaptable, proactive and was better than his mere station. He made himself indispensable. That was how you got promoted. The poor sod who eventually quit, he was a good worker, but he was too good where he was. If he was promoted, no-one else good enough could take his place, but he also didn’t prove that he could thrive in another area. His own work had become his undoing. It goes to show that good, hard work was not the golden key.

I thought this was a really interesting point. I’ll be glad to hear what other people think!

Reaching for the star

by annakang

reaching for the starsThis feels like a miracle. Josh only abruptly mentioned that he was going to launch our first Facebook page yesterday. Obtaining at least 10 likes felt like reaching for the stars. But surprisingly, we just reached 100 likes on Facebook within 24 hours of our launch. The team and I feel so grateful and are motivated even more to persist through this journey. We do not know where we are heading but it feels great so far and even better knowing we are not alone but have the support of friends who silently wished us all the best and helped us kick off our first marketing campaign for our own business.

I am personally even more surprised that I had friends who would support me in this way because I considered myself to be quite a loner with my boyfriend playing the best friend role in my current life. When I looked through friends who have liked our page, most of them were people who I never really became close friends with but those who I briefly met along my life journey who supported our startup because they saw something special about 8i Marketing. I truly believe an innovative and truthful idea will attract no matter what. Thank you again everyone who have shown us your love.

…And We’re Live!

by Josh

We’re finally live! At least…on Facebook.

We’ve been working for several weeks now under wraps with several campaigns, but this is the first step we’re taking into the big, wide world. It’s the digital equivalent of us saying, ‘COME AT ME!’ It’s…a bit harrowing, to be honest. More scary than exciting, to be completely honest. But it’s meant to be scary, isn’t it? Because the more scarier thought is not stepping off at all. In the last few days, there has been a little bit of hesitation; we’ve looked at things and I think I speak for the rest of team; we just had the feeling we weren’t ready. I’ve already had people tell me that I’m pursuing the wrong path but now we’ve stepped off the precipice. We’re live. And that’s the important part.

But hit us up on Facebook (search us up at 8i Marketing)! We’ll be chatting to people, generally trying to be cool. Our website is still under construction with Chris at the helm. Stay tuned!

– Josh

Future of the m…

by annakang

Future of the marketing-services industry will be driven by efficiency and productivity, not billable hours, as the essential drivers of profitability. Their value and success will be measured by outcomes, not outputs. Their strength and stability depend on their willingness to be in a perpetual state of change, and an ability to execute and adapt faster than competitors. The depth, versatility, and drive of their talent will be the cornerstones of organisations that pursue a higher purpose.

from ‘The Marketing Agency Blueprint’ by Paul Roetzer

The Advisory Board

by annakang

 

Businesspeople working in office

 

I never saw myself as an entrepreneur. I would die for stability in a well structured corporate job as long as my income is stable and I am able to plan my lifestyle around it. Have you heard a phrase ” not everyone’s born to be a leader”? But unfortunately, I realised life was like building a successful business. It is inevitable that we are leaders and directors of our own lives. There are risks and potential rewards involved. They all seek and work towards the dream concept of success and these are achievable through hard work, persistence, determination and the right executions. Most importantly, a team and the network around you will determine the speed of growth.

Because we are all new to this venture, we are all keen to get some advice from an experienced entrepreneur, someone with an experience building a business from scratch and has reached their personal goals with it. Although they may not have kicked off as planned, they set themselves a challenge, persisted through it and reaped some form of outcome from it. Most of all, they have gaining the invaluable experience that has taught them important real life lessons, which are much more applicable to our current life than theories learnt in uni. In times of doubt and insecurity, we all need a mentor from similar walks of life who can guide you through.

First person we thought of was a connection of mine who approached us with his own business plan long time ago. He is only 23, one year older than us and has trialled through different business ventures one after another ever since high school. While some may ridicule his amount of experience by looking at his age, but his advices were phenomenal. He was someone with experience in entrepreneurship we were able to gain advice from. Not only that, he has become an important network who not only decided to mentor us through our own tough challenges of kicking off our own start-up but gave us an even greater opportunity of growing our venture through his own network.  Thanks to him, we are on a project to impress a potential client with an innovative and outstanding marketing campaign for his start-up business.

When I looked around, I realised that I was surrounded with entrepreneurs from all walks of life. My male boss from Cupcake Central who has directed the company to its current position, Sheryl his partner who transformed her dream into a reality becoming a successful female entrepreneur, Dan Flynn the Junior who was once a colleague of Josh at Vodafone and current CEO of Thankyou Water that has impacted hundreds of lives through the funding of wells in impoverished countries. These are entrepreneurs who all started off with an uncertainty, a belief, a dream, that has now hatched into successful ventures that are continuing to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs and start-ups like us.

Why are we calling ourselves 8i?

by annakang

In reply to Josh’s statement saying there’s no real meaning behind 8i Communications… There is.

Chris, the hottest nerd (as stated on his coffee mug) of our team came up with this brilliant idea that Josh and I immediately thought of as ingenious!

Simply count the number of eyes in the following photos.

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Chris has 2 eyes…

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I have 2 eyes…

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Josh?……

4 eyes.

2+2+4= 8 eyes.

That is how we ended up with 8i Marketing.

The End.

P.S. To our team. Sorry for intruding your privacy and stealing your photos for this post.

Meanwhile, this is what our team looks like and pursue as hobbies when we are not slaving away.

The Office: 8i Communications

by Josh

im-going-on-an-adventure

Going on an adventure…I guess this is how we all felt

It’s been a hectic few days. The ball is really starting to roll, and it’s been a week of ‘firsts’ for us as a group, which is always good feeling. We finally have a name for ourselves! We decided to call ourselves ‘8i Communications’. There’s no really meaning behind it, we just thought you could make a nice logo out of it. Which…we haven’t made yet. 

As you might have gathered from Anna’s last post, we found a third co-founder, Chris, who randomly answered my Facebook call out for designers and coders. He’s a marketing & advertising major and as soon as he came in, he blasted off some ideas that made my jaw drop. I hope I can get him writing on here soon too. 

We also linked up with our first ‘client’; a finance analyst who is looking to diverge away from his office job and develop his own app. I put the word ‘client’ in quotation marks because he really is just a good friend who just happened to be looking to this as his first startup. Because his app is not close to completion I don’t think I should divulge too much details about it, but he has as really cool concept for it in mind and when it’s launched, we think it’ll be really cool. So…keep your eye on this page because you’ll see the details here first! 

Last night we had our first ‘working’ meeting, which lasted about 4 hours. It was really productive; I guess our prior experience in events management groups had unknowingly given us the ability to give meeting some direction. I think there are going to be some really exciting developments, so please, stay tuned! 

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Our first ‘office’. You can see my $20 dollar investment into the company: that shitty little whiteboard. 

Initial take-aways from our experiences;

  • Get the ball rolling as soon as you can. In the Lean Startup model, Ries suggests that to create a Minimum Viable Product as a way to experiment and learn what customers really need is the real way to learn. It is wasted effort and time if you spend ages planning and then building a highly polished product…that no-one wants. While what we do isn’t about making a ‘product’, we offer a service, and by not spending heaps of time thinking about every part of the operation, we just picked up a client with the bare minimum team to figure out whether our services are in demand, and how we can use our skills to deliver the right service, and it seems like our assumptions have been proven correct; that our services are needed. I guess also, the more time we spent thinking about it all was more time we could doubt ourselves. HOWEVER, this isn’t an invitation to go in without any clue either though; Anna just told me this horror story about some woman who decided to launch a high-tea hiring service and luckily picked up a massive job, serving a party of diplomats. But the problem is…she had no idea about anything that was high tea. She had never even been to high tea before. So her event was a mess to say the least. And she’s no longer in the business anymore. 
  • Network, network, network. Our first client was a friend, and our team are formed all by friends and colleagues. I have also been surprised at how helpful people have been when I’ve mentioned our idea to them. They’ve suggested tools, websites, other companies, referred friends, all of whom could be infinitely helpful. So yes, this is an invitation to go out, network, and make friends…and make as many friends as you can! 

– Josh

Start-up from a Girl’s Perspective

by annakang

As a girl, I am that cautious and grounded person who stays away from risky gambles. That was exactly what I was imposed with, an unexpected idea that Josh one day threw out at me. Josh, Chris and I are all currently working under a boss as a part-timer, a full timer and as a casual. We are all guilty of the three Cs ( I’m not sure about you Chris since you are the angel in the group): Complaining, Criticising and Condemning to cancel out our negative feelings that trickle around the workplace either from cranky customers who act as if they own the store, from our demanding bosses who order us around just because they can and from our own half-heartedness that create careless mistakes time and time again. Although we are young and novice to the area of business, we all jumped into this venture with one dream; becoming our own boss. 

Being a cynic, the first question I posed was “What if we fail?”

I love comfort and stability. I live for it. While pondering hard whether to get involved with this venture, I was reminded, “to succeed in life you must constantly live out of your comfort zone”. What if we fail? We are still young and have time to fall back to and while it might be a hassle, we can always rebuild and start from the beginning. I don’t know what has got into me but something told me to take a dive with him. I am afraid, but at the same time excited to discover what is in store for me. Let’s do this!