(Source: http://s306.photobucket.com/user/paawkx/media/mario-foresight.png.html)
Rebekah Campbellknew at the beginning that the original plan for her tech startup wasn’t going to work. Yes, even before launching. Campbell is the Founder of Posse, the app where the community of your friends share recommendations and favorite places.
Campbell recently shared her experience on the New York Time’s blog – “When Plan A Doesn’t Work”. She had received funding for her loyalty app, to put it simply, but from the get-go, she knew that it would suffer. In fact, it crystallized as she forgot to download the loyalty app her hair stylist told her about after her appointment. She had focused so much attention on the merchant side, but didn’t think much around user engagement.
In many businesses, products and services actually cater to more than one user beyond your actual customer. Campbell’s experience is reminiscent of Body Boss, and how the two user groups we had to cater to – coaches/ trainers and players.
Some key take-aways from Campbell’s piece:
  • Step Into the Shoes of Your Users. Campbell heard about a loyalty app for her hairstylist’s salon at her appointment, and said she’d try it out. However, she forgot to download it. How would users of Posse download and start engaging right off the bat if she, like everyone else, forgot to download another app so quickly? (See “Eating your own dogfood and imitating the late Steve Irwin – Why would you do that?”)
  • Early Customer-Partners Are CRITICAL. Campbell was able to convince so many people prior to launch 2.0 to come in for focus groups, 1-on-1’s, and other tests/ interviews over and over again. That’s crazy amazing. To have a list of early customers/ users bought in to help you iterate and figure out what works is so incredibly valuable so you don’t build something no one wants.
  • Appeal to Those Who Like You. After focus groups, Campbell and team not only saw distinct behavioral groups, but that not all would be as receptive to Posse as others. Thus, she honed in on those groups that would be more inclined to engage with Posse. Save time, save money with focus.
  • Personalized Recommendations is the Future. The likes of Amazon reviews, Yelp reviews, etc. are great to kind of discover new places. However, how much credibility do you actually give some of those reviews? Instead, you more often than not ask those around you for recommendations of a good stylist, the places to go on vacation when in Rome, or where to go for BBQ in Atlanta tonight.
  • Be Beautiful. Be Simple. Be Novel. Everyone and their mothers are getting into tech these days. I regularly do a purge of apps on my phone if I hadn’t used certain apps after 2 weeks. With all that’s out there, it’s getting more difficult to stand apart. I found the following to be one of the most powerful nuggets in her post: “Like a lot of people, I’m lazy. If I’m going to try something new, it has to be so useful, so fun and so original that it blows my mind. Otherwise, forget it.

Of course I would love and appreciate this post – it was published on my birthday! Well, okay, it was obviously for its content. At Body Boss, we realized early on that we had two major user groups with very different inclinations for technology in coaches and players. We didn’t quite address this as quickly as we would have liked, and that could be a factor of our bootstrappy-ness; whereas, Campbell could iterate quickly with full-time employees with venture capital.
Campbell’s Posse 2.0 launched in March 2013 with over 70,000 users and 40,000 stores globally (at the time of publish). Looks like they’ve got some good momentum, and I’m hoping they go far.

What are your thoughts about Campbell’s article? How else could Campbell have iterated quickly to find the right product/ market fit to address customer engagement?
Source: http://nataliethecoach.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/9395228324_036aa68eab_o.jpg
So this is kind of funny… you’re about to read a blog post about online dating from my past and current experience. This is going to fun to share.
With the recent announcement about Body Boss, I’ve been gathering my thoughts to figure out my Next Move. While doing so, I’ve also jumped into the online dating pool. (Shh, don’t judge me.) When I’ve told this to others, people are really, really curious why I’m on there. I’m not sure if that means people don’t think the internet would embrace a virtual me or because I’m so great in real life (“IRL” for you non-online dating folk). I’m hoping the latter.
In any case, I’m finding myself applying so many of the entrepreneurial ninja skills to work on my Match profile. I thought it’d be fun to blog about. It’s funny because business (relationship) development in this case is much different than approaching coaches and a lot more attractive for the most part.
So what are some take-aways? Let’s go.
The layout of your marketing campaign! (Yeah, I’m going to show you my profile… c’mon now.)
  • First, online dating apps are like sales channels. Why am I on an online dating site? Because I’m expanding my “sales” channel of me. I’m giving myself web presence in addition to the brick-and-mortar version of me. It allows me to expand my audience to those I may have difficulty (or never) reaching.
  • Skin-in-the-game is good. That is, in a product/ service setting of a startup, free trials/ models by themselves allow subscribers the ease to stop using your product. Likewise in online dating, free apps lower the bar for people to join which is good, but more often than not, those members don’t have any pull to really pursue a real relationship. Thus, joining a paid model helps weed out the non-serious members.
  • You are what you’re marketing. I’m not selling a SaaS product or an app. Instead, I’m selling myself to the ladies online. Sadly, like a bootstrapped startup, I’ve got limited funds/ skills so my pictures probably aren’t the best. I have to work on that. However, the basic principles of marketing are the same in that every picture, every line you write has to have a purpose to attracting your market.
  • Quality over quantity – simplicity is golden. In online dating, you’re trying to get a member to write you a message, or to respond to your own, with the goal of going offline for a meeting. Like a good slick for marketing your startup, don’t state every benefit in the world and feature to your customer. In online dating, state only the most pertinent information that would entice a member.
  • Customer discovery is fun but can get weird. You can watch how your “number of views” or “winks” counts change after you implement changes (geez, I wish I could do A/B testing), but in the end, you can also solicit someone like a friend who represents your target market, and get feedback. Just remember that like in a real startup, you’re looking for honest communication where partners aren’t shy to tell you what they like/ don’t like.
  • Know your target market – who’s in, who’s out. One thing I learned early on with Body Boss is that I have to accept some coaches were not ready for technology or interested, in general. There are just some who will not buy what you’re selling, and that’s okay. As they say, there are plenty other fish in the sea.
  • Don’t forget the Call-to-Action. Most online dating sites have a CTA for you in the form of a blue button that reads, “Email her now!” However, you can also help a reader start a conversation with a simple question like asking where would she go anywhere in the world tomorrow given nothing to stop her, or in my case, a simple WINK and I’ll start the conversation. (I think of this like a turn-key sign-up process where I’ll help you get started.)

Obviously online dating is not a startup. For one massive reason, I’m not looking for multiple customers. That’d be weird and terrible. So far, it’s been a fun experiment online with this new perspective of being a more seasoned entrepreneur. Now, I just have to attract the right partner… And to the point about the target market, I have to do a good job as a marketer/ sales person to make it like I’m the best product for the reader.

What are your thoughts about online dating or dating in general as it could relate to startups and business?  
Last week’s post about the hiatus of Body Boss received a lot of good, supportive feedback – 21 Lessons from Failure. That was interesting to me because it wasn’t a letter to the world about the close of Body Boss as much as it was about a learning opportunity. Instead, I wanted to follow up the lessons learned with a personal letter, but I didn’t know really how to begin. However, I believe a serial entrepreneur has just given me the spark with his one simple question:

Does humility factor anywhere in terms of your lessons learned from Body Boss?

Absolutely!
Body Boss has been incredibly humbling for not just myself, but for the whole team. Body Boss has helped me realize the hardwork needed to build a successful business and what it means to build a brand you can be proud of. We started Body Boss full of confidence, energy, and lofty goals, but we have to balance that with a healthy dose of humility. Yet, in a lot of ways, confidence and humility aren’t necessarily on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they work closer together. It’s been an incredible experience learning more about our strengths and our weaknesses. It’s not lost on me how much there is still for me to learn and grow, and that will never end. 
For me, personally, I’m disappointed I didn’t lead the team to success. Body Boss was the creation of everyone around us, not just the Body Boss team. I’m a product of my family, my friends, Georgia Tech, Emory, and so much more. It’s why we kept our family and friends up-to-date on our progress in addition to our customers and partners. We have had amazing support from everyone around us, and we are so grateful. It’s incredibly sad to let everyone around me down now. Sales make or break a company, and as such, I shoulder much of the blame. I’ve been learning from my mistakes, and I have to now take those lessons learned and improve them.
I’m saddened for the incredible Body Boss community that we couldn’t create a vast nation of like-minded coaches, trainers, and athletes to share their achievements to motivate each other for greater. Body Boss was built on a premise of “Motivation through Team Competition”. In a word – inspiration. Inspiration to achieve greater.
In the afterglow of Body Boss, I can relish being a part of an amazing team. The mastermind behind Body Boss’s inception was none other than Darren Pottinger – a true Brains meets Brawn entrepreneur. His tenacity and thirst to learn and dream big is second to none. Don Pottinger was the glue that brought us all together and the man who really made Body Boss come to life and hum. He labored so many hours late at night trouble-shooting and refining Body Boss into a better product for our customer-partners. And of course, all the amazing graphics, the sleek designs that landed us on so many creative sites… credit that to the revered Andrew Reifman. There wasn’t a soul around who wasn’t impressed with his amazing work. These are THE BEST guys in their fields – I know that.
People ask me what my Next Move is. I’m not entirely sure. It’s funny, but after my little Personal Renaissance during grad school, I’m now at this intersection where I’m firmly devout in what I want to do, but I don’t know where that means I should go next.
In any event, I do know I need to keep building off the lessons learned and to keep growing. Am I eager to start a new venture? Absolutely. I reflect plenty, and I’ll continue to write about entrepreneurial ideas including Body Boss, and share my thoughts with the World. I hope my writing inspires others to pursue their passions – startups, painting, pursuing European soccer glory (I can still do that, maybe?), or anything else others are scared to chase and grab right now. For me, I’m reaching for the opportunity to build companies to provide jobs, to build a smarter, healthier future, and to leave a legacy of my family, my friends, and my communities.
I’ve always wanted to be a Great Leader for others, and with that, I do have to constantly find the balance and inter-play between confidence and self-belief with humility. Body Boss was a great experience for all of us in becoming more humble. It’s allowed us to learn and develop for the next chapters in our lives. For the last 2.5 years, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of this Dream Team. As we may sunset this endeavor, I’m excited for where each of us goes from here. I firmly believe we’re all destined for great things.
So to all of you, our supporters, I say this with every ounce of my being and with eternal gratification: THANK YOU.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Yowza, starting a startup from nothing is wicked hard. After 2.5 years at Body Boss, my team and I have been riding the startup roller coaster with high highs and low lows. Our ride has been one of the most frustrating, stressful, challenging, and rewarding experiences of our lives. A ride that sadly stops here.
We aimed at curing time-consuming spreadsheet madness and bringing intelligence into a world where technology feared to go before – the gyms of high schools, colleges, and the like. We made pivots to our dream, but sadly, we won’t be continuing further. Our market is incredibly young, and though growing, does not provide a sustainable operation for the foreseeable future. So as it stands, we’ll be supporting Body Boss as it is today, but unless/ until the market matures, we won’t be building out new features or spending heavy resources on marketing at this time. 
As they say, you learn more from failure than success. And boy have we learned… If you’re looking to start your own venture, the below list of 21 lessons we’ve learned should help plot out your course and watch out for traps. Or in the least, these lessons can save you from punching helpless pillows or picking up all the papers you threw in the air from frustration:
  1. Have customer-PARTNERS at the beginning. Partners at the beginning give you momentum coming out of the gate to not only build the product, but also to sell the product. Social motivation is a powerful tool.
  2. Research should weigh heavily on building your product/ service WITH your customer-PARTNERS. Engaging your customer-partners early and often (in an effective way) will mitigate risks you’re building something that they don’t want, need, or it’s just too far outside the process. The first versions of your product/ service will need refining, and communicative partners will tell you how to improve.
  3. Dedication to the startup is clutch to iterate. I’ve said it in a post before that speed is one of the critical elements of a winning startup strategy. With speed, you can iterate through ideas and test them with your customers. The best way to do this is to work full-time on the startup and have high quality engineers/ developers. Quality builders can implement changes quickly and mitigate against the risks of glaring bugs.
  4. For a tech startup these days, design is the second part of the winning strategy.If it isn’t quick to understand and navigate, users will likely not give you the time of day to figure it out.
  5. Quick set-up is the catalyst for early success. Apps these days that sign up and login with Facebook, or have API implementation with big platforms like Salesforce.com can help customers get set up quick. It turns out to be a turn-key solution. Most people don’t want to take precious time to learn or set up a program, especially when they have an existing, albeit weaker, solution.
  6. Establish an effective method and rhythm to reach prospects. With social media, many people believe it’s the best way to reach new customers. But it’s not necessarily. You should know how your target market absorbs new ideas/ products. Do they read magazines? Do they read blogs? Are they social media users? Your marketing strategy may not make sense.
  7. Don’t believe you’ve made a sale till days after a check clears. Can’t tell you how many prospects said they’d buy only to go cold a day later. And even when someone gives you his/ her credit card information, wait for the amount to clear your bank account before you celebrate that new signing.
  8. Establish roles be it with titles or equity. It’s amazing what happens when everyone is equal and everyone has different ideas – wheels spin but you’re going nowhere. I applaud those avant-garde companies trying out flat orgs with “no titles”, but that’s not for me. In Body Boss, we had 4 Co-Founders — equal shares, no hierarchy… just friends. To have a single, clear vision to fall back on when consensus isn’t there is a beautiful thing.
  9. Treat your startup like a real company. Your startup is not a hobby. It can’t be a “project” if you want it to be something greater. It’s a company. Take it seriously. Everyday you aren’t improving your company, everyday you’re not making your product or service better, you’re wasting your company’s talent and resources. Sadly and ironically, that happens to be your own.
  10. Market like a king with a blacksmith’s earnings. If you’re going to spend any money on marketing like attending trade shows, make sure you standout. We once sponsored a dinner for an event thinking it’d be a great way for us to reach prospects, except it didn’t. Everyone just ate and barely heard our message. That’s a good bit of money down the drain. If your hard-earned dollar isn’t going to WOW and prompt your prospect to the call to action (CTA), don’t bother.
  11. Be ready to pitch anytime and everytime you walk outside. It’s an amazingly small world, and you will run into potential customers, investors, or just everyday people who can connect you. Be ready to pitch.
  12. All about the team. To have diversity in a team is incredibly frustrating. However, it’s beautiful. It’s needed. For success, you need people to debate productively. If you don’t debate new, fresh ideas from your team (not just customers), you may be potentially paddling down a waterfall in unison. Diversity forces you to sometimes build only what’s necessary, and cut out the fat unless there’s true value. That, or you may never get those new, fresh ideas at all.
  13. New sales are good, but recurring sales are better. One issue that we found at Body Boss was many customers subscribed and bought in, but then, didn’t re-subscribe. After talking to many, there were various reasons why it didn’t work out including glaring product-related issues that we weren’t aware of. If they don’t sign back up, find out why because marketing a product that loses customers later can crush your business. Existing customers can be powerful advocates, and word-of-mouth marketing is the best type of marketing.
  14. Solve a real problem. Definitely don’t introduce a new one. So much of the above can also be addressed if you solve a real problem. With a real problem, you’ll get the buy-in from prospects to buy what you’re selling, or work with you because in the end, IT’S A PROBLEM!
  15. Pick an industry where you have LOADS of experience can go a really long way. Not only to give yourself and your startup credibility, but it’s a great way to network and find your initial customer-partners. I think one of our struggles at Body Boss has been because we approached professional strength and conditioning within an institutional setting – a setting none of us have had much experience. Thus, we didn’t understand our customers as well as we should’ve to build and sell our product.
  16. Know your limitations, and when to break them. Not all of your customers will buy into what you’re selling. Not all of your team members can work full-time. You might not have the skills to pick up the keyboard and start coding. However, all of these challenges end up being opportunities to build a greater startup, a better product, and a better service. If you pay attention to those limitations, you may be able to find creative solutions around (or through) them.
  17. Know when to stay rigid, when to flex, and when to break on your ideals. We start companies with the confidence that we can do things better. By that very nature, we enter with ideals. Know when your ideals should stick or when they should take a back seat for the growth of your company.
  18. Don’t make excuses. Just sell. My main role in Body Boss is to sell. I catch myself sometimes saying, “oh, it’s hard because of timing” or “they’re not answering their phones, so… yeah”. It’s admittedly poor. If you feel an inkling like you didn’t bust your @$$, then you probably didn’t. Find the value. Convert.
  19. Measure everything you can within reason. Use Google Analytics to track your website traffic. Analyze user engagement data (effectively, not analysis paralysis). Track by device, by user, what is your customer doing? With data comes the ability to draw patterns and make actionable changes. “What gets measured gets improved.” (That’s actually a Trademark we have.)
  20. It’s your company so choose who to hear and who to listen to. Everyone has ideas. Everyone will give you advice whether you want it or not. Know which ones make sense. It’s your company. You have to make the calls.
  21. SALES IS HARD! At the end of the day, companies, teams, etc. are made of people. And because you’re selling to people, it only makes sense that not everyone will be seeking the same values out of your product. It’s best to learn quickly about your prospect when selling, and catering your value prop accordingly. A couple tips: (1) the international language and what everyone wants more of: money. Help them pull and push the lever to add revenue and/ or cut costs. (2) You have two ears and one mouth. Let your prospects do the talking so you can assess what he/ she needs, and they’ll be bought in. (3) In-person goes farther than phone or email. Also, emails suck. Too easy for customers to delete/ not read.

Are you ready for the ride? Have you perhaps fallen victim to any of these hard lessons? What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?

(Also, how fitting is it that I’m petrified of roller coasters? They freak me out.)

Source: http://www.leadformix.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/free-trial-green.jpg

How many free trials have you ever started and then never used again outside that first sign-up? How many free trials did you use, and then you were just floored by the value or what you could do that you signed up as a paid user? Or maybe you just continued your free account?

David Cummings just posted a post “Time to Wow” on his blog touching on free trials, and implicitly, their true purpose. In it, Cummings actually references another article by a blogger named David Skok — “Growth Hacking Free Trials: Time to Wow! is the key to success“.

So let me touch on this little subject with some anecdotal evidence:

  • “Wow” can be facilitated with ease of set-up. I touched on the ability to quickly get set-up in “Who’s poised to profit in this fragmented, online dating world of startups?” But if you can get set up quick on  a free trial, the easier and faster users can use and love your app. You can use things like social media sign-ins (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.), or being able to import pictures (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
  • Engaging, high quality, fun media can be Wowing. If you can bake into your free trial some engaging content like a tutorial that steps through your app to show some value, it can be engaging in showing high quality content while also helping your customers learn to use your product.
  • Not all Wow is good. “Wow, this app is really big!” or “Wow, this product is confusing!” are obviously not good Wow moments. Simplicity in design can be a Wow in itself, or at least hedge the negative Wows.
  • Is your free trial demonstrating your value? Free trials are tricky because the user(s) usually doesn’t have any skin in the game. Hence, free trials don’t always convert well. It’s implied in Cummings and Skok’s advice to potentially narrow down the Wow values sometimes to the core of your product/ service to get the buy-in quickly and explicitly.
  • Track what you can effectively with free trials. Since users oftentimes have little skin in the game and can quickly end or switch to another competing product/ service, you should aim to capture as much detail as effectively possible, and make the trial better to up conversions. Track who signed up for the free trial, what did he/ she do within the free trial? Was there a hiccup? How can you reach out to help him/ her?
    Source: http://thesprogblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Amazed-Face-300×300.jpg

    Converting prospects to free trials can be tough, and then converting from free trials to paid subscribers can be even tougher. Add to that, free trials are oftentimes the only chances you get with those prospects with today’s plethora of options in the market. Thus, you need to weigh the strategy of the free trial heavily. Get your Wow factor apparent to the user to engage them quickly. You’ll know ineffective trials when you aren’t converting to sales or if the users aren’t using the product more than a couple times during the free trial.

    What are your thoughts of the free trial? Where or how else could you make Wow moments in a free trial or even beyond?