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Staring Into the Entrepreneurial Crystal Ball: Foresee Your Doom

(Source: http://s306.photobucket.com/user/paawkx/media/mario-foresight.png.html)
Rebekah Campbell knew 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?

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