What questions help us understand how change happens?
How do we analyse the stories of change that we all use in development? Such stories shape narratives, illustrate approaches and enrich our understanding of how change happens. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is a running theme, but I’m now about to step it up, working with colleagues across Oxfam and […]
So You Want to Be an App Developer? Here’s How [INFOGRAPHIC]
Apps are in. There’s no denying it. Seems everyone these days has a great idea for a mobile app: apps to find food, apps to find rides, apps to find more apps. The list goes on.
But just how do you become an app developer anyway? As with so many paths to success, there’s no one rote way. But there are some common, helpful and progressive steps to turn your great kernel of an idea into reality, or land you a gig with that hot startup you’ve had your eye on.
A degree in computer science or software engineering is a very strong foundation. Alternatively, there are specialized courses you can take that are geared toward mobile app development specifically. Getting certified in different… Continue reading…
Today on AirBnB, a renter of our loft asked me if there are wineries in the Grand Traverse area. Here was my response…
As for the wineries, I am so glad you asked. This is the area in Michigan for wine. There are many wonderful wineries within a 15 min drive. Both the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas have rolling hills and rich soil that are perfect for grape growing. My wife and I are regular wine tasters and can answer any questions you might have.
Due to the climate the area specializes in Rieslings and sweeter whites. The best Rieslings can be found at Chateau Chantal. If you prefer reds, you may want to check out the 2 Lads winery. These two can be found 15-20m up the Old Mission Peninsula.
There are also some real gems on the Leelanau side. L Mawby has amazing sparkling wines and Tandem Ciders has a wonderful assortment of hard cider. Leelanau Cellars, in the beautiful town of Omena, stand out for having the most wines available to taste and no tasting fee.
As you can see we love talking about the wines of the region. Let me know if you have any other questions or if there’s anything else I can do for you.
One of the most important elements of a marketing strategy is the development of an ideal target customer profile. Effectively understand who makes an ideal customer allows you to build your entire business, message, product, services, sales and support around attracting and serving this narrowly defined customer group.
Image See-ming Lee SML via Flickr CC
When working with businesses that have an established customer base I can generally identify their ideal customer by finding the common characteristics found in their most profitable clients that also refer them to others. I’ve written about this kind of ideal client discovery here.
Today, however, I want to address the needs of the start-up or business with very little customer experience. Finding and serving an ideal customer is equally important for a business just getting started and establishing a focus on discovering a narrowly defined ideal client from the very beginning will save months of wandering in the dark trying to be all things to all people.
The 5 steps below can put you the path to discovering your ideal target customer.
1) Start with the Smallest Market Possible – This may feel counterintuitive to many just starting a business, but you have to find a group of customers that think what you have to offer is special. When you’re just getting started you may have very little to offer and in many cases very few resources with which to make sufficient noise in a market for generic solutions.
Your key is to find a very narrow group, with very specific demographics or a very specific problem or need and create raving fans out of this group. You can always expand your reach after you gain traction, but you can also become a big player in this smaller market as you grow.
2) Create an Initial Value Hypothesis – In the step above I mentioned the idea of finding a narrow group that finds what you have to offer special. Of course, this implies that you do indeed have something to offer that is special.
You must create a “why us” value proposition and use that as you hypothesis for why us. If this is starting to sound a little like science that’s because it is. You must always stay in test and refine mode in order to move forward.
Many people get caught up in trying to execute their business plan when the fact of the matter is the market doesn’t care about your business plan. The only thing that matters is what you discover and apply out there in the lab beyond your office.
3) Get reality in Discovery Test Sessions – Established, thriving businesses have the ability to learn a great deal every day from customer interaction. Since start-ups don’t have any customer interaction they have to create ways to test their theories initially and on the fly.
The key to both making and affirming your initial assumptions is to set-up what I call Discovery Test Sessions with prospects that might easily fit into your initial smallest market group. These are essentially staged one on one meetings.
This can be a little tricky since you have no relationship with said prospect. I often find that there are industry or trade groups that may contain your initial target market and by joining these you may have an easier time gaining access to this group.
Another possible option is to offer free sample products or beta test relationships to those willing to provide you with agreed upon feedback.
The main thing is that you start talking to prospects about what they need, what they think, what works, what doesn’t and what don’t have now. This is how you evolve your business, your features and your assumptions based on serving a narrowly defined target.
4) Draw an Ideal Customer Sketch – Once you’ve trotted out your hypothesis and tested it with your narrow group, you’ve got to go to work on discovering and defining everything you can about your ideal target group.
Some of this information will be commonly understood, such as demographics, but much of it will be discovered in your test sessions and though some additional research in more behavioral oriented places such as social media.
This is a great time to start your CRM thinking by building custom profiles that include much richer information than most people capture. I wrote about the new breed of CRM that is making this easier to do than ever.
5) Add Strategy Model Components – the final step is to apply this new ideal customer approach to other elements of your strategy.
The thing is, when you discover your initial ideal client it should impact the thinking about your basic business model and overall business strategy. All great business models are customer focused and now that you have a picture of this customer it’s time to consider how this alters the other aspects of your business.
Consider now how this discovery might impact your offerings, your revenue streams, distribution channels and even pricing.
Consider how you can reach this market, who you can partner with and what resources you either have or need to have in order to make an impact in this market.
I can tell you that my experience suggests that you’re never really done with this exercise. As your business evolves, as you learn and grow, this model will evolve as well, but perhaps the continual process of discovery is just as important as what you discover.
Page one of Warby Parker’s infographic laden annual report
One of the biggest challenges that any small business faces in the area of marketing is standing out from everyone else that say it’s doing what you’re doing.
Until you can firmly offer a solid reason for why you should buy from or hire us over everyone else, you’ll compete on price.
As you develop a marketing strategy for your business you must proactively create the value proposition of “why us” and build all of your marketing messages, products, services, processes and follow-up communication around supporting that proposition.
This is how you use strategy to dominate your market. This is how you define value in terms that matter to those you are trying to attract.
Below are seven ways to think about defining and refining your core value proposition.
1) We know you – So many companies try to serve mass audiences. This is tough for any organization, but can be next to impossible for a small business just getting started. One very powerful way to create a point of differentiation is to carve out a narrow segment of a market and explain through every communication that you are the experts in serving that market.
Divorce attorneys that specialize in representing men are an example of this type of approach. Obviously, you won’t attract female clients, but a man going through a divorce might feel you have specialized knowledge and experience that other, more generic divorce attorneys, don’t possess.
2) A better way – Creating a product, service or approach that clearly offers a better way to get a result, particularly a result I desperately need to get, is another strong way to demonstrate value and promote a business.
Pretty much everyone struggles with processing too much information. Many have developed all kinds of systems to remember things, track things and keep to do lists under control. Evernote created a better way to do this and made the process simple, accessible and manageable on the devices that millions already used, so it’s value proposition offered a very recognizable way to do something better and the company has grown measurably because of it.
3) One of a kind – Some segment of just about every market craves things that are custom made. The more markets are inundated with mass produced items, the more opportunity exists for things that are made to order or made by hand.
I believe the popularity of a platform like Etsy is due in part to this need for some to find and possess things that are one of a kind or made just for them.
If you can find a segment of your market that values this approach it can be a highly profitable proposition. I asked the owner of a men’s clothing shop I frequent about the market for suits these days and he said there are really only two segments left. The low end off the rack suit and the very high end custom tailored suit.
4) Access – Another interesting value proposition is to take a market or demand that already exists and disrupt it by creating access that isn’t generally available.
Peter Shankman founded a service called HARO or Help a Reporter Out, based on this proposition. PR professionals and marketers had long paid thousands of dollars a year to gain access to a pool of journalists looking for sources to specific stories.
HARO built a database and service based on this concept and made it available to anyone that wished to subscribe for no cost. The service became so popular that it began to attract significant ad revenue and Shankman later sold it to another industry disruptor Vocus.
5) Savings – Offering a market ways to save money or lower risk will always be a strong way to differentiate a business. Now, understand this is not the same thing as offering a lower price. The key to this proposition is to demonstrate how your product or service will clearly allow them to save money through the use of what you are offering. A version of this proposition is to show them how they can lower the risk of losing money as well.
Many of the cloud based Software as a Service offerings such as Dropbox do this very well. Dropbox allows many people to more easily share and store files without the need for server hardware and eliminates the risk of losing data by automatically offering backups.
6) Convenience – Come up with a product, service of business that makes it more convenient to do something that people are already used to doing and you’ve got the makings of a winning value proposition.
I read a lot a books and the Kindle device for me is flat out the most convenient way to find, buy, read, store and carry lots of books around.
7) Design – Great design is actually very hard to do, but when you invest in it as a core value proposition, it can actually be a tremendous way to stand out and attract a market segment for whom form and function are equally important.
Apple has entered and dominated several markets in which they had no history, mp3 players and phones, using their design value proposition.
Building a business model and marketing strategy based firmly on any one of these proven proposition will allow you carve our your place in the market. However, if you can combine several of these propositions you’ve got the foundation for something downright disruptive.
A collaboration between four close friends, eyewear maker Warby Parker was conceived as an alternative to what the founders felt was the overpriced and bland eyewear available today.
According to Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO, “We just didn’t think a pair of glasses should cost more than an iPhone.”
Warby Parker’s obvious innovation was to go direct in an industry full of middlemen, big name designers and licensed brand names.
The company designs their line of glasses, works directly with the manufactures and sells it’s line of prescription and sunglasses directly to the end consumer.
In an effort to take on an entrenched $16B industry, they created a fixed price of $95 for all styles, ship out up to 5 pairs for no cost test drives prior to purchase and donate a pair of glasses to those in need for every pair sold.
The company was featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in the New York Times in 2011, sold over 100,000 pair of glasses and grew to over 50 employees according to its 2011 annual report – another innovation as it was delivered in a series of infographics rather than the typical dry corporate report.
Savings, access, convenience, design and a better way all rolled into one value proposition.
Edith Yeung is the head of marketing of Dolphin Browser, the world’s first Gesture, Webzine and Add-on-enabled mobile browser. She is also the founding partner of RightVentures, which focuses on cloud and mobile investments. You can find out more about Dolphin on Twitter, Facebook or via the Dolphin blog.
Many developers create smart, innovative mobile apps that have near-universal appeal, but how broad is too broad?
For instance, developing apps only in English prevents your star power from reaching a global stage. It’s totally fine to start building your mobile app in one language, but if you want to tap the huge international market, you can’t stop there.
How should developers go about taking their apps international? For starters, try this handy guide.
Not only that, Flurry also reveals that there are tons of mobile users around the globe who don’t yet have a smartphone, but could easily afford one, which makes for a huge untapped growth potential. Leading foreign countries in this category are China with 122 million potential smartphone users, India with 75 million, Japan (61 million) and Brazil (34 million).
Taking your app international is no longer just another nice-to-have strategy, but a must-do. Localize your app by adding languages such Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Italian, Russian, Portuguese and Hindi as a critical part of your marketing strategy.
As an independent developer, what are the specific steps you will need to take to set the stage for your global success?
Level 1: Start Small, Then Take a Giant International Leap Forward
You don’t have to start by fully committing all your resources to support an international audience. Kick things off at the most basic level: Simply translating your app market description can be a quick and dirty way to test the water. It’s possible your potential users in Japan don’t know your app exists because they simply don’t perform searches in English.
Also, keep in mind that you need to optimize your app title, market description as well as change log and search keywords based on local language and cultural requirements.
Level 2: Localization – Translating Your App
As soon as you localize your app description, you should start closely monitoring downloads statistics in the associated languages and countries. If you notice a significant increase in downloads, it’s time for you to start thinking about localizing the app itself. Offering your app descriptions in French will likely drive additional downloads, but localization will drive the next level of engagement.
The W3C defines localization as the adaptation of mobile application content to meet the language and cultural requirements of a specific target market. This includes numeric, date, time and currency formats, symbols, icons, colors, text and graphics.
Keep in mind that localization is not just about translating into different languages. You can’t just plug the app into Google Translate; your audience won’t understand what you want them to do with the app. Specifically, target these areas when localizing to a new language.
End user license agreement
Level 3: Internationalization – Building a Local Team
You’ve finished localizing your app into Chinese and are seeing amazing uptake in China. Now it’s time to go even further and start building a team there. You’ll need to dedicate resources to make sure all the elements surrounding your app are fully accessible to an international audience. In other words, you’ll need to internationalize.
Internationalization is the design and development of a mobile app that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region or language. We’re no longer talking about source code or app content; we’re talking about everything that surrounds the app. Ideally, local language alternatives for the website, social media and so forth are available for users. In order to do this successfully, you need a dedicated team that can operate at a local level.
Building a team overseas is definitely not a walk in the park. It’s a big commitment and it can take vital resources, but when done right, the returns can be immense. Here is what you need to do to go fully international.
Localize your company website or blog.
Localize social media marketing strategy.
Localize user acquisition strategy.
Hire local marketing support.
Hire local public relations support.
Hire local customer service support.
Hire local legal support.
Apply for local patent.
Checklist: Going Global To-Dos
To summarize, check off the following items for the three levels of going global.
What other advice can you offer for taking an app or startup to an international level? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
A few days ago a coworker and I went through Security Checkpoint 2 at O’Hare. Dave was immediately behind me as we approached the conveyer belt for the magnetometer, but after I exited the checkpoint, he took about 2-3 minutes to catch up with me as I waited on the concourse. I’ve written about this in the past, but here are the keys to getting through the TSA checkpoint quickly:
Wear slip on shoes
Have your boarding pass handy (see below)
Put your cell phone, wristwatch, and other similar (metallic) items in a zippered compartment in your bag well before getting to the checkpoint (for me, at the hotel)
Men: no belt. Leave it in your bag and put it on after the checkpoint
Car keys need to be inside a zippered compartment in your bag
3-1-1 liquids bag in an easily accessible pocket in your bag
When you pack, do so in an orderly fashion; make it easier on the guy scanning your bag
Nothing in your pockets except skinny wallet, cash, and boarding pass
Know upfront how many plastic totes you need. For me, it’s usually one, for my jacket and 3-1-1 bag. If I’m going to opt to take my laptop out of my bag (see below), I’ll grab a 2nd tote
If the airport is small, or the checkpoint not busy, I take my MacBook Air out of my bag and put it in a plastic tote in the middle of my stuff as it enters the conveyor. If the checkpoint is busy, I leave it in my bag and let them re-run the bag (and MB Air separately) through if necessary. (Half the time they don’t bother, as it resembles an iPad.) The LAST thing I want to have happen is to somehow get stuck in the theatrical production while my $1500 laptop is sitting in a plastic tote with a bunch of people milling about.
To this last point: Be organized and disciplined, and above all else, do NOT let yourself get snagged by the metal detector or backscatter x-ray machine. If you do, your stuff has a much greater chance of walking away with someone else.
Other thoughts: if the line splits at some point and you have an option of going left or right, go left; more people will opt for going right. As you approach the magnetometers, look for business travelers and get in that line; avoid (sorry) families, old people, or anyone who looks clueless. They will slow you down.
Finally, I don’t bother retrieving my watch, cell phone, or belt until I’m at my gate. Travel safe!
What if there was an ongoing city-wide game of capture the flag happening all around you? We’re redefining the way we live, work, and play outside by building a mobile application that makes your city map into a boardgame and allows you to capture neighborhoods and explore new areas where you live.
We’re currently funding the development, design, and marketing out out of our own pockets. We’re doing this because we have a passion for getting people out and about in their cities, learning, and finding all their area has to offer. The city blocks around our homes offer a multitude of wonders and surprises, if we only take the time to look, learn, and discover. The problem is that most people lack a reason to go explore. Turning your neighborhood into a virtual game arena creates the perfect trigger to get people out and exploring in a fun new way.