The First Sale

The first sale is a crucial milestone for every start-up. It is reward from countless hours spent with the product, building the website and e-commerce solution. The first sale proofs that your assumptions are correct, at least some of them,  and it gives confidence. But what is exactly done before the first sale?

Year ago the first thing was to get people on the e-commerce site. The strategy was to use some money in Google AdWords and in Facebook Ads. I wrote about it some time ago and the results were moderate. In that post I mentioned also that good SEO implementation is VERY important and hanging on the top of the first search result page of Google doesn’t pay anything. This needs only little time and good analysis of keywords which direct traffic on the site. Facebook Ads, Google AdWords and SEO didn’t make the first sale so we need to think something more.

The first users and their experiences. Good friend of my wife was expecting a baby and she was by then quite active in different “baby forums”.  We thought that she would be interested in evaluating and testing the crib, so we gave one crib for free. After she  gave a birth to adorable baby boy, she started to “evaluate and test” our product. We got valuable feedback about the crib and another big thing was that she endorsed it on different baby forums. Giving one product for free for “evaluating and testing” was a good thing since it generated more traffic to our site.

When you’re waiting the first sale you start to think following things: is the product interesting? How to get more visibility? Is the product too complex? Is the value proposition correct? Does the sales channel work? Is the marketing message good enough? Is the buying process easy and so forth. I think this is normal, since you are committed to the product and you trust its success. And then, brave customer makes the leap of faith and orders the product. The first sale is closed and it answers to those bothering questions (at least some of them). The effect of the first sale is amazing: it brings you back to the top and you feel like winner…until you find yourself waiting for the next order.

Did we get the first sale by giving one crib free for a mom who is active at the baby forums? Not sure, but I think that it was one factor in this mysterious equation.

Product Acceptance and Adoption

It’s been a while since I last time updated my blog and I think it is good time to do so. This time I want to share my observations from product acceptance and adoption. Some of you may remember that one year ago my wife founded e-commerce site where she has been selling products for babies. I have been helping her with technical issues and supporting in various things. Product portfolio has been growing moderately and the main article is the hanging crib (“UINUA -ensikehto“) for babies aged under 6 months. Cleverness of the crib is its way to utilise Finnish benefit for mothers: Maternity package and literally the “package” itself.

The product is unique and new on the “baby crib” market and I am not sure is it re-segmenting existing market or creating new market for hanging cribs (which utilize Finnish maternity packaging). Let’s assume that UINUA crib is re-segmenting the existing market. What this means? This means that product is entering to existing market where is competition and also potential customers. Great, there are potential customers and now their awareness of the product must be raised and they are directed to the sales funnel. Creating sales funnel is not easy and it needs lots of following activities: advertising, guerrilla marketing, social media, SEO, visibility in traditional media or using directly the e-commerce site (and of course lots of other things).

In the summer UINUA -crib got attention when Finnish baby magazine KaksPlus wrote article about my wife and her invention. That was very good thing and the product got its “15 minutes of fame” and there were traffic on the web site. Sounds good? But it is not, now product got visibility and its awareness has raised. The tricky part is that the product is NEW on the market! There are no recommendations or experiences from the product, potential customers are suspicious and they don’t know what to think about product. They need time to ACCEPT the product and it helps if there are (brave) customers who can tell experiences, give recommendations and speak about the product to their friends. Those customers are more valuable than gold and especially if they have 500+ Facebook friends.

Photo by striatic@flickr

Acceptance doesn’t happen in a second, it may take a year or two or the tipping point is around the corner. Never know when it happens, but when it happens, then starts the (wide) adoption of the product. Then the main activity is to keep the customers happy and deliver product as fast as possible. If we look back in history, we can see this same pattern happen again and again. First is acceptance and then is the adoption. this has happened with stone tools at stone age and with the iPad at nowadays.

Flowd – Playing with the Places

Flowd is an application for fans and artists to interact together, but it has many features that are fun to use. In this post I am going to tell how to get more from Flowd and how to benefit from Flowd’s location features. I have been using iPhone version of the Flowd for a while and I am quite active user. I use many of its features and, especially, I like Flowd’s “Places” –feature.

Flowd Places

The places tab is the view where users can find interesting places where to visit. One Flowd’s attraction is that I can visit places and share that information to my friends in Flowd (I will tell more about Flowd’s social networking features later). Another appealing feature is creation of places and commenting them by text and photos. If I am in a new place I will check from Flowd are there some interesting places nearby. If I find some interesting place, I will go to that place, visit and share that information to my friends. If I find new interesting place and it is not in Flowd I will create it, it’s fun for me. Creating the place is very simple:

  1. Go to places view
  2. If the place is not there or there are no places, create one by pressing add (in top right corner of the view)
  3. Write the name of the place, check the address
  4. Select category from several options
  5. And when you are ready, press done (in the top right corner of the view)

Now you can visit the place and let others find that place too!

Commenting Places

I like to comment and share pictures in places. If there is something interesting in the place currently happening, I will shoot a photo or write a comment to place. It is fun way to share others what has happened in that place. Imagine nice summer day at the beautiful park. Open Flowd, go to places tab, visit (or create and visit) the park, shoot a photo and upload it to that place. It is the start of the story that can be continued by other Flowd users by commenting and adding own pictures to places. When I visit some new place I will always check if there are some comments or nice pictures. This works especially with restaurants: I will check the comments and photos (there might be screws in portions) from that place and see what others have said.

You can share your place comments and photos following way:

  1. Go to places tab and select some place
  2. Open the place by tapping the place and now you will see place’s details
  3. Select “comments and photos” and you will see places flow
  4. You can write comment or share picture by tapping the text field
  5. Write your message and tap send (in the top right corner of the view)

Special Events in Flowd

You can find the special events from the places view. Currently there is running ASOT 500 Global Radio Show that is visible in Flowd places. This special event is good example how fun it is share and see comments and photos.

Let’s go out and find new places and share that to the world!

Building the on-line visibility by SEO

Building the on-line visibility by SEO

In the last post I was writing about Concretizing Ideas and little bit about webstore. Now the webstore has been up and running few months and the learning curve has been very steep. I would say that it is very fun to learn running and marketing the online business in pragmatic way. In this post I want to share some experiences from there.

As I mentioned in the last post, the business is in bootstrapping mode and since the idea is new the costs are kept in very low level. The first lesson what have I learned is the importance of the marketing in on-line business. By marketing you try to get visibility and without visibility you don’t have any visitors. Without visitors you don’t have potential customers and without potential customers you don’t have paying customers and so forth. So the first thing to do is to start building the pipeline by getting the visitors to the site (and start tracking the conversion from visitor to paying customer).

Is the Google the best way to get visitors to the site?

I started couple of Google Adwords campaigns and tested different variations of keywords. This is very effective way if you have big marketing budget and you can afford to pay 0.50 to 2.50 € CPC. Ironically the best keyword with the best conversion (from impression to click) is the most expensive. I would say that it is very easy to spent 1000 € / week to get traffic to your site. The heavy advertising in Google Adwords is not actual (yet) and I need to find something suitable.

If Google Adwords doesn’t work let’s try Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads are very lucrative because they have very good possibility to target advertisement to target audience. (Just wondering have you “liked” some page, brand, group etc.?). When creating campaign it is very easy to setup demographic factors and other properties of target audience. For example create campaign that displays ads to females at the ages from 20 – 30 and who likes “Motherhood”, “pregnancy”, “ babies”. Ads are displayed only matching profiles and there are less “false impressions”. Comparing Facebook Ads to Google Adwords I got better results from Facebook campaigns than Google. Unfortunately I can spent one month marketing budget in one day in Facebook too. Still, I like the targeting possibilities of Facebook Ads.

Search Engine Optimization

The best results I got from search engine optimization. It takes little more time but when it is done good enough it pays itself back very quickly. By good SEO I got more visitors to the site than Facebook Ads or Google Adwords campaigns. And now I can say that the Google is the best way to get visitors to your site and visibility. When your site is the number one in the search results from different keywords (let’s say that is the most expensive one in Google Adwords) your SEO is succeeded. You’ll get impressions for free and clicks don’t cost you any more.

The basics of SEO is very easy and I followed the guideline below:

  1. Keywords in the title
  2. Keywords in the page URL
  3. Keywords in page content
  4. Meta tagging of the pages
  5. Keywords in headings
  6. Keyword proximity
  7. Keyword prominence
  8. Keywords in link-anchor texts
  9. Keywords in high quality outbound links e.g. links to respected author’s article etc.
  10. Page age and size e.g. updating the content by blogging

So the keyword is the word that is written in the Google’s search field. I defined few important keywords and applied the steps above. What happened? Soon I found out that the webstore is the first search result or at the first page of the search results when searching with those keywords. And when the link to the page is the number one in search result, it is clicked most probably. Journey continues and there are few keywords that are hard to conquer and of course this is the first step to get customers to the pipeline.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned!

Concretizing Ideas

Time flies when you have some interesting projects on-going. Since the last blog post I started one long term project, again, and now I have three of those. Those long term projects have been running since 2006, 2008 and now 10/2010. If someone is still wondering what projects am I referring, I am talking about my kids. Those little ones are fulfilling  every spare time that I and my wife have and I am not complaining. It is fun to notice how two adults can adapt themselves to different situations several times per day and how things must be organized with small kids. This is also learning  process.

The Original Need

A while ago I wrote about moving ideas forward and now I like to tell something about what my wife has been doing lately. My wife is very pragmatic person and she has a lot of good ideas, I almost envy her. As I said we got baby few weeks ago and naturally we have been waiting him 9-months before birth. During that time my wife was thinking about different choices of early bed to our new born baby and when suitable bed was not found she got an idea.

Simple Idea

In Finland we have an social insurance institution called KELA that offers benefits for families with children (and lots more). One benefit is maternity package that is kind of starter kit for all mothers in Finland. It is a box fulfilled with different products which baby needs like clothes, blankets and other useful stuff. The box itself can be used as a early bed for baby, but it is little bit boring. My wife got an idea where she decided to sew kind of bag where box is inserted. The bag itself contains harness that are used for hanging the installation for example to ceiling. Now we have the hanging early cot that is lightweight, affordable and available for every mother in Finland who has accepted the benefit from KELA

Bootstrapping UINUA.COM

When I saw it for the first time, I felt that it is an idea that must move forward. I said to my wife that she must start to sell those early cots online. Why online? The barrier in starting the online business is low and so are the costs. I think this is a good way to test ideas and now the UINUA.COM is bootstrapping. The first challenge, starting the on-line business was easy, but second challenge is much more bigger. How to get visibility, how to get people on the site, how to build brand: so there are many marketing challenges!

This story will continue!

What makes you “tick”?

In the last post I wrote about ideas and how to make them happen. But now I am wondering what makes you and other people tick in different organization? What are environmental factors that allows people to encounter to challenges what they want to solve? And what kind of organizational functions we need to create that kind of environment?

 

Passion

Passion is something that makes people tick. Somebody may be passionate for running, somebody is passionate for photographing and somebody may be even passionate for working. When people are passionate for something they talk all the time about it, they think about it and what to do next. You know when have you got excited about something and it is almost impossible to stay hold. You talk about it, sketch plans to paper, seek reviews and information about it from Google. What if you have same kind of passion towards daily work?

 

The new way of management

The challenge come in organizations where the traditional management methods take place. You wait for someone (usually your superior) to tell what to do next. You cant influence the content of the task or project and you do it just because it is your job. What if this is changed up-side-down and people could have opportunity to choose the tasks and project they want to do? I know that this is not the easiest thing to change because it may also affect to business models too.

Let’s think about positive sides of the model and imagine that we have different projects available. We have the environment where people have access to information of the available projects. Developers who are interested in project, apply for developing it. It might be possible that everyone are willing to solve same problem and rest of the project don’t get resources. The positive side is that the most interesting project may be also the most beneficial project for both parties (project lead and developers). Developers are happy when they can solve problems they want and motivation is on high level. This leads to better results in the project and project stakeholders are happy too.

Then the other side is when some project does not interest nobody. I would say that kind of project could be rejected before start and again both parties are happier. I would not be happy project manager for the project where developers don’t have enthusiasm towards project.

 

The Change

This kind of change needs paradigm shift in all levels in organization and also huge efforts from information systems. I profess that the more creative and intelligent people are working in organizations the more interesting challenges must be easy to find and access. Working environment must support happy encounters of challenges and solvers!

Building the Innovation Culture

It is over six months since I last time updated my blog. I must admit that it did not feel so long time, maybe it is because I have found myself wrestling with interesting challenges. Those challenges are related to innovation activities and how to inspire people to share their ideas. One part of those activities was defining the “innovation process” and the “innovation network”. Since I am encouraging people to share their ideas, insights and opinions I will also share my thoughts by this blog, so let us begin.

It is all about change, slow change

Changing people attitudes will not happen in a day or two. I have met a lot of people who are distant towards innovation activities, even cynical and some people think that they are not capable for innovation. The latter part is totally crap, everyone is capable for creative thinking but the first thing is about people attitudes. People’s attitudes change slowly and change must be managed from the top: important things like the importance of innovation must be frequently on the frame and people will not forget it.

Innovation Must be Shared Value

The next step from emphasizing the importance of innovation is transforming the innovation to one of the most important values in organization. If values are used efficiently in every day management values are really shared by the people in organization. When the innovation is one of the values it will direct people to common goal: more innovative organization. I have a dream that I do not need to answer anymore to questions like: “Why should I share my idea?” or “Why should we contribute to this process?”.

Access to the Latest Information

As I mentioned earlier, everyone is creative, they just need right inspiration. There are different ways to inspire people and something that works for me does not work for everyone. One thing what have I learned is that access to latest information, hardware and understanding the trends will help in creative thinking. When people have access to those things it will amplify the creativity and people can build on other’s ideas. There is always room for improvements and there is no need for creating entirely novel ideas all the time!

Benevolent Anarchism

The last thing I like to share in this post is something I call “benevolent anarchism”. I bet that every second lots of energy is wasted in bureaucracy and needless processes. This also prevent innovation when some good idea jams in to bureaucracy. But what if we act like benevolent anarchist and do the thing more efficiently without following the process? If things just happen faster and more efficiently I think that is proof that there is no need for that process or bureaucracy. Ok, I admit that needs courage but sometimes it easier to apologize afterwards than ask permission beforehand.

These items that I found important and interesting needs a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. Innovation and efficiency will be on the frame a long time: Without innovation, courage, new ideas and efficient execution of ideas nothing will change and there will not be any “new business” opportunities.

Yep, I am done. Thank you for reading this post!

Innovator Groups

Few weeks have gone very fast and now I am back from the basement chamber. I have been reading lots of books (in my chamber) about innovation and how to make innovation work. In addition to that I had fun time on my vacation with my family at Ruka and after that I spent week skimming the pile of e-mails. That was shortly what has happened during last few weeks, so let’s get started!

Earlier my noble idea was that everyone should innovate but after reading thoughts of respected authors I must admit that it won’t work. Everyone should have opportunity to innovate but the fact is that there are only small amount of people in organizations or in community who are interested in innovation. Usually they are people who always see gaps or improvement ideas in existing products, services, processes etc. Those people who have fresh ideas must be supported and also connect with other people in other parts of organization or community.

We have ideas.symbian.org that has over 1000 ideas submitted by the “innovators” in the community. I was wondering how those innovators could be supported and connected? How their energy could harness to create more focused innovations? I think that if we put more focus on ideas that fits in to Symbian Foundation’s strategy then we could have more competitive platform (in a long term) on the market.

Everyone who has involved somehow to innovation knows that 99% of innovation is perspiration and 1% inspiration. Perspiration means work and without work there are no innovations nor innovative environment. I was wondering if it could be possible to create some innovator groups that have different focus areas. For example, some group is interested innovating around multimedia domain and another around internet domain. Groups have frequent sessions for example once in three months and they brainstorm and generate new ideas to certain area. The result of the session could be for example new features to the package or some solution to the existing problem.

Then the tricky part is organizing this kind of groups and activities. The most active innovators can be found from leaderboard of the ideas.symbian.org, but they can live in different places even different continents. Usually brainstorming is done by the group in same place, face to face. I am not sure how this kind of brainstorming could be done by online tools. Maybe someone has some ideas or experience in using them? I think that this kind of activity could help in creating environment that permits innovation, but it needs perspiration. Thanks for reading!

Importance of the Tools in Innovative Environment

In previous blog posts I have been writing about openness, sharing and collaboration which are the basis for innovative environment. When people are physically in same place openness, sharing and collaboration happens in every day activities. People tend to socialize with colleagues, family and friends and they share their thoughts, opinions and comments.

When we come back to “virtual community” where people are spread all around the globe we need tools for collaboration. Everybody are familiar with different wikis, blogs, discussion boards and issue/task management systems which are basic collaborative tools. They enable sharing ideas, collaboration and increase openness. I think these tools are in place in Symbian community and they are quite well adopted by members. There are lots of entries in Wiki, lively discussions about technology in discussion forums where developers participate. I was thinking how Symbian Foundation could encourage members of the community to collaborate more in development activities?

Project Infrastructure

Now when Symbian Foundation offers basic infrastructure for distributing information by wikis and discussion forums we could extend “the single source of information” to Symbian related projects. I was thinking about idea that in addition to basic communication infra Symbian could offer infrastructure for “incubation project”. The Project Infrastructure could contain version control services and information sharing services.

In practice if I wanted to initiate project which goal is to develop application for Symbian, I just create project and after that I have “project space”. Project space could contain version control for source code and “landing pages” where contributors could get information about tools, practices and so forth.

A good example is Eclipse.org and its list of projects. The list of project could be visible for everybody and developers could easily find interesting project where to start contributing. Also list of project could be a good source of new ideas for OEMs and other members in the community. In addition to that they could also sponsor the development of interesting applications.

My point is that if developer wants to start developing own application with the community, it must be easy. This would also boost innovativeness in the community.

Collaborative IDE

How to boost collaboration in developing software? Mozilla Labs has very interesting project called Bespin which is collaborative development environment for web programming. I was wondering if this kind of approach could be useful also in Symbian development (in future)? I like the idea of development environment that is in “cloud” and I could easily start developing software without extra hassle. I just open web browser, log into my “project space” and start developing code in collaboration with other project members. In theory the collaborative IDE would offer “virtual pair programming environment” where developers could see written code in real time and give instant feedback, comments, opinions etc.

Of course there are obstacles before this kind of approach would be possible including device access, testing, etc. but I think that we need to think future possibilities too.

But that is something I was thinking recently.

chipmunck controller

Lessons Learnt: Creating Nimble Environment that Permits Innovation

It is time to tell something how my “Create Nimble Environment that Permits Innovation” task is proceeding and what kind of observations I have encountered. As I wrote in my first blog post that I will try to get external ideas from the community for my task and then I can refine them to concrete actions. Now I have learned that it is easier said than done.

What I have learnt is following:

  • Own activity: I must be very active to get contributions from community to my task. Activeness is followed by…
  • Visibility: When I am active in different discussions in Symbian and other forums I may get more visibility to my task. So own activity and visibility comes together.
  • Creating buzz: One way to get more visibility is to create buzz around the task and this is not simple thing. I was too optimistic at the beginning when I wrote my first blog article related to this task. It is not enough to create buzz and now I know that this takes more time and cigarettes.
  • Contributions: They follow when we have buzz and visibility. I got few contributions as comments to blog posts and e-mails but it is not enough and I need to think how to get more contributions to this activity.
  • There are lots of good things in “community way of working” that can be used also in daily work. Every day I face challenges when people are working multisite and how information is distributed between teams. Open source communities have solved many of those challenges already. Everybody can learn from open source communities!
Next Steps

On next week we will have Release Council meetings at Tokyo and I must report the status of my task and next steps. If the ultimate goal is to “create nimble environment that permits innovation” then I need to split it to sub-goals or objectives. On next period I will focus to following objectives:

  • Narrowing the scope: focus on council work and how innovative environment is enabled there (best practices, communication and collaboration methods etc.)
  • Get more people participated to this action (people from other member companies)
  • Networking with people who are interested about this action
  • Spread the word: increasing visibility in different forums and keep the discussions on-going

Let’s see how our meetings proceed on next week and do I have more actions (or refined objectives). If you have some ideas I recommend you to share them! Thank you for reading this post!