Be Loyal To Your Royals

Customer is king…or in my case, queen. =)

But words are cheap. You need to create an experience so a customer truly feels that patronizing your product offering is worth their time and money. You need to make them feel special and valued to inspire loyalty.

I’m going to tell you a little story. A few years ago, I asked Hubby to buy me a wok. As always, he did plenty of research to make sure I had the best and biggest, large enough to stir-fry myself if I so chose. I’m exaggerating a slight bit but my youngest can fit into it comfortably. Yeah, he’s four…and no, I haven’t coated him in soy sauce or anything like that. But it takes up two burners!!!!!

IMG_2296

Anyway, I was so excited when my wok finally arrived. But that’s not all. It came with a set of hand-crafted bamboo cooking tools and a cookbook as well. Everything was wrapped nicely and there were printed instructions about how to prepare my wok for the first use. It was a truly PRICELESS experience.

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Guess what? The Wok Shop in San Francisco made me a fan for life.

Customer loyalty is critical for success in business. You may be intrigued by my experience with The Wok Shop so maybe you’ll go to their website and check out their products. Perhaps you’ll make a purchase and tell a friend about your positive experience. Word of mouth can have an incredible impact on your sales. Conversely, it can really destroy your business if you don’t place the appropriate amount of focus on your customers. That leads to a lot of angry Tweets and you definitely don’t want those floating around in cyberspace.

Spreading The Seed

I love spinning tales of romance in the Silicon Valley setting. I’m told I seriously over-glamorize the lifestyles of my heroes and heroines but whatever. I write FICTION so isn’t that kind of a requirement? I mean, I have to keep things interesting. right? WINK, WINK

As an entrepreneur, I am fascinated with goings-on in the Valley. There’s such an aura over Sand Hill Road; it’s just bubbling over with innovation, creativity and energy. Being part of that atmosphere, collaborating with fellow creatives and networking with famed venture capitalists must be so charging to a budding startup CEO. And coupled with the drive to build the next big thing? Well, the possibilities seem endless. Sounds like a dream (this is where my romanticizing comes into play)…but what companies really get to LIVE it?

funny silicon valley welcome sign

Enter Y-Combinator.

Y-Combinator provides seed money to a certain number of startups deemed worthy to relocate to Silicon Valley for a three-month period. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding for a company and it helps pay expenses, allowing startups to focus on development with no added stresses.

If selected for the program, startups have access to proven innovators who will help shape and bring early ideas to fruition. They will learn how to deliver a polished pitch to investors and how to close a deal and acquire more funding, if needed. It all culminates in a Demo Day, where the elite group is granted an opportunity to present their work to carefully selected audiences.

All this in exchange for a small financial stake in each company. Sounds like small potatoes, considering most startups would never get this opportunity on their own. Networking is so key…sometimes you need to give a little to get a lot.

Just as an aside, Hubby has already advised me not to get any bright ideas about applying. LOL.

Want A Chance To Win A $50 Amazon Gift Card???

Marketing. It’s a word that simultaneously excites me and makes me cringe. Platforms are constantly changing, making it difficult to reach a target market (ahem, Facebook), prospective customers are tuning out more and more because there is a constant glut of information being thrown at them, key performance metrics that trended positive six months ago may not mean much now because marketing channels are flooded with content and becoming largely ineffective.

So the question is…with all these obstacles, how can you make your company stand out against the competition?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. But I can tell you that testing the effectiveness of marketing channels is becoming critically important to companies with small budgets and the best way to test is to first get feedback from your potential customers. Hence, the reason why marketing excites me. Valuable feedback yields potential for new ideas and opportunities for innovation. YAY! Right up my alley. =)

Vector Notebook with drawing charts

This leads me to my latest project. I NEED YOUR FEEDBACK!!!!! Why not give you all a shot to win a cool prize for taking the time to take my super-quick book marketing survey???

ONE random winner will win a $50 Amazon gift card and FIVE random winners will get swag packs! The contest will end on April 1 and I’ll announce winners on my Facebook page on April 2.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE SURVEY

Innovation & The Chopped Challenge

Definitions for one thousand, Alex.

“To introduce something new, make changes in anything established.”

What is…INNOVATE!!!

If you’re a Food Network fanatic like me, you know there is one show all innovators have to appreciate, regardless of your perceived prowess in the kitchen…CHOPPED hosted by Ted Allen.

Taking a basket of sometimes intimidating, many times downright frightening (Rocky Mountain Oysters???) ingredients to combine flavors and transform them into something truly unique and other worldly? Yeah, that’s innovation to the Nth degree.

Rocky Mountain Oysters?! Courtesy of www.imgkid.com

Rocky Mountain Oysters?!
Courtesy of http://www.imgkid.com

And what better way to celebrate that inventiveness than with a bunch of friends, lots of wine and a little friendly competition??? And who better to host than The Idea Mama and her insanely innovative Hubby??? =)

I bring you…Chopped At Home. I came up a much catchier name but was asked to please refrain from referencing alcohol as there will be a lot of knife play in progress and we don’t want to merge any severed filanges with our delectable courses.

Sigh.

I guess we’ll just keep the shots limited to break times.

 

 

Time To Bust Outta That Box!

You’re a startup entrepreneur. By nature, that makes you an idea generator. It also probably means you’re operating on a shoestring budget.

So you have to wear multiple hats – innovator, marketer, developer, designer – and figure out how to get your offerings to market in an expedient and cost-efficient way. Not an easy task…but you’ve got the tools in your arsenal. =)

For those of you without huge marketing and advertising budgets, it’s frustrating to get your voice heard. I liken it to swimming (okay, it’s probably more like furiously treading water. LOL). You jump into a pool, not realizing it’s the deep end. You’re not a strong swimmer and panic sets in. The pool is packed; swimmers are frolicking, splashing, screaming, laughing. And there you are, right in the middle of it, flailing and floundering. But nobody can help you because you aren’t screaming loud enough. Your lungs are filling with water and you can barely choke out a syllable. DANGER LURKS…need a lifeline!!!!

Lost at sea

Yep. That’s how it is for a lot of us. Markets are flooded with companies trying to pimp their wares. But how many are doing it successfully? Is anyone trying to do things differently to stand out from the virtual crowd?

1. The Alternate Reality – Never assume people are only seeking information online. If you come into contact with potential customers, don’t waste the opportunity to tout your offering. I shamelessly hand out postcards advertising my novel (as well as papering restrooms, hair salons, nail salons, fitting rooms at Nordstrom…LOL). Guess what? After a mass distribution, my sales jump. When I work alongside my street team of hot male models, even better. Know your customer, folks! =)

2. You’ve Gotta Have Swagga – Don’t discount the impact of swag, no matter what Mark Cuban thinks. =) Slap your logo and tag line on mugs, keychains, t-shirts, tote bags and bumper stickers. Zazzle and VistaPrint always run sweet deals!!! Put it out there so people can see it and ask about it. If you don’t know something exists, how can you possibly buy it???

3. Incent & Engage – Contests are a fabulous way to raise awareness of your company name. Get prospective customers to engage with you online and have them invite others to join the party! Photo, video, caption, submit your vote – the options are endless! Just make the incentive worth the effort. The trick, of course, is to find participants. That’s where your social media network comes into play. But don’t stop there. Head to online sweepstakes websites and post your giveaways there. You can find plenty of freebies that will promote them and these sites typically have oodles and oodles of visitors. i mean, who doesn’t love something for nothing? =)

Internet Marketing Diagram

Wanna Be A Crowdfunding Success Story?

Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn so much from crowdfunding success stories. Taking advantage of websites like Kickstarter puts your brilliance on virtual display for a whole host of future customers. But if you want to command major bucks for your company, carefully consider the forthcoming pieces of advice. Incorporating them into your pitch will make your idea that much more investment-worthy and ultimately help you meet your fundraising goal.

1. The Elevator Pitch – If you can’t sell your idea during an elevator ride, LEARN HOW TO DO IT. Embrace the art of writing an elevator speech and then memorize it. Practice it in front of a mirror. Think about a tweet. You get 140 characters to make someone decide to favorite or retweet your thought. Same concept applies here. Two sentences, thirty seconds – compress that story and sell the heck out of it before your target audience loses interest. You have one shot to captivate them. Don’t mess up.

2. Swear Partners To Secrecy? – Not if you want to heighten awareness of your product or service. Pre-launch is super-important because you want to have your “street team” already assembled and evangelizing your offering. Get the word out by leveraging your network, which will best position you for a big splash. Don’t be afraid of someone stealing your idea. Chances are pretty good nobody will run with it and beat you to the punch.

3. Plan For Delays – Challenges often crop up when planning for a product or service release. Best case, you launch on your scheduled date. But always have a contingency plan in place as backup, as well as a communication ready for all the folks eagerly awaiting your launch. You want to keep them personally invested.

4. Just Give Me A Reason – The product is supremely important to prospective investors BUT the story should never be overlooked. To sell a product, you need to establish a reason WHY someone should buy. Use the story to create the perception of need and watch it drive the demand.

What other pearls of wisdom can any of you successful crowdfunders share??

Color Me Anything I Want!!!

Ever wish you could change the color of your eyes to really make your peepers pop?? Oh wait…you can. Color contact lenses. Argh. No matter who the manufacturer is, the hues are still super-fake looking, even after so many years. Staring deep into someone’s really oddly opaque blue eyes is a slight bit disturbing. So I’ve heard. Or when they float around on your brown irises because let’s face it, it’s not a one size fits all product, and you look like an alien with one half-green eye and one half-brown eye. That doesn’t look strange at all.

 

Courtesy of coloring.reviews

Courtesy of coloring.reviews

I’ve been there and I’ve never lost the itch, even though my past experiences were borderline disastrous. So I’ve given this some hard thought.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I had smart CONTACT LENSES to adjust the color of my eyes??? Obviously they would be made of a special material and powered to transmit data to an app (of course, because everything these days has to be controlled by an app to be cool or purposeful). The app would enable the user to determine exactly which shade to color the eyes. Maybe green with a hint of brown around the pupil or certain variations of blue or hazel…possibilities, possibilities.

But why stop there? Let’s really give these suckers an authentic look for the users. The lenses could measure physiological data, transmit it to the app and then make changes to the selected color based on mood, for example. It makes everything look and feel…well, more real. You now have bright blue eyes but you’re getting angry so the lenses detect changes in your body that adjust the shade. Perhaps they darken? They’d be reflective of your mood. In addition, if your pupil dilates, the iris would read that data and shrink.

Google is already on it…kind of. They’ve created the smart contact lens, although they have a much more altruistic goal. Their lenses were created as a way to measure glucose levels for diabetics and then send data wirelessly to a nearby device.

Google’s smart contact lenses for diabetics: Another step towards the Google-powered cyborg

The big challenge to this innovation is the power source. In the case of Google’s invention, a tiny antenna is embedded in the lens but because it’s so small, it needs to be close to the power source, a challenge Google will ultimately overcome, I’m certain.

And then Colarity will be next. =)