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You can (and should) start with less than you think

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No one likes to launch half-baked products that nobody wants to use. Committing tens of thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars to build a thing nobody cares about is a dark, lonely place.

As a response to this fear, sometimes founders overcomplicate their products as they believe the more feature it has, the better it is.

Even though the notion of MVP and incremental improvement are well known and internalized concepts, sometimes nit-picky details consume lots of resources while they shouldn't.

Donald Knuth, American computer scientist and Professor Emeritus at Stanford University famously said

Premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming.

I agree wholeheartedly. It's not only valid for programming, but I would also say it's true for every process of creation.

What's so bad about premature optimization? It's mostly wrong allocation of time and resources – you may find out that you didn't ever actually need it.

Sahil Lavignia, Gumroad CEO and founder, has showcased excellent examples in his recent tweet. I quoted a part of it as the title of this post.
https://twitter.com/shl/status/1224710019813380096

"Instagram still doesn't have an iPad app. Twitter still doesn't let you edit tweets or search DMs. You can launch with less than you think. You may not even need it, ten years later!"

While you may argue that Twitter made tweets immutable on purpose, and it's actually a feature, the Instagram example is spot on. They did the minimum in regards to the web application, too – e.g., one still cannot send messages to users in the web version.

As I run a software development company myself, I will stick to the examples of web and mobile products.

Now you might wonder – How one can reduce number of features and, at the same time, not make it just another buggy Proof of Concept that nobody will pay attention to?

Here are some common features that initially make it to the scope, only to be removed later as irrelevant for the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) stage:

  • Built-in chat/DM mechanism. Unless it's another Slack or Telegram clone, you are good to start with email and social accounts.
  • Profile picture edits. Cropping, zooming, saving to file storage, and so on is a pointless overhead. Pulling profile pics from Gmail/ Gravatar suffices. It might be crucial for social trust platforms such as Uber or Airbnb, though.
  • Multiple social signup methods. These are being implemented mostly to reduce sign up friction and boost users count. Good old email/password method + optionally Google is all you need. Notice some niche products may require platform-specific user data to import (such as a live coding platform and GitHub sign up method)

Remember those market leaders as you see them today, one day started as just an MVP.

What are the industries you run your business in, and what are the examples of premature optimization or mistakes you did in the past?

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There was this one major problem I see plaguing B2B SaaS companies.

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Put simply, it's waste of scale.

It's when you are marketing and building a large e-mail list of 1,500 potential customers but in the end, you've ended up as with 30 paying customers.

There are various reasons for this:

  1. You are not targeting the right audience/you don't understand who you are targeting effectively: Your product isn't a need for business, the right business, or even needed by the right businesses at that that time. It's not like your leads are going to signal that they need your product right away. It just doesn't happen so you're in the wild goose chase trying to find the prince in sea of per 1,000 frogs.
  2. You're not filtering out the wrong businesses top-of-funnel: There are many potential businesses that would be great fit for your funnel but unfortunately, they just don't see the value in your product. You may have already validated your concept, got a few paying customers already, but the conversion process takes months on end and you have to worry about churn on top of that. Qualifying leads top-of-funnel is the best way to ensure that you have higher conversion down the funnel by manually (or automating) identifying traits that leads display in order to ensure that you are getting the right leads.
  3. Targeting a non-essential problem in businesses: This one has to deal with product-market-fit when it comes to getting right customers. Not all markets are the same. In our case, we went after the CRM market. On the outside, we saw that many businesses use CRM so we've built one with a lead search genius so companies can save time finding clients. If you're curious, you can check it out here. What we got wrong was that the CRM market was overly saturated and everyone was comparing us to Salesforce and Hubspot. We built a great CRM but if we missed one feature, we would be losing out on a customer. So, we've focused on what we did first: being a great lead search genius company.

So, going back to the waste of scale problem mentioned earlier…

Our biggest problem as a B2B SaaS company is that we can save time finding the right leads for our company, we spend more time trying to convert the wrong leads. Prospecting individual leads works great because personalized conversations but at scale, that's not doable. The more scale you have with incorporating leads, the least efficient you are going to be when converting a lead into a sale.

So, we're turning our focus towards lead qualification where you can spend less time trying to convert the wrong leads and more time converting qualified leads and generating revenue for your B2B SaaS. For more info, feel free to look here.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

QUESTION: If you're a B2B SaaS company, I'm interested in how you are dealing with the waste of scale problem yourself?

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Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020 by @DONNAAMOS

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by Donna Amos | Featured Contributor 

There are trends that are occurring in social media that business owners can take advantage of to help them grow their businesses. As changes take place on platforms, it may benefit business owners to stay current on the changes so that you don’t use outdated practices that no longer work on social networking sites.

Growth of Tik Tok

This site has gained popularity as a social networking site for business owners. Tik Tok is a social networking site that has become very popular with Generation Z.

Individuals who are micro-influencers have gained popularity on this social networking video app. Influencers are aware that using the site to promote video can benefit small businesses because it’s not geared towards traditional sales. The lack of hard sales on the site is popular with users. By connecting with followers through good video content, it will help small businesses expand and provide opportunities to sell products. It’s expected that one of the social media trends for 2020 will include the expansion of Tik Tok to allow platform users to shop online like other social networking channels.

Increase in social shopping

Entrepreneurs can benefit from using social shopping on their company sites because of the growth of e-commerce. During the past decade, social networking sites have contributed to the growth of e-commerce. It’s now the norm for social shopping to occur on social networking channels. Customers enjoy connecting with brands and building relationships with them on social networking sites. Consumers enjoy having access to brands without leaving platforms to purchase products and services. Entrepreneurs can look to expand social shopping on their social channels.

The rise of small business owners as influencers

Small businesses can benefit from the increase in popularity that they have experienced as influencers. Users on various social platforms desire to connect with small businesses rather than huge companies. The ability to connect with an audience on a small-scale is something that small business owners can take advantage of because they have a unique following.

The use of social media to develop consumer confidence

Small business owners can benefit from using their social platforms to develop a relationship with followers that are based on trust. Followers can develop relationships based on the quality of content that is promoted that informs followers about the value that a business brings into the market. By having real conversations with followers and connecting on a human level, companies establish relationships on a much richer level because of the connection that is made by showing the company as a place where real people work.

Use of LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful social platform because the site is geared toward business professionals. Business owners can reach decision-makers on LinkedIn to grow their businesses. If a company has products and services to sell and its budget is limited, being active on the platform can help generate sales and gain the attention of decision-makers.

Fewer boundaries between personal and professional lives

Social media trends include witnessing fewer boundaries between the professional and personal lives of business owners. Small business owners can grow their online audience by interacting with followers and showing them aspects of the personal and professional lives. Sharing unique content that shows followers portions of the daily lives allows followers to connect with business owners on a genuine level.

An increase in the number of brief posts

Businesses are posting new content that is online for a short amount of time, and this will continue to increase in 2020. These posts occur on sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Tikk Tok. The time-limited posts are primarily videos and allow businesses to share content that may be more personal and allows business owners to share special offers of their products and services.

Increase focus on customer interaction

Brands are working to focus more on customer responses in 2020. By responding to customer service issues that arise, businesses can learn what is necessary to meet the needs of their customers. Small businesses can gain attention from their followers by working to connect with followers and meeting the needs they address about the products and services they desire to purchase.

Expansion of the use of storytelling

Companies have increased their use of storytelling on social media sites using different types of media such as video and written content. By sharing what a company represents, it allows businesses to reach followers and potential customers. Business owners can engage with their audience telling stories on different social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Increase in video content

There is an increase expected in the amount of video content that brands produce in 2020 on social networking sites. Small businesses can increase their number of customers and followers by producing content that is appealing to followers. Business owners can determine which platforms work best for their followers and provide content that is based on what works best for their audience.

More social messenger apps

Small business owners can benefit from using social messenger apps to connect with their customers. The top messenger apps are used primarily by millennials. The top messenger apps include the following.

• Messenger
• WeChat
• Viber

There are over 2 billion messages sent on Messenger each month from businesses. The app is on over 1.2 billion phones. The potential exists for greater customer experiences to occur because of the growth of the social messaging service. Messaging apps that were developed using artificial intelligence have improved customer engagement. It’s expected that the customer experience will continue to improve because of the unique way that companies can improve the artificial intelligence they use to have more unique engagement with customers using social messaging services.

The use of messenger apps outranks the top social networking sites which include the following.

• Instagram
• Facebook
• Twitter
• LinkedIn

Small business owners can work to expand their businesses by using social networking sites and social messaging services. By working to create personalized experiences with customers and potential customers, businesses can expand and provide their customers with good experiences. Having an awareness of what their customers desire will help small businesses grow and effectively market to customers of all ages.

The post Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020 by @DONNAAMOS appeared first on She Owns It.



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Hard Decisions Require Empathy

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In the past two weeks we have entered perhaps to most surreal experience in any of our lives. I think intuitively many of us believe it may be a more lasting impact than just “60 days at home,” which is why we almost have a nervous laughter when we call (Zoom!) somebody we haven’t spoken to since before the crisis and acknowledge how bizarre we all feel right now. I have seen the insides of more people’s homes and apartments than I probably ever have as we’re invited into this intimate world of videoconferencing.

Just two weeks into it we are just starting to come to grips with what will no doubt wreak big financial, emotional and obviously dire health consequences and suffering for many.

In our business lives we’re having to deal with decisions that could have lasting impacts on our companies without any compass to guide us in the direction we’re heading . It feels a bit like choosing a fork in the road amidst dense fog and with nobody to guide us what to do.

In our personal lives we’re having to change our routines and figure out how to remain productive — often with other people sharing our homes who have their own ideas of how to use our collective space and time. What do we eat? Where do we shop? What is safe? What are my parents doing — are they being safe? Can I plan a Winter vacation or attend a wedding or travel anywhere again this year?

Who the fuck knows.

But you should know that everybody is in exactly this mind space. That’s what makes this so surreal. I find myself struggling to fully relax at bedtime, with my mind spinning about the world that lies ahead and the infinite amount of weekly decisions I’m having to process. I imagine many of you are, too. It goes without saying that if you find yourself in a really negative headspace PLEASE reach out to any trusted mentor, friend or family member. I promise we’ll all get through this some way and there’s always tomorrow, whatever that holds. I have lost friends who didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in past economic hardships.

For founders of startups or for executives tasked with making decisions with all of this incomplete information, the moment calls for decisiveness on every front:

  • how to deal with customers,
  • what to do about expenses,
  • what to tell board members / investors,
  • what happens with fund raising,
  • do I need to lay off employees or deal with a furlough,
  • do I qualify for government assistance?

If your head isn’t spinning you haven’t fully grasped the severity of the situation.

Each of these decisions could be a blog post in its own right but for today I want to avoid tactical advice and offer something more about your temperament as you wade through complexity and deal with decisions that affects the lives and the livelihoods of others. To say it simply ….

Show empathy.

I know that I shouldn’t have to say that, as it seems obvious. But in the past two weeks I’ve heard many cavalier comments about: cuts, renegotiations, changing terms, “the market environment dictates this” or “never waste a good crisis” or “you just need to cut 25% of your staff” because it seems everybody is doing it. I know that many people are just short-handing given stressful times but do try and pause and think about your actions & words and how they will affect others (or whether they’re the right actions in the first place).

In the words of my friend and a CEO with whom I work,

“Yeah, I know I need to make some cuts because our demand has changed, but I want to do this with a scalpel and not with an axe.”

He produced a very detailed analysis of his customer base and which would be affected. He enacted a program to proactively offer payment holidays to customers in obviously “hit” industries like travel & entertainment. He showed industries where demand was likely to hold strong and he outlined a case for how he could protect as many jobs as possible. He asked for a few more weeks to gather market signals before enacting change. It was the thoughtful response of an empathetic leader.

The driver of your decisions must be logical, rational and economically sound. You need to consider:

  • Has demand for my product fundamentally changed in ways that will persist?
  • How long is my cash runway if this demand doesn’t recover for the foreseeable future?
  • Is there a viable path to raising money / strengthening my balance sheet as one solution?
  • If not, how much must a reduce costs to give our company enough runway to weather this current storm?

The inevitable decisions may mean you shed employees, suppliers, offices, bonuses, contractors — you name it. But here is where empathy becomes most critical. It is very easy to want to insulate yourself from feeling the extreme emotions that will come from the loss of a job or for a supplier of yours with the loss of an important customer. Don’t insulate yourself — handle things personally and be a leader that is present in times of crisis. And if you have to make these hard decisions, empathy goes a long way.

If you have to let employees go or have to furlough them do it 1–1 or have senior members of your staff divide up employees and do each one 1–1 (or 2–1 if you need to have HR in the room (or “in the Zoom”) but my point is that each affected employee deserves a private meeting. And they deserve compassion because whatever stress level you are under, your actions are going to make their stress levels just as bad if not worse.

They don’t need to hear you say in an antiseptic way, “Look, we have no choice. It’s your job or we all run out of cash.” That might be true, but it lacks empathy. It should be something more like, “Sadly we have made a decision that your job is being made redundant. I’m very sorry that this will affect you and I don’t take lightly what a burden it must be to you.” Of course that doesn’t change the outcome, but it’s the humane thing to say.

You can insert you own wording or phrasing but the point is to acknowledge the pain, the cost, the consequence of your actions — even if you had no choice. Let the other person speak. Let them emote. It might be that they have to cry or they might have to yell at you — whatever. This isn’t the time to argue back that you had no choice or that “they weren’t really pulling their weight anyways” or whatever else is playing in your head. This is the moment to let them have their say. It doesn’t change anything. This is a moment to be calm, let others vent and politely move on.

Empathy can also be financial. You need to make sure that you’re making sound economic decisions for your company so I’m not advocating being cavalier about money because ultimately if you run out of cash then everybody loses his or her job and every investor loses his or her money. But at the margin if there are things you can do to be compassionate about severance or medical benefits or helping people navigate government assistance — you should do all that you can. If your company can help with job search, or resume writing or providing references or calling other companies to tell them you did redundancies — you should do it.

The month of March, 2020 has been hard on our country and on the world and the sad reality is that this is still likely just the first act in a long series of heart-breaking stories and circumstances around the world. In times like these your friends, family, associates, colleagues, employees and business partners need you more than ever.

If we know each other personally and you think I can help you please reach out. I promise I will make time.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Hard Decisions Require Empathy was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



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