Archive for January, 2009

Clarifying your value proposition… and your elevator pitch

Forty-seven minutes. That is how long it took me to drive home from Downtown Vancouver to back here in Maple Ridge. Through the fog every mile of the journey… that is until I got to my front door.

You see, I live out here on the edge of a Mountain, slightly elevated above a very scenic commuter community. For those who are not local and would not know, there is a low pressure inversion blanketing the Lower Mainland. Our home is above it. When people ask me why I live out here, I often have standard answers: more affordable housing, a small-town feel, wider parking spaces [which is great for small children]. However, I now have another answer to give.

“Living in the suburb provides you with more opportunity to clarify your value proposition, practice your elevator pitch, and come out of the fog.”

You see… I had one of those days of meetings and networking. I met a former colleague for lunch to catch up and talk about the latest business projects, what’s new, what’s different and how we are going to change the world. A quick hop into Starbucks [London Fog Latte… it seemed appropriate] to work on a business plan that I was preparing for the late afternoon’s First Round Capital’s Office Hours. Then a meeting with a business partner to discuss development plans on one of my ventures (TeeTimes.net). Followed by the aforementioned Office Hours [I pitched an angle of Texts.com, not the business plan I was preparing earlier]. Followed by a quick dinner (responding to a day’s worth of emails while eating). Followed by networking at the Vancouver Entrepreneur’s Meetup. Followed by a late night coffee with a few other entrepreneurs and genuinely nice people that I met tonight (here, here, and here). And then the drive home.

All day long, I practiced my elevator pitch (or on a day like today I should say, “pitches”). And all day long I listened to others explain their business models and communicate their value propositions. Some were well done, and others like the presenter from the Investor’s Group who must have misread the 30 second pitch guidelines as 3 minutes… not so much.

But the drive home provided me with 47 minutes to rehearse my pitch and think about what resonated with my day’s companions, and what left people in a fog. Well actually it was only 45 minutes. The first 2 minutes were spent listening to the radio to hear that the Canucks blew another game.

So here is what I learned from tonight:

  1. Texts.com –  One of the things that I like about good quality generic domain names, especially when it is your company’s name, is that it leads your audience into your pitch before you open your mouth. At the Entrepreneur’s Meetup on my name tag, I scribbled “John” and beneath it I wrote “Texts.com“.  From here, depending on the audience, I could adjust my pitch to one of the following:
  • Texts.com provides international text messaging and SMS Marketing services. With our international text messaging service, we save money for those who wish to send an SMS message internationally. Rather than paying your standard carrier a message rate that reaches as high as  $0.50 per message, we can deliver a text message to your overseas friend or family for as low as $0.10 per message. In other words, we simplify international text messaging.” … or…
  • Texts.com provides international text messaging and SMS Marketing services. Our SMS marketing services focus on the smaller local merchant. A typical short code that is required for mobile marketing campaigns costs anywhere from $15k to $30k per year and takes 12 weeks to set up. This is not practical for a small business. Likewise, a merchant could lease a shared short code, and while this is more affordable, if a person unsubscribes from a campaign that happened to be on the same network, you lose that customer. Instead, we are implementing technology to let a person “Call-to-Subscribe” to a mobile marketing campaign at rates that are much more affordable than the cheapest shared short codes. Small businesses now have an affordable option to participate in mobile marketing.”

So in hindsight (and one 45 minute drive later), how did I do? I think it would have been better to simply lead with a single message around local SMS Marketing. Next time I would start off with the key value proposition of our SMS marketing and how we differ from existing systems. Full stop.

  1. TeeTimes.net – A few times tonight I had the opportunity to talk about another one of my ventures, TeeTimes.net. Once again, the domain name says a lot about the business. A person who has any sort of understanding about golf, would know that this business has to do something about TeeTimes and they would probably even conclude that it is a place for online golf reservations. So how did I do?
  • “We operate a web-based golf reservations business that allows golfers to book their tee times online for more than 1,000 golf courses across North America.”

People got this. They understood what we did. It was simple. In some instances, I delved deeper into the business model and our execution strategy that made us unique, but for the most part, I stopped it after the first sentence. In other words, to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, “You had me at Hello”.

What other messages did I hear tonight that I liked?

  • Elizabeth Southall of PowerhouseCopy (a direct response copywriter) — “I specialize in direct response copywriting for the web that helps you convert more of your visitors into paying customers.” Cool. Sounds good. I could use that.
  • Tom Gibson of OutsideIncredible (a product marketing consultant) — “I’m a product value specialist. I help companies make their products and services resonate instantly with buyers.” He even had that exact pitch written on his business card. Nice touch.
  • Derek Bell of Tynt“We enable people to Graffitti  up the web, sharing their thoughts via the social web”… At least I think that was it. In any case, I got it right away… but perhaps this is just because I have always been a fan of the website PostIt note model since I came across Third Voice many, many years ago.

For everyone else that I met tonight… I look forward to seeing you again real soon.

John

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January 16, 2009 at 2:35 am 1 comment

Update on FRC Office Hours in Vancouver

I wrote below about the First Round Capital’s Office Hours event that is being held later today (Thursday, Jan 15) at the Agro Cafe. It was initially reported that they were encouraging “Come one, come all” to attend and BS/pitch your concept/solicit advice.

They said that there was no need to RSVP. I was a little suspicious at this, not at the cordial invite, but at whether the little cafe could accommodate the hordes that might descend. After all, if 6s Marketing filled the Yaletown Brew Pub with 250 people at the recently reborn Ideas on Tap, then surely this small and “deliciously” scrumptious cafe [pun fully intended] would be bursting at the seams. It also looks like the guys at Bootup Labs were beating the drums to get people out.

I did receive this email from Kent Goldman of FRC this evening:

All-

I wanted to give you all a heads-up that the 4:00-5:00pm hour was very popular for Office Hours sign-ups. If you come during that time slot there will likely be a bit of a wait (and while you do wait, we’re buying the coffee and treats). Nevertheless, there should be more than enough time to meet with folks over the two hours that Chris, Boris and I will be at the Agro Cafe. We’ll have a sign-up sheet with more specific times at the event tomorrow.

We’re looking forward to seeing all of you then!

-Kent

OK everyone… bring a jacket and be prepared to huddle/cuddle outside while waiting for your audience.


January 15, 2009 at 2:08 am Leave a comment

FRC Office Hours in Vancouver

I see that W Media Ventures is welcoming First Round Capital up to Vancouver for a coffee talk session (also known as FRC Office Hours). It sounds like an intersting concept. Basically it sounds like a entrepreneurial BS session in a somewhat structured format. Cool… count me in. Sounds like fun

I have avoided the venture/fundraising scene this pass through the entrepreneurial scene… mostly because for most ventures, I think bootstrapping to launch is a good way to go. And once you launch, you should be able to run and automate the business on cash flow (or micro capital outlay anyhow). However, there are a couple of ideas that I am brainstorming that would take longer to incubate and a bit more cash up front (less than $100k). First Round has also invested in Ofer Ronen over at Sendori who I spoke with on several occasions back in the domain world, and some of my ideas are quite synergistic… hmmm.

EDIT –  I just checked my calendar for the same day [on my new BlackBerry Bold, I might add] and I see that the Vancouver Entrepreneurs Meetup occurs immediately following the Office Hours event. How appropriate.

January 7, 2009 at 9:03 pm 1 comment

International Text Messaging and SMS Marketing Service

Happy New Year! A new year brings new opportunities, a new US President, and new business ventures — one of which launched today under the domain Texts.com.

I have been working on this domain for several months now and am excited about the possibilities. While I have described much of the thinking that went into the business over on the Texts.com blog (so I won’t regurgitate here), I did want to highlight some of the more marketing- and domain-centric thoughts that went into the business development.

Like many ideas, the business started with a great domain name [tip to Seth Godin]. And when you have a great domain name, you can jump-start your business and your marketing activities. In this instance, the domain even has significant enough direct navigation traffic for people who are looking for the products and services that we are promoting. In this instance, the navigators are looking primarily for text messaging-related services (though some are looking for textbooks).

Of course a domain like this also has the added benefit of ranking well in search engines (having a key search phrase in the domain is helpful for ranking well). And for any paid search marketing efforts, it will receive more clicks due to the perceived increase in relevancy by the searcher. And of course, there is the simple psychology of the end user in play, lending legitimacy to the business over competitors who are not so effectively branded.

One of my domain development colleagues identified that the number one thing that he looks for when he procures and builds out a domain name is “size of market” … and does the domain adequately reflect the market. While there is some debate about what constitutes “Text-Messaging revenue”, one has to think that the Amsterdam-based Acision has it pretty close when they predict that total revenues could double to $165 billion in the next three years [by 2011].

Any way you slice it, that is a lot of texting.


January 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm 1 comment


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