Tim’s reflective essay

September seems a long time ago……

WHY AM I HEAR?

As a student taking a Masters in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, the Design Thinking for Start-Up’s module complemented our other modules which were more focused on innovation and entrepreneurship – how to raise funding for your big idea and how to commercialise. DTSU really digs into the product design and start-up process and, while drawing on theory, requires commitment, energy and belief and the ability to show this – all characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. It takes people out of their comfort zone’s as it teaches non-traditional business rules and theory and you can see that not everyone feels comfortable doing this, especially those from outside MACE.  It also helps you to re-adjust your mind-set as to what can be achieved and how to achieve it,  to be less rational and analytical and more intuitive and inspired. That is why I signed up for a Masters, so for me, it ticks a lot of boxes .

I really enjoyed the over-lap with the MACE students who came from a variety of international and creative back-grounds and had some life experience. It reminded me that creativity doesn’t just come from within but is also stimulated by working with and learning from others.

HEAD-SCRATCHING BUT I THINK I UNDERSTAND THE JOURNEY

Our induction week introduced us to a combination of theory and working practices. I was inspired by learning how IDEO work and the process for creating a new product. Voices are heard, creativity is supported, yet the process is managed with time-lines and delivery expectations or, as their CEO said, the Management of Chaos.(ideo.com, 2016). It also underlines that vision and concept, product development, marketing and sales are all connected and part of a  process for an early-stage venture. All lessons that we were going to appreciate more as we created our team start-up projects.

As the course progressed, I also got to understand the importance of basing decisions on a first-hand understanding of customers. In his book, The Lean Start-Up, Eric Ries, explains that ‘the fundamental activity of a start-up is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond and then learn whether to pivot or persevere’ The Build/Measure/Learn feedback loop and within this I got to understand the concept of a Minimum Viable Product and it’s importance with start-up thinking. On reflection, I can see that my mind-set on how to address innovation was changing – its not always necessary to wait until you have the perfect product before you release.

We were given the idea of prototyping a shoe that would meet the needs of users having identified a gap in the market. This combined qualitative research, prototyping and presentation skills as we needed to present our ideas in class.We knew that people buy footwear for a variety of reasons ; fashion, colour, durability, brand, price but we also learnt that many people especially those coming from abroad, buy to keep their feet warm. It looks good but feels good and out of this came the TNL Heated  -a prototype that could self-heat, was powered by battery and operated by user-friendly SMART technology, was made of sustainable materials and incorporated the renowned TNL branding. This re-inforced to me the importance of getting out of the class-room, out of the office to meet your customers or genchi gembutsu – Go and See for Yourself which is central to the acclaimed Toyota Production System.

I got to understand better how as consumers our buying habits have changed and that on-line research – price comparison sites, customer reviews, expert guides, how-to videos, and recommendations from friends – is a key step in the product buying cycle. Marketeers have labelled this the Zero Moment of Truth (Trying to Understand and Influence the Customer Journey) and its the period when the buying decision is likely to be made. We need to put as much information out there to try to gain traction with potential customers and influence these Moments and the best way to do this is to be pro-active and transparent. This is a key understanding if you are going to do anything around B2C marketing and is relevant to most start-up enterprises.

FINDING A TEAM – A BIT LIKE FINDING A PARTNER, you kind of know when it’s right and when it’s not……

It was time to find a team and after a couple of false starts (My Journey to find a team), Innovatio was formed – me (commercial/marketing, Nicolas (finance/marketing), Nika (music/creative) and Kirsty (design). Different back-grounds, different experience, different nationalities. The team is the most important part of a start-up highlighted in the book, Creativity Inc. and discussing how Pixar fosters creative collectivity ‘Give a good idea to a bad team and it will go to waste, give an average idea to a good team and it will become great’  (Catmull, 2014) .When I look back at the Innovatio team dynamics, I think it’s fair to say that when it clicked it worked well, when it didn’t we seemed to go off on different paths working as individuals to our own time-scales. Theory states that teams that enjoy each other show increased motivation and satisfaction (Scott et al., 1970) and we certainly proved that theory. But creating a team dynamic is a process, right, and by concentrating on what we were all good at within a group structure, we overcame all the speedbumps that seemed to appear in the road on our journey.

The speedbumps in the road included realising that our initial product – a multi-function bottle with separate compartments for shampoo, conditioner, sun-cream and all those other liquids you take when you travel – was too expensive to manufacture. We had learnt that Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Product Designers often have an emotional attachment to their ‘baby’, the product that they helped created, nurtured and financed. this can blind you to the reality. Pivot or Persevere (Ries, 2011) We killed the baby, pivoted and moved on with a new vision and prototype, Runeasy, the silicon wallet that secured your valuables when you ran.

Speedbump#2 was Kirsty being taken ill just before our first Dragons Den presentation. That created some pressure as we juggled the format, style and content of our presentation with minutes to go and …..WE NAILED IT. Pressure can break up a team but it seemed to inspire us and on reflection our best moments were when we were challenged.

Speedbump#3. Actually this was more than a speedbump more like a wall in the road. Having spent huge amounts of time and money on developing silicon in a variety of colours, we realised that our product was proving difficult to manufacture and we were struggling with quality control. We learnt at our first trade fair that people were attracted to the texture, the colour schemes but it didn’t come across as being secure. Over £200 down already, way behind other teams, and with the team divided between Pivot or Persevere which actually became Speedbump#4. We moved forward with the same idea but different materials, an acceptance that we would need to out-source instead of in-house production and a hole in our accounts close to £500.

Yet, a team that seemed to have a lack of cohesion, an inability to agree to meet on a regular basis, an inevitable falling-out, a seemingly mis-placed assumption that ‘it would be all right on the night’ was able to over-come all of these challenges, sell close to £500 of product in a 2 week period and get to break-even, put together a  well-structured business report and nail not one, not two but three presentations. By the time we got to the Dragons Den presentation we were totally chilled and ready to give it our best shot. AND WE DID. It didn’t change anyone’s lives, didn’t open up the future and reminded me that people work to different rhythms, have different priorities and if you can accept that and find a way to accommodate, then you can still get the best out of everybody.

WHAT DID I LEARN AND WAS IT WORTH IT?

I took 7 months out of my career to dig deeper into creativity, innovation, new technology, big data, entrepreneurship – all themes that I wanted to understand better and find ways to apply either through a start-up situation or by taking back and applying in my career. Some of it I knew, some of it I had forgotten and some of it was inspiring and made me change me re-evaluate my business thinking. I also got the time to meet, listen and network outside of university with people that I wanted to connect to and this has proved to be the most productive time of my Masters. From wannabe to successful entrepreneurs, from brilliant creative talents to crazy innovators, from academics with a real sense and understanding of the world of business to angel investors and venture capitalists, many of whom I will stay in contact with. When you are working, you don’t have the time, sometimes you don’t have the energy, to do this. An example – out of this I got to meet the Mayor of London’s Entrepreneur team, from them I got to meet London Sport who are charged with making London the most physically active city in the world, from them I got introduced to House of Sport which is an incubator supporting the sport-tech and fit-tech sector with the idea that the private sector can help London Sport deliver its mission, and out of this I got to have, and continue to have discussions and meetings with the founders of start-up’s who are making things happen through technology, the capture of data and interpreting the key insights from that data to help inactive Londoners become active. Creative ideas which are built on solid commercial foundations. What I do know is that my input is based on my experience and skill-set developed in my career with the extra insight gained from my Masters of which MACE has been a key, and fun, and at times frustrating module.

Finally, I remember at one of our first lectures we were asked to think of home, what it means to us, how you would define it and how it means different things to different people from different age, socio-economic and nationality demographics. The IKEA Life at Home Report, lifeathome.ikea.com/home , explores a number of these themes but I could never work out how to put into words what it meant to me – family, your own space, something about coming home and being lifted. And then I read KU’s Big Read, Matt Haig’s book, The Humans (something else I can thank my Masters for and I found time to attend the author’s lecture), a book about family, aliens, relationships, depression and home and it was there….

‘ Home – is where I want to be

But I guess I’m already there

I come home – she lifted up her wings

Guess that this must be the place. ‘

-Talking Heads, ‘This Must Be The Place’

Read the book, listen to the download. That seems a good way to say good-bye to MACE 16.

Bibliography

  1. The Lean Start Up, (Ries, E, 2011)
  2. Ikea, Life at Home Report 3, (2016)
  3. Rework -change the way you work forever, (Hansson D & Friend J, 2010)
  4. The Art of Innovation, (Kelley T. 2016)
  5. Ideo.com
  6. Creativity Inc. (Catmull E., 2014)
  7. The Humans, (Haig M, 2016)
  8. The Innovators DNA, Harvard Business Review, Dec. 2009 Edition (Dyer J, Gregersen H & Christensen C,)

The House of Sport

One thing my Masters has given me is the time to get out and meet people who are making a difference, influencers, entrepreneurs in the tech space, academics, innovators and get a sense of trends in society. 7 months to work out how to use the insights I’ve gained into innovation, technology, creativity, digital and Big Data and work out how I can best apply going forward.

The House of Sport is an incubator set up in London by London Sport supported by Sport England and the Mayor of London who are looking to get 1 million Londoners physically active by 2020. I starting talking to them when I attended the Mayor of London’s Entrepeneur awards aimed at supporting entrepreneurs with ideas that can help the everyday lives of Londoners across pollution, sustainability, congestion or transport. House of Sport is aimed at providing support for the sport-tech and food-tech sector with a recognition by London Sport that digital and Big Data is at the heart of getting more people to be healthy and fit by participating in sport especially from disadvantaged communities. We know that booking a hotel, a cinema ticket, a flight is just a click of a button away but trying to book a gym class, a tennis court, a football pitch is more complicated especially if you’re not a member of a private club. Where to go on-line, how to find, how to pay for it’s all complicated and we know that with these barriers people just give up. Why bother?

I learnt from Richard that the buying habits of consumers are increasingly influenced by on-line peer review and recommendation, by ease of transaction, by easy-to-find how-to video that is informative and entertaining. Consumers expect this and without you have a major road-block to transaction.

Why write about this? Well, two reasons. Firstly, its interesting and refreshing to see an example of a not-for-profit organisation that is fully focused on innovation, technology and digital as a way to partner with the private sector to deliver their aims. It’s consistent with the theory advanced in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship (Stokes D., 2010) which gives a number of practical examples of how new ventures can and need to apply innovative business disciplines no matter which sector they operate in. Secondly, on a personal level, I am seeing first-hand how what we learn in our lectures is being applied in the real world, that academic theory is relevant in a practical sense, that there is real value to time-out from a career.

Dragons Den – we came, we presented and we left never to return…….

It really wasn’t that difficult. We took the whole process seriously but not too seriously, if you know what I mean. We felt that we had done our home-work, put together a solid presentation, had confidence in our ability to stand up in front of strangers as a team and present and were actually looking forward to the challenge. I think there was a shared sense that our product was not the most innovative but we had great packaging, we had got out and sold a couple of hundred quids worth of the product just to show that we could, we looked and presented ourselves as a team with a vision, strategy and shared purpose. (which was interesting because away from the presentations we were anything but a team but that’s another story…)

Presentation went well, we answered the questions with authority, no-one threw us a curve-ball out of left-field and I think Janja laughed at one of my jokes.

We didn’t expect to win and nor did we which wasn’t a problem as we had all moved on once we had presented. It was interesting to hear the feed-back from Janja – great presentation, we looked like a team with a strong product. Our down-fall was that at the end of our presentation we talked about the future and focused on high-growth, the fact that we expected to enter the US market in 3 years time, would expand our offering into other sports etc. Apparently there was a sense that we had over-emphasised the high growth potential.

Which was interesting and slightly at odds with the comments from the previous week when the judges complemented our presentation but advised us to be bolder, to talk up future growth, acquisition by sports brands, excite potential investors who want to understand how they can make money, etc.

What can you do but laugh and enjoy the memories of a really interesting challenge which re-inforced the importance of both team-work and leadership, of clearly identifying at the outset what people are good at, and ensuring that a presentation is clear about the audience it is addressing, the objectives of the presentation and the messaging.

 

 

 

how to use video to market a product

Interesting to see how different groups within our class have used video to market their products.Videos feel more real and alive than other types of media, and they can help you deliver a big emotional punch in a short time frame. However as with all forms of marketing, if you get it wrong in terms of understanding your audience, your messaging and the clarity and style of content, it becomes a waste of time and for an established product, will damage your brand. Our group videos ranged from the informative, to great story-telling, to the educational and by understanding each group’s video marketing strategy, we analysed how we could improve the messaging.

So what have we learnt in terms of maximising the value of video?

The importance of clear sub-titles to highlight messaging, the use of music that complement rather than distracts and the need to grab your audience’s attention early , in the first 10 seconds, otherwise we are likely to get distracted. This last point especially needs to be focused on. There is a big difference between an audience of class-mates and viewers with whom you have no connection and if there is no early hook, users are likely to scroll away. Choose the right head-line, one that is specific but will still make your viewers curious to continue to watch your video.

Think of what you want users to do after they have viewed your video. Create a call to action at the end of your video letting users know that “you can help the cause by signing up at our site” or that they can “learn more at (insert URL),” .This may motivate them to take your desired action.

Show users how products are made or who makes them as research indicates that this enhances brand loyalty. This follows the same psychology as storytelling, where users can connect to real people.

Add key words or phrases to help users find your content on all platforms in order that your video is optimised for search engines.

Capitalize on trending topics and hashtags because one of the main goals is to deliver relevant content to your audience and if you can associate it with trending topics it supports the relevancy.

So here are 2 examples of what are regarded as great marketing product videos – from an industry giant to a low-cost new market entrant.

Google put the focus on the users, media, and cultural leaders that have adopted and promoted the products along the way. The resulting video plays more like a historical chapter than a commercial. The Dollar Shave Club introduced a new product to the market in an amusing way, at a reported cost of US$4,500 and received over 11million views at various media outlets. Enjoy.

 

social media strategy – what does it mean in reality?

One of the recurring themes of our Masters course is the need to create a social media strategy for our current or future businesses. So we go off and tweet, post on  Facebook and possibly Instagram, create our web-site, and work how best to utilise LinkedIn. But we are learning that for this to be effective we need to have a strategy – a road-map of where we want to get to and how we are going to get there.

So a social media marketing plan is the summary of everything you plan to do and hope to achieve for your business using social networks. It means that every post, comment, blog needs to be co-ordinated and guided towards your business objectives.

We’ve learnt that every social network has a unique audience and they should be treated differently. Equally, we need to understand the different types of content that should be published in order to create a balance between being informative and entertaining and meeting the different needs of different users. A starting point is to follow the Social Media Rule of Thirds ;

  • One-third of your social content promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit
  • One-third of your social content should share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses
  • One-third of your social content should be personal interactions with your audience

Hootsuite have identified a step-by-step guide to creating a social media plan blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-create-a-social-media-marketing-plan and it is summarised bel

Step 1: Create social media objectives and goals

Step 2: Conduct a social media audit

Step 3: Create or improve your social accounts

Step 4: Get social media inspiration from industry leaders, competitors, clients

Step 5: Create a content plan and editorial calendar

Step 6: Test, evaluate and adjust your social media marketing plan

In summary, our social media strategy needs to be co-ordinated, rather than fragmented, with clear objectives for each social network and identified key metrics in order that we can review how successful each component of our social media strategy has been. We hope to put this into practice for our start-up enterprise.

For further inspiration read Guy Kawasaki – The Art of Social Media or view Ted Talks with Alexis Ohanian, below, a guide to social media success in 3 minutes.

 

How to sell – ‘If you’re going to die, die with us’

In our latest lecture we reviewed the differences between selling and marketing, we were steered through the selling process and learnt the professional skills employed in selling from understanding the buying signals to closing the deal.

A sales process is a systematic, repeatable series of steps that map out and track interaction with prospects from their first point of engagement with your business through to a close (www.pipelinersales.com).

Where selling sits within marketing clearly changes by the nature of the business you are working in. Within the FMCG sector, marketing leads since brand development and marketing to consumers is key and this is likely to determine the sale to the customer. When you buy a can of Coke, the sales process is substantially consumed within marketing.

However this changes when you move to the B2B sector, the services sector or high-value consumer products. Here there is much greater interface with the potential customer and the need to develop a relationship and manage that relationship has an increasing importance. The value placed on selling rises exponentially with the value of the potential sale to the customer so if you are selling a service supported by a multi-year contract it will have a far greater value to the selling company, than many other one-off product deals.

Have you noticed the difference between the sales process in a super-market or if you walk into a car showroom or within the tv section of a retail store? In the supermarket you might be faced with sales promotions around pricing but with more expensive products there will be sales people ready to answer your questions but in reality they are there to steer you towards a sale. There are a number of professional sales techniques employed and all are focused on understanding the buying signals, creating empathy and steering the customer towards a sale, or in sales-jargon, a close. Selling can often be about exploiting a manufactured need created by marketing but we shouldn’t under-estimate the importance of the sales process.

To see first-hand, different sales techniques have a look at the following; Don ‘The Man’ Draper, with an example of how to close a deal in an episode of MadMen. Brilliant – how to sell Lucky Strike cigarettes and get the deal to sell them. ‘If you’re going to die, die with us’.

And follow Morgan Spurlock on TedTalks discussing brand management and his personal journey selling sponsorship. Funny, informative and with plenty of is-that-for-real-moments and regarded as one of the great TedTalks.

Kill the Baby

Brand – its one of those terms that we hear all the time, means various things to different people and can be difficult to articulate. Last week , we learnt more from people that understood it and were able to give practical advice and examples of the values that consumers associate with certain brands.

A brand gives a subconscious sense of security. To work effectively there needs to be coherence across title, verbal communication and delivery (the spiel), and visual and written communication. We have been encouraged to think about our messaging, how it relates to our product and the problem we are looking to solve. We need to bring this together across logo, packaging, marketing and our presentations when we pitch our product and explain our brand values.

One example was taken from an episode of Mad Men when Don Draper articulates the values associated with nostalgia and how these values can be highlighted in an advertising campaign. By touching on the warm and nostalgic feelings of security, the family group, the home, we understood how a brand could leverage these sentimental feelings to promote their product. We know its Hollywood but the manner, the words and the narrative stand out- ‘It’s not always about The Flash’, ‘Nostalgia is a twinge in your heart more powerful than memory alone’

So good its often voted as the best scene of the whole Mad Men series so if you want to remind yourself how to present, how to engage with your audience and to make sense of branding, just copy Don.

Here’s another example of nostalgia in a real-life situation and how it can be used to bring back a brand from the dead. Kodak was once a tech titan and was the Apple of the mid-20th century and introduced the all-conquering Instamatic camera under the slogan ‘You press the button, we do the rest’. The brand infiltrated markets across the world. So far so good, but then Kodak screwed up in a seriously big way.  Similar to the record label that turned down The Beatles, Kodak looked at digital photography and turned it down primarily because they felt that profit margins would not be as strong as traditional film. The company was wiped out, ended up filing for bankruptcy and is a case-study in how disruptive innovation can damage companies that don’t move with the times.  However, out of the corporate rubble of Kodak, its just been announced that there is a new generation of photography fans that want to use a chemical substance to develop film rather than capture images on a mobile phone. Ektachrome is to be revived due to renewed demand for a more nostalgic era of photo development and with it the Kodak brand has started to make a comeback.

Kill the Baby – iterate, iterate, iterate again, don’t get emotionally attached  and don’t be scared to throw out your product if it’s not working. Our team, Innovatio, are wresting with this issue at the moment but no-one really wants to be known as a baby-killer, do they?

Reference. The Times, ‘Kodak-loving hipsters return to the dark-room age’.28/01/2017