DemoCamp Toronto: Input Please

Next Monday is DemoCamp Toronto which is the must-attend monthly gathering of designers, developers, and entrepreneurs in Toronto’s tech startup scene.  These events have been happening for over 5 years and keep getting bigger and better. There’s a great lineup of startup presenting this time around: Kobo Books Status.net OpenApps TeamSave SWIX There will also be noodles.  There are more details in David Crow’s post and if you haven’t got a ticket yet you should do so quickly because these events almost always sell out. Please Tell Me What You Want To Hear But wait, that’s not all – I get to speak too!  David asked me to give a talk to kick things off on customer development, product/market fit and building a startup marketing plan.  Here’s what I’m planning on covering in my talk: 1/ What exactly is a “lean startup” and how is that different from just being poor 2/ An introduction of Customer Development and how that changes the marketing function at a startup 3/ What is product/market fit and how do you know when you have it 4/ What does a lean startup marketing plan look like 5/ Why market segmentation still matters and messaging is still hard 6/ How to transition from marketing to early adopters to a broader audience Does that sound interesting to you?  Is there something else you’d like to hear?  Should I just stand up and tell jokes instead (hey I’ve been to DemoCamp and I know exactly how hard an audience this is)? If you could let me know in the comments, I would really, really appreciate...

Presentation Skills: Lessons Learned from SXSW

I was at South by Southwest Interactive last week and got to watch a lot of people present.  Here’s a bit of what I took away about how to give a better presentation: 1/ Respect your audience – Gary Vaynerchuk shook hands and hugged attendees as they entered his session and gave bottles of wine to people that asked questions.  This is a presenter that doesn’t just talk about customer service, he’s a practitioner.  I loved his approach to working with an audience instead of lecturing to us. 2/ Come prepared – It was painfully obvious when folks hadn’t prepared and even some seasoned presenters blew it.  At one panel, Robert Scoble ran a laptop connected to the screens and we squirmed watching him search online for the hashtag (a way to reference the talk on Twitter) that was printed on the card in front of him facing the audience.   The hashtag was (ironically/appropriately): “twittertools” 3/ Keep us awake – The Evan Williams keynote Q&A may have contained what interviewer Umair Haque called “nuggets of brilliance” but it was delivered with the passion of a bowl of oatmeal, and the majority of the audience chose to get up and leave.  I also think that anyone speaking on the fourth day of a conference that is well known for its, um, evening activities, should probably err on the side of less intellectual noodling and more punch.  In this case the punch we were looking for was more details around @anywhere. 4/ Slides are optional – Clay Shirky gave a smart, engaging talk without any visual aides whatsoever (excluding his three...

How to Run a Better Customer Advisory Council

In the last post I talked about some reasons why you should run an advisory council.  Customer advisory councils are more work than they look.  Here are some tips on running a better customer advisory board that have worked for me. 1.  Pick members wisely – Ideally council members like your company enough to give you their time but aren’t going to spare you criticism when you need it.  Overly positive board members or ones that are just too quiet aren’t going to give you the feedback you need. Set a term for membership so that you can change members if you aren’t getting what you need. 2.  Limit customers in a meeting to a dozen (and execs from your company to half as many) – The meeting should be an interactive session.  That’s hard to do with too many people in the room.  The fewer attendees from your company, the more likely customers will dominate the conversation (this is a good thing).  In my experience we had to have about 20 to 30 council members to consistently get 12 to attend a face to face meeting. 3.  Use an outside moderator if you can – A moderator can more easily control the room if things get off-topic and experienced moderators can draw out quiet participants to ensure the conversation isn’t monopolized by your more outspoken advisers.  A 3rd party moderator also saves you from having to tell your best customer to shush up. 4.  Plan months in advance – In my experience, your team will argue over what should be on the agenda.  Leave enough planning time in...

8 Reasons to Run a Customer Advisory Council

I’ve run a few customer advisory councils and I’ve found them to be really useful both from marketing and a sales perspective.  Here are some reasons you might want to have product marketing look at running a customer advisory board: 1/ Customer Insight – the obvious reason for organizing a customer advisory board is to have a group of committed customers you can test assumptions and new ideas with.  Just be careful not to make the mistake of letting this small group drive development of features directly (trust me, at least a few of them will lobby hard for features that only they will ever need). 2/ Customer Referrals – one advisory board I ran we used this as a key success metric and actively solicited a certain number of referrals from each member. 3/ Operational Feedback – in addition to product feedback customer advisory boards are a great place to get feedback on how easy or annoying your sales process is and how customers perceive your service after the sale.  If you are planning changes to how your business operates, this group is a great place to get feedback. 4/ Case Studies and Joint PR – don’t forget to ask for permission to do case studies and video from your advisory council members (if you run face to face meetings, it’s a great opportunity to shoot video so plan for that).  Make sure to have some time to talk about joint speaking and press opportunities. 5/ Marketing Planning – As a marketer I’ve gotten great feedback from customer advisory council members on what publications they read, what conferences...

How to Build a More Targeted Startup Pitch

If you’re a senior person at a startup chances are you are pitching a lot of people including investors, business partners, customers, prospects, media and analysts. It might be tempting to build one pitch and re-use it for each of those meetings. Don’t do it!  Recycling is good for the environment but it’s very dangerous for your startup.  Each of those audiences are very different and therefore require very different pitches. Key elements of a pitch that vary a LOT depending on who you are pitching to including: Value proposition – it’s obvious but the reason a person might want to invest in your company is different from why someone might want to buy your product/service.  Why a company might want to partner with you is likely not related to why a reporter may want to write a story about you. Stories – Great pitches include stories to illustrate the points they are trying to make.  Those points are different for each audience, therefore the stories are different. Call to Action – What you want someone to do as a result of the pitch is different for each audience as well.  Convincing someone to take the next step to purchase is not at all like convincing an analyst you should be in their next report. And here are some examples of different audiences along with some key things they need to hear in your pitch: 1/ Investors – care about things like your business model, the size of your addressable market, the alternative solutions in your market, your revenue/expense plan and your go to market strategy.  They care about...
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