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On July 21st we held our latest Entrepreneur Academe expert session. This one was called SELL and we covered sales, PR, growth hacking and social media. As ever, the afternoon began with a panel Q&A, this month featuring Anjali Ramachandran, Meganne Houghton-Berry, Candace Kuss, Lauren Hine and Garry Felgate.

We kicked off with a brief discussion about growth hacking, which one panellist described as “hitting scale without spending much” or, more succinctly, “what we used to call marketing”. Some tips that emerged:

  • Try different landing pages and compare responses.
  • Elsewhere on you website, iterate/analyse constantly.
  • Follow your competitors on Twitter – what are they up to?
  • Try dropping all formatting on your email newsletter – this my convince users that they’re getting a personal email – although expect a lot of email back!

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We then delved into a lengthy discussion about social media, as we have in previous years. Here are some of the headlines:

  • Remember that on Instagram, it’s all about the hashtag.
  • Beware constant algorithm changes on the part of the big social media players.
  • Social and content are now indistinguishable; so your social and content strategies should be too.
  • Always be strategic and benchmark your social activity against your core activity.
  • Chat apps are an entirely new space to explore (The Economist now has 300k on Line).
  • Beware of “invading” a social, conversational space.
  • Build a personal brand around the company’s founders (remember: Companies Don’t Tweet, People Do.)
  • (Entrepreneur and investor Gary Vaynerchuck is a great example.)
  • Talk about your vertical or sector – acquire a reputation as a thought leader in this area.
  • But… be personal, and build human relationships.
  • Be everywhere and own your name online – get every URL and social/web account you can, including yourownname.com.
  • Oh, and have a rock solid and thorough LinkedIn profile.
  • Building this personal brand – and that of the wider team – will be particularly important when you’re fundraising.
  • Never be coy about awards nominations, press coverage etc – tell everyone!

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We chatted briefly about celebrity endorsement, and there was general agreement that it’s very tricky. Even if you trawl your network – and network of networks – to find an appropriate celeb, remember that a lot of other people are doing the very same thing. If you can find a way to genuinely help a celeb then this might be a way in, but in general, celebrities have agents for a reason!

The final subject of discussion was all about sales, more specifically B2B sales. Again, some headlines:

  • Whenever you’re in a sales conversation, you have to close. This may not mean making a sale, but you have to move the conversation on for the next time at the very least.
  • This may not be easy; often, closing involves asking the very question you least want to ask.
  • Craft different messages for different audiences.
  • Ask how you proposition fits their need – and demonstrate this.
  • Identify people in an organisation who will benefit from your offering and let them be an internal advocate.
  • Do not sell your services too cheaply – and never give them away. (Investor and software engineer Marc Andreessen recently told Tim Ferriss that most tech startups should raise their prices.)
  • Don’t threaten to unsettle the status quo inside your customer’s organisation – or at least not too early.

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The second half of the afternoon comprised group discussion around four specific topics. We asked the chair of each for the headlines from their talk, and here’s what came back:

Sales

  • Follow the money!
  • Use your data wisely.
  • Have a sales hierarchy and go for easy sales first.
  • When it comes to monetisation, you don’t have to get it right the first time.

Marketing

  • Define and prioritise your audience.
  • Capture data as you go along – and know why you’re doing so.
  • Use third parties; be lateral in your thinking about routes to market.

Social media

  • Differentiate between your personal and social brand.
  • Think about what might motivate someone to be your ambassador.
  • Segment your audiences.
  • And note the differences between a B2C and B2B approach.

Growth hacking

  • Exploit your networks.
  • Keep things simple.
  • Have a great minimum viable product.

A truly fascinating afternoon then; thanks to our partners at Thomson Reuters for hosting and to all our mentors for their time. Next month is our technology session: BUILD.

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