Posts Tagged ‘Startup’


Going to Pakistan next week so brushing up my Pashto (Hey Dad, Mom, Gol and Aimal can’t wait to see you again 🙂 )

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, or months. I don’t remember when was the last time I sent this out, but it’s been a while. I won’t get into the details, most of you already know my personal/work life and since this gets republished on Medium and LinkedIn at some point, I don’t want to make it public.

I am looking for help with editing an ABM post I wrote. Interested? Let me know. I sent it to the editors at Inbound.org and they are interested but it needs some work.

Which brings me to the next thought, most of you know I am a big reader and between my new subscription (paper in the mailbox) for New Yorker and Medium I read quite a bit. This morning there was a interesting tweet(storm) by a senior executive at Hubspot about content that I embedded below and hopefully works in Gmail. Now Hubspot is a company built on the whole concept of ‘content’. But Peter Caputa (VP Sales) at Hubspot made the case of storytelling and bloggers being more like writers and writing ‘in-depth’ essays. I on the other hand think that is a luxury only companies of a certain size can afford. Think about marketing on a spectrum of revenue and there’s an end of demand generation where the focus is on revenue, direct response and leads and the other end is brand marketing (stable revenue stage). My disagreement was two fold:

1) a company like Hubspot can afford to run an editorial operation completely divorced from the Demand Generation operations, as can Zendesk. 
2) A company below certain ARR /<insert a local startup or SMB> here needs to keep it’s content focused on direct response. That means focusing on keywords, writing about things that come up in sales calls that SDR’s/BDR’s can use when they’re making calls or marketing can use in campaigns. It has to ultimately help generate revenue in some way. 
3) A company that has a great editorial operation like Mattermark comes to mind, but I am not a customer and I read the analysis by @alex and the newsletter curated by @nick and it’s unlikely I will be a customer. Companies like Buffer who write about transparency and operations also heavily write about social media marketing and ‘direct response’ writing.

Preliminary thoughts. No conclusions reached yet but wanted to put it in writing.

Here are the embedded tweets I mentioned. Goodnight!

Yes to this entire rant/tweetstorm 🙌 https://t.co/gImXWO6Xgt

— Janessa Lantz (@janessalantz) December 14, 2016

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Mike Walsh — https://unsplash.com/@mkwlsn

It’s been a couple of days since I wrote this. Mostly because of an existential crisis around the purpose of writing this newsletter. More on that some other time.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes Intercom, Slack, MailChimp, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and other companies (technology mostly) that sit on people’s tongues and minds, special?

All of the companies mentioned above don’t work in a certain vertical, but if you’re thinking email, you mind goes to MailChimp. If you think logistics and transport, it’s Uber. Intercom has a great writing and editorial operation and that is what I associate them with mostly, and if someone says ‘In-App Messaging’ I think Intercom. These companies have built incredible products and mind-share through… marketing. But how? My theory is, not everything they do is about acquiring customers.

Here’s the rub. Sure customers are important and without cash flow you won’t have the luxury of running a business let alone write about product management. But perhaps it’s the case that these companies have reached a certain scale where they have enough operating cash on hand that they can think longer-term strategy. The marketing organization isn’t constrained by ‘How are we getting new customers this month’ but rather ‘How are we building a company and a brand that’s going to help people associate us with our vertical so business naturally comes’.

I use naturally somewhat loosely above.

There’s also something else. These companies (and founders and teams) stand for something. They believe in what they’re building and write about it every chance they get. Does the personal brand these folks build conflict or overshadow the company brand? I don’t think so. I think it helps support it.

Imagine the following scenario — you read a great Medium Post on how to… design great email templates using nothing but your hands and the in-line css in your editor. The post was so useful that you start following the author on Medium and go check out her Twitter and find out she works for MailChimp. In your mind, there’s a synapse firing associated MailChimp with that post and tagging it as ‘awesome’ or ‘well written and easy to follow’ or whatever. Next time you’re in the market to send emails or looking for software to send emails, you’ll maybe check out MailChimp.

I am oversimplifying. Grossly oversimplifying.

In other cases (such as Uber) they spend money to place ads on your browser with striking visuals that you click and poke around and next time you’re going somewhere, you download the app.

Gross oversimplification.

Are we as marketers going back to brand(building)? How do the internal marketing teams within these companies operate? Do they stare at metrics all day wondering how much they spent and how their campaigns are performing? Or do they just spend money and write about things they care about, run nicely designed ads and figure the money will follow? There’s been a ‘performance’ focused marketing approach, especially in startups since there’s no money for big campaigns and the focus is on getting customers. But after how many customers do you stop worrying about getting that next customer and start focusing on the intangibles and believe the customers will come?

Perhaps, more then anything, it’s about balancing the two. I wonder though if there’s a relation to business models. If you’re selling enterprise/SMB software with no freemium option, then your marketing will operate completely different then if you’re selling to consumers or a freemium product tier.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure More questions to be explored another time.

Related links: Drift (Messaging App) on why they are bringing brand back to marketing.

McDonald is moving to a performance based marketing model with its agency.

Uber is increasingly weaving itself to the fabric of our cities and urban planning. With Uber, you can now ride to your train station in New Jersey for free (if you already have the $4 day parking permit) because commuters ride the train and leave their cars in the parking lot which means there’s not enough parking for everyone. This way the city saves a whole whack of money by not expanding the parking lot pays the difference on the ride. It’s still a pilot but this is a first world problem that i’ve experience in San Jose and Toronto. Uber itself is losing a ton of money every year (in the order of billions) and is not profitable yet. But as it mounts losses, it continues to expand it’s reach into the urban landscape. As I heard on a recent podcast, alot of folks look at the ride-sharing market as a winner take all, but I personally think options are better, especially since every time Uber makes a change or offers options at a lower price then usual, its the drivers who suffer the most.

One of the reasons I think about Uber and other ‘on-demand’ services is because I ask myself, what kind of future do I want to live in? Even though there’s all these lazy services that bring anything from laundry to food to your doorstep, we never realize the human cost and perhaps lost human potential behind the glitz. Often times, I’ll look at a courier with a logo slapped on her/his backpack and wonder if they didn’t do this, what else could they have done with their time. Too often in the race to scale, there’s basic labour laws and working conditions that get ignored but they exist for a reason. I keep thinking back to the working conditions in my home country (Pakistan) or the news about factory collapses in Bangladesh.


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I came across Tara Hunt’s new video over on LinkedIn via Amrita. Tara talks about the misconception of marketing as something that follows everything else. It’s a symptom of the ‘engineering’ driven company mindset where it’s overly focused on the technology but not really keeping a line of sight on who the technology is for. For example Uber thinks of itself as an operational/logistics company which uses technology to scale. The same argument can be made for 80% of companies that label themselves as tech.

Marketing is the process of bringing a product to market.

If a company says ‘we achieved 100% YoY growth without a single dollar spent on marketing’ my next question is great — how did people actually hear about you if you didn’t do any marketing? You probably did but you don’t realize it and also don’t confuse advertising on the web with marketing.

Are Casper, Endy and a dozen other mattress companies tech companies or mattress companies? They argue they are tech companies. Maybe because it makes it easy to get funding from venture capitalists, who would want to put money into a mattress company? I’d call them ‘Internet Enabled’ businesses. A mattress is a mattress. The differentiation from where I stand is the branding. That’s why the Canadian company Endy (I first called it Eva that is how saturated and similar the name’s are) has bought entire Toronto Subway ads for itself and Casper has sleep pop up shops around the city.


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Photo-credit: Deviant Art: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Untitled-634298413


Just before I started writing this, I was in a call with Meta Data.They’re a B2B ad/marketing tool with a hybrid agency model. There’s a platform but they also offer creative services to design and manage the ads. It’s an interesting model, that I’ve come across recently. It reminds me of the concierge service that I started for Organimi to build company org charts in Organimi in the 2nd year of the company’s existence. Do more companies adapt it to increase the LTV of their customers or is it because ultimately something can’t be done by machines? In the case of Meta Data, they have a platform fee for accessing the product and additional creative services and management fee (optional from what I can tell).

Closer to Toronto, Betakit ran story on Vantage that pivoted to a similar(?) model with a added a similar component from the sounds of it.

So this is an interesting one. China is the Bitcoin super power. Imagine trekking the mountains of Tibet and thinking your away from civilization and you hear the familiar sound of a electronic hum. The cheap power and relatively cheap labour makes it a mecca for Bitcoin mining. I don’t think Bitcoin itself is going to be a normalized currency for the next 10–20 years atleast, not until everyone agree’s on its value. I can buy coffee with Bitcoin, sure but if I want to pay rent, my landlord will raise an eyebrow and kick me out.
“These are concerns that have parallels with the way China is using its digital market power to reshape the Internet and influence the global debate about censorship and surveillance.”
Why are we so paranoid about China? They already run the half the world if not more. Read the Post essay here.

I am a huge fan of Rand & Sarah (Moz) and in light of the recent layoffs, they’ve faced some serious heat. But Rand in in signature tell all style wrote about the layoffs from his perspective and its a great read on the hard choices you make to run a business. There’s been layoffs in Canadian Tech recently but they’ve been pretty hush hush. Especially recent ones in Toronto. People will find out and its better to get ahead of it and explain. I was tempted to use ‘control the narrative’ here but that sounds like Theranos a little too much. Moz had to make a tough choice but it was the right choice. Ultimately you have to operate a business and if they did not make the layoffs, it would have run the business to the ground. The folks who were let go supported each other and even made a site Hiremoz to make it easy for companies looking for talent to hire them.

For the marketers reading this, here’s Drift putting out all the emails they use. This partially marketing, partially transparency but definitely helpful.

I haven’t been on Quora on a while. I always wonder about where that company is headed. They have a incredible community but sometimes there’s formulaic answers to questions which are optimized for up-votes. Perhaps that’s me being skeptical. At some point they will have to monetize it, will they use ML or some sort of technology to serve ads related to people’s queries? I’ve ‘exploited’ it for traffic and signups in the past and it worked well. We’re all guilty of finding loopholes.

Facebook Video’s are weird. They auto-play so it counts as a view but I rarely watch them. Now Facebook is saying they made mistakes measuring views vs ad spends for brands. Growing pains of video on social and how to get ad dollars from TV on to the internet.

What is this and how is this different from Airbnb? It’s called Sonder and it also works in the same home-sharing model as Airbnb. I poked around the site, which looks alot like Airbnb. But design-wise, it works. So why re-make something that isn’t broke.. I know Flatbook, but from my impressions Flatbook is niche sub-lets market from what I can tell.

Edit — Flatbook re-directs to Sonders so they re-branded and pivoted? Google still indexes them as Flatbook

It’s friday. Have a great weekend!


P.S Excuse any typos. This was written at 5pm on a Friday.

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Cognitive Bias Codex — Buster Benson. Buy it here: https://www.designhacks.co/products/cognitive-bias-codex-poster

Hey/ Salaam there,

9 subscribers, including my wife (hey Soph), dad (hey Dad), Siblings ( Boogie: Gul, Aimal)

Before anything — Trump has been getting more media coverage then he deserves. I wish we’d just ignored him and let him wither in the darkness. But we didn’t. So now Josh Whedon has gotten together a ‘sh&t ton of famous people’ because it’s that important.

I have never been to EW but this video was spectacular and touching. Watch it here.

While we’re on the topic of politics. Respect to Reid Hoffman for launching Trump cards. My eyes went a little wide open when the post mentioned ‘People who work for him personally’. I wonder how much Reid makes to pay his personal staff from his own pocket. ALOT.

Continuing the thread, why don’t more business leaders speak up against Trump? Fear according to NYT & Hoffman.

Found this from a friend who shared it on Twitter (thanks Cori) — Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet. If there’s one thing you click out of this email, this should probably be the one.

Airbnb: I got a call from them yesterday, asking why I am not hosting with them anymore. I explained I was renovating the house so I snoozed it. But I was surprised at the relatively ‘old school’ tactic. This was the first time I got a call from Airbnb but it was an interesting call. Might be signs of something changing. Might not be anything. Speaking of Airbnb, I loved how they tied Superhosting and a ‘Market place’ for hosts to manage other properties. I bet the crop of ‘Airbnb Management’ companies will be given a run for their money. Glad I did not get into the space, even though I played around with the idea and did some research.

Spotify and Tinder are best friends now. It just isn’t about dating, it’s about owning pop culture. Spotify hasn’t been having the best of times, but it’s aggressive partnerships strategy might help it bump its paid subscribers number ahead of an IPO perhaps? I got Spotify premium bundled in with my carrier plan so I didn’t blink an eye. Otherwise I would have questioned splurging $10 a month on it.

If you are in Marketing, you know about Lead Nurturing. Here’s a 36 Minute Read on Lead Nurturing. It’s long but I love the illustrations. I think Intercom and Dropbox & Stratechery made them popular and with the iPad Pro anyone can sketch on a screen. My take away on lead nurturing, don’t over-do or over-complicate it. It reaches a point of diminishing returns pretty quickly. Either someone will buy your product or they wont. Bombarding them with emails; educational or otherwise won’t change their minds or create FOMO or a need out of thin air.

That’s all for today. Back to my day job now.

P.S Trying to figure out the optimal workflow. I am trying a dedicated notebook in Evernote.

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But it’s not dead

This post originally appeared on the Qwilr Blog

Rapid technological innovation has altered the landscape of commerce. Yet while the mode and medium of modern business has evolved, many of the business strategies and frameworks that powered the old world of commerce are still catching up to those changes. And perhaps none more so than B2B software sales.

Business software used to have a much higher price point. Products were monolithic and often required significant on-site implementation costs. The focus of tech sales was getting prospects to close. To sign on the dotted line.

But the nature of software evolved. Products and services are now delivered more and more through the web browser, or mobile device. Products have become slimmer in functional scope, more lightweight and modular, with a generally lower price point.

And as software has changed, so too has software sales. The old “hard-sell” model is being slowly superseded by a “new customer” success model.

So let’s explore:

  • What is the incumbent “old” model of B2B software sales?
  • What are the changes in technology that have made this model obsolete?
  • And what exactly is this shiny new thing called “customer success”?

The Old Model Of Software Sales.

Once upon a time, before iPhones and broadband wifi, circa 1980–2000’s, implementing business software solutions was a long, slow and costly operation. Offices would be overrun with consultants and specialists for weeks or months at a time.

Business software in that era required “boots on the ground” to implement. Software needed to be installed and tested on each desktop workstation in the office. Some software even needed on-site servers to be setup and configured.

The complexities of such an implementation, meant a shifting timeline for delivery, and a mercurial final cost. Trying software was a business risk — if it didn’t work out, it could mean a big hit to the P&L sheet.

Since there was this significant migration cost for switching software solutions, customers stuck around. They bought long term licences. They bought support. For the software sellers, that meant: fewer deals than today, but with higher value.

This was the old world of business software: big, monolithic solutions, with a hefty price tag and a complex implementation.

This kind of software business required a sizeable sales force that could do “high touch” sales. Done right, the profit margin from high-value long-term contracts could quickly ameliorate the salary cost of sales people and the long lead times.

So, this software and sales model was hugely effective and profitable for the tech giants of the 1980’s Cisco, Oracle, Sun etc.

Today it is known as “sales development” (and has been re-popularised recently by Aaron Ross in his sales playbook: “Predictable Revenue”).

The basic structure of the sales flow is as follows:

  1. Demand generation: Create a flow of inbound interest in the product or service (aka marketing).
  2. Lead Qualification: Qualify potential leads on a spectrum from very-likely-to-be customers, to very-unlikely-to-be customers.
  3. Lead Nurturing: Nudge qualified, interested leads along the buying funnel. Feed them helpful guidance, assistance, be on-hand to answer questions. (More on the this aspect later!).
  4. Closing: The all important closing. Get the leads to sign on the dotted line.

It’s worth noting that Aaron Ross emphasises the specialisation of these roles. Sales reps don’t cross disciplines. Your closers are never the same people as your prospectors.

Now if your product or service has a high enough price point, this model could absolutely work for you today. Enterprise software sales teams are still working this way, and with great success.

But the nature of software now has fundamentally changed since the days of Sun and Cisco. Products are, in general, much more lightweight and modular than their 1980’s predecessors. They are not monolithic. They do not attempt to encompass all business challenges. Rather they “unbundle”. They solve specific problems, within a narrower band, and at a fractional cost.

Businesses are now free to pick and choose their own custom hybrid solution, comprised from a number of these products and services.

So what happened? What changed? Where did the big monolithic software go?

In short: it was killed by the web browser.

How the Modern Web Changed Everything

There was a time, not so long ago, when the web was a rather static medium. It was more akin to a digital newspaper, than an interactive application. Tech folks dreamed it could be more, but limited CPU power and internet bandwidth were blocking the way forward.

The desktop was the only place a business user could do “serious” work. Think word processors, spreadsheets, graphic design in the 1990’s.

But as processors became increasingly powerful and affordable, as the browser itself became powerful, the possibility of having an application-like experience in the browser (i.e. responsive, fast, data intensive) became a tangible reality.

These days it is standard practice for a business to run their core activities and operations through the browser. See: Google Docs, Xero, MYOB, Qwilr, access to that kind of data is built in.

If you’re building a product game, there are a number of excellent and mature offerings in the analytics space, from free and more generic solutions like Google Analytics, to purpose built services like KissMetrics (which we use and love at Qwilr!).

Customer success encourages sales reps to analyse this data, so they can identify when a lead is stalled, and needs a nudge to help them along the buying path.

What form these nudges take is up to you. In the product world they might come in the form of an in-app notification, a help bubble or an automated email. In the services world, perhaps a quick email or well-timed phone call.

The Death And Resurrection Of B2B Sales

Sales used to be about pushing a lead over the finishing line, but now its about running the whole race with a lead, encouraging them, helping them when they start to flag.

Customer success is by no means the death knell of traditional software sales. Rather it is an evolution of that model, better suited to the shift in consumer behavior (i.e. how products / services are discovered, recommended, bought and consumed) that web has brought about.

Grow your business.

Techniques, tips and stories on how to grow from zero to a million.

Originally published at blog.qwilr.com on October 29, 2015.

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Also known as “Now You can Own 7% of Organimi”

Ever wanted to own equity in a fast growing technology company? But never had the connections, money or knew how to start?


We have some great news! We are opening up our equity pool to our customers. As our company, we focus on our customers. Your feedback, support and commitment has been invaluable. So as a thank you and to extend our support we are offering you a chance to own a chunk of the company for your self!


With the new Version 4 we rolled out some paid plans. The first 1000 customers to subscribe to our Pro Plan ($699/Year) would own a 7% of equity in the company. 7% is the same percentage that Y Combinator, an incubator in Silicon Valley, takes in the companies it work with. Usually though in exchange for the 7%, Y Combinator and its investors usually have to put in at least a couple of hundred thousand in exchange for the 7%. You don’t.

It’s likely that the 7% won’t be worth much, but its also likely that Organimi is worth alot more then its currently valued at today and the 7% is worth a alot more. We’re excited to take this journey and we’d love to have you with us.


Because we’re cool like that.

Note: A more detailed most to come soon. We currently have 300 customers since the paid plans release on 5th June 2015.

Signup for an Organimi account here.

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