Situation: The CEO of a start-up software company focuses on connecting potential parties to business opportunities. Early signs are that this offering has legs and potential parties have responded positively. The critical question for the CEO is how best to turn interest into revenue. How to you monetize your business model?
Advice from the CEOs:
The first step is to segment the audience and determine both the potential for each segment to both benefit from and fund the service that they receive.
Individual contributors may not have a lot of financial resources but may be interested in participating as employees or providers of expertise or services. They also may know others and can spread the word.
Collaborating organizations may be able to offer both funding and services to help build and sustain momentum.
Companies have funds to support the effort provided they see value to their bottom lines as a result.
Suggest a fee or contribution for services from companies who will benefit. Provide guidelines or a sliding scale of fees depending upon duration of services provided to the company. Make it clear that moneys earned will be reinvested to increase the range and depth of services offered.
Suggest a sliding fee scale for individual contributors based on the financial benefit that they receive.
For companies and collaborating organizations offer levels of membership or recognition for support based on benefit received.
For all segments – start with small, timed fees and increase these as the model proves its benefit to them.
Situation: An early stage company has assembled an impressive team and has a solid service offering. The immediate challenge is bringing in clients to fuel growth. The team has the capacity but needs some creative ideas on where they should focus their efforts. How do you fuel early stage growth?
Advice from the CEOs:
Fully utilize the team’s talents. Team members with established expertise can offer clinics featuring the company’s service offering at local colleges, business organizations and other venues to target audiences. Think about business organizations with members who would benefit from the company’s services. Also reach out to venture capitalists and the entrepreneurial market.
Develop a strong value proposition:
Eyeballs on the market
Links to highly qualified resources
Demonstrated expertise in your space
Claims tied to the top priorities of target clients
For start-up and entrepreneur client targets:
Offer a packaged set of services for a fixed fee. Be open to creative payment options to fit the financial needs of entrepreneurs.
Start developing a full suite of services. Start by assessing the need and developing a target list of early clients. VC portfolio companies can be a great target.
Build a good web-based communications interface for client use. Think of what is needed to create an attractive menu and let this drive service development.
Develop a separate brand for ancillary services that will complement the current offering, but which is outside of the current offering. Look at markets which would benefit from the service, including medical and nursing providers.
Situation: A company works primarily with early stage/rapidly growing companies. To extend their service offering, they have alliances with corporations which are interested in these companies as sources of innovation. The alliances have helped them to gain new customers, but the CEO is curious whether he can gain additional revenue from these alliances. How can you monetize marketing alliances?
Advice from the CEOs:
Match making is a valuable resource – regardless of where your company is located or the customers that you serve. Companies are less likely to pay for something that they perceive as having received free in the past, but are more than willing to pay for options that will enhance both their top and bottom lines.
Look at ways that you can make your services more valuable to your current corporate alliance partners. How can you help them make more revenue, or enhance their bottom lines through a win-win revenue-sharing relationship?
Become a match maker and get a fee. Offer your alliance partners opportunities that are more intimate than speed dating. Make sure that you are playing both a key introductory and ongoing role.
Use speed dating to match companies and funding sources. Invite investment bankers or private equity firms. Charge a 1-2% match fee if they do a deal.
Simplify your model. Who is your real audience – who is the constituency that you can best serve?
The most valuable deals and matches are those that offer ongoing revenue opportunities to your alliance partners. This is where you can offer them the most important value – a value for which they will pay.
Situation: A company wants to keep both customers and employees up to date on what is happening within the company. This includes announcements of new products, services and initiatives, changes in personnel policy and benefits, and other information important to both customers and employees. The CEO is considering a company newsletter. How do you keep customers and employees updated and what benefits do you accrue from the effort?
Advice from the CEOs:
Customers and employees are two different audiences and require different communications. Externally focused company newsletters are a value-add from a marketing perspective and enhance the image of the company in the eyes of clients and prospects. Internal company newsletters are valuable to reinforce vision, understanding of company policy, and inter-departmental alignment.
Both efforts are justified from a time and expense standpoint, and perhaps deserve even more focus.
Within the companies represented around the table, frequency of both internal and external newsletters varies from semi-annual to monthly publications.
Both print and online newsletters have value. Employees respond positively to both. Print media make it easier for them to share important updates in benefits and excitement about company developments with their families. Online media can be updated more frequently and inexpensively, and the HR department can track the number of views to measure impact.
Emailed external newsletters are valuable because they enable you to measure ROI from the effort by building in tracking mechanisms and correlating web page hits to business development and revenue.
Situation: An early stage software-as-a-service (SAAS) company notes that a number of companies have privacy statements on their web sites. Is this something that is common, and should they consider their own privacy statement on their site?
Advice from the CEOs:
If your services include the collection of users’ personally identifiable information many users will want to know that the information that they put on the site is secure. Get legal advice on the handling and storage of personally identifiable information. You may want to qualify for TRUSTe or a similar service.
Others will be competing in your space, or close to it. Look at these companies’ sites for what type of privacy statement they use.
Research how important this is to your target audience. Get assistance from someone who is good at drafting surveys. Hire a summer intern or local college student to conduct the survey. This is a quick way to answer your question.
Determine your business policy regarding privacy. If policy considerations dictate that you should have a statement, then find a model statement that you like and use this. Model a statement after one that appeals to you from another company. Make sure that you cover anything that you feel is important, and retain any prerogatives that you feel are important.
Create a link to a separate page that contains a model privacy statement. Count the number of clicks that it receives. You may find that nobody clicks on this.
Interview with Luosheng Peng, CEO & President, GageIn
Situation: A fast-growing company is working to engage new users on their platform. They are leveraging ease of use, demonstrated ROI, and fit within an existing ecosystem as their levers to attract and engage new users. What have you found effective to attract and engage new users in a new platform or service?
Advice from Luosheng Peng:
The most important factors to attract new users are ease of use and a demonstrable ROI. It is important to address a complex value proposition simply and easily.
You must know, ahead of time, the single most important value for your target user. Your examples must be clearly tied to your target user’s most important need.
Quick, simple, visual and verbal illustrations are effective. For example, we used short and fun videos like Tracker the dog to explain our products.
You must demonstrate a clear ROI and increased productivity. Your ROI must be real if you want to gain users attention – particularly if you want to gain viral levels of attention.
In business intelligence, finding information is not a problem. The challenge is finding the right information, filling the gaps in information from standard sources, and delivering it at the right time. We spent a great deal of development time getting this part of our product right.
To improve understanding of your ROI, engage early adopters and get their feedback on your current features and how to improve your platform. Early adopters are more analytical and passionate than other users. They want to be acknowledged so be responsive to them.
Offer a freemium model so that new users can try you out and test your value proposition. If they like what they experience, offer a low cost limited premium model with incrementally scaled pricing for additional features or functionality.
Manage your ecosystem. Building a new ecosystem takes a lot of effort and expense. Most small ventures will want to compliment or fit into an existing ecosystem.
Existing ecosystems may already be crowded. Small companies have to be able to break through the crowd and be seen. We completed major integrations with Yammer’s Enterprise Social Network and Salesforce.com’s CRM. Your platform will have the most success if you address a gap or unmet need within the existing ecosystem.
Interview with Peter Koeppel, President, Koeppel Direct
Situation: The media industry is increasingly challenged trying to reach its audience. Media choices are fragmented, and the proliferation of new devices makes reaching purchasing audiences difficult. How do you best reach your target audience in this environment?
Historically placement of advertising and pricing of media ad buys were driven by calculations of audience impressions – how many eyeballs a particular ad would reach. With the media market now highly fragmented this measure is no longer as effective. Sophisticated marketers now seek ROI driven media buy models to justify their advertising purchases.
Two companies, Facebook and TiVo, are in the lead in terms of potential to assist marketers in targeting distinct audiences, because they collect rich data on individual consumers, but this information must be balanced with privacy concerns.
Non-conventional channels like TiVo or Google TV and other research services can selectively present marketing messages to specific customer demographics.
The mobile search market represented approximately $2 billion in revenue in 2010. As more people consume media through mobile devices, this market will grow. The leader in this market is Google.
A growing format is longer length spots. These include short-form infomercials which are typically seen for insurance, legal services, and spots that drive consumers to web sites or an 800 number. Long-form infomercials are typically 30 minutes in length, composed of three to four 7 or 8 minute segments separated by commercials, which serve as calls to action. Infomercial marketing is not for every product, but is most applicable to higher priced products where specific demographic information is worth the investment and where the consumer needs more education about the product,in order to make a purchase decision.
Cable TV, print and radio, remain an effective way to target niche audiences. Television, among the traditional media, still drives the largest number of consumers to online purchases.
For the future, we predict a convergence between TV and online marketing and purchases. Many HDMI TVs and current Blu-Ray sets are already configured for both cable and either WiFi or Ethernet connections. Google and Apple sell devices that combine TV and online access. Netflix and Hulu serve content through either TV or online devices.
We see the future of TV as a device which will consume all media. As access to rich databases of consumer preferences and purchasing proliferates we see growth in content which will be increasingly tailored to personal preferences and desires of highly fragmented consumer demographics.
Interview with John Hollar, President & CEO, Computer History Museum
Situation: Traditional media for reaching audiences – television, newspapers – have broken down. Audiences are atomized and increasingly “what you want when you want it.” How do you aggregate an audience in this environment?
Develop partnerships that align with you both in terms of audience and purpose.
We just finished a $20 million expansion. With 1.5 million technology workers in Silicon Valley, how do we spread the word?
We work with corporations in the tech sector, corporate alumni groups, tech retailers, convention centers, hotel concierges, and schools.
Our new campaign – Silicon Valley Starts Here – encourages Silicon Valley visitors to start their Silicon Valley journey with us.
School field trips are booked through the end of the year. Local foundations support transportation costs.
Leverage the digital world to expand your presence.
Everything physically present in the museum is also available digitally to a global audience.
We use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to generate viral networking.
Live events are captured in HD and broadcast through our YouTube channel to 2 million viewers.
We update our Facebook page and tweet daily. Facebook is fun and playful with “Today in Computer History” and Friday YouTube films.
Tweets include a quiz – “Who Am I?” – of famous figures in computer history with prizes.
What are the implications for companies and institutions?
We must embrace the notion of living in parallel worlds – having both a physical presence and a broader digital presence.
Expert knowledge is here, but we must be able to access an increasingly digital audience that is global.
Digital capabilities can’t just be bolted on to an old structure. This must be a marriage that connects our knowledge and expertise organically to our audience, their needs, and the knowledge and expertise that is happening in the world.