Nilofer Merchant | Scaling a Startup in the Social Era @ thinkspace

nilofer-merchant-posterNilofer Merchant, Harvard Press author of “11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era”, A TED Speaker, and former CEO of Rubicon. Nilofer has launched more than 100 products that have netted $18 billion dollars… and Nilofer will be speaking at thinkspace tonight!

Nilofer is a very important person to me as are her thoughts and concepts that she covers in the book “11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era”. While Nilofer is not aware of this, her concepts are very much intertwined into the fabric of what thinkspace has evolved into over the last five years and attribute much of our success to Nilofer concepts of “co-creation”. Nilofer’s has put a lot of words together for me as I’ve traveled my entrepreneurial journey. One of the things that has become the foundation of thinkspace is:

“Things we once considered opposing forces – doing right by people and delivering results, collaborating and keeping focus, having a social purpose, and making money – are really not in opposition. They never have been. But we need a more sophisticated approach to understand business models where making a profit doesn’t mean losing purpose, community, and connection.” – Nilofer Merchant

I’m very much goal oriented and focus on the outcome that I’m looking to create. If you took a look at all the goals that I’ve set for the company in order to be successful you would see things like be listed on the PSBJ’s Fastest Growing Companies List for consecutive years (check) be named as Washington’s Best Places to Work (check) and now be listed on the INC 5000 (open check box) with a goal of having 2000 recurring revenue customers (open check box). The goal is not solely about making a profit but for us it’s totally about creating community and connection.

Four years ago I created a Community Manager position in my company, when the typical Community Manager was not something you would see in a company that happens to lease out office space to startups, entrepreneurs, and non-profits. Yes, the position does handle leasing functions within the business, but, the goal and definition of success for the position is to create connection. Quite simply, the one thing that brings me the most joy every single day is creating connections to entrepreneurs. My most recent example is last weekend when I was at an Entrepreneur Organization retreat and connecting that group to a thinkspace member, Don Gerould, CEO of Cogent Equity, who helps entrepreneurs think through the process and build the plan on how to exit their company, either by stepping back or selling their company.

I’m truly looking forward to meeting and hearing Nilofer speak tonight at thinkspace. One question that I’ll be sure to ask Nilofer to address is how to scale a startup in the social era. Click here for more information on the event.

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Inside startups with Founders Less Than Three: Speaker – Halley Suitt Tucker

Halley Suitt Tucker HeadshotYou know when someone jokes that they have “done it all?” Halley Suitt Tucker could put Chief Everything Officer on her business card. Halley is currently living in Boston and writes for a living. You name it she writes it. Halley has been blogging for 10 years, went through Techstars, and is now writing books! Halley is also CEO of BoOkBoX, and created a Kickstarter to fund her novel and e-book “Founders Less Than Three” . Halley has incorporated her knowledge of startups and entrepreneurial knowledge into this new read, which will be available on Amazon August 15th. “Founders Less Than Three” is centered around 10 young entrepreneurs creating a startup and racing towards their demo day in Boston. Though fiction, there are solid pieces of advice and insight into starting a business.

Halley’s friend, mentor, and author of APE – Guy Kawasaki – once told her “If you thought starting a book was hard, wait until you try to finish one.” We are so lucky to have Halley launching her (finished!) book at Hackers and Founders August 20th.  We’ll be meeting at the Bellevue Microsoft Store at 6pm that Tuesday. Please join us, and RSVP here.

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How to create a CBB list and schedule a launch that actually happens.

You don’t want to put something out to the world until it’s 100% perfect.
You’ll literally put the brakes on anything that doesn’t absolutely hit your high standard.
You think delivering anything less will result in NO sales.
Every little thing MUST BE PERFECT or it’s not seeing the light of day.
You’re a little paranoid that people will laugh at you if you don’t get everything right.

Does this sound like you?

I’m all for perfection and doing your best… but you can’t noodle away at something forever.
You must get your idea out to the world.
If you’re even thinking about launching that means you’re creating this for other people.
What’s the point to all the work you’re doing, if no one’s going to benefit from it?

So – what I do when I’m nearing the due date I’ve set to complete a project… is start listing off the CBBs.  What “Could Be Better”?  I make a list of CBBs and just keep moving forward.

Here’s the secret too for all you who will still want to wait until things are perfect – there will ALWAYS be CBBs.  Even if you don’t see them now.  I can’t think of one launch I’ve worked on, finished for myself, or helped someone else plan where there wasn’t a list of CBBs for the next launch.

CBB is one of those little phrases that helps take the pressure off – so start saying it when you find something that could be a little bit better, but you don’t want it to stop you from making progress or from launching.

No webinar? CBB – I’ll do one next time when my list is bigger.
No launch videos? CBB – my audience is used to blog posts anyways.
No affiliate program? CBB – I’ll do something super bare bones this time around and set up a real program for the next time.
No membership site? CBB – I’ll make a protected page on my site where all the content will live.
My PDFs aren’t super gorgeous! CBB – The content is there, I’ll make them look neat, easy to read and they’ll be fine.

It’s catchy…
You might find yourself declaring, “That’s a CBB for sure!” to things that used to have you adjusting your entire launch schedule.

Try it!

Go through your own launch materials, your program, your copy, your sales process and start making your CBB list for the next launch.

And – if you want to learn more about what’s important and what’s NOT important to launch…I’ll be teaching a live 1-hour workshop at thinkspace THIS WEEK to show you how to plan and schedule your next launch – so those CBBs don’t weigh you down!

Launch Exhaustion: How to schedule a year of launches without exhausting yourself, your audience, or your team.

Click here for more information and to attend

 

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The Rules To Delivering, Seeing Things Through + Launching Anything


Planning a project? Developing a new program? Starting a business?

It’s easy to get caught up and overwhelmed by all the little moving parts in a launch.  Your website, the product, membership area, sales process, buttons, emails, graphics, getting the word out…it’s not surprising how many people DON’T launch.

There’s a lot that can go wrong.

Instead of pretending you’ll be able to handle all the curve balls that will be thrown at you during a launch or heck when running your business, having some guidelines to follow will go far in keeping your launch train moving forward.

Today – I’m sharing my personal launch rules–they have served me well planning projects in many different industries like film, video game development, pilates studio development and now as I grow my online business.

Don’t be surprised if some of them seem super obvious – and they are!

  1. Be clear what you are offering and be able to say it out loud to real people in your real life. If you can’t – then keep trying…

  2. Know who your audience is. There’s no real trick to this and you don’t have to do the work yourself.  My first time launching helped me clarify who would actually buy from me.  Moral of that story is put yourself in front of as many different audiences as you can – and your audience will find you!

  3. Get help – managing your project, doing the work, spreading the word… get help in every area, aspect and phase of your launch – so you don’t have to keep it all in your own head! Support is that key ingredient that really does matter more than you know!

  4. Stick to a schedule and be realistic when setting your schedule.  If you’ve only got a few people to “help” out…give yourself longer.  Be honest, realistic, and don’t

  5. Deliver what you promised and when you promise.  Don’t say you’re going to do a video series and then crap out after the 2nd one.  Don’t say your program will be delivered upon purchase if it opens in 2 weeks.  Just be clear what you’re offering and when and if it changes, make sure people know about it in ADVANCE.

  6. Don’t switch software or any systems mid-launch. ‘NUFF SAID.

  7. Make sure your team is going to see through the launch. This goes along with getting help. Make sure your help gives you a commitment to helping you through the entire life of the launch.

  8. Have back up plans. Think of things that could break down, go wrong, or not work well, and be ready to change direction at a moment’s notice.  Be okay with putting plan b in motion if needed.

  9. Be ready to (and OK with) CHANGE anything that’s not working for ANY reason.

  10. Do it often and don’t be afraid to LAUNCH WITHOUT SELLING A THING. Launching isn’t just about making moola. It’s a process you should learn early so that you can pull off your bigger ticket launches in the future.  So – launch often and launch free things too!

If you want to know more about planning a launch so that you have time to pull all those launch pieces together without totally exhausting yourself…you’ve got 2 options today:

Option 1

I’ll be teaching a live 1-hour workshop at thinkspace to show you how to do this on April 24th:

Launch Exhaustion: How to schedule a year of launches without exhausting yourself, your audience, or your team.

Click here for more information and to attend

Option 2

Fearless Launching is now enrolling for it’s 3rd round!

Check out this completely digital online training program now to learn how to launch, get support, and understand why launching before you’re ready is so important!

 

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The 10 Benefits To Launching Before You’re Ready

A guest-post from Anne Samoilov

Today’s post comes to Thinkspace courtesy of Anne Samoilov and is republished by permission.  Anne has been helping solopreneurs become more productive, create and launch their life’s work. She teaches about topics including online launching, product launch, small business growth, productivity, self-management, motivation, business planning + goal setting. Anne’s background also includes 10 years experience as producer for animation, visual effects, and game development. We’re excited to have Anne here on the Thinkspace blog – kicking off a series of brown bag workshops.

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So – last week I started this unofficial launch smackdown series by talking about some of the mistakes to lead to launch failure or failure to launch! If you haven’t read that post – go there now!

Today I’m answering the key question I get from people who don’t believe they are “ready” to launch.

What are the benefits to launching before you are ready, established or a guru/leader in your industry? (Don’t get me started on that word Guru…) Basically – should I wait if I don’t have x (subscribers, traffic, etc)?

Before I dive in – let’s first talk about who you are and give you a little perspective on why knowing these benefits are so important to understand.

People who ask me questions about being ready to launch usually fit into one of three categories – it’s useful to figure out roughly your category for one good reason — you’ll realize you aren’t the only one in your category! No one wants to feel like the odd person out – embrace your category or mix of categories, but don’t let it hold you back.

1. Surveyer:

You’re curious to know how you can possibly launch this thing you’ve created – You’re just not sure how to start, but you’re resourceful and ready to figure it out. You might not have a ton of experience in your topic, but you sit on the sidelines, watch others launching, and know there’s something there …you just need a little “more” proof before doing anything.

Main defining characteristic: Always asking questions, getting feedback, difficulty settling on a direction without outside help.

2. Creator:

You’ve been creating a ton of content and people like it. You don’t need convincing that you need to launch – you need proof that it can work even if you are just starting out. Plus – you want a full proof plan to take your ideas to market. Making the leap from all free all the time to paid offerings is a big jump for you.

Main defining characteristic: Creator with a conscious…you know it’s not getting you anywhere.

3. Jaded Tester:

You’ve been through a launch before – and you need major convincing to do it again. You set goals, are convinced you did everything right, but nothing worked at all like you thought it would.

You have tons of resistance to launching because you didn’t get the results you wanted when you did it the first time.

But – you are smart–can figure almost everything out. That’s why this hurts even more – this is the one thing you haven’t deciphered yet.

You want to find the lessons, but you’re a little miffed from the last time you stuck your neck out to the world.

Main defining characteristic: Lost confidence, stubborn, and you need to renew your belief that you CAN launch successfully.

No matter where you are within these categories…you can launch. You should launch. And here’s why.

Here are the 10 benefits to launching a new product, program or service before you say you’re ready:

1. You grow your list.

Whether you plan to do a video series, blog posts, interviews, guest posts, maybe a free webinar, all of it will be focused on one thing – getting more eyes on you and your business. A lovely “side effect” and your primary focus for that first launch should be building your list.

Don’t believe it?

Catherine Just grew her list to the first 1,000 with her first launch. She’s done a few other launches since then too!
Alicia Cowan also grew her list from several hundred to well over 1000 during her first launch and continues to build her audience with free webinars, workshops and relaunching her initial program.
LKR grows it’s list by several thousand every single time a new free webinar or launch is announced.

If your list isn’t growing during a launch – then you aren’t doing enough to reach other people’s audiences – which is one of the mistakes I mentioned in the last post!

2. Launches help build and rebuild confidence

Committing to a project from beginning to end, seeing it through, doing all you can – knowing that you learned, built your list, made some sales – this does a lot to instill confidence in yourself and your business. Even when things don’t go as screamingly well as you’d like them to, once you understand the process of launching, you feel more confident to do it again.

If you aren’t feeling so confident after a launch – you aren’t alone. It’s easy to set lofty launch wishes and then be completely shattered when they don’t come true.

There are so many elements of a launch that play into you achieving or not achieving those goals, so instead of feeling bad or wallowing.

Be proactive. Look back over the “mistakes” you made, record what you learned, and use it as an opportunity to plan for the next time out.

3. Your business will come into extreme focus + clarity.

Time and time again I’ve watch entrepreneurs work to launch a product, program or new service only to emerge on the other side with:

-> a slightly shifted business model
-> a new target market
-> a deeper understanding of what they want their business to be

Keep your eyes open for clues to seeing your business in a new, objective light.

Clues come in lots of different forms:

  • – a different kind of person than you expected enrolling in your program
  • – having the exact person you wanted in the program asking you for something “else”
  • – a sinking feeling that you don’t want to do 1-off coaching
  • – an immediate idea of what to launch next

Pay attention.

4. You get to test your product out before a massive audience buys it.

So you only have a small group of people going through your program.

Guess what? This is your chance to see what works and what doesn’t work in your program.

Treat those people like gold – because they’re the first, their feedback is gold!

Here are a few things I did during the first round of Fearless Launching:

  • – Gave 1-on-1 support calls throughout the program
  • – Asked for feedback along the way
  • – Took the feedback and improved the program

Sometimes it’s the simple extra bits that you can give that will make the life of your product, program or service that much better.

Don’t be afraid to shower your first round with extra special loving.

5. Launches help you build and strengthen relationships with your readers, prospects and customers.

I’m very close with the members of Fearless Launching – but I don’t just make room for customers. I make it my mission to connect on a personal level with everyone who reaches out to me, joins my mailing list, or leaves a comment.

I know it seems obvious, but caring and listening is all people want sometimes. So – open your ears and let people know you’re there. I actually feel the relationships strengthening over time with each and every one of you. I even feel a little protective too!

Encourage your readers to leave a comment – to email you. Then – respond. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but taking the extra time to respond makes a huge difference in those relationships. Someone might not be a customer today, but tomorrow things can change.

6. You suddenly understand and can easily identify your ideal customer.

One of the toughest parts of starting an online or offline business is understanding your ideal customer.

Before Fearless Launching – I had a vague idea of who I was serving. After two rounds of the program – I now completely understand who this program serves best and who will get the best results.

Honestly though, I sometimes feel like I got lucky and the exact right people enrolled.

How do you really get lucky like I did? Make sure your content is focused, in YOUR voice, and aims to provide a clear outcome. That’s all I did – and it attracted the exact right people.

In my case, I wanted to make sure that people who didn’t think they were ready to launch were prepared, understood the process, got support along the way, and launched.

Most people either achieve this or get very close. And the ones who don’t get close – they do get there eventually.

7. You make some cash.

I’m all for making money when you launch. All that blood, sweat and tears – all the time that you focus on this one project. You deserve some moola, right?

Revenue is only 1 of my goals during a launch. I want to see growth in revenue, list, traffic, but also in my delivery of value.

How do you deal if you don’t make money on your online launch? It all comes down to traffic, eyes, and if your offer was right for that traffic.

If the offer didn’t match the eyes, you probably didn’t make any money. That doesn’t mean your offer sucked, it just means you need to reach some new eyes or that you have to adjust your offer for the people who did show up!

8. Making mistakes in front of fewer people is a lot less painful than a large crowd.

The main benefit of launching before you are ready is that your audience is smaller. Would you rather fall in front of a stadium of people or a televised event or at a wedding where you know most of the people.

Sure all scenarios kind of suck, but the point is – make the mistakes while you’re surrounded by a smaller group of people.

Use your first launch to practice of the process of launching.

9. You find out who supports you + who might not be so dependable.

Start now and you’ll see right away who’s going to support you and who’s NOT going to support you.

People are fickle. They talk a big talk – and will tell you, “Oh yeah what you’re doing is amazing”, but then don’t stand up and help you during a launch or even click on a tweetable.

Don’t hold it against them. People who say one thing might be genuinely wanting you to succeed, but then when the time comes to support, they just miss it completely or realize they have other obligations. We all have priorities in life and you need to respect that.

In fact, I know when it comes down to it – I support who I support too!

It feels personal when someone doesn’t tweet or share for you or leave a comment, but it’s not. Remember that.

Next time – you’ll know who WILL tweet/share/spread the word for you – and who might not!

10. When you demonstrate your knowledge, you turn lurkers into prospects!

Launching means you demonstrating your expertise with people.

Even if they aren’t convinced to buy – you have shown them you mean business, you are knowledgeable, and if they liked what you taught them – they will be back.

Often – someone can follow you quietly for years and then suddenly buy something or decide they want “in” on what you’re doing.

There are people who’ve been with me since I was writing about fitness, pilates and productivity… imagine how nervous I was to reveal that I wanted to stop all that and teach launching??

I was shocked when the hands raised one by one by one… and that audience I was so afraid of sharing my expertise with…they wanted it all along!

4 Reasons To Love Launching

Now – beyond benefits – the 4 words that express why I love launching, love watching people launch, and love getting people excited about their own launches:

Clarity + Growth + Money + Process

So – If you think you’re not ready for launching… consider being ready for a little or a lot of all of these words to describe what’s happening in your business?

What you can do right now

#1 – If you haven’t read the 9 launch mistakes post – go now, read it and post your homework in the comments.

#2 – Which “mistake” have you made that you can learn from, turn it around, reframe it and use it as a starting point to planning your next launch? It’s all about the rebound – share the lesson and what will shift next time out for you.

Talk to you in the comments below!

-Anne

Anne will be presenting at an upcoming thinkspace event: February 14, Fearless Launching: The Beginner Launch, Workshop #1.  For more information and to register for this event, click here.

PR Tips with Forbes Contributor Kelly Clay: Brown Bag Lunch @ thinkspace

Join Kelly Clay, Forbes Contributor and local social media strategist, for a brown-bag lunch at thinkspace on October 23 to learn PR and Marketing tips and tricks for your startups. With years of experience as a tech journalist – and even more in the social media space – Kelly knows what it takes to get the attention of bloggers and journalists at blogs that and help make or break your next launch or announcement. Learn why it’s important to develop relationships with bloggers months before you even think about sending a press release, the importance of a great email subject line, and why embargoes might hurt more than help. A Q&A sessions will follow to help answer all of your burning questions. Bring your friends! All thinkspace members are free. Register!

PSBJ’s Social Selling Made Easy: 10 Strategies & 10 Free Tools To Find Ready Business on the Social Web

One of the greatest opportunities for B2B organizations with the social Web is to find, engage and convert prospective customers well before they’re actively ready to buy. The channels, relationships and content available openly across the Web make it easier than ever to build strong, scalable pipelines of near-term and future business. Of course, one of the problems with the social Web is that it’s like the biggest, best library in the world— with all of the books on the floor.

This session will focus on helping you organize, harness and capitalize on the information, buying signals and qualified prospects identifying themselves to you online every single day. With a mix of strategies, tactics and tools, we will give you a head-start towards filling your sales team’s pipeline with more qualified prospects and conversion opportunities.

All attendees will receive a free copy of Matt Heinz newest book, Successful Social Selling. Matt is also the author of many other books including Sales for Startups. Matt is President of Heinz Marketing.

Registration is required: Register here.

When: Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 8:00am-9:30am
Where: thinkspace, 1st floor conference room. 8201 164th AVE NE, Redmond, WA 98052
Cost: Cost: $74

Sponsored by: Puget Sound Business Journal

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Recap on the Future of Mobile with Charlie Kindel

Charlie Kindel spoke about the Future of Mobile to a packed house last night. I was going to write up a recap of the event but Curt Woodward with Xconomy did an execellent job! Enjoy!

No Appletini’s Here: WordPress Hackfest

We’re doing a half day WordPress Hackfest next week on December 28th. This isn’t going to be a “Sean-o-thon”, no big name speakers or WordPress Guru’s, just a bunch of entrepreneurs and startup folks looking to revamp their WordPress websites together in the comfort of thinkspace. Dress comfortable so you can get wired-in! We’ve got plenty of coffee, power, bandwidth (100 mb/s), and whiteboards. For me, I’m just looking to massage our thinkspace website which is 100% WordPress. I just need to get it cleaned up so it’s ready for 2012! Please register so we know how many people to expect…

Date: December 28, 2011
Time: 10am…

Videos from #GeekRoast @billwixey @mytamn @alyssamag @pchee

For those of you that missed Seattle Geek Roast or want to watch some of the highlights here are four video clips of Nick and Alyssa sharing their story and providing an update of what they have been going through over the last week. Bill Wixey, Q13 FOX News Anchor, shares his story as a cancer survivor. My Tam Nguyen, shares her story about her battle with cancer. It was quite an inspiring evening — you can read the recap if you’d like. The last video is of me addressing the standing room only crowd.

Nick & Alyssa Magnotti at Seattle Geek Roast:

[youtube_sc url=http://youtu.be/oFOMJszFsWk]

Bill Wixey at Seattle Geek Roast:

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyKSitfjFWM]

My Tam Nguyen at Seattle Geek Roast:

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUhbGo-299c]

Peter Chee at Seattle Geek Roast:

[youtube_sc url=http://youtu.be/cepEgw4cq40]

Ways to Continue to Give:

  • Write a check to “Nick Magnotti Benevolent Fund” and mail your check to Thinkspace, c/o Nick Magnotti Fund, 8201 164th Ave NE, Suite 200 Redmond, WA 98052
  • Drop off your check at any BECU Branch and say it’s for the “Nick Magnotti Benevolent Fund”.
  • Go to NCF Seattle and click on “Benevolence & Ministry Funds” on the right hand side of the website and find the “Donate” button next to “Nick Magnotti Fund”.