How to Pivot Like a Pro (Or Like Me Anyway)

We’ve all had to pivot once or twice in our lives and careers. But what’s that about? Why didn’t the original plan work? Why couldn’t you make it work? Well, some of it happens because you jumped in too quick, some because you got lost along the way, and some because people just didn’t buy it.

And trying to “make it work” when it is clearly not is always a mistake.

So here I am, at a crossroads again, or rather building my plane:

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Truth is, I have always wanted my own business. I have never aspired to work for anyone or with anyone for that matter. I just always wanted to be my own boss, and that’s that. You can probably relate.

And since I started my consultancy practice (a few months go), it has been clear that something’s not right. You just know it when you see it: You’re not saying the right things. People inquire but don’t stick around. Your clients think you do one thing while you are clearly better at other things.

Oy vey. It’s a big hot mess, and now I’m cleaning it!

Adaptability is so important that pivoting has become a must. So we either better make the best of it or give up.

And because I’m not a quitter, I devised a plan:

1. Admit it’s not working.

Denial is my favorite thing in the world. Really.

It’s so soft and comfortable, like a bosom to a baby. But once you’ve been at the bosom for a while and you’re not making any real progress, you have to acknowledge that something’s gone amiss.

In my experience if you don’t acknowledge it, something happens that forces you to acknowledge it. It’s one of those things you can’t ignore forever. And once you acknowledge it, you enter a whirlpool of emotions, decisions, and just everything that feels the opposite of comfortable.

pivotingzone2

If you’re there with me, don’t worry, the struggle doesn’t last forever. But it is vital to stick with a direction because pivoting is a ship, and a ship cannot get anywhere without a compass.

Examples of a good compass: A tool, a business framework, a competent friend’s advice. Your childhood diary.

Thus we arrive at my next point.

2. Seek the help of people and tools.

I used to say “everyone is a consultant these days” and laugh about it. Now I’m eating my words because I realize why consultants are vital in today’s business climate.

You know how content was king for a while, until it all became too much, and suddenly curation is queen? Well, same thing for consulting. For a while we’ve had access to so much info and frameworks and business tools that we eventually hit the information black hole: We’re not sure what to use, what works, what works for us, and what’s good long-term.

For example, I believed that Traction was the end-all be-all of startup marketing, and then I saw my mistake. John Bonini talks about it in this blog post. It’s just not a sustainable practice.

This is why even consultants need consultants nowadays.

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The tool that’s helping me pivot right now is Beth Grant’s Archetype Alignment Grid (not affiliated).

Again, it’s not the end-all be-all tool, and it certainly won’t appeal to everybody, but it’s what works for me right now, and I’m happy I accepted the help when it presented itself. 🙂

So perhaps even more important than seeking help is accepting it.

3. Really work on your core message.

Look at your marketing. No really, look at it closely. Does it come off as a little bit scattered? Or does it seem perfectly in sync? If it’s the latter, congratulations; if it’s the former, welcome to my boat.

Talking to Beth (see above) made me realize I didn’t have that central theme in my consultancy, the one that everything revolves around. If I’m a galaxy, this message is my sun, and nothing works without the sun in the center.

Think of it as the Unique Value Proposition of your business.

More than that, it’s your personal Unique Value, your personal Unfair Advantage, not those of your business. I’m talking about what you love, what you’re best at, and what people will pay you for.

Your core message comes from your personal super powers; from your beliefs, your personality, your… fill in the blank.

coremessage2

For example, I’ve been drifting along and trying all the best practices and new trends, but I didn’t really commit to anything. Expert advice became my lifeboat and I drifted away from my message. Without it, my marketing sounded scattered, and as a result I attracted scattered traffic and scattered clients. Needless to say, I’ve been struggling.

But now that I’m getting closer to my core message, I love it!

4. Ignore the voice of fear.

“OMG, what if I lose all of my current clients?”

“What if nobody connects to my new message?”

“What if an asteroid hits us and I die single?!”

What if… what if… what if…

This is a futile game your mind plays when you have no guarantees, but that’s why they said “no risk, no reward” in the first place.

I know why you’d be scared in this situation, I’m scared too. But if we let this stop us from reaching our full potential, then we are robbing ourselves of a stellar future! If you ask any successful person, they’ll probably tell you they did not listen to that annoying voice of doubt and fear. They’ll say they followed their heart/dream/liver, and now they’re reaping the rewards.

It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason:

There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is… which wolf wins?

Answer: The one you feed.

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Why am I pivoting?

If you made it this far, I can tell you why I’m actually pivoting.

Maybe you’ve noticed that I subtly changed my twitter bio, which now says I’m an “organic marketer”. At the same time my last blog post was a curation of growth hacking resources. A bit of a discrepancy there.

Short story, I get a lot of client inquiries (I’ll write about that, too), but something’s not really clicking between me and those people. And I think it’s my lack of focus in my messaging and the fact that I’ve been answering the title “growth hacker” when I really shouldn’t have.

buttondoPicture Deedee squealing “ooh, what does this button do” and then pressing a ton of shiny buttons for no reason. That’s me for the past 7 months.

In the coming days/weeks, you’ll understand what I mean. I’d love it if you stuck around for my journey of self-(re)discovery.

Don’t worry, I won’t change everything. I’ll just sound more like myself.

Thank you for reading all this and WISH ME LUCK.

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P.S. Do you have a pivoting story? I’m collecting those. 😀

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Why Startups Fail and How to Build Up Interest Before the Launch

If you asked me, I’d say:

The biggest reason most startups fail is because they don’t build up to their launch and they don’t market from day one.

It’s like the 50/50 rule from Traction:

Traction and product development are of equal importance and should each get about half of your attention. This is what we call the 50% rule: spend 50% of your time on product and 50% on traction.

Imagine the following scenario:

You’ve worked hard to build the “perfect” app. You’ve fixed any possible bugs, made it look beautiful, and just “know” your market’s out there. On the day of the launch maybe you get lucky and a couple of people write about it, and maybe you even get on Product Hunt. You’re thinking, “wow, I’ve made it”. After the buzz dies down, you’re left with a thousand or so customers who don’t stick around much, and your bounce rate is so big, it would look great if you replace “bounce” with “conversion”.

What happened?! Simply put, you relied on things that don’t last: both press and Product Hunt will give you a nice boost, but you need to build a steady foundation first in order for the buzz to continue building.

What’s your main metric?

Even when you think your app is doing well, it might be dwindling, and by the time you realize, it would be too late, and you’d have to start from the beginning. That’s why you have to have someone on the team who cares about metrics and measures practically everything.

Question: What are you measuring?

If it’s traffic traffic, that won’t help you long-term.

If it’s conversions, great! But are people who converted sticking around or have they abandoned your app right after they installed it? If it’s the latter, I suggest you devise an evil plan to email them a week after and see what went wrong. Maybe there’s a good reason and they can tell you what to improve.

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If it’s how engaged people are with your product, I congratulate you. You’re on the right track because retention is the most elusive of metrics but also the most beautiful. Basically, it’s the white fox of the startup world.

I’m fed up with unicorns anyway.

Timing is everything. (That, and foreplay.)

So you’ve got an app. And a landing page with cute pictures, maybe you’re on twitter, facebook, and you’re going through the motions to be social and human and … wait a second, how long have you been doing this for?

If you just started because you’ve just launched, I think you missed a few steps in between. Experts advise to start marketing as soon as your idea is born. Guy Kawasaki, for example, uses a very clever publishing model where he crowdsources his books’ chapters and asks for feedback. So what he’s doing is getting people’s interest and their investment into the product way before it gets out. That’s classic foreplay.

The longer you stagger the release, the better, but there’s also the other side of the coin – telling people “this amazing app is launching soon” and one year later it’s still a vacant twitter account and no updates in sight.

You have to find the balance and set your own pace. It’s worth it.

How are you luring potential users?

I was going to write an entire blog post about “the common denominator of viral apps”, but this will do. You’re probably thinking it’s something super sexy, but it’s rather something super simple – it’s freebies.

Why do you think all the best marketers offer free ebooks on their sites?

Because freebies equal subscriptions. And every good marketer knows that email is the Holy Grail. Content may be King and Social it’s Queen, but email is the ultimate goal because it’s the most direct way you can contact someone. Everybody has just one inbox (or at least one main one) and they covet it, so when they subscribe, you’ve entered their shrine.

Here’s what the experts do – set up a landing page and give something for free. Or only give early access to some people. Or better yet, release your app for free and show people how fun it is to use before they have to subscribe. Meerkat shows everyone the streams without signing up. Slack and buffer are free until you want the “special features” and by then then you’re hooked.

My point is, give something for free before you ask for anything in return. And NEVER ask for my credit card at the start. Huge turn-off.

Always look for new channels and laser focus on the best ones.

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I’m a fan of the book Traction. In it, you can read about the “Bullseye Framework”. Basically, you have to do little experiments to find the channels that work for you, but you must never say “no, this won’t work” until you’ve tried it.

Once you find something that works, you must really hone in on it. For example, it might be a specific user segment or a specific social platform. Whatever it is that’s really bringing the big bucks, milk it until the cow’s empty. And then do more experimenting to find other channels.

I think you’re supposed to focus on 3 channels and work on those, but never spread yourself too thin. I’m assuming you’ve done your market research and you know where your users hang out by now, so get going.

How are you engaging users?

You can’t just expect people to use your app. It doesn’t happen.

What happens is – people see something cool, they think about trying it but without context or an additional reason to carry on, their interest fizzles out.

In this case, I recommend finding a way to engage your early users. I mean the ones that are really excited about the product. Whether they have four stars on MailChimp or they’re the ones who always give you feedback or reach out on twitter, whatever they do, they’re easy to spot.

Think about it like this: Your goal should not be finding new people endlessly. It should be keeping your most engaged users indefinitely.

Product Hunt is an excellent example of this: Ryan Hoover personally reached out to a bunch of people at the start, he constantly asked for feedback on everything – new features, new mockups – and thus kept the most engaged users equally as engaged as the day they signed up.

It’s why I open Product Hunt daily. Because he gave me a reason to stick around, then the product became a habit, and BOOM. I am hooked.

Encouraging users to spread the word.

Referrals are usually the most dependable source of conversions. Whether you have launched already or you’re building up to it, it’s important to encourage your users / beta testers to share the app with their friends.

Some marketers use “tweet to download” gimmicks, but I personally prefer well-placed buttons and opportunities to share on social. Furthermore, if your product is good and you’re engaging your users, chances are word-of-mouth will happen naturally. That’s usually the tipping point.

Finally, never assume your work is done. Keep experimenting and iterating because people will not be interested forever. Haven’t we seen enough buzzed-out products that have disappeared a month after launching?

canvasAll of the above? [Case Study]

I can’t really give an example other than my own startup because those are the metrics and results I know best, so let’s go with that.

Here’s how we do it at Amazemeet:

  1. Key metric: Engagements with the Meeting Facilitator Canvas (yep, the pasty thing on the left there)
  2. Timing/foreplay: We’re staggering the launch by doing a 3-wave-beta process where we invite some of our subscribers to test the product so far. That way we can both engage and iterate on the product until it’s market-ready. Also, we have been marketing from Day One. 🙂
  3. Luring users: We gave away the Meeting Facilitator Canvas for free, so we were able to collect some emails for further promotion of our app. The app is based on the Canvas, but way cooler.
  4. Channel focus: At first we went with content marketing, twitter, and trying to build a community on LinkedIn, but honestly, people were just not interested. So we switched to email marketing, viral marketing, and press (because of the results we got from Product Hunt), which according to analytics and product features, hold most promise.
  5. Engagement: We’re constantly encouraging people to try the Canvas and tell us how they liked it. Also, we’re building in-app (unobtrusive, we hope) features that will ask for their feedback and soon we’ll be building a community wherever we see fit. LinkedIn didn’t work, so maybe… Slack.
  6. Referrals: Since we have a large list of subscribers already, this is not a priority… yet. What we need now is mostly feedback.

In the end, everything comes down to this:

Your app needs to have a userbase when it launches. Even if it’s not big, as long as it’s engaged, it will spread.

Mike (my co-founder) and I have come up with our own ideas of launching. For him it’s like a rocket – you know, all the parts releasing and boosting the important ones in space. It’s because he’s a developer. 😀

My idea is that pre-launch is like a tsunami (hang in there) – each wave builds up on the last until one huge wave floods everything and brings after-waves until it settles. (After that, ideally, there’s steady growth.)

So how have YOU been building up to your launch? Leave a comment.

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P.S. I also consult startups on the side. If you’re about to launch or have just launched and struggling, contact me and we can talk about how I can help you.

Why I Give a Lot of Favs on Twitter – It’s Not What You Think

Granted, I don’t know what you think, but anyway. 😀

Ever since I started using my most beloved service on the entire Internet – twitter – I’ve oscillated between three perspectives of viewing “favorites”:

  1. To gain a lot of new followers.
  2. To collect a list of favorite tweets. – (lamest, btw)
  3. To agree with and validate my friend’s ideas.

As a marketer, of course I employed the first tactic over and over – for several accounts, not just @V4Violetta – but… while it gives you new followers: a) it’s not necessarily the followers you’d like, and b) they’re not engaged followers.

So there have been (still are) services that automate giving favorites to a bunch of tweets on said topics or to specific channels or people, etc. But I’ve tried and had no satisfaction from those.

The second one is probably the dumbest thing you could do. I can’t believe I ever considered it! Why do I need such a list… who’s going to look at it? If you want a list of tweets, create a collection, for God’s sake!

So I’ve evolved to the third method – finally.

It took me a while to realize… I’ll never engage anyone if I’m not the one who’s engaged first. (It’s like the whole give-then-take maxim.) Think about it: every day you see this person digging your tweets and you like them. How could you not! They appreciate YOU. So you engage with them, check out what they tweet, and so on. Before you know it, you’re buds… sort of.

Anyway, here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Look around twitter for cool accounts.
  2. Make a list of people you want to be friends with.
  3. Only engage with those people. Every day.

This is what I do. I have a list of 71 favorite people – it started with 20 and it grows every day – and I engage with those daily. They’re friends, people whom I admire, and generally people who tweet interesting things.

Only then will you have an engaged following/community.

And remember, if someone does something nice for you, they go on the list. No exceptions. Also, when someone starts a conversation with you, you might also consider putting them on the list. I mean, not everyone on twitter has the ability. Some people just use it to dump opinions. :/

So that’s why I give favs – to appreciate people I like.

Because they’re awesome, because they deserve it, and because my day’s better for it.

And I give A LOT of them because I’m generous with my attention when it comes to people. I might not read your entire article (I appreciate it if you got this far on mine), but I will read and think about your tweet. If it’s awesome, like you are, I’ll share it and talk to you about it.

That’s what cyber-friends are for.

What about you? What’s your twitter style?

P.S. I realize this should be a different story for brands. You should engage influencers, yada yada. Don’t bother. They’re way too busy on twitter. I suggest – instead – to engage real people. I did that over on @MeetBeTweet and it worked, for the most part. Besides, I’ve always said that brands should be more human. 😉

How to Find Your Future Clients on Twitter (Startups, This Is for You)

I haven’t written one of those posts in a while, so:

  1. If you’re against “hacks”, don’t read this.
  2. I’m not advertising anything. Really.

(Before stumbling across this approach, I was desperately looking for twitter lists and using twitter search and channels, resulting in a lot of wasted time. There are three problems with this approach:

  1. The people in those lists don’t necessarily need your product.
  2. The people you find don’t necessarily need your product.
  3. The people in those channels don’t… you got it.

Therefore what you need is people who need your product. Duh!)

So yeah… the new strategy is simple and fast. Just follow the steps:

  1. Go to Product Hunt and search for tools your target users might find useful (not to mention the collections are pretty handy as well).Example: You’re promoting an ebooks platform. Search ‘ebooks’ and check out all the apps/products that come up.
  2. Go to the product’s site and hunt down their twitter handle.
  3. Go to the twitter profile, then to followers.
  4. Manually follow every person you think matches your definition of target user. (I usually pick keywords -like CEO, entrepreneur, etc.- and follow those accounts as I scan down the list.) Don’t follow bots!
  5. Wait a couple of days for people to follow back.
  6. Go to manageflitter.com and unfollow those who didn’t follow back and start the process again. You can also branch out to searching for similar tools that would be of interest to your target audience and following their followers. The circle can go on forever. ☺

Disclaimer: Don’t follow 1000 people at once if only 100 are following you. You have a reputation to uphold. Pace yourself and do this right.

Simple, no? And it works like a charm.

How do you build your startup’s twitter following?

P.S. Obviously, you have to provide value on twitter as well. Don’t expect people to follow you back for nothing. My pet peeve, for example, is startups who tweet and blog nothing but updates about their product. I mean, who cares?! Engage us!

To engage a following, I’d advise to:

  • sound human
  • tweet relevant content
  • answer mentions quickly
  • tune into channels like #startups and-
  • tweet photos/screenshots

(Here’s a more detailed “twitter strategy” if you’re interested.)

P.P.S. On the subject of this being a “spammy strategy”, it’s up to you how you’ll pace yourself and how you want your product to behave on social media. I use this approach because it saves time in finding potential clients.

P.P.P.S. This post was originally published on Medium