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.

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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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A Meta-Curation of the Best Growth Hacking Curations (Say Whaa?)

Ever since growth hacking started trending, people have been competing to create the ultimate curation of growth hacking resources. I don’t know about you, but all I’ve wanted to do is put all those curations in one place.

Well, I did, and I’m depositing them here.

hoardingbefore

Truth is, I’ve always been obsessed with collecting collections. I know it sounds crazy, but in terms of exploring a subject thoroughly, a great collection can be better than a MOOC! And like my friend Ariel here, I’m a secret/now outed hoarder.

Notable example: My Planet of Useful Curations collection on Product Hunt.

I suggest picking one of the following mega-curations (the ones in the first half have more than just tools) to learn from and checking out the bonus mini-curations as well, as extra material at the end for some extra shots of knowledge.

And I sincerely hope you don’t get dizzy from this cluttered post. 😛

Ready? Let’s start with the top 6…

The Guide for SaaS Startups

This *might* be my favorite one. The guide outlines a whole process – pre-launch and after launch, and every section explains everything you need to do, includes the right tools to use, and links to helpful resources. If you need a step-by-step kind of thing, this is your guide.

GrowthHackers.com

There’s a great collection of “growth studies” on the site, where popular companies get autopsied by growth hackers. Other than that, you have to search a lot and engage some, but I think it’s worth it. Just think of the knowledge you’ll gain after having followed some of the pro’s.

It can get overwhelming how something is trending today and the next day it’s something else, but if you’re serious about becoming a growth hacker, you should hang in there. Good luck!

TigerTiger’s Sourcebook

This sourcebook looks almost too intimidatingly cool.

I’ll let you decide whether you like the design or the contents better, because I have not finished reading all of it. But I admire these guys for putting so much effort into it (and making it into a guide).

Roy Povarchik’s Google Doc

It’s called The Ultimate List of Tools for Growth Hackers. Roy is a friend and a very intuitive growth person. (I never know what to call my colleagues seeing as many of us don’t take the title “growth hacker” seriously.) He started this public document so that everyone can add their stack. Including you!

The Marketing Stack

The Marketing Stack was on Product Hunt yesterday. It’s made by Ben Tossell, who is an excellent curator. It’s full of tools for every need (and I mean every need), and some articles thrown in. Worth a bookmark.

35 Tools for Non-Tech Founders

It sucks to be the one who can’t put two lines of code together, but when you have this curation of tools for people like me, you suddenly feel like you can do anything. Let’s face it: everything has got their own strengths, and we don’t really need marketers who can code, like we don’t need developers who can market. What we need is a symbiotic relationship.

And now a shameless plug.

i'm awesome

By Yours Truly

My own collection is a little bit messy right now, but it includes all the people, blogs, tools, and articles you should be checking out. And I update it compulsively, so if I see something really cool, I add and tweet it.

If you have any suggestions of resources to add, let me know.

Bonus Curations

(because there are plenty of things left to hack)

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Other Than Curations

Guides

Austen Allred’s Book

The full title of his book is “The Hacker’s Guide to User Acquisition“. So far it has three (very detailed and insightful) chapters about getting press, twitter, and instagram. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for the rest! Austen is one of my favorite growth hackers (I mean, just look at what he did with Glasswire), even though he doesn’t like the term.

Quicksprout’s (Visual) Guide

Who doesn’t love Neil Patel’s guides?! Seriously.

This is one I’d recommend to complete newbies. It’s very detailed and visual, and it explains all the basics, from what growth hacking is and what the funnel looks like to specific growth tactics on every level. There are no outward links and not too much detail, so it’s mostly just a crash course.

The Developer’s Guide to App Marketing

I hunted this a while back because it’s the most useful and succinct guide for app marketing I have come across. It has simple hacks and links to resources, but it’s mostly for developers, as the title says.

Courses

One Month Growth Hacking

I haven’t taken this course, but I can imagine it’s as brilliant as every other course started by Mattan Griffel. He is the true master of optimizing the growth funnel, and if you take this quick course, you will be, too.

Ryan Holiday’s Growth Marketing Course

I have not taken this one myself, but I have read Ryan’s books, including the primer to growth hacker marketing, and even though I would mainly recommend it to beginners, I’m sure the course is worth the $39, especially seeing as it includes some bonus material. Check out his resources, too.

Blogs

Groove’s Blog

Among the obvious choices, Groove’s Blog is my favorite.

From “aha” to “oh shit”, we’re sharing everything on our journey to $500k in monthly revenue. We’re learning a lot and so will you.

What better way to learn than learning alongside someone who is also learning and documenting everything? Exactly.

Other Noteworthy Blogs

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Phew, was that a lot of material we covered or what? If you know of any curations that should be included here, tell me sooner rather than later, and I might include them in my Medium article. Thank you! 😀

How to Apply “Diagram Thinking” to User Feedback at Your Startup

It all started with a tweet by @StartupLJackson:

Blessed is he who, in the name of profit, shepherds the user through the funnel, for he is truly his user’s keeper.

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Jokes aside, this is exactly what we do with “users” (I wish there was a better term for this.). We take them through funnels and user journeys, and if there’s a hitch on the road, we’re back to square one. To find the hitch, we can either stare at analytics all day or actually ask them what went wrong.

Enter user feedback: the land of insights we didn’t necessarily ask for but got anyway. It’s the land that we all have to cross before we get to launch. Because if you launch before going through the motions, that will cost you and it could kill your product.

So let’s try and cross that land together.

Collecting user feedback.

If you’re not collecting user feedback, you are missing a huge opportunity for growth – both personal and professional. Those who skip this step usually end up releasing a buggy app or spending 2 years and $50K on a bust product. Ouch.

Let’s just assume you’ve built an MVP and you’re ready to test it. You have a list of subscribers (if not, read this article) and you’re ready to let them know they can sign up for the beta. But before you send that email, you have to figure out how you want to collect feedback.

Most founders just install a survey widget on their apps: Qualaroo, SurveyMonkey, and even Typeform all have you covered. But is this enough for truly valuable feedback? Will your users volunteer it up? Is that all there is to user feedback: installing a widget and bugging people with emails?

Nope. I’d say there’s lots more to it.

Applying “diagram thinking”.

Those of you who are thinking long-term know that – especially at the beginning – user feedback has its own cycle. It’s not enough to smack something on your app and pray for instant gratification. Or to email thousands of people with a request and wait for the feedback to rain.

Most of the time people don’t respond to general requests. If you want really good feedback, you have to work at getting it, meaning you need to direct your users and ask the right questions. Yes, like the sheep. 😛

However, you must avoid “selective questioning” at all costs. If you ask certain questions and avoid others, you’re guiding the answers, which means you’re still building the product you want to build, not the one your users want to use.

So how can we make sure we get the right feedback and lots of it?

I’ve always liked this visualization based on Dave McClure’s pirate metrics:

leanmarketingfunnel

Whether you call it a lean marketing funnel or pirate metrics diagram, what matters is that this graphic outlines the user journey perfectly. And now I’d like to propose a diagram that attempts to do the same with user feedback.

userfeedbackcycle

So I borrowed this from Edraw because I’m not a very good designer, so thanks, Edraw. Before explaining what all the steps mean, I have to start with this disclaimer: I just made this up and you can mix and match some of the steps to make the cycle more compact. Moving on.

  1. Ask your users for feedback. There’s a variety of tools available to help you do that, but be certain that they offer exactly what you need. For example, if you need to ask specific questions, a simple window with blank space for feedback won’t work. Most people go with Qualaroo.
  2. Guide your users: where to find the feedback widget, what questions interests you, giving them options, etc. I’ll include an example later.
  3. Receive the feedback. Make sure you can access the feedback quickly and easily, and also, that you get all the data you need, including who sent the feedback and what they were doing (with your users’ permission). The problem with most survey widgets is that they won’t show who sent a particular piece of feedback, so if you want details, you’ll have to consider a built-in option.
  4. Apply – implement changes, fix bugs, etc. Address everything. (And if you have doubts about a piece of feedback, make sure it has come from a few sources, not just one. Some people just give opinions and you have to be able to recognize those for what they are.)
  5. Reply – make sure your users know that you got their feedback and you’re working on a solution or just make them feel appreciated. Also, you might want to have a system for updating everyone at once. I’ve heard only good things about Intercom.
  6. Prompt any users who have been testing your app but have not given any feedback. Maybe they just forgot.

And then ask more questions, more users, etc. The cycle can go on and on forever, until there are no complaints and no bugs to fix. Only then have you done your best to improve your product.

PRO tip: Keep “feedback logs” so that when someone asks you something related to a previous conversation (and you can’t remember what it was) or you have to prompt some people but you can’t remember which, the feedback logs will have your back. They don’t have to be super detailed, but they should at least have a name, date, and feedback medium.

Got any hacks?

Sure. 🙂

When we first talked about collecting feedback with my co-founder – Mike Sutton – we discussed a two-pronged approach: installing a widget in the app and emailing beta testers with specific questions a week after they’d started using it. However, we decided to do a little extra:

userfeedbackhack

This is the page that asks our users to register for the beta. As you can see, they’re required to choose one of three ways to give us feedback: in Slack, via email, and over Skype. We wanted to be thorough and give them options, which paid back big time. In a matter of days we got feedback over Slack and the widget, and we get to send the emails today, which means more feedback!

I think in this way everyone is happy – we get feedback from various sources and our users get to choose the way we bug them. 😀

Timing and location are everything. Make sure you position your feedback tools where – and when – it matters.

How important is this?

If you’re still asking this question, here are a few benefits of feedback:

  • it pushes you to satisfy your users’ needs instead of your own
  • it eliminates any false assumptions and challenges your thinking
  • it gives your product more opportunities for growth
  • it improves your product (obviously)

So it solves a few problems that have made a lot of startups fail. For example, the classic “I made this because I think people need it but actually nobody does” or the “I thought my product was perfect for these people but they’re not really interested”, and so on.

Nobody likes to be challenged. I don’t particularly look forward to being proven wrong every day, but this is the price I pay for wanting to create something people will love and use.

If you want to do the same, you’ll have to be ready for:

  • I had assumed this would be a specific iOS app which would work offline.
  • You want to make this more secure. I will be unable to use this until it is resolved.
  • etc.

This is all super constructive and has helped us – at Amazemeet – make our app more secure and more available to unexpected target segments. The above feedback is 100% real. And so is…

  • Nice clean design, tour was great, very intuitive. 
  • I’ve been using your PDF with my Adobe Illustrator open to edit real time during meeting, and this web app of yours saves a hell lot of time.
  • etc.

I can’t wait to see what will become of our little app. In my dreams, I see it big and so helpful that everyone is using it to improve their meetings. But before we get there, we need to see how our users see it.

What do you think about the User Feedback Cycle? Are you applying it? 🙂

How to Battle Content Overload – With the Help of Tools and People

Wow, I’ve never been closer to Content Shock.

Content-Shock-definition

Every day I read, skim, share, and recommend dozens if not hundreds of articles — from Medium, LinkedIn, blogs, and media outlets. Some I find on twitter, others through content discovery tools, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to stay sane throughout this constant barrage.

So I’ve listed ways to discover and curate fresh (or eternally fresh) content below, and I’ll leave it to you to mix and match however you want. The key is to create a healthy system that works and that keeps you sane throughout the process. Still working on mine.

(To see the previews better, click and they’ll open in a new tab.)

#1: BuzzSumo

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BuzzSumo is indispensable.

The tool shows you influencers in a specific field/on a specific topic and shows you the content that’s been most shared in the last 24 hours, week, month, or year. I use it to discover fresh content by searching keywords like managament, startups, and future of work, but if you don’t pay for the Pro option, it only shows the top 10 results.

You can also use BuzzSumo to see what got shared the most in your industry and identify patterns, so that you can create more awesome content.

#2: Buffer

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I considered Buffer’s auto-suggestions after reading my friend Kiki Schirr’s article about it. She’s right that they’re super-clever and targeted. However, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up echoing everyone else’s tweets, and your followers will think you’re another spammer. Nichole Elizabeth Demere advises to:

Counteract it with a lot of original tweets as well.

Besides, it’s worth considering to schedule some of these to come out while you sleep. In my case, those will be the tweets my American friends see in their evening. You can even schedule re-tweets!

P.S. And hey, if you really like buffer’s suggestions and don’t want to sound like an echo chamber, you can always edit the tweets after you add them. 😉

#3: Twitter Lists

Do NOT use some clever tool that automatically lists people who use specific hashtags or keywords. The only thing that does is annoy people.

twitterlists

Instead, take a few seconds to add people — slow and steady — to lists you’ve curated over time, and when you have about 100 people in them (and none of them is too spammy), you have a balanced feed of that particular topic. So when I’m in the mood for design content, I go to my ux twitter list.

And this is just one of the many uses of twitter lists.

P.S. I think Medium is trying to be some sort of expanded alternative to twitter because it’s getting “more connected”. I usually manage to find pretty good stuff in my home feed, so you can try that instead of twitter lists.

#4: Content Curations

foundcywhatread

True, there are a lot of tools and sites that curate the best content — whether by people or some kind of algorithm. Personally, I’ve only come about two useful sources so far: Quibb and foundcy. See foundcy ->

Even though I’m not allowed on Quibb (too VIP), I’ve gleaned a lot of useful links from the email newsletters. As for foundcy, it’s just a small segregator of who reads what.

When it comes to content curations, I like real-time, people curated stuff. The rest is just too impersonal and outdated, really.

I also recommend communities like Inbound, where people upload awesome articles and start discussions around them. There’s a of value in that.

#5: Collect the Best

I think it was Kiki Schirr again who advised me to collect the best articles. It makes sense, but with so many articles coming out daily I hadn’t considered it before. After all there will be new content, right? Wrong, new doesn’t mean better. Now that I’ve considered it, I started using raindrop.io to store the most useful all-time applicable content, for later sharing.

raindropfolders

In my experience, Trello is not the best for such curations. I don’t like Excel either. Guess I’ll have to ask Anuj Adhiya what he uses (because he knows everything everywhere). For now, randrop.io will suffice because it’s easy to use, kind of pretty and colorful, and most importantly, does the job.

What tools do you use to collect useful content? 

P.S. Some people use Pocket, but it gets so messy in there. I wouldn’t recommend it myself.

#6: Start a Group

If you don’t trust auto-suggestions like the ones buffer provides (after all they’re not really real-time), you can gather a group of really good curators on your favorite platform, and share what they found. Kind of lazy, but if you do it right, everyone will benefit from everyone else’s suggestions.

howphstarted

It can be a group on LinkedIn or you can use LinkyDink (which is how Product Hunt started FYI), and you can even use Slack! Whichever you choose, you’ll have access to the best of the best, every single day.

Wouldn’t that be something!

#7: Search on Product Hunt

Product Hunt is my go-to when I want to find something, whether it is a tool or a clever hack. Just go to the home page and use the search option. Use keywords like “news” and “content” and “curation”.

And hey, you can even create a collection on PH that we can all use!

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cartoons_text_the_end_porky_pig_looney_tunes_warner_bros_1920x1080_wallpaper_Wallpaper_2560x1600_www.wallpaperbeautiful.com

That’s all I have for you. If you have any other suggestions, I’d be so happy to give them a try.

We must all strive to learn and improve, and share what works with others, so we keep the helpful circle going. 😀