Execution Always Trumps New Ideas

Idea_vs_ExecutionIdea versus execution. It’s an on-going debate in the business world. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of experts who say coming up with a great business idea is not enough, it’s the actual execution that matters. Since I agree, it’s always nice to read another article that supports that side of the argument, especially one that cites good examples to make the point.

In her recent article, Execution, Not New Ideas, Give Startups Edge, ZDNet’s Jamie Yap joins a growing chorus who believe that an idea is not enough. Yap gets right to the point by saying, “Startups should be less hung up over how to reinvent the wheel with new ideas, and focus on execution because that is critical for overall success…”

She also cites Casey Lau, co-founder of StartupsHK, an open support group for Hong Kong startups, to support the argument that execution, not new business ideas, is what makes startups successful in the end.

Facebook and Android are both examples of execution trumping new ideas, Lau notes. While it was not the first mobile platform, Android deviated from the “walled garden” approach of iOS, which contributed to success of the now ubiquitous platform, he points out. As for Facebook, it copied various ideas from social networking of MySpace to break into the consumer mainstream.

In both cases, and fortunately for us, entrepreneurs found ways to execute a creative transformation of ideas that had already been done. Proving once again that coming up with a great business idea isn’t the hardest part of doing innovative things.

Source: ZDNet

Connecting With Your Customers Offline

Some small business owners are starting to believe the myth that online social networks are making it unnecessary to personally meet with clients anymore. But in reality, face-to-face meetings are the most effective way to build strong relationships with customers, or anyone for that matter.

Let’s not totally overlook the importance of using online networking to help your business. Social media marketing can be coupled with face-to-face marketing as well. Since social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have already made their stamp in the business world, why not work with them?

Melissa Strong, the owner and designer of SoChick! Handbags & Embroidery, uses social media platforms, like Pinterest, to promote her business online. But she also realizes the value of customer interaction as well.  “Networking, both online and in my local community, has been crucial to gaining new customers,” says Strong, a very social person who enjoys the personal aspect of her business. “You have to put yourself out there to bring in business.”

In August 2009, Strong started SoChick as a part-time business in Havelock, NC, after teaching herself how to sew. Her venture turned into a full-time business in 2010 when her family and friends started asking if they could buy her handbags and embroideries as gifts.

Strong plans to celebrate SoChick’s two-year anniversary mark next month by continuing to do what she does best — using personal connections with customers to help her business grow.

“I feel that letting my personality shine through really helps me connect with my customers, and potential customers, when they see the real person behind the business,” explains Strong. “When customers know that a real human being, with real interests and ideas, is running the show, it makes a connection with folks that will help them keep your business in mind.”

How to Make a Personal Connection with Customers

This Entrepreneur.com article provides seven ways to build relationships with prospects that lead to more sales:

It isn’t always enough to create and promote an outstanding product or service. Often, your sales approach matters just as much as what you’re selling. The most successful entrepreneurs create a connection with the customer by bringing their own personal touch to the sales process.

“People buy from people that they like and can relate to,” says Adrian Miller, a sales trainer based in Port Washington, N.Y. “When business owners overlook the importance of that personal connection, they run the risk of losing the prospect to someone else–usually someone who took the time to create a relationship and help the prospect buy something rather than trying to simply sell to them.”

Read the entire article to discover seven tips on salesmanship that can help you develop that special rapport with potential customers.

See What Your Friends Are Selling On Shook.co

Finally, you’re ready to get rid of that old Yamaha keyboard or part ways with an adored iMac — the one with the Dalmatian pattern. There are plenty of sites where you can sell your used goods online. But if you prefer selling your old merchandise to people who you know will benefit from them, join Shook.co.

Shook.co is a social marketplace where you can sell your used belongings online to Facebook friends. The site lets you auction second-hand items (and new ones too) and have your friends and their social networks compete over it. All you have to do is list the item, describe it, take a picture of it, and explain its condition. Then sit back and let the bidding begin!

Shook’s story exemplifies social shopping at its best — bringing together trusted friends as sellers and buyers, while creating a forum where they can recommend purchases and share their buying experience.

Niv Taiber, Co-founder of Shook.co

“Why not let people use their social influence to sell their items?” asks Niv Taiber, the 26-year-old co-founder who explained the idea behind Shook when he launched it in June 2012 with Idan Lahav. “We wanted to improve on social shopping by giving people a better experience.”

Social Shopping Will Become the New Standard

Social shopping has never been as popular as it is today, with more people using Facebook to share a deal with friends, and maybe help them save money too.

Seventy-five percent of shoppers who read social sharing comments have clicked on the product link in their friends’ Facebook posts, taking them to the product page on a retailer’s Web site, says social media and online marketing blogger Jeff Bullas in his article, 5 Reasons Why Facebook Drives Consumer Buying – Infographic.

As more Facebook users share shopping experiences with their network, Shook is among a growing number of sites that are using established online social networks and tools rather than trying to build their own.

“We give sellers the tools to spread the word about their items,” says Taiber. “When an item is liked by a Facebook user, word about the item spreads to their network of friends.”

A Blog Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Shook is a very young company and marketing remains a challenge, explains Taiber. “It’s hard to raise money to launch your business, but it’s even harder to market your product.” He attributes much of Shook’s effective online marketing to their blog, which also helps to promote items that are being auctioned in Shook’s marketplace.

“We have a very good social manager that is on the blogosphere 24/7,” says Taiber. “She uses the blog to get traffic to our site and gives the items a personal touch, letting them have a greater chance of selling.” [Editor’s note: Shook’s social manager Jackie has an awesome blog, check it out.]

After the site launched, Taiber didn’t have to go far for some initial support. “The first 20 people to upload to Shook were friends and family. We just asked them to upload an item.”

The second wave of sellers is what he is focused on now. “We are creating value for them by blogging about the items that are uploaded.”

Taiber’s Advice for Startups

“The most important thing is getting your idea started. Once you start, you can improve on the original idea. You don’t have to wait for the perfect idea. Every idea has its flaws. But you just have to start working on it and then you’ll figure out the answers.”

Need A Winning Idea? Simply Ask Potential Customers

Arrange a focus group with little or no cost by using your social networks to conduct discussions online.

AnyMeeting is a free, ad-supported online meeting platform

If you are interested in starting a business, but don’t yet have a winning product or service to sell, improving an existing product might be the most obvious solution. Soliciting ideas from a focus group of potential customers is a good way to discover how a product could be better.

Many innovative businesses succeed by simply ‘tweaking’ popular products to make them more appealing to customers. In other instances, some companies have either figured out a new way to deliver an existing service, or introduced entirely new ones.

How will you know if your new and improved product will be a hit with customers? An effective way to gain helpful feedback is to form a focus group of potential customers.

Your focus group needn’t be expensive to deliver valuable qualitative information. An affordable and convenient way to moderate a brainstorming session is over a conference line, or it can also be a conducted online.

Rely on your network of LinkedIn contacts, business associates, or Facebook friends by asking them to participate in your focus group. After all, they will eventually become the end users of the product or service that you plan to sell.

Arrange an hour-long virtual group discussion by using services like AnyMeeting, an online meeting platform. AnyMeeting may be an appealing way to conduct your online session because it’s a free, ad-supported software-as-a-service (SaaS), which means there is no cost to you.

“Conduct a focus group where you get a group of maybe ten customers or even people who did not purchase your product, and ask questions,” recommends Lisa Rodriguez, founder of Next Level Consulting & Virtual Assistance, a small business consulting and virtual assistance firm based in New York City.

Asking your focus group for suggestions and comments will often prove to be invaluable marketing advice and sometimes can come as a surprise, says Rodriguez, who compiled important questions to ask: What did they like if they purchased, and if they did not purchase, what caused them to hesitate? Is there something that could be done to improve the product in their eyes? Did the copy fully explain what the product does for them and how it will be valuable to their situation?

To learn more valuable tips on how to improve a product and conduct your own product brainstorming session, read Lisa Rodriguez’s article, How Do You Improve Your Existing Product or Service?

Every Small Business Has a Story, So Tell Yours

Good stories always capture the listener’s imagination. They draw people in. In the same way, a compelling story about your business can win the hearts, minds and wallets of customers.

Whether you put an anecdote in your newsletter that explains why you started your business, or you create a YouTube video to demonstrate what your business does, a good business narrative will make a lasting impression.

People love stories.

“Every small business has a story— and people love to hear them,” states ConstantContact blogger Ryan Pinkman in his article, 7 Things People Love More Than Being Sold To.

Most people don’t respond well to a hard sales pitch, explains Pinkman. But an intriguing story about your company can improve your chances of making the next big sale and driving business results for your brand.

Sharing stories is a prominent theme on The Marketplace, an online market that sells goods from a carefully selected listing of small businesses.

Each company submits an “Our Story” profile to help promote their products across a variety of categories, including food and drink, camping and outdoors, toys and games and education.

The Marketplace is the latest iteration of Markdown.com, flash-sale site owned Glenn Beck’s multimedia company Mercury Radio Arts. As much as I dislike Beck’s political viewpoints, I do agree with his patriotic testimonial about small business owners, “their stories, their products and their passion is what makes America great.”

Marketplace President Keith Ferry says it better in a GigaOM interview where he explains the Web site’s rigorous selection criteria.  Each business has to have “a story to tell,” Ferry says. For example, maybe “they suffered a layoff and picked themselves back up off the mat to support their family. That’s probably the biggest requirement. Each company has a story to tell about why they’re doing what they’re doing. Our audience connects very well with that.”

Just tell your story, and we’ll will take care of the rest.

Google and American Express know every small business has a BIG story. Last October, they launched a partnership contest called My Business Story. The co-sponsored YouTube channel lets small businesses owners make and upload a professional-quality video that tells their story.

The My Business Story channel features a trove of interesting (and short) YouTube videos showcasing inspirational stories told by entrepreneurs.

Create a video to tell your story.

If you to create a free 30-second version of your business story, consider using Animoto.com. It’s an online video creation service that lets you create and upload videos from your photos, video clips, words and music.

Use the site’s online tools to add a business profile, sample of your work, or fun product highlight to social media platforms, YouTube, your website, or blog. Once you’re done, you can share your video via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or email.

After you sign up with Animoto, you can choose from its three different price plans: Lite – free, unlimited 30-second videos; Plus – $5/month or $30/year to produce unlimited full-length videos, 600+ music tracks, and ability to download to a computer; or Pro – $39/month or $239/year to create unlimited full-length videos, 1,100+ music tracks, and download to computer or DVD.

Using Twitter and Facebook to Turn Digital Creations into Cash

Hundreds of companies have gone bust trying to make a few bucks from Twitter and Facebook. TweetBookz.com and Shook.co are two startups that are standing out in a crowded marketplace by creating unique services designed to make money from Twitter and Facebook users.

Turn your best tweets into a book.

TweetBookz lets you create and order high-quality books of your tweets. The idea for the service was launched in November 2009 by Asael Kahana and Jacob Shwirtz, co-founders of an Israeli-based boutique Web strategy agency known as Definitely Something.

“Reception has been amazing,” says Shwirtz, who left daily work at Definitely Something in 2010 to join MTV Networks / Viacom Media Networks to focus on social viewing and other new trends involving the future of television.

TweetBookz founders Asael Kahana and Jacob Shwirtz.

“I am most passionate about how and why people do what they do online,” states Shwirtz on his LinkedIn profile. “I am a student of the Internet and have been lucky enough to be a part of many projects that have taught me a great deal about trends, buzz and what people really want.”

TweetBookz, priced at $14.99 for a soft cover and $24.99 for a hard cover, are available in four unique designs. The books have full color covers and inside pages of black and white. Each one stands 5.5 inches high and 8.5 inches wide and features up to 200 of your tweets, one per page, starting from the most recent.

Last year TweetBookz, which is not affiliated with Twitter, formed a partnership with celebrated director Kevin Smith to create PodBookz, which allows any podcaster to get customized books of their own content.

See what your friends are selling on Facebook.

Shook.co recently launched their beta site to join the ranks of e-commerce platforms trying to make money off of Facebook users. It’s an auction market that helps sellers and buyers connect using Facebook’s social fabric, turning auctions into valuable and fun events.

If you have anything lying around you always wanted to sell, post your item on http://www.shook.co and connect to potential buyers using Facebook. The auctions are meant to be social, so you can invite your friends to join, bid, like or comment on them.

The price per item offered to be sold through Shook.co can’t exceed $1,000. Additionally, bids placed by sellers can’t be lower than $10.

Shook.co claims its auction market will ensure fair prices, trust and transparency among buyers and sellers.  It is designed help friends find folks with the same interest. The idea is to make it very easy for you to connect, vet identities, and feel comfortable about selling and buying stuff through Facebook.

The 10 Biggest Small Business Startup Mistakes And How You Can Avoid Them

Mistakes made can be our greatest teacher, so the best startup advice comes from the first-hand knowledge of what not to do. We spoke to some business owners who shared their hard-earned experience and the insight they gained from their own lapses in judgment.

If you’re looking to get your business off the ground, consider these following pitfalls.

The 10 What Not To Do’s When Starting Your New Business

#1: Not Anticipating Your Customers’ Potential Needs

If you decided to open up a cake business, did you even consider that a good number of your future customers will also need to have the goods delivered to them as well?

Many businesses entail additional needs aside from their core product or service. If you can’t provide this yourself, coordinate with a third party to make your respective services a seamless package for your clients.

Taking the time to plan ahead will add to customer satisfaction and avoid headaches before they happen.

#2: Jumping The Gun

Although skimping on the essentials (e.g. a reliable computer) is a no-no, it’s dangerous to squander all of your resources at once. Allow yourself enough time to make the inevitable mistakes that will help you refine your business plan.

Give your business time to evolve organically and hold off on spending too much capital in the beginning. In the long run, you’ll need the financial leverage to make the necessary adjustments after you’ve experienced the hands-on feel of your business.

#3: Not Having A Unique Selling Point

Surprisingly, an alarming number of new business owners ignore this piece of startup advice. Everything starts with a vague idea, but you won’t get far if you haven’t refined exactly what you want your business to do.

To help you with this, think of the top three problems that your product or service solves. Being very specific about these fundamental goals adds clarity to your business goals and focuses your limited resources in the right direction.

#4: Starting Without An Online Presence

This one here could be the #1 mistake moving forward in the future of business. Nearly every company out there nowadays have some sort of online presence whether it be a Facebook page, Twitter account, website or domain name & e-mail. If you have none of the before mentioned then you have made it incredibly hard to be found by the rest of the world.

We are in the age of silicon business, where most people shop online, google for company contacts and e-mail instead of picking up the phone. If you have not even considered being part of the online world, you will be left behind as most competition understands that the eye balls have shifted from hard copy Yellow Pages to search engines and mobile internet access.

Even if you have drummed up enough interest in your startup, you also need to be prepared when word gets around and people beyond your network start looking you up online.

#5: Relying On One Client

In a perfect world, every customer you acquire will remain loyal to the end, but everyone knows how fickle-minded they can be.

Are you prepared when your “cash cow” suddenly leaves you for greener pastures? Try to keep your eyes open for other clients who can bring in solid business.

#6: Believing The Flexible Hours Myth

When your business already has some considerable momentum going and you’ve gone past the growing pains, you’ll eventually be able to work fewer hours.

When you’re still starting out however, this really isn’t an option just yet. Remember, the amount of time you invest in your startup is just as valuable as the monetary capital needed to make the business grow.

The reality is that you’ll probably need to put in longer hours than your employees in the beginning. Until things have settled down a bit, you may want to hold off on your dreams of working four days a week.

#7: Being A Control Freak

Learn the importance of delegation. Although we said that you need to put in the hours to make your business grow, that doesn’t mean you should do all the work. In many ways, you need to see things from an eagle-eye perspective and appropriate the right staff to make whole machinery work.

Furthermore, don’t hog the decision-making process to yourself. Get your staff involved and collaborate ideas. Like they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

#8: Ignoring Your Customers

What kills most business startups is simple ignorance of consumer feedback. Bear in mind that one of the most basic goals of any business is to help your customers achieve their dream scenario.

So, it’s important to consider these questions: is my company moving towards or away from this goal? Am I asking my customers for feedback so I can improve potential parts of my business and am I engaging with the public to find out their needs and how we can best supply them with our service.

Setting up a system that helps you answer these question from time to time is the closest thing to having a crystal ball that will help you see a bright and potentially strong future.

#9: Not Having Enough Nerve

More than a few owners have claimed that the best way to build a startup is by using other people’s money and none of their own.

This startup advice might be too extreme for you, but you can apply this in a more realistic way. For instance, your web programmer cousin could build your website for free; maybe your best friend who happens to be a lawyer will be happy to lend a hand with the legal paperwork.

Don’t be afraid to pull some strings or call in some favors. Chances are, your family and friends will be more than happy to offer their support – and it doesn’t always have to be the monetary kind. But you’ll never know if you don’t ask!

#10: Not Knowing Your Market

Who exactly are you targeting? Tech-savvy computer users? Other business owners interested in results and not data? Web-challenged homeowners who need your caring guidance?

Zeroing in on your niche is a must because your marketing and all other business operations will depend on this key aspect. By having a crystal-clear idea of who you’re selling to, you can further sharpen your unique selling point (see # 3) and give your customers what they want.

Every business owner wants to be their own boss, so heeding sensible startup advice will help you enjoy the benefits of entrepreneurship and avoid the typical mistakes that will slow you down.

This article was originally posted by Joel on Addicted2Success.com