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‘They didn’t do any marketing. They just went to SXSW’

By Francis MoranBell Curve

I’d be a semi-rich man if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone point to one of the spectacularly successful companies that have exploded onto the marketplace over the last few years and say, “They didn’t do any marketing. They just …” and then fill in the blank with some seemingly trivial thing, like “They just went to South by Southwest,” or “They just did social media.”

I heard it again just last week when I guest lectured to a University of Ottawa MBA class, with Twitter and Facebook held up as the examples of companies that “didn’t do any marketing.” As I told the students, Twitter and Facebook are no more examples of predictable startup success than buying a lottery ticket is an example of sensible retirement planning. I drew a bell curve in the air and said that if that bell curve described the distribution of success for a given collection of technology startups, then Twitter and Facebook — and here I moved several meters to the right and stretched my right arm out — are way over here. They’re not even outliers; they’re in a completely different orbit.

And still the mythology persists. I can understand it. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are all wildly successful companies, and who wouldn’t want to emulate them. The truth is, though, that most who do, fail. We hear about the (very) odd one that succeeds but, by definition, we hear nothing about the failures, of which there are countless.

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Entrepreneurship: It isn’t really about the money

By Leo Valiquetteentrepreneur

It’s Entrepreneurship Week.

There are events aplenty to recognize, celebrate and wax philosophical on what it means to be an entrepreneur, what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and how entrepreneurs should be supported, encouraged and nurtured.

As Francis blogged last week, Startup Canada is making its voice heard on the subject this week with Startup Canada Day on the Hill. I also invite you to read the related op/ed I wrote on behalf of Startup Canada.

On Monday, I had the honour of visiting the folks at the University of Ottawa about their various endeavours to support student entrepreneurship, as well as groom a new generation of intrapreneurs.

All of which makes me think about what is an entrepreneur, or perhaps a better way of putting it is to consider what motivates a true entrepreneur. Why do they choose to endure the long hours, the high risk and the dodgy chance of reward? It would appear to be, from a purely rational standpoint, some form of obsessive madness.

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Don’t let your phone skills atrophy

By Leo Valiquettephoneatrophy

I got a call last week from my incumbent Canadian telecom services provider eager to justify its existence to me.

We all get these calls from time to time. One of those “how can we serve you better” calls. This shouldn’t have been surprising, considering how my service provider’s top rival had been crawling all over my neighbourhood the past couple of weeks installing new fibre services.

I don’t mind taking a call in the middle of a workday if the intent truly is to find a better way to serve me, and for less money, to boot.

But my patience had worn thin after 20 minutes on the phone while this less-than-nimble customer service rep fumbled around; it was all for the sake of a mere $7 a month, after all. Then I got lost in some on-hold void waiting to seal the deal with the verifier.

I finally hung up at the 30-minute mark. There was no profusely apologetic followup call through the remainder of that day. In fact, the service rep didn’t call back until the very same time the next day, when I had less time to spare. I didn’t take the call. She never left a message. Maybe I’ll call them back later this week. Or maybe I’ll call those other guys about their fibre service.

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Is your app ready for social media marketing?

By Peter Hanschke social-media-marketing

Every where you turn, there’s an article, blog piece or tweet expressing the importance of using social media to market your product or service. You get the feeling that if you do not embrace social media to market your product or engage with current and future customers, you’re doomed to failure. In principle, I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, but I question whether it’s a “must-do at all costs” kind of scenario. My worry is that businesses — new or established — launch head first into a social media plan without really thinking about whether the timing is right. I suspect in many cases that the timing is too early. In other words, is your product or service ready to handle the potential outcome from the social media cauldron?

To outline what I mean, I’ll use my experience writing and bringing my iPhone app, myFabWines, to market. On August 1, myFabWines was live in the iTunes App Store. Sales to date have been decent, and I have not done any real marketing other than creating a web site and talking to friends and family. During this time, I’ve had some suggestions about what the next version of the app should contain. Many of these requests are actually quite brilliant, others are rather run of the mill. Nonetheless, I realized that in order to satisfy a larger market — i.e. appeal to a wider audience — I need to implement some of these brilliant suggestions.

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The only thing worse than not investing in marketing

By Francis Moranroulette

I’ve had more than a few conversations recently with startup and young technology companies — and with folks like me who try to get them to do marketing well — where the objection to hiring my services or those of other seasoned marketing strategists seems to come down to a question of affordability. It’s true, the services of an experienced technology marketing pro with a healthy track record under her or his belt do not come cheaply. But here’s the thing: Most of these companies are already spending considerable sums on marketing; they’re just spending them in a random and uncoordinated way with no coherent planning and no idea if they’re working or not.

The only thing worse than not investing in marketing is investing in the wrong marketing.

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