It probably goes without saying, but developing a notable brand can have a monumental impact. An even bigger impact than you were just thinking. A little bigger than that. We'll stop now. Your brand is so much more than your logo and colors. When done right, your brand is the catalyst for everything from effective marketing and faster sales growth to your internal culture and eventual exit...if exit is indeed a part of the plan. The idea of creating a brand and community that real human people want to engage with, become immersed in, and ultimately tell their friends about is game changing.
Not just marketing, but notable marketing. At every touch point. What's your email receipt look like right now? What does your customer first see when they get so excited to open a package from you? Does your marketing get people talking? Do you come up with a detailed marketing plan before adding a new product or expanding into your next vertical or releasing a new feature? Do you get creative, but also use data to press on what's working? What risks do you take? How do you find the balance between paid and non-paid marketing so you can afford to acquire customers, spend enough to keep them, and then grab as much lifetime value as possible? That was the most number of questions ever asked in one single paragraph.
Companies measure their success using lots of different metrics. Ultimately though, if you're not selling whatever you're building than who cares about anything. So often we get caught up in all the everyday chaos and we end up focusing considerably less on sales than we should. I was going to add a Boiler Room quote here but it seemed too obvious...better to write about not including the quote.
Product roadmaps, hitting deadlines, prioritizing the hundred great ideas you have, creating an exceptionally simple user experience, building out your engineering, design and product teams, handing your product to someone in a coffee shop to get feedback from a real person. Plus, testing everything and using data to drive decisions, solving bugs when there's no time to solve them, getting your engineering team to communicate well with the rest of the company...it's all hard. We have been through the chaos and can help with any or all of it.
Customer service can be a key acquisition and retention channel. There's nothing better than flipping a tough customer into a lifelong brand ambassador for your company. We live for those moments. Your team should deliver such amazing customer service that your customers feel compelled to tell ten, no eleven, friends about your company. As the leader, you need to care as much about the customer asking where their package is as you expect your customer service staff to care. Delivering beyond amazing customer service isn't easy. And it only gets harder as you grow. At Moosejaw and CrowdRise we actually called our system Personal and Scalable. I know, big deal. But we can help you make your customer service so good that it becomes a key driver of sales and loyalty.
Marketing particular products, categories and campaigns is imperative but, great merchandising goes way deeper than that. How are you thinking about price, are you segmenting well, are you creating great partnerships with your vendors, is your merchandising team communicating relentlessly with finance and marketing and, can you name what movie this quote is from...”Well, legally speaking, there will be a loose affiliation. But, we will give nothing back to the academic community. As well as provide no public service of any kind. This much I promise you.”
You just gotta know everything about your competitors. That doesn't mean you have to lower your price when they lower theirs but you should know what your competition is doing better and worse than you. And you need to be honest about it. You need to develop systems to monitor and manage it. Your customers and potential customers are all hearing from your competition all the time so it's critical to stay ahead of it. We know this will sound sort of crass but you gotta want to win.
Developing systems is almost always underrated. Do you thank your devops person at least once a day? Is your team required to answer all emails within twenty-four hours, does everyone know how they're supposed to use Slack or Asana or Salesforce? Do you have leadership meetings every other week with systems to hold stakeholders accountable? Are you using systems across every part of your company? Are you sending pizza to your favorite suppliers once a month? Going at your systems and using great tools doesn't always seem cool or fun, but it ultimately makes everyone's job easier and is critical to scaling your company.
You'll spend a lot of time and money driving traffic to your business and converting a small portion of that traffic into customers. It's so important to turn those customers into repeats, and then into lifelong evangelists for your brand. Creating an authentic community that your customers want to be part of doesn't happen overnight or even in a year, but over time, if you invest in it, care about it, get creative and have fun with it, you can create personal relationships with your customers, at scale, that unlock long-term value that will echo into eternity. Know the movie that's from? It's Gladiator. We think Game of Thrones stole it from them.
Solid, timely communication is usually the solution to every problem. It didn't stop my college girlfriend from cheating on me, but besides that, it's really important. And it’s actually relatively easy to be good communicators. At Moosejaw and CrowdRise there was no excuse for an issue to become a problem and then worse...a problem becoming a crisis because of poor communication. That was probably confusing to read but I'm still thinking about the girl from college. Basically, we are big believers in not settling for anything less than being the most communicative company ever.
Titles probably matter, at least as you get bigger, but people don't follow titles, they follow great leaders. Standing on a chair in the middle of two hundred people on your best day is easy...being up there on your worst day is way more important You can have the greatest product in the world, but if you don't have a great leader and fantastic leaderships teams, it will eventually turn into a debacle. And, debacle is not an easy word to spell. We can help solve this one...the spelling as well as the leadership thing.
Culture is important because everyone wants to feel good and valued at work. But, in our experience a positive culture actually leads to better sales, less turnover, and other nice things. Staff that are having fun just do a better job. Staff that aren't just thanked, but are truly shocked by your appreciation will help you build a better company. Your culture is your own and the last thing we want to do is mess up your vibe...assuming your vibe already includes company pool tournaments, flip cup, a Lucky Charms station and Dairy Queen for all birthdays.
We can definitely help with financial modeling, forecasting, and so on. That's the relatively easy stuff. The more challenging part is using your financial data to make smarter decisions (we may have copied that line from a really big consulting company). Do your weekly and monthly dashboards actually drive next steps? Do you use your financial and KPI data to execute on your goals and vision? We've always believed that a top-down approach is worthwhile but that it's the bottom-up analysis, done with input from the people in the grind, that leads to more reliable forecasting and better results. Also, we once did an entire catalog dedicated to our CFO. That's actually true.
There's not much worse than having to worry about cash all the time. It sucks all the energy away from creatively building a fantastic company because you're consumed with going out of business everyday. We called it GOB - Going Out of Business. We always recommend setting aside $5k for the GOB party, JIC. We've been super lucky to have sold two companies. Along the way we've raised money from friends and family, taken out traditional bank loans, come way too close to missing payroll, issued convertible notes, been through seed rounds, secondaries, A rounds, and so on. We understand the challenges of fundraising, the importance of cash, and the value of your equity.
Your Board should add value to your company and if done right, the key people in your business can all contribute to our patent-pending (it's not really patent-pending) process of creating Board Decks. For us, when we learned how to be well-aligned with our Board (it's important to always capitalize that word, Board), they became an awesome resource, created accountability, and helped us stay focused on our vision. As for investors, some will add value and some won't. But, we found that it's vitally important to keep them well informed and appreciated. You never know who is going to make a key introduction, email a great idea, or get you front row tickets to Pearl Jam.
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