Friday, July 30, 2010

Innovation at the Speed of Customers vs. Technical Debt.

Last night, a Karmaback customer asked for the impossible.  Around 6pm EST, I got a message asking how our new Social Coupons can support % rather than just $ discounts... he wanted it right then.  He said simply "how do I do this?".  Well, one answer would be "you can't".  Karmaback's answer, though was, "hold on a second...  let me build it."  That's speed of customer.  Less than 15 minutes later, you could.

How did we do it?  Do we have an army of programmers?  Is it such a trivial thing?  No, and No.  We do it because we have almost zero "Technical Debt."  So adding a feature, by just 1 programmer, can take 15 minutes.  Even when that feature touches 7 different files, including templates and web-pages.

Consider, every time you "don't comment" or you "hack it together", you incur Technical Debt, or stuff you will have to do later... cleanup.  We all know cleanup almost never gets done, so the debt piles up.  Some companies have literally man-years worth of technical debt.  Their entire software has been "kludged" together.

Now consider when  you do it right.  You take the time to "architect, plan, comment, code, test".  You have no technical debt, and you can Innovate at the Speed of Customers!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Karmaback was founded.

"What? You mean we're spending HOW MUCH on advertising?" I asked, dumbfounded at the amount of money we were spending related to the number of units we were selling.  I had just built a new metric for my startup, Bigfoot Networks, called "Marketing Spend/Unit"... or what I thought of as 'customer acquisition cost'.

This scene, and more like it, serve to why Karmaback was founded... where we came from and our main goal.  But first, welcome to the Official Karmaback Blog!  This Blog is an extension to my Blog on Business and is "feedburned" into Karmaback just for you.  Now, on with the story.

"So, we spend $x with Google to get a site visitor, then y% just leave or BOUNCE on the first visit... and so on and so on till we get to what, a conversion?" I asked dumbfounded.  This was my first stint as CEO.  Prior to this I had been in Engineering, Architecture, or Sales... and now Marketing was my #1 expense!

"Okay, so how do we measure when this 1 special Google ads site visitor actually buys one of our products?" I asked, hoping for the best.  I got the worst.

"So, we don't have any way to know if that customer who we say 'converted' because he clicked on a reseller link, actually bought or not... so, we have NO idea to know if all these Dollars we're spending is worth a dime, right?"

This frustration led me on a 3 year chase at Bigfoot Networks to shore up this hole.  I wanted Marketing to justify itself.  I wanted to be able to say $X in marketing spend will yield $Y in sales.  What I wanted, was unheard of.

Years later, I had an idea.  I thought it likely that thousands of companies have this similar problem.  I thought it possible to solve with technology, and so Karmaback was founded.

Our main goal, if you didn't know by now, was to create a system... a fun system... to somehow connect "interest" to "the sale"... in short, to Justify the existence of Marketing.  After looking at the landscape, and building our first product (the like-it-flow), we discovered that MANY companies do have this problem... especially with Social Network Marketing.

Now, 1 year after Karmaback's founding, we are on the threshold of Success.  Using Karmaback a company can:

  1. Grow fans and followers at a low variable cost of $0.25/new relevant fan.
  2. Measure those fans and followers interactions as they "evangelize" and "follow" the company.
  3. Convert those fans and followers into REAL and Measurable sales.
All without the constraints of Time, Space, or Real-estate.

With Karmaback, a company really can justify Marketing.

Call us to find out how.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Karmaback converts FANS into DOLLARS at $0.10 per "social coupon"

Karmaback launches Social Coupons aimed at helping companies convert & reward real sales from Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter.

This builds on our previous product, Social Sweepstakes, which brings companies tons of fans and followers.

Now, companies can BRING fans and followers and then leverage that attention into REAL sales.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Choosing to make a difference with charity over profit.

If you know you could make a difference, would you?  I mean really?  My company, Karmaback, has a chance to leverage some of our profits to help a ton of very worthy charities... all we have to do is... well, do it.  Yes, it will cost us some profits.  The profits we lose are probably 10x in value because of leveraging effects.  So, I ask, if you could make a difference, one where it has a "multiply" effect, would you take it at the expense of some profits?  I would.  Here's why you should, and how you can!

You should take it, because you are doing MORE than just "linear" help.  You are doing non-linear, multiplicative help when a business gets involved supporting a charity.  Your employees participate, your partners participate, and your customers participate too.  For Karmaback, all 3 will be true when we launch our upcoming new program! (more details to come in the future).  So, just find a charity or 2 that you believe in, and do it.  The KARMA you get back will nonlinear as well.

And how can you do this?  How can you participate in charity in a "non-linear" fashion?  Simple, get your business involved.  Don't have a business, easy, get your community involved.  Don't have a community?  No problem, get your family involved.  Don't have a family, for goodness sakes, join a community!  After all, we humans need each other!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

When plans go awry.

In the startup world, plans often go awry.  A well-thought out plan can almost never foresee all contingencies.  Interestingly, many entrepreneurs are so overconfident that they even forgot the obvious contingencies.  Nevertheless, when something doesn't go as planned, a decision usually has to be made.  The decision is sometimes as simple as "fight or flight", and sometimes as complex as "steal or die".  From my life, a real-world example is what to do when you build it, they come, but they don't buy?

My startup Karmaback has had some HUGE success.  We've launched amazing innovative products, collected thousands of fans and followers, and are actually pretty good at bringing qualified customers (companies) to our website.  The problem?  How to get those qualified customers to pull the trigger and start running Karmaback Social Sweepstakes or Social Coupons for their fans and followers.

Classic marketing theory would say, lower the barriers to participation.  For example, we don't offer a "Free Trial".  The problem with this is it goes against my principles.  I don't believe that it is fair for a company to reap the benefits of our thousands of fans AND our viral features AND our platform AND our legal, etc. without paying.  Fairness is a core value, a principle, of mine.  So, what do I do?

Well, when plans go awry, here is what I suggest you always do: stick to your principles.  I believe in fairness, and free is definitely not fair.  But "pure variable" micro-transactions are fair.

So, for now, we're going to begin to offer "pure variable" priced products & services, beginning with Social Sweepstakes and Social Coupons.  Pay only for success.  That's fair, and that's a decision.

Meanwhile, I am looking to bring more "free" stuff to Karmaback for companies.   Stay tuned for parts of THIS blog to show up on Karmaback and for white papers, tutorials, and more to be offered for free.  Why?  Because knowledge should be free... or so say my principles.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Giving with No Expectation of Return.

How many books have you read that describe "tit for tat"?  Classic and neo- negotiation tactics books all describe tit-for-tat as a way to give and expect something back.  According to Seth Godin in Linchpin, this time-honored tradition is simple barter, not gift giving.  Giving a gift has an entirely different meaning according to Seth, and I find myself really enjoying its simple charm and Karma.

For Seth and I, a gift can be anything...  not just something that cost you money, not just something that is physical, and you can even charge money for it.  How?  A Gift is anything whose value far surpasses its price.  People who put their soul, their art, their passion, into their product or service, and for no expectation of "extra/tip/reward" are giving a gift.

In my own life this has lead to 2 things I realized recently: 1.) I should not feel bad about going above and beyond for my customers... it's okay... it's a gift, and I give it freely because I love what I do and I take pride in hard work and others success.  2.) I find myself "leaning forward" into the concept of charity a bit more.  Charity under my own terms, with my own gifts, of course.  Helping others start and manage their business.  Helping grow my beloved town of Austin.  and more... (stay tuned Karmaback fans!).

So, consider... is there something "more" you can "lean forward" into at your own work?  MORE you can do in your own job or art or life that is NOT REQUIRED, but that will likely delight?  Try it.  Give it.  Lean forward.  You'll soon find that you are a Linchpin.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Entrepreneurship: Does early revenue matter?

I define early revenue is the money your business makes before or shortly after a first serious investment.  In  the old days, many companies started up and raised money with no plans for early revenue.  These were R&D type business where the R or the D was going to take several years AFTER the investment.  In the information age, and post-bubble(s), I sense something has changed.  Investors seem less likely to invest in businesses without Early Revenue.  Do you agree?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Leaning Forward": An attitude of Emotional Energy in the workplace.

Seth Godin is inspiring.  His latest book: "Linchpin" is not only a best-seller, but also an amazingly motivating and rewarding read.  It should be read in conjunction with Timothy Ferriss' "4-hour Work Week".  The book Linchpin is the "how" and 4-hour Work Week is the "why".. together they can reshape America.  One of the smaller chapters in Linchpins is sticking with me.  It's the idea of "posture".  People who "Lean Forward" as opposed to "stand by". Are you spending enough Emotional Energy on the job?  Read on.

People who "stand by" are ready to help, but not offering.

People who "stand by" may be skilled and talented, but do only what is needed.

People who "stand by" spend as little effort as is needed to do the job.

People who "stand by" aren't willing to spend Emotional Energy without getting paid for it.

In contrast:

People who "Lean Forward" are looking actively for how to help.

People who "Lean Forward" want to take ownership.

People who "Lean Forward" spend extra effort to make sure its done right.

People who "Lean Forward" spend Emotional Energy, and put more into their job, usually for no "visible" reward.

The question is this: can America afford to "stand by"?  Or should we be "leaning forward"?  Realize this, you can outsource a job... but you can't outsource a person.  People who lean forward can never be replaced.  They are a linchpin.

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