October 18, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I came across this Heineken banner ad on Puerto Rico’s main newspaper’s web site today. As usual, I was reading the news from my iPhone. As an advertising geek and former creative director on the Heineken business I was curious to see what the brand was up to these days.
Unfortunately, I have no idea. I clicked on the banner and got this.
I’m curious but not that curious.
I’m an adwhore, I love advertising and marketing. If I don’t want log in to Facebook to see the promotion, then no one will. This banner ad doesn’t ad any value. By forcing me to go to Facebook the experience isn’t optimized for mobile. This means a huge chunk of the spend is being completely wasted.
So who’s to blame?
From experience, my guess is that global marketing bureaucracy is the culprit. It’s not the agency’s fault, not even the local marketing team’s fault. It’s the global brand.
Heineken restricts local marketing groups, like Heineken in Puerto Rico and forces them to stick to Facebook for its promotions. All in an effort to have more control on what smaller markets publish and to unify it’s global message. The result: A crappy mobile experience that in no way amplifies the promotion beyond Heineken’s current fan base.
This is an inefficiency of global marketing structures and the centralization of content strategies. In 2009-2010 I saw brands like Ford and Heineken push for one global message, controlled at headquarters that stripped local agencies of their power to produce content.
Can they afford to keep these structures?
Crappy mobile experience aside, what is more valuable consistency or relevancy? What are you more likely to share, something relevant, or something consistent?
Is there a mobile-optimized way to promote a branded contest that lives only on Facebook?
I would love to hear your thoughts
October 14, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I have validated several startup ideas over the past two years. In almost every case, I handed over close to 50% of the value of these ideas to a technical co-founder.
In July, tired of being so generous, I asked Ulysses S. Grant for some help. Mr. Grant is the president who graces the fifty-dollar bill, which happens to be the amount of money I had to spend to build an Minimum Viable Product to validate my app.
The Idea: Employee Notification System for banks. A mobile app that would allow managers to create notifications, chose distribution groups, send messages to groups via SMS, push notifications and email. The app would also help managers keep their contacts updated and allow them to post schedules.
The Generous Way:
Hey technical guy, please help me! I have an awesome idea, can you develop it? Pretty please? I will give you 50% of anything that comes of it.
The Lean Way:
Build a mobile site with a service like ShoutEm.
Chose a bank logo. (In this case, my sister-in-law’s bank)
Make that logo the icon and background for the mobile site you build.
Build forms for each feature of your app with Wufoo Forms.
Ex. Create a Notification, Upload Schedule
Customize the forms by adding the bank logo to their header.
Set the forms to be distributed to an email list when filled. For ex. Manually enter the 10 employee emails
Add buttons to your mobile site and set each button to link out to the different Wufoo Forms you created. (This is as simple as grabbing the link to each form and dropping it in the settings of each button)
Use ItDuzzit.com to integrate the Wufoo Forms to Nexmo.
It is as simple as dragging and dropping.
In this case, I told ItDuzzIT to send whatever was entered into the WuFoo Form “Create a Notification” to a list of ten phone numbers using Nexmo.
Download a shortcut of your mobile site to your iPhone.
3 days of work to get it right.
0% equity lost
I put my app in the hands of my sister-in-law a branch manager at WoodForrest National Bank. I observed as she used it to communicate with her employees. I built a presentation with screenshots of the app. I included real examples of the notifications she created and conducted dozens of customer interviews using my app as a demo.
What did I learn?
1- Banks managers don’t need an app to communicate with there employees.
2- Entrepreneurs don’t need to give away 50% of their company to a developer to find this out.
Both are absolutely terrible ideas.
It may be lonely to start a company by yourself, but loneliness isn’t worth 50% of your company.
Next time you’re about to start something, make Ulysses S. Grant your CTO. He can get you pretty far. Once you have an order, you can pitch your idea to a developer. You can be polite about it, but there’s no need to beg or say “pretty-please” when you have done most of the legwork on your own.
Thank you Mr. President. It’s a shame it took me so long to reach out to you.
May 11, 2013 § Leave a Comment
For years conference rooms were my stadium. I would walk through hallways of cubicles as if marching out of a tunnel to meet my clients. I would enter my stadium flanked by colleagues and visualize scores of fans cheering for me on the dry erase walls. With a storyboard under my arm I drove down the field for a score. Post game interviews were granted in the elevator and parking lot.
Where is your stadium? That place where months and months of work are faced with a make or break moment?
I’ve had several memorable ones.
- A Hotel in Manhattan, where I pitched Tecate’s Hispanic account for my agency as a rookie copywriter.
- A ballroom in Las Vegas presenting a year’s worth of commercials to the Nissan National Dealers Convention. (Picture a room full of Boss Hog’s from the Dukes of Hazard.)
- A conference room at Banco Popular, presenting what felt like the new business pitch of the century.
- A beautiful farm, trying to get a trained pig to hold still enough for a trick shot that would just make our Heineken commercial that much funnier.
I can distinctly remember how I felt the morning I woke up to undertake each of these challenges. I can remember the excitement of my commute, the feeling that I was headed into the big leagues.
It is worth analyzing how you feel when you approach your stadium.
How has that feeling changed across the years?
Is your stadium as fulfilling as it once was?
For the past year I have launched several tech products, perhaps too many at one time, but my main venture has been Community Patrol, a service that allows neighbors to share crime alerts via SMS, mobile applications and email.
The stadiums of my journey at Community Patrol have been drastically different from those of my former life as a Creative Director.
Board rooms and production sets where replaced by Community Centers. Executives where replaced by worried housewives and security guards. Fortune 500 brands were replaced by family-owned businesses like security companies. (Think “Armed and Dangerous”)
My first sale came in August at the cry room of a local church. My presentation, full of mobile app demos, shared the wall with a poster of Jesus, his hands clutching his sacred heart. Somehow, it all felt like I was presenting at the biggest stadium in the world.
How do you feel in your stadium?
If you don’t hear Michael Buffer announcing your name as you walk into that room. If you don’t hear Howard Cosell call the play by play as you present. If you don’t feel like Chris Berman when you share the highlights of the day with your spouse, “Back, back, back.” It might be time for a change.
If so, check out meetups, classes or a conference. They are great ways to experiment with new challenges. Here’s a few that have helped me across they years.
Check out my Social CV at https://www.rebelmouse.com/fernandezcw/Social_CV/
I happen to be searching for a new stadium. Let me know if you think my skills might help you march downfield.
May 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
What do you do when you feel like your startup is doomed? You panic and pursue a consulting gig to get some cash.
Enter Point Guard Insurance.
I met with Luigi Miranda, the president of Point Guard Insurance, a Puerto Rican car insurance company last June.
I knew that I could use the technologies that power Community Patrol crime alerts to automate customer service via SMS and Mobile Apps.
I also knew, due to a search for a Call Center to help moderate Community Patrol alerts, that Call Centers in Puerto Rico were charging from $5-$7 per call and reluctant to field inbound requests via technologies that would chip away at their high per call charges.
I told Luigi I could save him money. Reducing the amount of calls his call center bills by by automating claim status requests via SMS and an iPhone/Android Application.
He said yes. I automate 5% of the status requests Point Guard receives every month.
In addition to the consulting fee to build the platform I am paid every time a Point Guard Insurance client is anxious to know when they are going to get their claim money for that fender-bender they just had.
March 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
An old Puerto Rican legend tells the tale of the loyal dog of a Spanish soldier. The soldier and his pet patrolled the grounds of a small fort that protects the entrance to the Condado lagoon. The fortified walls, watch towers and cannons kept San Juan safe from pirates and the British fleet.
One day, after years patrolling the fort together, the soldier was recruited as reinforcement for the Spanish Military in Cuba. Soon he was shipped away, leaving behind his loyal pet. The dog watched his master’s ship disappear into the horizon, standing on a group of rocks with the waves of the Atlantic crashing at his feet.
According to the legend, the dog went out to that same point day after day, waiting for the return of his master, his eyes forever fixed on the horizon. Years of longing, petrified him into the rocks, and today, if you visit Condado, you can still see the dog, now a loyal stone, staring out at the ocean.
I’ve always loved this story, but recently I fear that I myself may be waiting hopelessly for something that might never come.
I always pass the legendary dog when I go out for a walk. As an entrepreneur it pains me to feel so identified with his plight. I am constantly refreshing my inbox and verifying that my phone’s ringer isn’t on mute. I am always waiting for a sign of progress: a returned call, a spike in downloads or a reply to an email. I can almost hear a mocking version of the old-school AOL voice saying “You don’t got mail.”
There’s a limit to the amount of proposals you can send and cold calls you can make. Each action you take, sets off a new timer, a new response to wait for.
I guess this is true of any sales job, you’re lucky to get a response for 10% of your calls. But as an entrepreneur, you are the product, unanswered calls become even more hurtful. Sometimes there are streaks of success, days in which you are on fire. But in between, long stretches of silence make it hard to feel productive and stay focused.
I try to escape these silent stretches with long walks. My route forces me to face the legendary dog in Condado.
I admire his persistence but despise the loyalty that blinded him to reality.
This is the great risk of being so personally vested in something. It is easy to become blinded by your incredible loyalty to an idea. It’s hard to discern if you’re waiting for something real, or just becoming a human version of the legendary tale.
I am a very good networker, I take pride in in the response rate of my emails and I have become a good salesman. Are the replies and returned calls validation of these skills or a sign of the value of my product? It’s easy to confuse small short-term achievements, like the booking a meeting, for long-term success. The tide continues to rise and ebb, but will it ever bring the master?
The legendary tale that I loved so much as a child, has become a cautionary one now that I am an entrepreneur. The lonely dog has reinforced the value of the Lean Startup approach to building a company. Lean methodologies help take the stupid loyal dog out of the equation and makes sure that the human behind the project can truly discern when to pivot or simply pull the plug.
I can’t say I have been the best lean practitioner. The loyal dog in me is a strong and hardheaded beast. At times I have held on to an idea for too long, avoiding clear signs of a dead end. I have gotten restless and tried mini-projects, ways to feel productive during the long waiting periods. These detours have only delayed finding out whether my original venture was viable or not.
You can’t just set out to make it happen. You can’t just sit on the rock and do what you know what how to do. You have to set milestones, run tests, and give yourself a deadline. Running lean can help you operate with discipline and keep you from standing there, blinded by loyalty, wishfully confusing the mist of a couple of random waves as a sign that the tide is changing and that your master will come after all.
As I get ready for another pilgrammage to SXSWi this week I look forward to learning from other entrepreneurs who face the same challenges.
I would love to hear of any examples of how lean methodologies have helped any of my readers pivot or simply put your startup to sleep.
If you’d like to contemplate these issues while taking in the view of waves crashing into a Spanish Fort, visit Puerto Rico. Here’s a link to a couple of hotels with a great view of our legendary dog.