There are an estimated 27 million plus small businesses in the U.S. alone. If you’re one of those startups, you know how tough it is to get your message out about the innovative work you’re doing and the products, services or technology you’re producing. Your very success depends on getting the word out to the right target audience who need your solution and making sure you stand out from the crowd.
The trouble is with that many other brands, businesses and public figures vying for peoples’ attention it can be hard to do that in a way that is actually meaningful. You have to compete with the best of the best in order to get noticed.
While no startup should be afraid of competition, what about when you’re faced with a competition where startups are pitted against other startups? Great things, according to Dealmaker Media, who did just that during the summer of 2011.
Competing For Glory
Dealmaker Media wanted to identify the most promising start-up companies in Canada and provide them with an opportunity to pitch at the GROW Conference in Vancouver, so they used the Strutta platform to make that possible.
Entrepreneurs were asked to nominate their companies with a video submission and company description on the competition microsite. Entrants encouraged friends and fans of their company to vote during an initial round of public voting that determined 25 semi-finalists. A panel of prominent investors and entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Canada then selected the finalists to present their business at the GROW Conference.
The Winning Result
The contest received 70 high quality entries, which generated more than 2500 votes. Content was shared more than 1000 times, with the top “viral” entries generating nearly 500 clicks apiece. Nearly 80% of the people who registered to vote in the competition opted in to receive emails from the conference organizers.
Not only did the Startups get a lot of buzz and recognition, but the conference was a big success and now has a healthy base from which to grow. Mircea Pasoi, cofounder of Summify, a service that summarizes your social news feeds, and one of only four companies who won the opportunity to pitch investors, summed it up this way:
“The online voting competition for Grow generated a lot of excitement, we were checking the rankings in the office every day! It was extremely easy to submit our entry with the Strutta platform and we knew we could trust the votes as being real, which made the competition both fair and fun.
To generate votes we shared our entry on Twitter and Facebook from the company account and our personal accounts. We also promoted the content in our daily email summaries, so that people that actively use our service could vote for us. It was actually great to see how various stories about the GROW competition began to trend amongst our users and helped spread awareness about Summify.
Being part of the competition turned into great exposure for us because we ended up in the top finalists and had an opportunity to present to a huge audience, including prominent investors.”
Video is a great medium to get your story out in a succinct yet compelling way. With YouTube being the second largest source of search, it’s no wonder that almost every startup now has a demo video on their homepage to introduce their visitors to why they should start using their product or service.
Taking that one step further, and producing a video that speaks not only to your customer but to the potential investor, as this competition did, actually forces startups to do the ground work on their entire unique selling proposition and their long term viability.
Couple that with the sharing medium of social networks and encouraging startups to ask their user base, fans and prospective customers to vote on their solution, is a great way of creating goodwill and a unique learning environment for those watching the videos.
Oli Gardner, Co-founder and Director of Marketing at Unbounce, landing page optimization, who won the most popular vote said that:
Having the opportunity to compete in a contest with startups from all across Canada was an inspiring challenge for Unbounce (we’re pretty competitive). The Strutta contest platform made it fun for everyone involved; for marketers in our company this meant constantly hitting the refresh button to see if more votes were coming in (in real-time), and for our customers (existing and some new ones that came from the promotion) they got to see a more personal side of us through our video presentation.
We took a multi-channel approach to promoting our entry, including: emailing our customers, adding a message inside our app, social media updates (Twitter, Facebook) and personal emails to contacts in LinkedIn. We did it in stages as needed to gain and then maintain the lead position in the contest, “unleashing” a new technique or leveraging the contacts of another team member as the contest progressed.
Seeing our customers rally behind us in support (along with hundreds of well wishes), and become invested in our success was amazing. We had people keeping in touch throughout the whole event asking where we were in the standings, and asking if there was anything else they could do to help! We’re tremendously lucky to have such loyal fans in our customer base – and the simple process of asking for a vote helped build stronger relationships with those customers. On a different note, having to create a compelling video made us refocus our messaging – which is always a great exercise.
The Next Steps
Taking this competition idea even further, one would think it’s a wise idea for these startup companies to run their own competition, using an application like Strutta – which can be used as a microsite, or a Facebook application, or Wildfire, another Facebook application that allows you run competitions via a landing page. The power of competition lies in peoples’ abilities to be motivated to take positive action to engage with your brand.
There’s nothing like the present to make that happen. Whoever is willing to take advantages of these tools and technologies within the social media sphere will create an impressive platform from which to leap from startup to established business success story.
The social media adoption rate continues to grow at a staggering pace as the big four networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ – gobble up the attention and man-hours of brands and users alike.
Facebook recently announced they had passed 800 million active users. Twitter has at least 200 million registered profiles (more than 254 million, by my count). LinkedIn has 64 million users in North America alone. And still wet-behind-the-ears Google+ picked up 10 million users in about two weeks.
This infographic from creative agency One Lily looks at the state of social media today.
For social media marketers it must be about monetizing their social media activities. Part of the inspiration for this approach comes from Wilson Kerr of Unbound Commerce. David Carter of Awareness and their Social Funnel ebook laid the groundwork.
I watch social media marketers in all markets struggle with this issue. So I decided to pick one case study each from B2B and B2C. I’ve intentionally chosen small, not terribly well known companies. It may sound easy for Dell to make sales with its Twitter program and Taco Bell to sell chalupas and burritos with coupons distributed on its Facebook page, although it’s less easy than it sounds. But my point is that small companies, even individuals, can do important things in social media if they keep their eyes on the prize—monetizing their activities.
The biggest monetization opportunity in B2B is far and away the generation of qualified leads.Breaking Point is a cyber security firm who says its products “harden the resiliency of vulnerable converged networks and train cyber warriors” to prevent and deter cyber attacks. Are your eyes glazing over already? It’s incredibly important but at first glance it may not seem to be a candidate for social media marketing. Using a corporate blog, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and a revamped PR strategy, they joined in the online conversation, staking out a position as a respected industry source. After 6 months, 75% of their leads were coming from the inbound traffic generated by these social media activities. Their blog is well organized—a video, a list of topics, the appropriate social media chicklets, and posts that only an IT security professional could love. That is their target audience, after all! Read the details and 5 other excellent B2B case studies in the HubSpot/Marketing Sherpa presentation.
Depending on your age and gender, you may be equally unmoved by the funky shoes that Canadian B2C entrepreneur John Fluevog sells online and from a growing number of retail stores in Canada and the US. According to Australian marketer Ginger, whose blog is credited with this captivating image, Fluevog reported that sales increased 40% in 2009, the year of their entry into social media marketing. If you search the corporate name, John Fluevog Boots & Shoes Ltd., you’ll find an array of social media activities including reviews and a lot of local marketing using Google’s Places. If you look at their Facebook wall, you see a few administrator posts but mostly customers showing off their shoes and loving them. On their Twitter page they cross promote offers seen on the Facebook page and actively respond to customer questions and issues. This nicely integrated social media program takes time, but not a lot of money. It’s within reach of any small business.
Adding a few visual game elements to a brand’s site in order to “gamify” a marketing strategy and increase engagement just isn’t enough. To be done right, gamification must take a behavior-focused approach.
For instance, by offering rewards for user actions, consumers are more likely to engage with a brand — that is, visit the site more often, register, linger and invite friends. But while gamification is a major buzzword among interactive marketers today, game use isn’t new.
So what’s making gamification so popular today? Consider these four factors.
1. Consumers Want It
In general, consumers are looking for new ways to entertain themselves — 40% of U.S. online adults have expressed this interest in a recent survey. What’s more, consumers want game elements everywhere. 60% of consumers play a video game online in a typical week. Consumers (especially Gen Yers) are increasingly accessing games online and on mobile devices.
2. Social Media Enhances It
When consumers can share achievements like badges and trophies with their social networks, it enhances the innate human motivations that games have used for generations to keep people engaged (i.e. the desire for status, access, power, etc.) And, along with increasing user status, sharing creates a low-cost marketing campaign to lure in other participants.
3. Gamification Vendors Enable It
Badgeville, BigDoor and Bunchball all offer SaaS platforms with mechanics, accessible consumer tracking and data, and the ability to easily iterate a gamification strategy as needed. These vendors are helping the process along by offering the right tools for specific goals.
4. Early Starters Have Proven It
Recent gamification efforts from brands like Chiquita, HP and Sephora have succeeded, increasing confidence that, if applied correctly, the right gamification strategy can work.
The biggest perk to incorporating gamification into a marketing strategy is its ability to boost brand engagement. So for marketers, the questions remains: How exactly does gamification help increase engagement?
Involvement: Gamification can foster participation by increasing site returns, new visitors and registrations through reward systems and incentivized word-of-mouth efforts. For example, when Chiquita sponsored the movie Rio, it worked with Bunchball to create a microsite where consumers could win badges by watching Rio movie clips. The company indicated it received 8,000 unique visitors after launch, dwarfing the success of past promotions.
Interaction: Marketers need visitors to spend time with their content and brand in order to foster engagement. Using gamification, marketers can set up the action-reward dynamic for specific engagement they want to increase. For instance, a leading computer manufacturer launched a gamified Facebook app for college students with the goal of promoting its educational computer site — and six weeks after launch saw program participation increase 10 times, with one-in-six users submitting essays and one-in-three visiting the educational computing site.
Intimacy: Consumers are able to connect with a brand more intimately when they’re interacting in real-time versus visiting a static brand website. And more importantly, gamification provides a fun and rewarding environment for consumers, which often increases brand affinity. For example, Allkpop, the Korean pop celebrity gossip and news site, worked with Badgeville to motivate behaviors such as commenting, sharing links and following Allkpop social sites. The result: All behaviors saw an uptick, as did consumer sentiment and excitement for the site.
Influence: Word-of-mouth marketing has taken off recently, and companies have realized it can have a significant effect on brand visibility. Gamification taps into WOM by giving users incentives to include their friends. SCVNGR, the location-based mobile gaming platform, says that 42% of players broadcast their play to social networks. And with the metrics available, marketers can track not only the users who shared content on social networks, but also the percentage of their friends who click back to the brand.
There is a plethora of game mechanics available that marketers can use to increase consumer engagement. However, no matter what game mechanics are implemented into a marketing strategy, it’s important to remember that gamification will only deliver results if implemented correctly. This means ensuring that gamification complements the current strategy, and can be maintained in the long term. Founder of Bunchball Rajat Paharias says, “The core content experience needs to be good, compelling and meaningful. And as long as that is there, these tools drive actions around the content.”
These are exciting times under the Bridge! We — along with 3,163 others — have been selected to stand in front of an incredibly important, and terrifying, firing range. Terrifiring?
What firing range you ask? The SXSW firing range! SXSW is an international music, movie and interactive conference held in Austin, TX every March. SXSW is where art meets art. It’s a place where musicians mingle with movie stars who rub elbows with writers who spill drinks on directors who bump into marketers who learn from titans of industry who take cues from musicians. It’s a place where art feeds art.
This firing range, though, is made up of people just like you. This is why we’re asking for your help.
Bridge Nine has submitted a proposal to speak at SXSW about the future of interactive marketing. The official title of our proposal is Where Goes the Neighborhood: Local Meets Global. Our panel, comprised of representatives from the University of Oregon, Bridge Nine Interactive and potentially one or two global brands, will speak about the convergence of local and global marketing trends.
To make it into SXSW, all proposals are voted on by SXSW staff, a SXSW advisory board and the general public. The public’s vote is worth 30%! That means your voice, vote and click matter to us.
It’s been a long application process. Proposals were due July 15th, public voting opened August 16th, closes September 2nd, and panel announcements will be made on October 24th.
So, please lend your voice, and trigger finger, to the debate. Ready yourself. Take aim. Click here, vote and Help send Bridge Nine to Austin!
We, and I, hope you will help us earn our spot at SXSW. It’s a simple, quick process. Here’s what you do:
You’ll see our proposal. (Yes, they spelled Daniel’s last name wrong. And, they took liberties with our company name. Oh, well…)
Click on the thumb’s up icon.
That’s it! You’ve helped us tremendously! Then, forward this email to all your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors! Or, just send it to anybody you want. Every vote counts. And every vote is appreciated.
Remember, voting ends September 2nd! Thanks, again!
Career site LinkedIn Corp. went public today at $45 a share, and giddy stock traders promptly bid up the price past $100 a share — giving the overhyped stock a market cap above $10 billion.
At that market cap, investors paid the equivalent of about $98 for each of LinkedIn’s 101 million registered users. So how much revenue did LinkedIn generate last year per user (based on average number of users)? $3.34 per user.
LinkedIn reported net income of $15.4 million in 2010 (when the company became profitable) on revenue of $243.1 million. The company today was trading at 650 times its 2010 earnings and 41 times last year’s revenue.
This monster valuation seems eerily familiar: Back in the dot-com bubble of 2000, TMP Worldwide‘s Monster.com was all the rage. Investors happily paid north of $150 a share (before a stock split). TMP commanded an $8.4 billion market cap at its early 2000 peak.
TMP’s early 2000 10-K boasted: “Through Monster.com, our clients have access to over 3.2 million unique resumes of which over 2.2 million are active, and our resume database is growing by an average of more than 10,000 resumes daily.” TMP in 2000 made net income of $57 million on revenue of $1.3 billion.
But then came the stock market’s monster crash.
Monster.com survived. Monster Worldwide (as the public company is known today) last year generated revenue of $914 million (nearly four times the revenue of LinkedIn), up from recessionary 2009 but well below the level of 2008 ($1.3 billion). Monster last year had a net loss of $32.4 million. Monster has a market cap of $1.9 billion, a fraction of its bubble-era peak.