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Chances are, you’ve heard about Tinder, the not-so-new dating app that all the kids are using. If you haven’t, this article may not mean as much to you, but you’re welcome to read on.
Tinder is a mobile app that helps you find the love of your life by showing pictures of other users within a certain age range and geographical distance from you.
If you see a face you like, you swipe right. If not, you swipe left. If you swipe right on the picture of someone that swiped right on your picture, you’re matched. At that point, you are allowed to start talking to each other and decide if you’d like to go on a date, knit holiday sweaters together, or just become friends. Or so the news articles read.
“But, Dallas,” you say, “business development is complex; you can’t compare it to online dating.”
And to that, I reply, “Bologna.”
Sure, your pretty little corporate logo isn’t displayed in an app where prospective customers swipe through a collection of companies and brands. Unless you’re an ad agency in Amsterdam, in which case you have http://gopitcher.com/.
But for the rest of us, we must realize that the business of getting business is about acquiring quality attention and not simply screen time. Perhaps your one “slide” of attention is on the grocery-store shelf. Maybe it is an intro you make at a networking event. It could be a quarter page ad in an industry publication or a sentence on a search results page.
And so, without further ado, I present my list for Businessing like You Were Tindering.
- Be Uncommonly Attractive.
It doesn’t matter yet how many talents you have, how smart you are, or just how much you have to offer. Those discoveries are to happen during courtship. All that matters at the very beginning is to get a swipe to the right. And in order for that to happen, people [customers] need to find themselves attracted to you. So, look good. No, seriously, just because your mom [aka, the CEO’s wife] thinks you’re super attractive, it doesn’t mean your beauty is that easy for everybody to see. Have your brand in order. Use only the best photography; Incorporate excellent design; craft compelling messaging and promotions; offer killer products. Of course, some of this comes with time. If you discover you’re just not getting any quality matches, it may be time for a makeover.
- A Match is not a Guaranteed Date.
Not everybody on Tinder understands this. Newbies on Tinder often think, “I matched with someone, they must want to go out with me.” But that’s not always the case. A match is nothing more than acknowledgement that someone finds you attractive, and an opportunity to strike up conversation. In the business world, a match could be a visit to your web page. It could be someone walking into your storefront. It could be asking an employee about your services. It’s an invitation to take the next step in securing their interest. If you bombard them, or assume too much, you’re likely to scare them away, and end up getting blocked. Behavior like that often smells like desperation. It’s better to take this time as an opportunity to get to know them; qualify them and see if they possess the qualities that might make a good customer/client/partner, or if they are just a pretty face.
- The First Date is for Filtering.
Congratulations, you matched! AND you got a first date scheduled! You’re on a roll. This is very validating. It feels good to know that someone you’re interested in is also interested in you.
But the work isn’t done yet. This is the hard part. It doesn’t matter what was said via text, email, the phone or your website—when you meet in person, the whole game changes.
Dates offer a chance to determine if you are a good fit. In business, this can be an intro meeting, a minor purchase, or even working together on a small project. Try to resist the urge to simply be what you think the other person wants you to be. Instead, see how you communicate. See if you share a similar vision and the same values. If your values are different, you’re not likely to be a great match. But that’s ok. Perhaps you can be friends. Perhaps things will change down the road. And, maybe, you can introduce each other to someone that might be a better fit.
- Build a Reputation for Positive Relationships.
If your date(s) goes well and you eventually decide to have a relationship, you then start down the road of expectations and execution. Most relationships alter over time, and many relationships won’t last forever. That’s no reason to look at the time together as a negative. So things changed; but, did you have a good time while you were together? Did you help each other meet your needs? Did you share some positive experiences? Then make sure you say nice things about each other. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you. You never know—you may cross paths again, or they may have someone new to introduce to you.
The competitive landscape is constantly changing. Many brands that are super hot today won’t be as attractive tomorrow. Tastes change and so do customers. But there will always be people and businesses with needs to be met. And they will look to other people and businesses to help meet them. So get out there. Be the brand that people want to talk to. That others trust. This may require promotions, advertising, brand collaborations, contests; it may be networking, consulting or pro-bono work. The point is: be good for something, represent yourself well, and share yourself with others. Before you know it, you’ll have more matches than you can handle—you may even fall in love.
You wouldn’t build a home without first hiring an architect. If you wouldn’t build a home without an architect, you’re doubly unlikely to build a commercial office tower without one. In addition to being illegal (you’d never get a permit), it’s also too risky.
In a previous post I wrote about the similarities between building a home and building a website. The analogy isn’t perfect, but it works well enough to illustrate a few points, one of which is that the architect’s role is pretty critical. The architect role in the physical world may be better established and understood, but there is no less need for an architect when creating digital products like websites, apps, and software.
The architect’s job in the digital world, much like in the physical world, is to translate the desires of the client into a detailed plan for the builders. This translation step is critical in determining the outcome of the project. The best developers in the world will fail on a project where this step is skipped or done poorly. At Agency Fusion our ability to truly understand what a client wants and needs and then translate that understanding into specifications for designers and developers is what determines our success on each client project.
If the architect role is so critical, why is it so often unfilled on digital projects? First, there’s not yet any established standard the way there is in construction. People already know they need an architect to create blueprints for their new home, but the web is still new enough that this understanding isn’t widespread. Second, when it comes to digital products, you can’t really see the foundation, framing, etc. so it’s harder for people to understand that the digital equivalents exist and that they need to be properly planned from the beginning.
When the architect role isn’t explicitly filled, what happens? The project may still get finished and appear to be a success, but with time problems may begin to appear. A poorly constructed home may look fine but over time cracks will appear in walls, the roof will leak, etc. Likewise, a poorly constructed app or site will show its true colors as updates become painful, maintenance becomes expensive, and performance degrades.
A little bit of advanced planning by an architect can ensure that a digital product is set on the correct course from day one. Updates and maintenance will be easier and more affordable, and the chance of rework will be greatly lessened.
Jane has an idea.
Jane will talk to her friends and family, and everybody will tell her how much they love her idea.
Everybody except for Uncle Brian.
Uncle Brian doesn’t like any idea because he has a list of his own ideas that he never had courage to pursue, so he’s certain your idea will fail.
But, Jane will dismiss Uncle Brian and she will start moving forward, responsibly, by doing some market research.
In case you’re not familiar with marketing, market research is any kind of data that affirms your original hypothesis.
Usually this includes doing some web searches, asking people if they’ve ever heard of an idea like yours, and then doing some more web searches. I say that somewhat sarcastically, but it is the way 80% of new companies do their [ahem] market research.
As it turns out, Jane’s web searches don’t bring up anything that match her product idea, but there are enough ideas that are similar that she feels confident there will be a place in the market for hers.
Let’s be clear here: Jane’s idea is a good idea. There have been successful brands that started with worse.
So Jane takes the next obvious step: production.
She bravely makes contact with manufacturers, has molds made, gets some tooling done and fills the minimum order quantities the factory requires. It is expensive to do all of this, but she has faith. She’s heard many inspiring stories. She knows that people will love her idea. She then gets a warehouse to hold her product, and a website designed to make her look like a legitimate brand. She’s all in!
Now that she has everything she needs, it’s time to get customers. So she starts working to attract retailers. She does what every consumer-products brand does to find retailers: she attends trade shows. Each trade show costs about $7,000 once all the expenses are considered. But she’s confident she’ll recover that in a couple years.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t get the traction she was hoping for.
The brand looks nice, but she has a small booth, in the New Brands section—established retailers and distributors show little interest in working with a company that may not be around next year.
They don’t buy her products They don’t go to her website. The most they do, if they do anything at all, is browse her booth and take a catalog. A catalog that will be tossed aside with dozens of other catalogs and worthless, trade show SWAG.
She needs attention.
She needs sales.
She needs customers.
She decides to go direct: forget the retail world—she’s going to sell her products direct to consumers. There’s higher margins in that, anyway. So Jane gets a loan and doubles-down on a new website—one with e-commerce enabled. This is expensive, but she plans on growing and doesn’t want the headache of moving to a new system once she gets big.
She hires someone out of college to manage her social media. Twitter; Facebook; Pinterest; Instagram; LinkedIn
She buys online ads.
She sponsors community events.
But it is too little, too late.
She is bleeding cash and the progress she is seeing barely serves as a bandaid.
She has invested $100,000 of her own money, $25,000 of the bank’s money and has only a warehouse of product and a fancy website to show for it.
She is low on cash. Low on motivation. And she knows a lot about what she would do differently next time, but can’t bring herself to find enough money to move forward now.
Her only hope is that she can sell off her inventory at a fraction of what it cost her to develop.
Where did things go wrong?
There are many things that could have maybe turned the tides for Jane: she could have started with $250k instead of just $100. She could have had a large dose of luck and sold to a retail outlet that would be patient with her ability to scale, and would provide much-needed capital while was doing so. She could have had a YouTube video go viral and ride through the finish line of success on her trusty unicorn.
But none of those things happened. And even if they had happened, there’s still no guarantee it would have been enough.
Besides, unicorns aren’t all that trusty.
There is one thing that Jane could have done differently to minimize risk and to position herself for success and growth: she could have turned her product development phase into a marketing phase, instead.
Here’s the new process.
- Have a good idea. How do you know if your idea is good? Well, you should probably assume it’s not. In fact, write that idea down and never look at it again.
But, if you can’t ignore it, ask yourself if it realistically could make money—like, can you sell it for 8 or 10 times what it costs you to make—and if the answer is no, then give the idea to somebody else. But if the answer is yes—or even a solid maybe—then proceed to the next step.
- Don’t get hung up on research. At a recent 3Things lecture, Bret Rasmussen, founder of Kuru running shoes, told attendees that your friends and family will lie to you when they say they would buy your product if you made it. They will lie, though it’s not intentional: Research suggests most people behave differently than they think they will—it’s called the intention-behavior gap.
- Craft the first iteration of your brand identity. Get a logo. Create a website on Tweakspace or Weebly, or StoreEnvy, or Squarespace. It doesn’t matter. Just get something up as quickly as possible and spend your time figuring out the language of selling your product. Don’t get hung up on the design just yet. You’re testing the product feasibility, you’re visual brand identity doesn’t matter as much at this point.
- Buy attention. Instead of spending your money on prototypes, spend some money on ads for the product. See if anybody is even interested. Learn how to get traffic to your site. Sure, you don’t have actual product yet, but people can sign up to know when you have launched. Which leads us to our next step:
- Pre-sell your product. Do a kickstarter campaign; create a pre-order page; try to find the early adopters. These will be your loyal customers. In step four, you figured out that the general market has interest in your idea. In this step, you’ll collect your initial band of early adopters. These people will pay to have your product first. They care about you. They will be your fans. In this step, you will start refining your brand identity because it will start to matter.
- Build product. Now that you have interested customers; Now that you have orders to fill; Now that you know how to find more customers and know what to say to them; Now you are ready to start building product.
- Stay small until you can’t stay small any longer. Get by with your first website until you are confident it’s costing you orders. Spend time understanding your customer and clarifying your own brand identity.
- Do everything else. Your business should now be making enough money to afford professional help. Now, when I say professional help, I’m not talking about a psychiatrist, though that might help, too, I’m talking about a group like, well, us. A group that will work with you to dial-in your brand identity. A group that will build the website site that will take you to the next level. A group that will develop the marketing materials you need in order to make the most of the opportunities facing you.
My advice? Just live simply; minimize your lifestyle; be happy with less; and keep the job you have. Remember what grandma used to say when you were a kid, “dreams are dangerous.”
But if you are determined to create a product and a company—to boldly step forward and brave the cold consumer winds of rejection while clinging to hopes of basking in the warm, glistening rays of glory—then the above steps may just be the way to start your journey on the right foot.
May the winds of progress be always with you—even if they’re full of hot air.
Keeping up with technology is a lot of work. Luckily, we enjoy wading through the noise just to find the gems of awesomeness sprinkled throughout. Fusion Radar is our gift to you, Current or Potential Client, so that you can enjoy all of the awesome without any of the drudgery. Unwrap it each week, and know that you’re loved by the geeks and pixel-pushers at Agency Fusion.
The promise of more productive meetings is appealing, although we’re not immediately sure how well Do.com delivers on that promise. And we’re admittedly steering more toward the “meeting avoidance” solution here at Agency Fusion. We’re impressed that they actually own “do.com”, though. That couldn’t have been cheap.
Leave it to the folks at The Onion to develop a JS library that simulates slow loading times. Drop ComcastifyJS into your website to experience slow download speeds if you’re feeling like your access speeds are a little faster than you’d like.
How the Internet Killed Profit
TechCrunch features an article by Tom Goodwin that is an interesting but weakly-supported post, especially from an economics point of view. Tom has some good observations but then discredits himself by making absurd claims like the Internet is “…destroying the very foundations of business.” Still, it does have some redeeming value in reminding us that the trend is always toward a more efficient, cheaper solution. Differentiation becomes more and more critical as a category becomes more competitive.
Public Speaking Tips
Every other month at Agency Fusion we host a lecture series called 3Things. If you’re in SLC and interested in attending, let us know. We invite 3 speakers to present for 20 minutes each. If we’ve invited you to present (or if you’ve got an upcoming presentation of your own) here are a few public speaking tips we recently came across.
never eventually change. Apple.com has updated their main nav bar after at least 3-4 years. The new nav bar is flat, full-width, and anchored to the top of the viewport.
D3 Step by Step
App Icon Template
Use Michael Flarup’s app icon template to help you create the various icon sizes you’ll need for your next mobile app. People don’t appreciate great app icons enough, by the way. It takes real skill to create them.
jQuery’s $.animate() just got one-upped. Take a look at Julian Shapiro’s Velocity.js library which supports all of jQuery $.animate()’s features as well as color animations, SVGs, easing, and scrolling, all in about 9Kb.
Apple’s New Font
The newly-announced Apple Watch sports a brand new font. Because of the small display size of the Apple Watch, a font designed specifically for these constraints helps to make text readable at such tiny sizes. Learn more about how and why the font was created.
Have I Been Pwned?
If you have an Adobe account, hopefully you know by now that your account was compromised last year. But what other accounts have been compromised? Enter your username or email address on this site to find out, then make sure you change those passwords.
At Agency Fusion we design and develop digital products like Tweak CMS and Built for Teams, and we also let companies hire us who want to leverage our skills and experience to create and launch their own products. To create the best possible product, we focus heavily on designing the ideal user experience. The graphics we create and the overall “look and feel” are an essential part of creating a great user experience, but our definition of the complete user experience involves more than just the pixels the user sees on the screen.
Maybe an example will help illustrate what I mean and get you thinking about how you can improve your users’ experience.
I’m a list maker, so I consider a good to-do app essential. I’ve tried a lot of to-do apps over the years and one of the best apps I’ve found so far is Wunderlist. I love that they have native apps for both Mac and iPhone, as well as a browser-based web app. Their cross-platform syncing is absolutely fantastic; events are synced in near real-time. There are a lot of other things I like about Wunderlist, but earlier this year I decided to switched to Any.do, in large part because I liked Any.do’s user interface better. Any.do’s UI was aesthetically more attractive to me, and there were a few features that saved me time and better matched the to-do paradigms under which I operate.
After a few months of using Any.do, I’ve switched back to Wunderlist in spite of preferring Any.do’s user interface. Why? Because the rest of the user experience was so sub-par. An attractive and intuitive user interface got me to switch, but it wasn’t enough to make me endure Any.do’s sub-par customer support, buggy software, and seeming indifference to quality.
User interface design (both in terms of aesthetic appeal and ease of use) is a critical component of a great user experience, but make sure you spend equal time thinking more broadly about your product’s total user experience. Great design alone won’t make your product loved and shared.