Pop Quiz, Monday with Matt Cooper at Skillshare

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Matt Cooper

Matt Cooper
Photo credit: Matt Cooper

What is your job role?
CEO of Skillshare

Tell us about your company?
Skillshare is an online learning community for creators. With 5 million members and 20,000+ classes, we’re on a mission to connect curious, lifelong learners everywhere — and build a more creative, generous, and prosperous world.

What do you love most about your job?
Building and working with a great team. When you have a great group of people, who are aligned toward the same goals which then go out and get it done day in and day out.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
Skillshare is making a very clear difference in people’s lives, and it also happens to be an amazing business. It’s really hard to find a company that can offer both a clear impact on the world and some really fun business challenges.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
We have a lot of very smart, very motivated employees that will do whatever it takes to move the company forward. I’m always inspired by the really clever approaches our team finds to solve difficult problems.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
We have quarterly business reviews that we always pair with a team activity to get everyone out of the office together — like a mullet, business up front and party in the back. Our best activity so far, in my opinion, was our company talent show. We have some very talented people at Skillshare and a few that aren’t talented at all but make up for it with stage presence. 😉

Day to day, I’d say Slack is our primary source of entertainment. There’s nothing I love more than an employee with great Giphy game.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
The hardest issues are always the people issues, and when there are a lot of pressing business demands, it’s easy to not stay on top of some of them. We all have a lot going on personally and professionally and as the company expands the challenges of keeping the employees happy, motivated and challenged day to day to expand as well.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
If I had one piece of advice for any founder or CEO, it would be to focus on the team around you. When you have a great executive team (like I do), you and the company have a lot more capacity to focus on the most impactful opportunities.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
You should join (or start) a startup because you love the grind, not because you want to get rich. Startups are a little like being an actor — you may end up as Tom Cruise, but statistically, you are more likely to be “Guy at Bar #3”. You should do it because you love building things and fixing problems and you love the journey more than the destination.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:
www.skillshare.com
@skillshare (on Twitter and Instagram)

Pop Quiz, Monday with Bec Derrington at SourceBottle

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Bec Derrington

Bec Derrington
Photo credit: Bec Derrington

What is your job role?
I’m the founder of two online businesses – SourceBottle.com and InfluencerHUB.com The best way I can describe what I do, via both platforms, is help people (and their brands) amplify their stories via influencers. Technology is an enabler, so it’s just the vehicle that makes what I do easier.

Tell us about your company?
Put simply, SourceBottle connects journalists and bloggers with expert sources; and Influencer HUB is a SaaS platform that makes it easy (and fun) for brand fans to co-create and share your content. I founded both companies, and just have a virtual team to do all the leg work, as well as a very talented independent developer whose team builds and manages both platforms for me.

What do you love most about your job?
I love the outcomes both platforms produce. I still get an incredible kick out of learning that a SourceBottle subscriber has landed some fantastic media coverage – even nearly ten years on. And I also love that Influencer HUB demystifies the whole influencer marketing space and takes users back to authentic grass-roots marketing tactics.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
I really love what I do but am keenly aware that I need to continue innovating to keep up with the expectations of both clients and subscribers. Likewise, I still feel I have plenty of milestones I need to reach before I can take my foot off the pedal.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
I don’t really have co-workers, but I’m regularly inspired by my husband (for his determination and tirelessness), and my female peers and friends, who regularly tackle mountainous hurdles and overcome them with grace.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
I dance (on the inside) when I get a great win for a client. And I’m learning to get joy from a lot of little things each day – mini-victories that I might once have overlooked.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
I think the biggest challenge to my job is getting creative inspiration when I’m working in isolation. I also need to remind myself not to take those less savoury (read: raging) emails we get from time to time personally. I’m not completely out of the woods yet, but I’m getting there.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned with both my startups is to be nimble in the business’ execution while staying focused on the platform’s objective. For example, I originally envisioned the Influencer HUB platform to perform in a particular way and be suitable to certain types of businesses, but soon found out it proved just as effective (if not more so) for smaller businesses with a smaller team. It was actually an easier path to tread, so hallelujah!

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?

  1. Prepare for setbacks. If you go in prepared, you’ll find it easier to manage those inevitable challenges.
  2. Overestimate how long things will take and how much things will cost … and you’ll be about right. 😉
  3. Don’t take on a partner, a co-founder or staff unless or until you have to. In the current gig economy, there’s a sea of business that proves you can run a very profitable enterprise without having large team and overheads. Just read Elaine Pofeldt’s: “The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business” for inspiration.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:

https://www.sourcebottle.com/
https://influencerhub.com/
https://twitter.com/SourceBottle
https://www.linkedin.com/in/becderrington/

How Start-ups can overcome business competition

Be it any business domain or industry, competition is a given fact and is as inevitable as death and taxes for every individual.

Additionally, start-up entrepreneurs in diverse industry domains often face direct competition from a large multinational company with their global reach, resources, and high market share. When it comes to large investments and traditional marketing reach, most start-up companies are unable to match up to these multi-billion-dollar companies and end up on the losing side of the business most of the times.

An estimated 19% of start-up failures are primarily because of strong competition.

Despite the challenges, start-up entrepreneurs can adopt several innovative business strategies to get the better of their competition, including large business corporations.

Monitor constantly what the competitor is doing

Most successful business enterprises like to focus on their own product offerings and services and how they can deliver them effectively to their customer base. While this strategy is important, it is equally important to monitor what the competitors are doing, particularly on what product mix they are offering and the quality of customer experience for their services. Monitoring or keeping a tab on your competition does not mean blindly copying their product design or services but adapting their successful product strategy or innovation to work for the start-up business.

In the digital and online age, monitoring business competitors is comparatively easy as start-up entrepreneurs can get valuable information by visiting the competitor’s website and online social platforms. Young entrepreneurs can also develop their product and marketing strategies based on the successful and unsuccessful business moves made by their competitors.

Listen to what the customer is saying

As a start-up business, customer acquisition and retaining is the most important factor for business growth. Large corporations with a worldwide customer base are rarely concerned about what their customers want. This can be a major advantage for start-up businesses, who need to listen to what their customers want and deliver products and innovations that can fulfil their expectations. Develop a work environment in the start-up company that is very customer-centric and is completely focussed on their needs. Customer service must be the top business priority and can be delivered through digital platforms such as Twitter and other social media platforms.

Build a strong product or service offering

Did you know that 17% of the start-up business failure is because they failed to build a good product or service?

Building a good product or service is paramount to the growth or even survival of any business enterprise, including start-ups. Focus on the product (or service) strengths and what they can offer that your competitor cannot. If your product does not offer any business leverage as compared to your competitor’s product, it is best to go back to redesigning the product.

As Richard Branson, founder and CEO of Virgin Group mentions, “For me, building a business is all about creating something that’s going to make a real difference to other people’s lives.”

Keep track of the company’s financials

Business enterprises, including start-up companies, are eventually all about numbers including revenues, profits, costs of operations, sales figures, and market share. Product marketeers are often faced with numerous questions, including:

  • Do I know the cost benefit of capturing a higher market share?
  • Is my product pricing too high or too low?
  • What is the capital investment or financing required to achieve my company goals and targets?

Focus on achieving the right level of business profitability. While high product prices can reduce your competitive edge, low product prices can eat into your company’s profits, particularly if the production costs are high.

Utilize all available resources.

While large business enterprises have the best of professional resources, start-up companies can also utilize the best of production tools to cut down their costs and improve their productivity.

Some of the popular tools include the:

  • AdRoll advertising tool with cross-platform customer targeting and prospecting, all at a very affordable cost.
  • IBM Watson Analytics software tool that can provide valuable business insights through its Big data predictive analytics and data visualization features.
  • GetResponse email-based marketing tool that can help track and monitor the success of your business emails.

Focus on the sales and marketing

While effective sales and marketing is the lifeline of any company, inefficient marketing practices such as spending too much money, or a poorly-designed marketing campaign can tarnish the business potential and reputation of any business enterprise. Be prepared to toil the hard way by developing and sticking to the business strategies that can work for your product or business line.

While larger corporations can generate more market reach through their marketing and advertising initiatives, start-up business enterprises can look at innovative modes of digital and content marketing to create a successful online presence for their brands. Thanks to digital technologies, start-ups can adopt smart marketing and selling tactics and product branding to overcome their competition.

Build your business the start-up way

Young entrepreneurs must be determined to build their start-up company from the bottom and work their way up. This is true for every successful business enterprise including the likes of Facebook, Uber, Tesla, and Airbnb. Along with a good product niche and business strategy, do not hesitate to put in the required long days into business growth, which will lead to the overall success of the start-up and in overcoming the best of competitions.

As an entrepreneur, determine to succeed in your enterprise and do not feel dejected if prospective customers decline to meet you. In the face of any major business adversity, be prepared to pivot the business with a fresh mindset and enthusiasm, which is the bedrock of all start-up business enterprises.

These are just some of the successful business strategies that young entrepreneurs can adopt to make their start-up companies a raging success in the face of stiff competition from established corporations. Go, find your niche!.


Girish Bindal is the Head of Content at Makaan.com, Housing.com & PropTiger.com.

Your Customers Aren’t Bots!

While Chat Bots continue impressive development through exhaustive AI endeavors, deep machine learning, etc., they will never replace the power of a real engagement between people. 

pexels-photo-1447235.jpeg

….and they never will be. Your customers are living, breathing, feeling decision makers who sometimes need assistance to make the best purchasing decisions to meet their needs, and at all times, need a way to resolve their dissatisfaction when their experiences fall short of their expectations – and your promises.

Enter the Chat Bot – and sometimes, exit your customer.

While Chat Bots continue impressive development through exhaustive AI endeavors, deep machine learning, etc., they will never replace the power of a real engagement between people.  And, don’t get your underpants in a bundle worrying about personas, and boomers, or millennials, and so on.  It’s just about communications that work for your customers, not communications that work only for you.

So, if your solution (in whichever industry) is designed, launched and marketed brilliantly, you likely won’t lose a customer to the bots-sphere.  If, on the other hand, you’re the ultimate iterator, you will probably lose a few on the way to your desired business zenith.

10 Practices to Retain Your Customer:

  1. Structure your chat bots to respond to technical directions, not sales.
  2. If your bots are supported by real agents, make sure your agents don’t communicate like bots, and that their sentence structure is positive to customers, not negative.
  3. Make sure your design is so clean that no one can tell when your chat bot transfers to an agent – keep those transitions seamless.
  4. Don’t interrupt your customer’s inquiry with a greedy effort to cross sell them.
  5. Offer a way to your customers to elevate their inquiry if your bot design doesn’t resolve their inquiry.
  6. If your elevation protocol is to merely transfer your customer to another bot or agent, you’re missing the point of elevating a customer complaint.
  7. Don’t use phony introductory statements in your bot structure about how you’re going to do your best to resolve your customer’s concerns – it’s insulting – you’re instant messaging while hiding behind the veil of technology.
  8. Display your scoreboard of effectiveness – if you end your chat sessions with customer surveys, have the courage to post the responses – no one believes you care, so it’s just another insult.
  9. Make sure your customers in queue are aware of their wait time – not how many inquirers are in front of them, but how long they’re going to have to wait – in minutes.
  10. If the wait time exceeds your inquirer’s expectation, give them another option.

Most important?  Don’t fool yourself into believing your bot platform is a great solution – it’s not.  It’s a way for you to avoid direct contact with a customer and every customer knows it.  The customer will forgive a brand’s reluctance to a point, but when they need an answer, or a solution, they’re going to support those brands that support them.