Startup Diary: DATA BLEW MY MIND

Week 4 already and we’ve reached the half way point of the AIB Startup Academy in what feels like the blink of an eye!

Antonie Geerts led the morning session on Data Analytics and blew my mind clear off with the amount of things that we can learn through some simple web analytics. Again, there was a huge focus on the customer and their behaviour online, what we can learn and how we can use this information to 1) design a better experience online for them as a customer and 2) ultimately increase conversions from curiosity to sales.

I have to confess, not having an e-commerce function to FEED has led to its importance falling to the way side in favour of, in my eyes, more important elements. Our morning session with Antonie the sheer scale of what is possible but also small actionable steps that we can take today as small startup companies in their infancy:

  • Money is no object: No really, most of the analytics tools that we need at this stage of our business are free (Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, Twitter Analytics et al are all free tools – Happy Days!)
  • Customise the reports from each tool to give you exactly the information that will be most useful to your business specifically
  • Check in quite regularly to get an up to date understanding of whats going on on your site
  • Do your own SEO at the beginning: keywords, titles, descriptions – this is something any one with any level of tech knowledge can do. Use Yoast SEO to analyse your SEO live on your site and give you hints and tips to improve it

The morning with Antonie was short and intense and I left with a million things I needed to work on. At FEED our web presence and understanding of user behaviour isn’t as critical as say Kiki Moon who sell (amazing organic cotton baby blankets) primarily online but it’s still important to be searchable and to optimise the site for the information people are looking for. This is a work in progress for me so keep an eye out for an update soon where I’ll dazzle you with my web skillz.

 

Startup Diary: I HATE SOCIAL MEDIA

When I started FEED 1.0 back in 2015 social media was something that presented a huge challenge.

Digital Native 

I’m an unashamed millennial so social media was a huge part of my life and I knew that it presented a great opportunity to engage with my audience. What I struggled with was the fact that social media was this huge time warp for me. I was spending hours a day on the various platforms and seeing very little actual return on investment. I find that it’s so easy to play into the glamour and ego of social media but likes and comments do not equal sales and that’s the crux of the issue for me.

I enjoyed it, I liked creating things and I loved the positive feedback but in hindsight there were much more important things that I should have been spending my time on; like, I don’t know, creating a sustainable business model!

Goodbye Facebook 

Since then I’ve scaled back my personal use of social media. It’s happened too many times that I’ve landed on the Facebook homepage to check a message and found myself still there an hour later with what to show for it? Given the scale of work and commitments I have on at the moment, I took the decision to limit my social media use to weekends only. I physically delete the apps from my phone on Sunday night and redownload on Friday night – and I survived!

My personal views on social media are all well and good but the fact remains that it is an incredibly important tool for startups and one which can’t be ignored. The FEED customer is a digital native. Online is where they discover and interact with brands and that’s not going to change any time soon. The whole social media landscape has changed dramatically and simply having a presence is not enough. It’s vitally important to understand the mechanics of the various platforms and how you can reach the highest number of potential customers with content that they value and engage with.

Felicity McCarthy from Irish Times Training and founder of Spark Digital let the session on Social Media and provided insights into the current social media landscape – what’s going on, who’s active where and what the hell we should be doing.

Audience is Key

Interestingly my big take away from the session with Felicity links back to Dermot and Design Thinking from Day 1 – knowing your customer and what they value. How can you create and curate content that they will not only consume, but interact with, share among their own network and most importantly drive them to purchase.

What I learned from Felicity as well as some key learnings of my own:

  • Know your audience: not only what they like and value in terms of content but also where they are active. There’s no point creating a polished Pinterest strategy if your customer isn’t a Pinterest user so before you start anything do some research
  • Time: Use scheduling tools and block time for content creation and posting. Create social media strategies that you can stick to consistently
  • Consistency: Spend some time getting to know your brand and ensure that the tone of voice, messages and themes running through your social media are consistent with your brand and what it’s about
  • Authenticity: People buy from people so be authentic. I love the Simon Sinek TED talk where he outlines that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it so dig a bit deeper and connect with your audience on an authentic level.  In food look at the Happy Pear as the perfect example of this, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea but they are real and 100% themselves and are smashing social media at the moment
  • Quality vs Quantity: I was shocked and disgusted to learn from Felicity that the average person has an attention span of 7 seconds; one second LESS than a goldfish. Put some effort in to your content to ensure that it gets noticed by your audience. Use short links like bitly, Quality imagery and please please please fact check and reference your data – don’t be lazy
  • Mobile Consumption: 80% of social media is consumed on a mobile device now so assume for mobile first. If it doesn’t work on mobile, forget about it.
  • Video: Social Networks are optimising for mobile and it’s glaringly obvious as the number of videos across the different platforms has ballooned in recent times. Look at big media brands like Business Insider who are delivering short content in video that would have traditionally been in classic blog format
  • The future is Live: Felicity spoke at length about Facebook, Instagram Live functions and how it’s a very powerful way to reach an organic audience in a time when reaching large numbers organically is proving increasingly difficult. I see that people are still trying to figure this out i.e. what works, what people engage with but it’s worth spending some time on. At FEED we’re looking at this quite seriously; how can we create something in line with the brand values and that people will be interested in in a live format – it’s not as easy as it sounds but I’m looking forward to experimenting!

Day 2 was another great day full of insights and interaction and was one I took a lot of relevant points from. I’ve been spending the last few days re-examining our social strategy based on these points and look forward to sharig with you all soon!

Next week is Design Thinking!

Startup Diary: MAKE THE FIRST MOVE

After the rush of our win at the Belfast leg of the AIB Start-up Academy Summit series on Thursday, it was straight down to business on Monday morning for day 1 of what promises to be an intensive but exciting accelerator program to drive our businesses forward.

Day 1

Day 1 is always the most exciting for me. I personally thrive off the buzz of expectation and anticipation and couldn’t wait to meet the other startup founders. This years participants are from a diverse group of industries but it’s great to see a strong representation from the food sector. Joining me to fly the flag for the food industry is Ken from Fresh From.., Amanda from The Little Pharma, Niall from Origin Protein Bars and Jennifer from Tipperary Boutique Distillery. The group is made up of people from various different backgrounds, nationalities and age with varying levels of experience which I know will bring a wealth of learning. I often find that I learn as much if not even more from other participants when taking part in these things so I’m looking forward to growing my network and my knowledge through this group of inspiring go-getters.

Networking

We kicked things off with Lisa Hughes from Arena Coaching taking us through networking – what better way to get to know one another off the bat! Networking is often lauded as a key element in the startup journey but at the same time it’s the one thing that can strike fear into the most confident of founders. Lisa is a natural presenter and epitomises the enigmatic and charismatic entrepreneur . She also very clearly knows what she’s talking about and not only talks the talk but walks the walk too. I found that I learned as much from how she presented and interacted with us as I did from the content and really enjoyed her session.

When I started on the journey of FEED there was nothing I dreaded more than the prospect of walking into a room full of people and striking up conversations. I struggled, a lot at first, and sometimes still do, but I eventually found a system that worked for me and gives me the skills to approach any situation with confidence. Listening and interacting with Lisa on day 1 made me realise how far I’ve come so for those of you that baulk at the idea of networking I’ve outlined what works for me here:

  • Go in with a plan; not just what you want to get out of any connections but also recognise what you have to offer and be confident in your own abilities, skills and experience and share that
  • Be open: There’s no original ideas in the world and I firmly believe that the only way you can create something amazing is to share your idea with the world and get constructive feedback to make it better. Don’t be precious, you never know who could have the solution you’re looking for
  • Understand that you’re not the only one, most people that are going to the event are nervous and would be extremely relieved to be approached by you first so just go for it
  • Remember the other people at the event are humans and deserved to be treated so – be nice, ask questions – aim to make friends and not ‘contacts’ i.e. don’t be an asshole
  • If you do meet someone that you connected with, don’t be shy about following up with a linkedin request and personalised email saying how nice it was to meet them. Let them know they made an impression and that you’d like to stay connected 

Business Model Canvas

The afternoon session was led by Dermot Casey from NDRC who led us through the Business Model Canvas (BMC) framework and how to use it to define, test and refine sustainable business models for our business. I’m pretty familiar with the BMC at this stage having used it extensively during my postgrad at The UCD Innovation Academy and during Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers Program. I was fairly confident with the mechanics of the canvas and thought I’d fly through it but Dermot quickly burst my bubble and I’m so glad he did. The whole point of his session was to ensure that we had a laser sharp focus on the customer and to become familiar with what they value most ensuring we build products and services that directly address these needs. I’m confident that I know the FEED customer inside out after extensive research and testing over the last few months but Dermot revealed a glaringly obvious weakness – the way I was communicating the benefits of the product didn’t directly align with the specific consumer and their needs. He outlined that I needed to readdress the narrative around the product to create clear and consistent messaging that the FEED customer will understand and connect with immediately. The BMC is an excellent tool and shouldn’t be dismissed once you’ve decided on the business direction. It can also be used to get a clear view of competitors strengths and weaknesses, understanding your current business to reveal weaknesses or opportunities or strategizing.  

All in all a great start to the program and I’m excited to see what is to come! Looking forward to next week at the AIB Startup Academy, it’s all about Social Media!