Have a wonderful holiday season and a very strategic New Year


We wish you a wonderful holiday season and a very strategic new year!


The Google Adwords : the reality


Yes, this is the reality of the online marketing; been there, done that!

Even now, it is so common to find big holes in the calculations people do in their business models - grossly underestimating the cost of marketing, especially online adwords marketing.

Just a few weeks ago, I saw a presentation where the company was selling a widget for $99 and they had allocated $12/unit as adwords cost. In the first month, their actual cost was $44/unit and in the second month it was $34/unit (and I am not convinced that the reduction in the second month was because of better targeting or better conversion primarily attributable to adwords program).

Another misconception that I have seen way too often, is the belief that somehow the cost of adwords marketing is related to the cost of what you are selling.

The argument goes like this “I see people are selling widgets for $10 on adwords; I know it costs $5 to make it, so they couldn’t possibly be spending more than $5.00 to acquire a customer!”

Unfortunately, this is not correct. In many cases, the vendor who is selling $10 widget might be spending $12 to $15 for adwords and hoping that a person buying $10 widget will buy something else from them or will become a returning customer and the over all cost of the adword expense will be low.

So unless you have a matching offering and have ways to convince a customer to buy additional things or have the customer return for something else, you can’t win the adwords game.

The only way to correctly gauge the adwords cost is to gather conversion data and look at real time bids for the keywords and base your calculation on 2nd and 3rd highest bids placed. Why 2nd or 3rd bids and not the top one? Because invariably I have found people over spending just so that they can stay on top. Typically this happens when there is a disconnect between the part of the organization selling the product and the part of the organization marking the product.

Adwords and other online marketing can be excellent and very cost effective tools, you just need to understand what is the true “cost” and how you measure “effectiveness”.

Source of the picture.

Ten tips on how to demo your startup


Jason Calacanis has heard and reviewed hundreds of startup and has excellent advice for all of us on how to demo your startup.

1. Show your product within the first 60 seconds.
2. The best products take less than five minutes to demo
3. Leave people wanting more.
4. Talk about what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do.
5. Understand your competitive landscape–current and historical.
6. Short answers are best.
7. PowerPoint bullet slides are death.
8. How to use this new device called the phone.
9. How to handle questions you don’t know the answer to
10. Always confirm the time of your meeting/call, and always be 15
minutes early.

This is a great list for “how to demo” your startup. May not be a perfect list for how to present your company for fund raising. “Show me what you got” is not the same as “why should we help you?”

Especially item number 4, “talk about what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do”. If you are a startup, there are more of “things to be done”, compared to what you have done. A showing of a clear path as to where do you plan to take the the things you have done is equally important.

The item one, “Show your product within the first 60 seconds” works only when your audience is well versed in your space. I try to take the first 30-45 seconds to connect with the audience, you don’t have to connect to them by showing the size of the market, or by showing your market share, but you need to take them to a level where they can follow your plans.

You typically have one to fifteen minutes to tell your story. No matter how hard you try you will NOT be able to bring out all the important things; so you need to focus on thing that are going to be important to your targeted audience. In this case, Jason wants to see a demo, sort of like an end user. Show him the demo, talk about what you have done and what your product can do. If you are giving a presentation to a potential investor, they want to know “how would you sell this” and you got to focus on that.

Prosper.com and who needs a bank?

image Person to person micro finance is a trend that is definitely catching on. One site that is getting a lot of attention is prosper.com. It connects borrowers with lenders, and is rapidly becoming a viable source of seed capital for startups and small businesses.

Previously, we have written about Kiva, the P2P micro finance system that is all the rage now.

imageThe prosper.com system works like a reverse auction. A borrower posts a listing for the amount that they’re interested in borrowing, the time that they need the money for, and the maximum interest rate that they are willing to pay.

Lenders bid the amount that they’re willing to lend along with the interest rate. At the end of the auction the lowest bids are accepted and combined into a single loan.

The point to note is that the lender is not really lending the money. The borrower is actually getting the loan from prosper.com. In turn Prosper is selling the loanto the lender.

prosper.com microfinance loan for startups small business

The prosper.com site charges only when funding is closed. Fees for the borrower range from 1% to 3% of the loan (or $25, whichever is greater) depending upon the riskiness of the loan. On the lender’s side, there is a 0% to 1% loan origination fee depending upon the credit worthiness of the borrower.

While the trend of micro-financing is pretty small for now, in time the banks will wake up and start to notice. Banks have long enjoyed having captive clients to whom they have extended personal loans, lines of credit and a host of other financial services. They’re not going to be happy to see novice lenders cut into their main business.

Lenders on the prosper.com site are even allowed to set up their own loan portfolios depending upon the amount of risk they are willing to take, with loans ranging from Conservative (estimated return of 7%) to the highly aggressive loan (which nets 10%). All of a sudden individual investors are beginning to look like institutions where they’re able to decide whether they want to be Wellsfargo or Washington Mutual.

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