Minimum Viable Audience: A New Way to Find A Profitable Market

We can all agree that:

– Creating something is easy.
– Creating something that people care about (your minimum viable audience) is much more difficult.

The problem?

Most attempts to launch new products are based on a “cool idea for a product”. And then, a marketing team has to figure out how to sell this new concept.

Product-oriented marketing vs. Audience-oriented marketing

Products are born this way because it’s less demanding to start with a product idea than with what your audience may want.

That’s the wrong way to develop new propositions.

In the words of Seth Godin:

“You don’t find customers for your products. You find products for your customers.”

— Seth Godin

In this article, you’ll learn about the importance of defining your minimum viable market first.

And how to identify it.

A challenge: There’s no such thing as the mass market

It’s tempting to have the ambitious objective to serve a big market–the mass market.

But who’s the mass market? What do they want? What can you do for them?

Who is the average pilot?

In the 50s, the U.S. Airforce was trying to improve the design of the cockpit.

design-cockpit-us-air-force

The ambition was to find the size of the average pilot to make sure that every pilot could fit well into a standardised cockpit.

They needed data.

So they gathered the size data from 4,063 pilots and computed the average of the 10 physical dimensions believed to be most relevant for the new design–incl. height, arm length, and chest circumference.

Next, they compared the data size of each individual pilot–one by one–to the average pilot.

The result?

Big surprise!

Out of 4,063 pilots.. well.. not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions!

For example, one pilot might have a longer-than-average leg length, but a shorter-than-average arm length.

There was no such thing as an average pilot.

If you design a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’re actually designing it to fit no one.

Bottom line: Trying to please everyone requires to dilute so much what makes your proposition unique that you’ll end up appealing to nobody.

Interested in the topic?

Get my new book, The Value Mix. There, you’ll find more examples and details on how to identify and target the right market.

A solution: Focus on your Minimum Viable Audience

Creating a meaningful proposition requires to be specific.

If you want to make a difference for the audience that you serve, you must know them well.

The solution is to start by focusing on a Minimum Viable Audience.

Minimum (or Smallest) Viable Audience: A better way of approaching marketing

A minimum viable audience is the smallest possible market you can serve and that can sustain your business as it grows.

It’s about targeting the people who will particularly benefit from what you are offering.

Definition of the minimum viable audience

In This Is Marketing, Seth Godin shares his definition of the smallest viable market:

“Begin instead with the smallest viable market. What’s the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?”

There’s a real advantage:

When you focus on a smaller market, you can make sure you serve them well. You can make a bigger impact on their lives, especially when you’re just launching a new product.

It always starts with a small market: The 100 customers who love Airbnb

Airbnb didn’t start with millions of customers.

They started focusing on making sure they could get 100 customers who loved their proposition.

This was their minimum viable audience.

“It was better to have 100 people who loved us vs. 1 million people who liked us. All movements grow this way. There was no way we could get 1 million people on Airbnb, but we could get 100 people to love us.”

– Brian Chesky, Founder & CEO of Airbnb

Being so specific helped the Airbnb team to create a proposition that people loved.

Example of minimum viable audience with Airbnb

They didn’t go for the average.

They focused on making a big difference for a small pool of customers.

The rest is history.

If you’re interested in more details about how to find your minimum viable audience, here’s the link to The Value Mix.

It’s about being their best option

When everything is one click away, we only care about the best.

People don’t want an average T-shirt. They want the best T-shirt.

This is what I realised when I started GoudronBlanc in 2012.

But how could I offer the best T-shirt?

I had to pick the smallest viable audience for whom GoudronBlanc would become the best option.

Quickly, I found that there was a group of people–our minimum viable audience–who shared a worldview. They wanted to be able to show up at work wearing elegant T-shirts.

Besides, they also cared about knowing how these T-shirts were made.

(More here about using worldviews to build the story of your brand.)

We were onto something!

Defining the feature set of your proposition becomes easier when you've identified your smallest viable audience
Defining the feature set of your proposition becomes easier when you’ve identified your smallest viable audience

We created the best option for our target audience:

Elegant T-shirts made in Europe using organic cotton.

The smaller your viable audience is, the easier it will be for you to be the best at serving them.

How minimum should your minimum viable audience be?

Kevin Kelly argues that an audience of 1,000 True Fans is enough for an independent creative to make a decent living. If each of them spends $100 per year, it’s a total of $100,000 per year.

“One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.”

Kelly refers to solopreneurs. But his idea works for businesses too.

Defining your minimum viable audience through the lens of the 1,000 True Fans

The principle here is to force your focus on a defined number of customers that sounds feasible.

What about the exact number?

It could be 1,000 or 5,000.

The exact number doesn’t matter. What matters is writing down a number that you feel comfortable with.

In Kelly’s words:

There is something important and liberating in seeking a finite attainable number of passionate fans rather than hoping for a rare best-selling career backed by millions of folks who have just heard about you.

The right “minimum” depends on what’s “viable” for you.

Many factors matter. These include price, COGS, potential share of customer, and the size of your business.

Identifying your audience with content

What about starting with an existing… audience?

An increasing number of businesses have used inventive ways to lower market risks. Instead of starting with a product, they start with content.

Case study: Using content to build a minimum viable audience

In 2004, Rand Fishkin started SEOMoz (now called Moz), a blog sharing tips about search engine optimization.

Moz built an audience before launching. The founding team quickly grew a following that trusted them. Their readers were interested in acquiring customers through SEO. The team understood that and started offering SEO consulting services.

By interacting with their minimum viable audience, the Moz team figured out that consulting wasn’t enough. There was an opportunity to build some SEO tools that would help their customers do better SEO. Today, Moz is a successful SaaS business with over $30 millions in revenue.

All that just started as a blog about SEO back in 2004.

Here’s how Rand Fishkin feels with hindsight:

“This is a strategy I’d replicate again, far more intentionally, with any future venture.

(1) The greatest advantage initially seems like it’s the low cost of marketing you’ve generated by having a steady stream of people who already care about the problem you’re trying to solve visiting your site, knowing you, liking you, and trusting you.

(2) But, even more valuable is the deep experience you gain from spending so much time trying to provide value to and earn attention and amplification from the crowd you eventually want to serve.”

Any business can use content to spot emerging trends among a target audience.

Using content marketing to build a minimum viable audience

It’s also great to learn about your market.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, who theorised one-to-one marketing summarise it well in Managing Customer Relationships:

“The enterprise learns more about its own strengths and weaknesses from each interaction and from the customer’s feedback, and is therefore able to market, communicate, and handle some aspects of its own tactics or strategy more efficiently and effectively than was possible prior to the relationship.”

Creating your own media can be an effective way to interact with your audience and learn from their feedback.

And you’ll be better prepared for the launch of new products.

The benefits of gathering your smallest viable audience

Having access to an audience of passionate people who love your content is a real asset.

This was a huge benefit for me when I launched The Value Mix.

The Value Mix, book available on Leanpub
The Value Mix, book available on Leanpub

Like Rand Fishkin, I had already gathered a group of “true fans”. They’d been following this blog and my newsletter, Progress, for years.

So when I launched The Value Mix?

They trusted me. They knew it would be a good book (for them).

 

5 User Experience Frameworks That Work GREAT (with Examples)

User experience design has become one of the most important disciplines in innovation.

It’s key to creating great products!

And there a few frameworks that can help a lot for that.

In this post, you’re going to learn how you can use five of these UX frameworks to design better user experience.

In fact:

These are the frameworks that UX designers from companies like Facebook and Pinterest use to increase user engagement.

1. B.J. Fogg’s Behavior Model: The UX Equation of B = MAP

Objective:

The Fogg Behavior Model helps you take into account behaviour change when you create the UX of a product or service.

What it is:

This framework explains the cause of a specific behaviour with a simple model:

Behaviour = Motivation * Ability * Prompt (summarised as B = MAP).

In B.J. Fogg’s words:

“The [framework] shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.”

This means:

For a specific behaviour to occur, a person needs sufficient motivation, sufficient ability, and an effective prompt.

  • Prompt = Do this now.
  • Ability = You can do it now.
  • Motivation = You want to do it now.

Make the three elements converge at the same time and a specific behaviour will occur.

A visual summary of the B.J. Fogg's Behaviour Model
A visual summary of the B.J. Fogg’s Behaviour Model

Of course, the model is a simplistic view of the reality. Human behaviour is far more complex. Many variables like culture and society also shape our behaviours.

But, in the context of designing user experience for behaviour change, having a simplified framework helps a lot.

The UX Nugget

As we see on the graph, action (behaviour) is a function of both ability and motivation.

So if your UX is crap, you need to target an audience of highly engaged users. (This is what’s often called “early adopters”, i.e. people who really need what you’re helping them to achieve).

On the other hand, if you are targeting people who aren’t really engaged, you need to make it dead easy for them to take a specific action.

For example, users who have to deal with their expenses are really unengaged. The process, therefore, needs to be super easy, if not automated.

Put it into practice:

Here are three useful questions to help you as you design or review the user experience of a proposition:

Summary of the Fogg Behaviour Model
Summary of the Fogg Behaviour Model

Use these questions to review each screen or interaction you created in your product.

Interested in the topic?

Get my new book, The Value Mix. There, you’ll find more examples and tools that help you design a better UX for your audience.

2. Nir Eyal’s Hooked Model: Create Habit-forming UX

Nir Eyal’s framework is an adaptation of the B = MAP equation.

Objective:

The Hooked model helps build what Nir Eyal calls “habit-forming products”.

These products are designed to drive user engagement.

How?

They create a user experience which encourage users to return and use those products over and over again.

What it is:

The idea behind the framework is that making your users go through the right steps can get to influence their behaviour.

Hooked model - User Experience Framework

If you succeed to make them repeat that loop, they’ll start forming habits—the habit of returning and using your product.

How it works:

The loop based on the Hooked model consists of four components:

(1) Triggers:

External  Triggers are the prompts that get users to your product.

Example of external trigger - Hooked framework

Internal  Triggers are the set of emotions and jobs to be done that your product addresses to encourage them to use your product.

Example of internal trigger - Hooked framework

Both types of triggers should reinforce each other. The External Triggers are designed to leverage existing Internal Triggers.

(2) Action:

To encourage your users to take Action (i.e. a specific behaviour), you must reduce the level of friction. It means making it as easy as possible to perform this action.

This is the core of the B = MAP equation I talked about earlier.

(3) Variable Rewards :

Variable Rewards are about creating anticipations.

This is at the core of building habits.

Let’s break down the two components:

  1. You must find ways to include rewards that are fulfilling, yet leave the user wanting more.
  2. The best is when you make them variable, there’s an element of “nearly-predictable” surprise.

The combination of both generates a high level of anticipation from your users.

An example?

The Instagram News Feed.

The Instagram Feed is a good example of variable reward
The Instagram Feed is a good example of variable reward

The Feed algorithm triggers user engagement over and over again. Every time you refresh the feed, it shows you recent and engaging updates from your friends (variable rewards).

And what’s more likely to make you react than photos of people you know?

Variable Rewards increase the level of dopamine. Users end up being more likely to get excited about performing certain actions, over and over again.

(4) Investment:

Investments are about helping your users turn your product into an asset (i.e. something that gains value as you input more effort and data into it).

Two cognitive phenomenons happen here:

  1. It’s a lock-in tactic. Investments increase the switching cost and make it more likely for your users to return.
  2. There’s a sense of escalation of commitment. The negative impact of switching to another product (loss of the investments of time, effort, and data) reinforces the value of the current behaviour.

You can read more about this framework in Nir Eyal’s book: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

3. The 6 Levels of User Experience

Objective:

The 6 Levels of User Experience helps your prioritise your workflow.

(Inspired from the Elements of User Experience.)

What it is:

There’s an optimal order to how you organise what you do to design the user experience of a proposition.

Don’t put the cart before the horse. :O

Indeed, each level of UX is informed by the level above.

The Six Layers of User Experience
The Six Layers of User Experience

If you start working on one level before you’ve figured out the one above, it won’t make sense.

This is what Intercom calls the “dribbblisation of design”:

“Things that look great but don’t work well.”

Indeed, you cannot create a useful and easy-to-use interface if you work on the visual design before you’ve selected what information the user will need to see on it.

How it works:

You must make sure that you are clear on the most abstract level before you ask yourself:

“How do we implement this?”

The use case is clear?

So.. “how do we implement this?”

You create the user journey.

“How do we implement this?”

You need to define what information is needed at this level.

And so on, and so on…

I dive in this topic in more depth in my new book, The Value Mix.

You’ll find more examples and tools that will help you design a better UX for your audience.

4. Prioritising Your UX Design with the Proficiency Scale

Objective:

The Proficiency Scale is a framework that helps you prioritise the information and actions you show to your users based on their level of proficiency.

What it is:

The Proficiency Scale is inspired by Jason Fried’s distinction among three levels of priority:

“Much of the tension in product development and interface design comes from trying to balance the obvious, the easy, and the possible. Figuring out which things go in which bucket is critical to fully understanding how to make something useful.”

To create a great UX, you need to prioritise what you show to your users, where you display the actions and informations.

How it works:

I designed the Proficiency Scale to illustrate that:

The level of proficiency of a user correlates with what needs to be obvious, easy, or only possible.

The Proficiency Scale: A framework to prioritise information in UX design
The Proficiency Scale: A framework to prioritise information in UX design

Let’s dig in:

If your user just started with your product, you should only show them what needs to be obvious.

As your user gains knowledge, he’ll be able to access what’s easy to do.

The last bucket, what’s possible, is for people who have become experts. These possible actions are more difficult to find, “hidden” in menus and shortcuts.

An example of the Proficiency Scale in software

For example, WordPress’s jobs go like this:

Get an idea => Draft a post => Edit => Publish.

The minimal level of proficiency should allow new users to accomplish at least all of these steps.

As educating new users (called “n00bs” here) is costly, WordPress has to make it feel intuitive. They emphasised and made obvious all the actions that you need to get the job of publishing an article done.

The user experience on WordPress when I decided to write a new reflection on Guerric.co.uk
The user experience when I decided to write a new reflection on Guerric.co.uk

In this case, what WordPress needed to make obvious are the following actions: creating a draft, editing the draft, saving the draft, and publishing.

An example of the Proficiency Scale in hardware

Universal remotes are confusing.

The proof:

UX framework: The universal remote - What's obvious and possible
The UX of universal remote puts the emphasis on the wrong buttons

As you can see on the right, all the buttons that only an expert would use are made obvious.

On the right, the Duct tape highlights what should be obvious. The rest should just be easy or possible.

You immediately realise that: when everything is obvious, nothing is obvious. (And the UX gets confusing.)

So what should you do?

Make obvious only the core of what’s necessary to achieve a specific user goal.

5. The Familiarity Test

Objective:

The Familiarity Test is a UX design principle that helps you create a UX that your users will adopt intuitively by reducing the learning curve for your users.

What it is:

Familiarity is the degree to which users recognise elements of the user experience (including the user interface).

“Don’t try to change user behavior dramatically. If you are expecting people to dramatically change the way they do things, it’s not going to happen. Try to make it such that it’s a small change, yet an important one.”

— Sabeer Bhatia, Founder of Hotmail

A familiar UX allows your users to view their interaction with your product or service as natural and intuitive.

How it works:

Familiarity is based on the similarity with the propositions your users have interacted with in the past.

It works because using standardised interfaces reduces the learning curve. Your users can interact with your product without really thinking about how it works. That’s the power of being intuitive.

But it can limit what they can achieve.

Therefore, you need to balance familiarity with user benefits:

How much extra benefit do they get from the unfamiliar elements in your user experience?

An example of the Familiarity Test in hardware:

It’s been proven that the DVORAK keyboard yield a 30% speed improvement compared to a traditional QWERTY one.

The QWERTY keyboard = familiar - The DVORAK keyboard = unfamiliar
The QWERTY keyboard = familiar – The DVORAK keyboard = unfamiliar

But for the majority of users, DVORAK is not familiar enough to justify the extra benefit.

Interested in the topic?

Get my new book, The Value Mix. There, you’ll find more examples and tools that help you design a better UX for your audience.

9 Great Tips on How to Work from Home (WFH)

In these reflections, I wanted to share with you some of my best tips to be productive and feel great while working from home.

You’ll find:

  • How to be productive at home (and avoid procrastination);
  • Some tips to create a great home workspace;
  • Ideas to keep yourself healthy when you work remotely;
  • How to look after yourself, your mind, and your mental health.

If you’re looking for ideas to improve your work routine at home, you’ll enjoy the read.

Let’s dive in!

Section 1: Boost your productivity

Working from home brings a lot of benefits:

  • No commute.
  • More autonomy.
  • Heads-down time.
  • Seeing your family.
  • Managing your house admin.

But having a home office also comes with the big challenge of being productive.

Let’s see what we can do to overcome that.

1. Create your to-do list for the day

In the morning, define your key outputs for the day. Start with the end result in mind. What do you want to be done by the end of the day?

What we want to avoid: Procrastinating. Getting distracted. Not knowing what to do first. Feeling overwhelmed. Not being clear on why we’re doing something.

A method: 

  • Track your project – I track the workflow of my projects in Trello. It allows me to have a clear view on what will need to be done in the coming days or weeks. It is especially useful when I work with a team or have multiple projects to manage in parallel.
  • Review every morning – Every day, I prioritise the two to four key things I want to get done in the day. I do this either in a stand-up meeting with my team or by myself when I work on a personal project.
  • Break it down into smaller tasks – Once I’ve set what I want to see as a result of my day of work, I break it down into smaller tasks I can track during the day. (This allows one to be clear on what needs to be done. It makes it feel more achievable and helps keep the motivation going.)
  • Keep your to-do list visible – I write the tasks on a Post-it note that I put next to my computer. This is my tip to avoid losing focus on what I want to get done. Every time something is done, I cross it off.

A caveat: Planning is important. It gives you focus. But in reality, you’ll get interrupted. Things may happen and change the course of the day. As the day progresses, I reassess regularly what’s important and what’s urgent. It helps me prioritise the things that I hadn’t planned.

2. Set limits between work and home

Find the right balance between work mode and home mode. And set the limit.

A big challenge: When working at home, you may end up constantly connected to your work. It makes it so easy to say that you’ll “finish some stuff after dinner”. You’re also more likely to get distracted, especially if you feel you’re going through an endless series of tasks.

Some solutions: 

  • Compartmentalise your day – Be clear when your work day starts and when it finishes.
  • Estimate how long each task is going to take you – Having a rough idea of how long it takes to do something will help you keep your focus. I try to break down my workflow in tasks that take me less than an hour. Crossing something off my to-do list helps to keep me motivated.
  • Block time in your calendar for each activity – Having a to-do list helps me track what I have to do. Blocking time in my calendar helps me track how long I can afford to spend to get it done.

Section 2: Look after your home environment

Our environment influences our behaviour. Over the long term, it is much stronger than our willpower.

Pay close attention to the design of your workspace and your daily routine.

Let’s see how you can create a positive work/home environment to keep yourself healthy and productive.

3. Tidy up your workspace

When you’re done with your day, pack away your work (e.g. laptop, phone, folders).

Clean your desk. Tidy up the room where you’ve been working. Make it clear that your work day is over. 

Why it matters: When you work from home, it’s hard to disconnect. Packing away your work stuff signals to your brain (and your family) that work time is over. You can now focus on having fun (and your family knows they can now fully be with you).

A method: 

  • Turn off your computer – At the end of the day, I close all the apps that are open in my computer. It forces me to wrap up with all the things I’ve been doing. 
  • Pack away – Then, I pack my laptop in my backpack–as if I was going to leave the office. (If you can, find a place where to store your work devices so they won’t be visible.)
  • Tidy up – I also tidy the room where I work. It is a nice routine that makes the rest of the evening more peaceful for my mind.

4. Wear your work outfit, even at home

A friend told me about her dad–a lawyer–who would suit up every morning, even when he worked from home. 

I thought it was overkill. But it’s actually a good way to get yourself in the flow. 

Some benefits: 

  • It signals to your brain that you’re in work mode, which helps to stay focused.
  • It makes it clear for your family that the day has started, which means less risk of being interrupted. 
  • This is also a way to pump up your sense of self-discipline.

A habit to adopt: When you start your day, instead of working in your pyjamas, take a shower and get dressed, wearing what you would wear if you had to go to the office.

5. Schedule your spare time

Again, it’s easy to fall into the trap of never switching off when you work at home. 

It’s important to set time aside to relax, catch up with friends and family, and pursue your hobbies.

What to do: 

  • Plan ahead – I make sure I’m being intentional with my spare time. This helps me do things that I really enjoy (and avoid defaulting to watching series or browsing Instagram).
  • Schedule your spare time – I try to book most things in my calendar. It allows me to guarantee that there will be time for proper leisure.
  • Don’t overplan – I don’t create a detailed plan for everything I do. I just make sure that I block some time to relax.

Section 3: Keep moving, especially at home

Working from home is the ultimate example of a sedentary lifestyle.

So when you’re staying at home all day, you need an extra push to get yourself moving. It’s also important to take care of your posture as you work.

Let’s see how to take care of your body.

6. Invest in your home set-up

When you work at a desk for hours, you need to make sure you have a good posture. For this, you need to set your home workspace ergonomically.

Why it matters: You want to take care of your neck and back. Staying eight hours sitting in the wrong posture may create a lot of stress on your vertebral column. This may lead to discomfort and ongoing pain.

What to do: 

  • Keep your neck straight – If your screen is too low, you’re going to have a forward-head posture, which can be painful for your neck. Elevate your screen using a laptop stand.
  • Invest in a good chair – The right chair isn’t too high or too low. It encourages you to sit straight and doesn’t put too much pressure on your glutes. (Some people even use a stability ball, as it forces you to adopt a good posture.)
  • Stand up as much as possible – I rarely work sitting. I find that working standing up is the best for my back, glutes, and neck. It’s also the best way to keep my energy up throughout the day.
  • Switch position regularly – Go from sitting straight to standing up. You don’t want to be stuck in the same position for hours.
  • Stay away from your bed or sofa – Sitting or laying down on a bed or sofa is the worst thing you can do for your back. There’s no way you’ll be able to adopt a good posture. It’s also a bad signal for your mind.

Recommended gear: 

  • Standing desk (link) — It helps keep a good posture.
  • Laptop stand (link) — It encourages you to keep your neck straight.
  • Mechanical keyboard (link) and ergonomic mouse (link) — This is to keep your wrist in a good position.
  • Good earphones (link) — You want to protect your ears as much as possible with good quality sound.

7. Push yourself for a daily workout

When you stay at home, it’s so easy to end up not moving for the entire day. To compensate for that, I make sure that I push myself to workout every day.

Why it matters: Moving makes you happier. It helps you stay focused and sleep better. It’s also an effective way to disconnect and stop worrying.

Some tips:

  • Find a type of workout that you enjoy doing – This is the most important: whatever workout you plan to do, it should be enjoyable. Otherwise, you’ll do it twice and then you’ll stop.
  • Use online courses – YouTube is full of free gym classes (e.g. many friends recommended Yoga with Adriene). It’s a good way to find a nice workout routine.
  • Listen to motivating music – Music gets you going. It’s a powerful motivator.
  • Get a workout buddy – Having someone checking on will help you keep yourself accountable.
  • Track your progress – Track your steps, the number of reps, time spent working out… It feels rewarding. And try to do a little every day. Don’t to break the chain (link).

Useful equipment for a home gym:

Implementing in your routine: Find the right time for exercising. I tend to do exercise at the end of the day. This is when my body needs to release energy. It also helps quieten my mind after hours of stimulation.

Section 4: Mental health at home

We tend to worry so much about being productive that we often neglect our mental balance.

Here’s some advice to look after your mind when you work from home.

8. Take short active breaks

Your brain needs breaks. It cannot sustain 8 hours of constant stimulation. 

I bet that when you feel mentally exhausted, you didn’t take mini-breaks during the day. 

Some ideas to relax:

  • Going for a five minute walk outside to get some fresh air.
  • Walking up and down the stairs for a couple of times.
  • Taking 40 seconds to do push-ups or squats.
  • Pausing and concentrating on your breathing for 30 seconds.

9. Keep your mind at peace

I was initially very sceptical about meditating. It seemed too hippie to me. Well… I was wrong.

Benefits: Meditating is a good way to relax, kill stress and anxiety, and make yourself more aware of your thoughts and feelings.

When to mediate: I tend to follow a guided meditation at the end of a busy day. It helps quiet my mind, and get some focus and energy back for the evening.

Some free guided meditations:

  • Insight Timer (link) – A meditation app where instructors share their guided meditations.
  • Tara Brach (link) – So far, I have really enjoyed the meditations guided by Tara Brach.
  • UCLA Mindfulness Center (link) – A free database of guided meditations.

Books to read about mediation: Meditation may sound daunting at first. It’s worth reading a book about it to get into it. These four books are very accessible:

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The 4 Ms of Marketing: How to Set the Right Marketing Strategy

Unfortunately, the Marketing Mix has become has-been.

Marketing means more today…

As you know, the 4 Ps aimed to help define:

  1. what a company offers — product and price;
  2. and how it does this — place and promotion.

But in 2019, marketing needs a better definition.

Definition of marketing (4 M's)

In this article, you’ll learn a better alternative that will help you organise your marketing strategy.

The 4 Ms of Today’s Marketing Mix

This new marketing mix fits in 4 Ms.

It focuses on:

  1. who your customers are and what you are offering to them – market and merchandise;
  2. and how you entice them to buy from you – message and media.

Marketing is the bridge between the organisation and its customers–a relationship that leads to providing a business with cash flow.

The 4 M's of the Marketing Mix (Framework)
A new framework: The 4 M’s of the Marketing Mix

Defining what marketing stands for in 2019 isn’t an abstract issue.

The way a company defines marketing shapes how it organises its marketing. This is crucial if you want to build a strong brand and a successful marketing strategy.

Following the success of this article, I published The Value Mix. This new book helps you create successful propositions with a practical alternative to the marketing mix.

Get the book here.

So let’s define today’s marketing mix using the 4 Ms of the marketing mix (I added one as a bonus).

Digging into the 4 Ms of Today’s Marketing Mix

Two major things have changed since the inception of the 4 Ps:

  • First, the scope of marketing is much broader. It doesn’t only encompass products but also ideas, movements, experiences…
  • Second, marketing strategy has switched from a linear approach to an experimental, iterative approach. Real data is now available to support marketing decisions and refine them over time.

Here’s how you can take these shifts into account.

1. Market

The first step of developing a successful business strategy is to understand who your customers are.

Defining and understanding the market first helps you avoid the pitfalls of marketing myopia, a term coined in 1960 by Theodore Levitt, the then editor of Harvard Business Review. Businesses that focus on selling products rather than serving their customers limit the scope of their market.

Marketing myopia definition

Customer-oriented businesses work on helping customers achieve what they want to do and don’t limit the market to a certain category of products.

Gaining insight into your market means identifying who your customers are and empathising with what they want to achieve. It requires you to understand their problems.

You can’t limit yourself to segmenting the market based on demographics. There is, of course, some correlation in the way 30-to-45-year-old men tend to live their lives. But it’s not enough. Demographics is a shortcut to segmenting the market but it gives little insight.

There isn’t such a thing as “millennials”

GoPro doesn’t focus on selling cameras to people in their twenties and thirties–the so-called “millennials”. Its focus is to help people record the cool things they do, including extreme sports. It’s easier for GoPro to sell its HERO5 camera to passionate surfers and skiers than for it to attempt to identify who the “millennials” really are.

Three major benefits of using your market as a starting point for your marketing strategy are as follows:

(1) The size of the market is not limited to a product category;
(2) It reduces the risk of missing what your market really wants and needs;
(3) It makes it easier to understand how to sell your merchandise and build relationships with your market.

Here’s a practical way of approaching this: Some smart companies narrow down the scope of their market. They target what they call a Minimum Viable Audience. The objective is to make sure they offer something meaningful for their market!

Implementing:

What if you decided to focus your marketing on a very narrow audience? Who would serve in priority?

2. Merchandise

Marketing goes beyond the concept of products.

As marketers, we’ve changed our thinking from the physical object that is being sold to the overall experience that we offer to our customers.

This is why marketers often refer to “product and services” but marketing also applies to ideas, movements, jobs, cities, countries, and even individuals.

Tailoring the right value proposition for your merchandise requires you to understand the market very well. You gain insight thanks to business experimentation–an iterative process of running insightful market research and observing how your market reacts to different versions of your merchandise.

Building it for them

Focusing on a well-defined market helped me write The Value Mix.

I realised that many product managers and entrepreneurs I knew were struggling to bring market research all together with their product strategy. They needed a framework to help them understand what their market wants and build the right product for them.

This led me to write a book that helps them do that. But that wasn’t it. To make sure this was the right book for them, I constantly iterated.

Process to lean publish a book

I published a first draft that I sent to a few friends. Their feedback helped me tailor a better version that I published on Leanpub.

It felt like writing software.

The platform has allowed me to release several versions of The Value Mix. Based on the comments I received, I could adapt the book to make sure it’s all relevant for my readers.

Experimenting with your product strategy

Tesla has mastered the iterative process of constantly testing and improving its merchandise. Every now and then, the electric carmaker updates its software to add new features to the car. It has also recently leveraged the power of crowdfunding, another way to engage its market and experiment with coming merchandises. Hundreds of thousands of Tesla Model 3 were pre-ordered, a great way for Tesla to evaluate the demand for its new car before producing any.

The merchandise is what marketers tailor and offer to create a set of experiences for their customers.

Implementing:

What if you created a series of experiment to test that you have the right value proposition or marketing campaign?

3. Message

Your message is what you tell your market so they can tell themselves a consistent story about your merchandise.

(More here about how to find the seeds for building a great story for your brand.)

There’s a natural misalignment between the story you tell and the one people tell themselves. They only get a portion of your message. Nobody has enough time and energy to know the whole story, so they make up things with the portion they know. As a result, your message needs to be very simple and consistent across all media.

Think about it.

How much do you really know about, for example, Amazon, Apple, or Samsung? Probably just enough to tell yourself a story that makes sense and convinces you to buy from them.

So your marketing strategy needs a simple and memorable message.

Implementing:

What if you could only describe your brand or value proposition in two sentences? What would you say?

4. Media (and 5. MarTech)

Many companies fall into the trap of wanting to be everywhere. But this dilutes the ability to reach the market effectively.

Choosing the right media depends on four elements: who is in your market, what is your merchandise, what message you are sharing, and what do your competitors already do?

Today’s analytics tools–the so-called Marketing Tech (or MarTech) tools–are essential to figuring out the best way to share your message. Thanks to an experimental approach, your team can find out how to improve your marketing campaigns over time.

The key is to pick the right marketing channel

Well managed, Google Analytics can tell you exactly how a specific digital marketing campaign drives your sales. You can then experiment to figure out how profitable each channel is. This is how I know for sure that SEO is a more profitable channel than PR for GoudronBlanc.

Having this level of precision helps to make better-informed marketing decisions.

Implementing:

What if you could only pick the most profitable marketing channel for your business? Which one would it be?

For that, you need the right marketing technology

MarTech tools are very useful in the process of gaining insight into the market. But they are also great in terms of competitive intelligence.

For example, a tool like SERanking—one of my favourite SEO tools—allows you to get insights into your competitors’ strategies in display advertising as well as organic (SEO) and paid search (SEM). You can find out the keywords people have used the most to land on your competitors’ website. It’s a handy way to inform your digital marketing strategy and leverage the best media.

Implementing:

What if you could only pick the most profitable marketing channel for your business? Which one would it be?

Implementing the 4 Ms in Your Organisation

A good framework offers guidance.

The four Ms are useful to make sure that you checked all the aspects of what you’re selling and how you’re selling it.

The brands that win succeed to get consistency across the four Ms. This is a matter of how you organise your teams and how you allocate roles to cover all these questions.

Want more practical advice about creating successful products?

Get the Value Mix. You’ll love this book because it helps you create products that make a real difference.

Appendix:

What marketing means in 2019 (a recap)

As marketing guru Tim Ambler explained:

“[The essence of marketing is] the sourcing and harvesting of cash flow.”

This definition is a starting point to how marketing has to be seen today.

Marketing is the bridge between the organisation and its customers–a relationship that leads to providing a business with cash flow.

Notes:

My inspiration for this article comes from Al Ries, the great mind who popularised the concept of positioning. He recently challenged the four P’s, suggesting an alternative framework, the 4 M’s: merchandise, market, media, and message.

This is an interesting idea.

It illustrates how marketing today has a much broader scope than it did in the dark days before digital. But Ries’ framework is missing the modern approach to marketing that tech companies have developed over the last 15 years.

What’s a Business Ecosystem: How To Build or Join One?

Business ecosystem is an important concept in strategy.

Why?

That’s because being part of an ecosystem encourages both innovation and growth.

(1) It helps create new value propositions;
(2) It’s a springboard for reaching more customers.

In this article, you’ll learn how you can implement the concept of ecosystem into your business model.

What’s a business ecosystem?

Let me first explain what business ecosystem means.

Business ecosystem is the idea that a business—like any animal—is part of a broader system.

James F. Moore coined the term “business ecosystem” in an HBR article, Predators and Prey: A New Ecology of Competition.

Business Ecosystem: A term drawn from the study of biology and social systems
Business Ecosystem: A term drawn from the study of biology and social systems

Here is how he describes the concept of “business ecosystem”:

“In a business ecosystem, companies co-evolve capabilities around a new innovation: they work cooperatively and competitively to support new products, satisfy customer needs, and eventually incorporate the next round of innovations.”

Like in any biological system, businesses “co-evolve”.

They benefit from the existence of other businesses.

In this example, Harvard Professor Marco Iansiti shows the breadth of a business ecosystem for a company:

“Your own business ecosystem includes, for example, companies to which you outsource business functions, institutions that provide you with financing, firms that provide the technology needed to carry on your business, and makers of complementary products that are used in conjunction with your own. It even includes competitors and customers, when their actions and feedback affect the development of your own products or processes. The ecosystem also comprises entities like regulatory agencies and media outlets that can have a less immediate, but just as powerful, effect on your business.”

Your own business ecosystem goes beyond suppliers and customers. It encompasses all the organisations that can impact your strategy, your sales, your products, or your people.

Why it matters for your business?

The concept of business ecosystem is important.

It includes all the organisations that can help you:

  • Create awareness of specific needs and desires
  • Reach new customers
  • Build new products and services
  • Make operating a business easier and cheaper
  • Work with regulators
  • Educate your audience
  • Hire the right talent

It’s the “Partnership” box of the Business Model Canvas.

(For more explanations of Strategyzer’s Canvas, read this article).

Be aware of the different types of business ecosystems

Business ecosystems show up in various ways.

We can look at a business ecosystem from a macro perspective (country level or industry level) or a micro perspective (company level).

Business ecosystems can also be local (e.g. the neighbourhood of a city) or global (e.g. Linux and all the ecosystem around it).

Business ecosystem: macro-level and micro-level
There are two levels of business ecosystem: macro and micro perspective

Macro-business ecosystems

A macro-business ecosystem is led by a group of organisations.

It shows up through initiatives such as industry standards (e.g. Bluetooth) or lobbying to encourage a change of regulations.

Their overarching goal is broad and focuses on helping an industry or a group of organisations that have a common interest.

Micro-business ecosystems

At a micro level, you get two main sorts of ecosystems:

A captive business ecosystem = one company leads the all network of people and organisations involved

The big decisions about the ecosystem are centralised.

For example, Apple leads a large ecosystem of suppliers, app developers, hardware add-ons companies, retailers, and users. Most of what happens within the ecosystem is guided by frameworks that Apple creates (e.g. validating the distribution of an app on the AppStore).

Apple's Business Ecosystem presented in Time Magazine
Apple’s Business Ecosystem presented in Time Magazine

There’s another type of business ecosystem.

A decentralised business ecosystem = the ecosystem is self-regulated

For example, Ethereum is run on a decentralised, consensus-based governance.

Decentralised business ecosystems tend to be organised around a specific open source technology. This has been the case for the Bittorrent ecosystem or the different Blockchain ecosystems.

Inspiration: Examples of business ecosystems

Building or taking part in a business ecosystem is a strategic choice.

It’s an important element that influences your business model.

There are many ways you can make it happen.

The digital business ecosystem

Building a digital business ecosystem can encourage innovation.

WordPress is a great example of that.

The ecosystem benefits from having a network of hundreds of thousands developers who build plugins and themes to help users create websites.

Example:

For example, at GoudronBlanc, we use WordPress + WooCommerce to run our e-commerce shop. Through WordPress, we’ve been using many digital products such as Stripe, Yoast, and Google Analytics.

– For us—users—it makes it cheaper and easier to build an e-commerce shop.
– For the developers, it makes easier to reach new users.

The strength of WordPress is this strong ecosystem of developers and users who benefit from each other’s involvement.

The marketplace ecosystem

Creating a marketplace is a way to provide a large range of products—benefiting from the long tail.

Etsy or eBay are quintessential examples of that. You can find nearly everything on these marketplaces.

How does that work?

Marketplaces manage an ecosystem of buyers and suppliers:

– Suppliers benefit from tools and distribution channels that help them sell products and services.
– Buyers benefit from the breadth of the catalogue or the curation that the marketplace provides.

Example:

As an example, I used Leanpub (an e-book marketplace) to launch The Value Mix.

Presentation of The Value Mix is published on Leanpub

The reasons?

(1) Leanpub gave me the tool to publish the book like a software. I can release new versions of the book whenever I improve it.
(2) It also gives me access to a customer base of readers who are interested in books about strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

This is an example of how an author or a freelancer can leverage an existing business ecosystem.

The local business ecosystem

There’s one thing that’s fascinating about local business ecosystems.

How improving the supply in a location can generate more demand.

Indeed, the more a local area has to offer the more people it attracts.

Example:

A good example of that is the High Line.

This project helped develop a local area in Manhattan, NYC. It turned an outside railway into green space.

The park attracts now thousands of people every weekend. This constant flow of people has encouraged entrepreneurs to build coffee shops, stores, residential buildings, etc.

The best here?

Each store or café is likely to attract even more people. The growth of ecosystem contributes to the economic development of the area.

Manage Your Future Success Using Feedback Analysis

Have you ever tried feedback analysis?

Feedback analysis is the process of setting up objectives for yourself and reviewing how you performed.

It is the best way to get out of your comfort zone, but still being in control. It’s also a great way to set small personal growth goals and reach them.

“If you cannot measure it, you won’t be able to manage it.”

— Business saying often attributed to Peter Drucker

In this article, we’ll explore how you can do your own feedback analysis.

Step 1: Adopt the right mindset

The first thing you need to do your own feedback analysis is to adopt the right mindset.

Feedback analysis is about working on yourself and your skills to grow personally.

Mindset - Carol Deck's quotes

So you need to be in what Carol Dweck—author of the book Mindset—calls the “growth mindset”. In her own words, you need to believe that:

“Becoming is better than being.”

Let me define the growth mindset as opposed to the “fixed mindset”.

What is:

In a Fixed Mindset, you believe your basic qualities—e.g. personality, intelligence, or talent—are fixed traits. These cannot change over time.

Two outcomes:

  1. You spend your time trying to prove that you’re intelligent instead of working getting better.
  2. You recognise that you’re not as talented as you wish you were, and you just give up instead of developing yourself.

This is obviously limiting your abilities to progress.

Fixed mindset vs. Growth mindset
Fixed mindset vs. Growth mindset

In a Growth Mindset, you believe that your basic abilities can be developed through dedicated hard work.

Here, intelligence and talent are just a starting point.

You’re fueled with curiosity and are eager of learning. It triggers a love of putting in situations where you have the opportunity to progress.

It makes people more resilient and more willing to put efforts into their projects.

This is essential for feedback analysis.

Step 2: Identify what you should work on

The second essential element of feedback analysis is to identify what you should be working on.

This requires a high level of self-awareness.

Self-awareness definition

There are several exercises that can help you.

1. Journaling

What it is:

Journaling is the process of landing your thoughts on paper on a regular basis.

It allows you to clarify your thinking, relax, and have a record of how you’ve been feeling over time.

How it works:

On a regular basis (every day or every week), sit down and write for 5 to 15 minutes in your journal.

Journaling is a nice way to relax, clarify your thinking, and increase self-awareness
Journaling is a nice way to relax, clarify your thinking, and increase self-awareness

You can address topic such as how you’ve been feeling today, your goals, your frustrations, happy moments, achievements, or what you’re grateful for.

2. Life Review Diagram

What it is:

The Life Review Diagram helps you visualise approximately how you feel about key aspects of your life.

It allows you to spot the areas that may create dissatisfaction, which are those where you should put more effort to feel happier about your life in general.

How it works:

1. Label each axis of the diagram with the most important areas of your life. In general, I’ve seen people choose labels such as: Health, Friends, Career, Finances, Learning, and Family.

An example of the Life Review Diagram used to spot areas of development
An example of the Life Review Diagram used to spot areas of development

2. Rank your level of satisfaction for each area (taking the centre as 0 and the outer edge as 10). You must end up with a spider web visual.

3. Identify those areas where you can improve your score. (It’s not scientific but it does help you reflect on multiple dimensions of your life). You can’t expect scoring 10 for everything all the time. There’s always something that can be done better in contrast to other areas of our lives.

3. Feedback from people who know you

Another good idea is to get feedback.

You can ask the people who know you well (team members, family, friends, partner) to share some feedback or advice.

For more info, read this guide on how to give constructive feedback.

Here’s a small caveat:

Using self-awareness or individual feedback to generate ideas can be a bit reactive. You’re more likely to end up working on improving weaknesses (which can be useful to some degree) than getting to pick up new skills or new areas of development.

You may need more inspiration.

4. Reading non-fiction books to fuel your feedback analysis with ideas

Books about personal growth are a great source of inspiration.

They’re full of ideas.

Actually, feedback analysis is a GREAT tool to turn what you’ve read into action.

The main issue with reading personal books is that it’s more of an aspirational activity than a proactive one. It’s frequent to see readers node at what they’re reading but not taking any actions.

Feedback analysis is a solution to implement that into your life.

It’s actually the best way to read a business book. I like how Seth Godin puts it:

“Decide, before you start, that you’re going to change three things about what you do all day at work. Then, as you’re reading, find the three things and do it. The goal of the reading, then, isn’t to persuade you to change, it’s to help you choose what to change.”

Want to explore more?

Here’s a great list of business books.

How to read a business book
A simple process to implement lessons from books into your life

What you realise often is that the things you find interesting in the books are related to areas where you aspire to become better. They help you identify issues/weaknesses that you weren’t fully aware you had.

Step 3: Capture your feedback analysis

Now that you have ideas of things you want to work on, you need a structure to make sure you follow through.

Template:

I call this the Feedback Analysis Template.

It’s simple.

The Feedback Analysis Template
The Feedback Analysis Template

For this, you need:

An objective = what result you want
A reason for this = why you need or want this (how useful will it be for you)
An action = what you’re committing to do
A time frame to review = usually a week but it could be a month
A result = what happened

Example: Doing deep work

As I write these words, I am actually running an experiment based on feedback analysis.

The context for the problem: After hearing about Deep Work by Cal Newport, I realised that I wasn’t good at getting in the flow, i.e. doing deep work (more about it here).

An objective = Get better at getting in the flow of working (and working more on deep meaningful elements of my projects)
A reason for this = Want to achieve more meaningful things (making cool stuff happen)
An action = Schedule deep work time (literally booked in my calendar) and create the right environment to avoid distraction
A time frame to review = next week
A result = what happened

So here I am working in a coffee shop in London on a standing desk, where I am away from distraction and fully focusing on doing “an hour of power”, i.e. one full-on hour of deep work.

This experiment was a huge help to write The Value Mix.

Without proactively avoiding distractions, I would never have been able to publish a book.

Step 4: Monitor your results and progress

There are several ways you can monitor your feedback analysis.

1. Write in a notebook

I like to use a notebook, the same notebook where I journal regularly. At the end of a journaling session, I would land some elements I want to work on and turn that into a feedback analysis experiment.

Pros:

  • You get a clear focus when you think about the things you want to do
  • There’s no digital distraction (it’s a pure moment of reflection)
  • It’s easy to sketch ideas
  • You can bundle it with your journaling session so you can review previous sessions
  • There’s no need for an internet connection so you can do that from anywhere

Cons:

  • You need to keep it somewhere safe
  • You can lose your notebook
  • You cannot access it from anywhere, you need to travel with it if you’re used to moving around
  • There’s no physical presence to remind you that you’re working on something (though you can also land your feedback analysis on paper when you’re experimenting with one thing)

Keeping track of your feedback analysis

2. Use a Trello board

It’s also possible to track your feedback analysis flow on Trello.

You can download the template here.

Pros:

  • You get a clear overview of all the things you’ve achieved
  • You can access it from anywhere
  • It’s easy to keep it safe

Cons:

  • It’s digital = open to distraction
  • There’s no physical presence to remind you that you’re working on something (though you can also land your feedback analysis on paper when you’re experimenting with one thing)
  • It can be hacked

If you’re interested in the topic, I recommend you three books:

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential

How Will You Measure Your Life?

10 Key Slides for an Investor Pitch to Create a GREAT Business Pitch

Pitching investors is one of the most challenging things in being an entrepreneur.

Actually, it’s not…

You might think it is, if (1) your company is not prepared to raise money or (2) you are not prepared enough to pitch investors.

Let’s focus on #2, the investor pitch.

Here’s some good news:

You don’t need to be an amazing public speaker to impress investors. If you follow the advice from this article, you’ll get a real advantage.

But… you also need to practice as much as you can. Knowing is nice. Taking action is what makes a difference.

The 10 Principles for a Good Investor Pitch

Before diving into creating your pitch deck, there are few principles you must have in mind.

Based on my experience pitching multiple times (for GoudronBlanc and Blackwood), investing in startups myself, and digging into top business pitch advice, I condense my learning into the 10 Laws of Investor Pitch.

These 10 principles will help you improve the way you pitch your startup to investors, especially early-stage investors—i.e. business angels, incubators and accelerators, and seed-round venture capital firms.

LinkedIn’s Series B Investor Pitch (Including Slides)

I’m so grateful for what seasoned entrepreneurs have been doing recently.

Why?

More and more of them are sharing the backstage of their stories. And what happened behind the scene is actually part of the most valuable resources you can learn from.

One of my favourite backstage stories is how Reid Hoffman pitched the venture capital firm Greylock Partners. Here’s the pitch deck that Reid Hoffman used to convince them to invest in LinkedIn’s Series B.

Besides the actual investor pitch, Reid Hoffman also gives some context and shares some insightful advice—based on his experience as an entrepreneur and as an investor.

investor-pitch_linkedin

Airbnb’s Investor Pitch Deck for Early Stage Fundraising

Another of my faves is Airbnb’s first pitch deck. Now that know how successful Airbnb has become. It’s very interesting to see that their pitch deck has nothing extraordinary. You can certainly do better.

10 slides. Concise and consistent.

Looking at the structure teaches a lot. Great food for thoughts!

Here are the 10 slides that Airbnb included in their pitch:

  1. Introduce your company
  2. Start with the problem.
  3. Explain the solution.
  4. Prove that people want your solution.
  5. Demonstrate that your market size matters.
  6. Show your product/MVP.
  7. Tell them how you make money.
  8. Present how you acquire new users.
  9. Highlight what is your position in the competition landscape.
  10. End on a good note with your ‘unfair’ competitive advantages.

The structure of the investor pitch deck is quite similar to what Sequoia recommends that founders do, except that Nathan Blecharczyk did not mention his team at all.

(Funny enough, this is the team and their imagination that made Y Combinator’s Paul Graham tick when he invested in Airbnb—not the initial idea for Airbnb.)

Y Combinator’s Template for Your Investor Pitch (Executive Summary + Slide Deck)

In an article about raising money for a seed round, Y Combinator shares some advice about what you should include in an executive summary:

“The executive summary should be one or two pages (one is better) and should include vision, product, team (location, contact info), traction, market size, and minimum financials (revenue, if any, and fundraising prior and current).”

Regarding the slide deck, avoid too many words. Focus on sharing visual information: graphics, charts, screenshots… The words will come from your mouth, not from your slides.

Here’s a structure that the Y Combinator team suggests:

Investor Pitch by Y Combinator

It’s a great framework. And you’ll see below 500 Startups suggests something quite similar.

It gives you the necessary constraint to make sure you focus on what matters. But it’s also wide enough to make your story fit into it.

Dave McClure’s Structure to Build a Strong Business Pitch Deck

A good investor pitch deck by Dave McClure

500 Startups’ recipe to an awesome investor pitch is quite similar to what Airbnb did. Dave McClure highlights that you should start pitching ‘my problem’ and not ‘your solution’.

  1. Elevator Pitch (Teaser Image Goes Here)
  2. The Problem
  3. Your Solution (Demo Goes Here)
  4. Market Size
  5. Business Model ($)
  6. Proprietary Tech
  7. Competition
  8. Marketing Plan
  9. Team / Hires
  10. Money / Milestones

As Andrea Barrica, a partner at 500 Startups, mentioned:

A memorable startup pitch is “an exercise in empathy and storytelling,” not salesmanship.

TechStars’s Secret Sauce for Creating a Great Pitch

TechStars does a great job at teaching startup founders how to pitch to investors. TechStars Demo Days prove that it’s possible to get investors interested in the great potential of your business in two minutes.

Telling a surprising, unexpected story contributes a lot to getting investors on board. Here’s what Wesley Eames, a TechStars alumnus, recommends:

“An investor once told me his favourite thing about a pitch is when he thinks he knows exactly where it’s headed, but is then surprised by something the entrepreneur says or does. He said, You are truly excited about something you normally don’t care about, and you want to give the person your money because they just changed you, or convinced you to change your mindset.’ What this investor is saying is, you have to be very deliberate about your presentation. Instead of relying on industry facts and jargon, tell a compelling and surprising story.”

And there’s a structure that can guide you:

Strucutre of an investor pitch (Techstars)

But don’t forget that the structure is just a starting point.

Two things will help you create a great investor pitch:

  1. Helping investors to relate to the problem your target market has
  2. Allowing them to see the bigger opportunity (how your business can scale)

If you want a good way to express the customer problem, have a look at The Value Mix.

Make Your Investor Pitch Deck More Emotional

really-bad-powerpoint_seth-godinDon’t only focus on numbers. Investors should buy your story and their judgement is not only based on the figures you are showing, especially if you are running an early-stage startup.

Here is a piece of advice from Seth Godin an eBook titled Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it). Communication is the transfer of emotion:

“If all you want to do is create a file of facts and figures, then cancel the meeting and send in a report. Do it in PowerPoint if you want, but it’s not a presentation, it’s a report. It will contain whatever you write down, but don’t imagine for a second that you’re powerfully communicating any ideas. Communication is about getting others to adopt your point of view, to help them understand why you’re excited (or sad, or optimistic or whatever else you are.)

The three tasks that most people set out for a PowerPoint are in direct conflict with what a great presentation should do. Our brains have two sides. The right side is emotional, musical and moody. The left side is focused on dexterity, facts and hard data.

When you show up to give a presentation, people want to use both parts of their brain. So they use the right side to judge the way you talk, the way you dress and your body language. Often, people come to a conclusion about your presentation by the time you’re on the second slide. After that, it’s often too late for your bullet points to do you much good.”

Definition: Investor pitch vs. Elevator pitch

The investor pitch is one of the many formats for presenting your startup to potential investors. It takes place at the venture capital firm’s office and lasts for 15 to 45 min. Having a slide deck to illustrate your presentation is recommended.

A pitching competition or a demo day allows you to speak to a group of investors for 2 to 5 min. You’re often allowed to have a slide deck to support your presentation. As the time allocated to speak is short, I recommend that you memorise your pitch.

An elevator pitch is an opportunity to explain the problem you’re solving and your value proposition to someone you just met. The name reflects the idea that you should be able to summarise what your business does in the time span of an elevator ride (roughly 30 sec to 2 min). You should know exactly what you’re going to say.

(Here are a few pitch decks from companies like Buffer, Intercom, WeWork…)

The Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Executives in 2018 (Updated)

Gathering the best books for entrepreneurs and other great resources wasn’t an easy job.

You will agree with me that there are so many books about entrepreneurship out there…

So I narrowed down the list only to the best resources. This is going to save you so much time. ?

If you like these recommendations, share it with your friends, classmates, and colleagues.

Successful entrepreneurs, including Steve Jobs, read a lot of business books
Successful entrepreneurs, including Steve Jobs, read a lot of business books

 

The following lists focus on the crème de la crème of resources and books for entrepreneurs and executives.

Enjoy! :)

The must-read books about entrepreneurship and innovation

This list of 9 books is where you should start. They are a great introduction to starting a new business.

  1. The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman — Should I start a company? With whom? Wasserman answers all the questions every entrepreneur asks themselves.
  2. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank — This is a guide that explores how tech ventures approach product and customer development .
  3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries — This book repackages the idea that a  systematic approach to validating your business hypothesis will help you understand what your customers need. It’s all about using low-cost experiments to do your market research.
  4. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder — Most innovative businesses are made possible thanks to new business models (Ryanair, Nespresso, Skype…). Osterwalder provides an easy way to visualize your business model on paper and play around to come up with more innovative ideas.
  5. Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters — In this book, Thiel explores the philosophy of the rapid growing ventures in Silicon Valley.
  6. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman — This book gathers the principle that every MBA student should learn. A good foundation to teach yourself more about business.
  7. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick — Learn how to run better customer interviews and avoid getting biased data. Fitzpatrick summarizes the do’s and don’ts of qualitative market research.
  8. Running Lean by Ash Maurya — Maury did a clever compilation of the main methods for entrepreneurs.
  9. Fundraising Field Guide by Carlos Espinal — Written by an active investor, this is a manual for the entrepreneurs who want to raise money in order to boost their business.

There’s more great readings below. But these 9 books are already a good start about entrepreneurship and innovation.

An entrepreneur like Bill Gates reads a lot of books
An entrepreneur like Bill Gates reads a lot of books. I bet you did not know he has a reading list too.

8 marketing books you don’t want to miss

Marketing is both art and science. So I tried to balance both in this marketing reading list.

These books are written by practitioners. Some focus on the world of creativity, while others are about data and analytics.

  1. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy — This book triggered in me this passion for marketing. Ogilvy is known for combining skillful copywriting with rigorous performance tracking.
  2. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins — Hopkins is one of the first marketers to use analytics to the performance of advertising. A must-read according to Ogilvy himself.
  3. Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout — Ries and Trout defined one of the key concepts in marketing: positioning. It is a good framework for creating products that people want.
  4. Beyond Disruption by Jean-Marie Dru — Dru shares a framework that helped create global brands such as Apple and Absolut Vodka.
  5. The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly — Bly inspired many successful copywriters. This book teaches you how to sell through writing.
  6. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin — This book explains how to tell stories that will resonate with the customers you want to serve. Here’s a good summary.
  7. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout — In this book, Ries and Trout explore some key principles in marketing.
  8. Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz — A good summary on how to use metrics (i.e. a more scientific approach) to plan and execute your marketing strategy.

If you want more recommendations of books, here’s my personal reading list. I update it regularly.

Warren Buffett, entrepreneur and an avid book reader.
Warren Buffett claims doing mostly two things—he thinks and reads all day.

The 3 books about personal growth that I gift the most

As entrepreneurs and executives, we all need guidance if we want to keep growing.

Here are the 3 books that I have gifted the most on the topic.

Sounds cheesy, but I write this with confidence:

Read these books. Take notes and apply what you learnt. I can guarantee that you’ll feel happier and more fulfilled in a few months.

Enjoy the journey!

With Mindset: Adopt the Right Mindset for Your New Year's Resolution
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Get the right mindset

This book is really good. We are far from the cliché of the self-help industry. Here’s the evidence of this:

  • Bill Gates recommends it. It’s is fair to think that it’s a good read.
  • It’s a booked backed by science. In this case, Carol Dweck summarized 30 years of research on education and the psychology of success.

So what is it all about?

In Mindset, Dweck explains how a simple idea makes all the difference.

The contrast between the Growth Mindset and the Fixed Mindset:

1. In a Fixed Mindset, people believe their basic qualities—e.g. personality, intelligence, or talent—are fixed traits. They spend their time trying to prove their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone can create success—i.e. what sets people apart. This is wrong.

2. In a Growth Mindset, people believe that their basic abilities can be developed through dedicated hard work. Here, intelligence and talent are just a starting point. This view triggers a love of learning. It makes people more resilience and more willing to put efforts into their projects. That is essential for great accomplishment.

It’s likely that most of the people you regard as being successful have a growth mindset. This is the source of their motivation and ability to get where they want to be—even if it takes time.

As you read Mindset, you’ll see why I love gifting this book.

So give it a shot.

Get Mindset: The New Psychology of Success here.

 

How Will You Measure Your Life?
How Will You Measure Your Life?

Prioritise what really makes you happy

Most of us want to have a fulfill and happy life.

Then, we hit the battleground. We start our career, behave like a “professional”, and somewhat end up doing things that we don’t enjoy. This happens you start living someone else’s life–when reasonable takes over passionate.

Why does this happen?

How can your life take a direction that you didn’t want to chose? How come you lost control of where you are heading in life?

According to Clayton Christensen, there’s a simple answer. You may not have chosen the right way to measure your personal and professional successes, i.e. what really matters to you.

Of course, finding what really makes you happy isn’t easy.

What’s the objective? The purpose of this book isn’t to tell you what you should do. It is here to make you aware of the problems, to make you think, and to set you in the right direction.

How does it work? In How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton Christensen translates the business strategy frameworks that he teaches at Harvard to help us design a better personal strategy.

Honestly, I loved reading this book so much that I read it twice within three weeks.

Many friends already bought it. They also all liked reading it.

Buy How Will You Measure Your Life? here.

 

Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System
Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System

Be more productive this year

We agree that “time is your most precious resource”. It’s the limited resource our lives.

And yet, we often end up procrastinating–staying away from our goals, and wasting time doing things that don’t fulfill us.

The main issue?

We often try to do too much.. or actually too many things at once.

In Zen To Done, Leo Babauta comes up with a very simple system to be more productive. He really thought it through to make it as easy as possible for you to implement it into your life:

  • It is a simple approach. The book introduces just 10 habits that will make you get control back over your time. (That sounds doable).
  • There’s a plan to implement these habits at a pace of one per month.

This is an excellent alternative or complement to the reputable Getting Things Done..

I recommend to anyone who feels they’re procrastinating too much, and want to achieve more.

Buy Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System here.

If you don’t like to read: Incredible online courses for entrepreneurs

Besides reading my selection of the best books for entrepreneurs and executives, you can also attend these online courses.

They almost feel like an MBA tailored to entrepreneurs.

  1. Stanford CS183: Introduction to technology venture and entrepreneurship by PayPal’s co-founder, Peter Thiel
  2. Stanford CS183B: How to start a tech venture by Y Combinator
  3. Stanford CS183C (Blitzscaling): Operational knowledge about scaling companies by Greylock Partners
  4. Entrepreneurship Through the Lens of Venture Capital at Stanford

Here’s the reading list for CS183B recommended by Sam Altman.

Richard Branson is an avid read of business books
Richard Branson is an avid reader of business books

Some popular articles about Iinnovation

Here is a selection of great articles, I wish I had read earlier:

  1. 1,000 True Fans — Every startup should start targeting a niche market.
  2. What is Customer Development? by Eric Ries
  3. Replacing The User Story With The Job Story
  4. Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR! by Dave McClure
  5. Find a Growth Hacker for your Startup by Sean Ellis
  6. How to Gather 100,000 Emails in One Week (Includes Successful Templates, Code, Everything You Need)
  7. Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days (Includes Successful Templates, E-mails, etc.)

Some longer articles:

  1. The Startup Playbook by Sam Altman
  2. RECONSIDER by DHH — Get clear on why you want to start a company.
Among other successful entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg is an avid reader of books.
Among other successful entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg is an avid reader of books. Did you know that he started his own book club?

Interesting publications for entrepreneurs and executives

Here are a few online publications that won’t take too much of your time.

  1. Paul Graham — Founder of Y Combinator, Paul Graham is well-known for his popular essays about entrepreneurship.
  2. Seth Godin — Seth Godin challenges you every day with a short essay about to marketing, personal growth, and entrepreneurship.
  3. Harvard Business Review — HBR highlights the constant evolution of management and leadership.

Find great articles on Y Combinator’s Hacker News and signup to the weekly Startup Digest Reading Lists, especially the Marketing Technology one that I co-host.

Initially published on Oct 4, 2014. The Simple Guide of the Best Books for Entrepreneurs included more resources. It took me some time to share an even shorter list.

Use Worldviews & Storytelling to Build a Strong Brand Positioning

There’s something that the most successful brands do well:

They leverage existing beliefs to tell stories.

That’s because a person’s way of viewing the world is a major indicator of the decisions they make and the types of stories that resonate with them.

(Some call these beliefs “mindset”. In Positioning, Al Ries used the term “customers’ minds”. In All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin used the term “worldview” that I like the most, as the word is self-explanatory.)

As a marketer or innovator, using worldviews to look at your market helps you understand what stories resonate with your target customers, what products and services they consider buying, and why.

(This article has been inspired by my experience growing GoudronBlanc, helping entrepreneurs build businesses, and the great work of Seth Godin and Al Ries).

Let me first dig into what worldviews are.

Then, I’ll explain how you can use worldviews to create products and services that people want, figure out the right positioning strategy, and tell stories that spread.

Of course, these reflections on storytelling and marketing include real-world examples.

What worldviews mean in innovation and marketing

Worldviews are the beliefs, values, and opinions your customers hold about the world.

Marketers use worldviews as an effective way to segment a market and identify opportunities for new products and services.

In many cases, worldviews are a better alternative to demographics. That’s because what people believe to be true can be a more accurate predictor of future behaviours compared to age, gender, or socioeconomic attributes.

To explain how it works, here’s an example from the fashion industry.

Using worldviews to shape the storytelling of a brand

Since 2000, many factors were accelerating the progress of fast fashion in Europe, e.g. the 2008 crisis, the rise of e-commerce, the growth of Zara and Uniqlo, etc.).

A huge part of the market had a specific worldview: people valued buying cheap clothes, often.

In 2011, I started working on creating a fashion brand, GoudronBlanc. Looking at the market, I realised that the “fast fashion” worldview was driving the prices down. It was an arms race among big retailers, i.e. not a good space for a new business.

By doing some insight gathering and using worldviews as a way to segment the market, I found that there was an emerging worldview. And it was great news as people sharing this worldview seemed to be underserved.

This was the “buy less, buy better” worldview.

It appeared that more and more men wanted to buy better quality clothes. They valued quality over quantity and were willing to pay more for having clothes that fit better and last longer.

Then, with more nuances, I spotted that within this worldview, there was a worldview of men who thought it was cool to wear T-shirts at the office.

I was getting close to something interesting to tell a story that would resonate.

The insight was the inspiration that led to the creation of GoudronBlanc. It helped me tell the right story to my target customers. In 2012, we launched with a range of high quality T-shirts that men love wearing at the office.

The story we tell, the product, and the customer experience are all tailored in a way that fits the worldview we want to target.

Looking at demographics to segment the market would never have got me there. When you analyse sales now, there is very little correlation between any demographic variables and who buys GoudronBlanc T-shirts. But what most of them share is the same worldview.

It should be clearer now:

Worldviews can help you spot opportunities, create the right product/service, and tell a story that will resonate with the people you want to serve. It is the strong foundation of a good positioning strategy.

And for that, you need to target resonating worldviews.

What are resonating worldviews?

Worldviews can be a powerful storytelling tool for businesses. To be useful, worldviews need to help you achieve one thing:

They should encourage your ideas and stories to spread at an affordable cost.

“Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively.”

– Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Liars

A resonating worldview is a belief, value, or opinion that:

  • already exists (it’s expensive and very risky to create worldviews from scratch);
  • enough people share (big enough target segment in the market);
  • shared by people who talk to each other (a tribe);
  • is growing (it spreads among the population).

1. An existing worldview

The smartest business people avoid falling fall into the trap of trying to change people’s worldviews.

“People don’t want to change their worldview. They like it, they embrace it, and they want it to be reinforced.”

– Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Liars

Successful businesses rarely create new trends.

Instead, they surf on the wave and encourage the worldview to grow.

You can observe a similar process again and again. The founders get some insight that uncovers an emerging worldview. Then, they create something and tell a story that are likely to fit this particular worldview. They experiment their way into fitting this worldview (i.e. getting to product/market fit). And when they feel there’s enough traction, they start growing the worldview faster.

“There’s a common idea that in some way fashion designers get together in a room and decide what the fashion will be next year. That’s a pretty fundamental misunderstanding. Rather, they propose what might fit the zeitgeist.

Sometimes that’s incremental and sometimes it’s a radical break – sometimes the pendulum needs to swing from one extreme to another. Sometimes they get it wrong, but when they get it right it captures an age.”

– Ben Evans, Fashion, Maslow, and Facebook’s control of social

Here’s a common mistake:

We often think that a business created a totally new worldview from scratch. Most of the time, we missed the fact that they started with a small, emerging worldview small and progressively grew this worldview.

It is much easier to build a product or service based on what some people already believe and value.

2. Enough people…

This is common sense: if you want to grow a business, you need a big enough market.

The question “what is big enough?” depends on your ambitions, your business model, what your investors are expecting…

3. …but small enough: a tribe

The key part here is small enough.

It is appealing to please everyone. But a startup needs to focus on a tight community of early adopters, i.e. a tribe.

In marketing, a tribe is group of people who are linked by shared beliefs, a worldview. These are people who do yoga, cycle to work, do indoor climbing, follow a paleo diet… and will tell you everything about how they embrace their worldviews.

They frequently talk to each other (online or offline) and share stories and ideas about their lifestyles and worldviews.

This is particularly powerful!

A tribe will make it so much easier to spread the stories of your product or service.

4. A growing worldview

Another obvious one.

Useful worldviews are the ones that can spread within the market. And this is where your company can help.

Yoga was already a thing when Lululemon started in 1998. But not as much as it is now.

They jumped on this emerging worldview and accelerated its growth. They were hosting free yoga classes, helped people find studios where they live, sponsored trainers… This led Lululemon to sell for $1.79 billion of yoga-specific clothes and accessories in 2015.

It is important to spot an existing worldview with good potential for growth, though it’s tricky to be able to assess how big it can become.

The difficulty is that there’s limited data on emerging worldviews. Spotting them requires to identify patterns and nuances in your insight. It can be very tricky.

5. One last thing, actually…

Useful worldviews almost always exclude part of the market.

This is the by-product of targeting a tribe.

Different segments of customers have different worldviews. And, most of the time, they are polarising.

Think about McDonald’s:

  • For some people, McDonald’s means Happy Meal, Big Mac, and nice moments with friends or family;
  • For others, McDonald’s means saturated fat, too much carbs, and junk food.

Of course, this is a simplified view of the market. But here’s the question:

If you were running McDonald’s, would you try to please both worldviews?

How worldviews fit with storytelling

Here’s what my poorly-drawn schema explains.

Get good insight

Gathering insight helps you spot the worldviews that sit in your market. Some are obvious. But most emerging worldviews come from nuances spotted in qualitative and quantitative data.

A worldview becomes the platform on which you build your positioning strategy.

Tell the right story

And you communicate your positioning strategy by telling the stories that fit the worldview you want to target.

This is through your stories and customer experience that you position your value proposition in the minds of your customers.

GoPro used stories to position its camera

I mentioned GoPro in this reflection about the new 4 Ps of marketing.

That’s because GoPro is a great example of a brand that was positioned using stories that resonated with a growing worldview.

GoPro doesn’t target 20-to-30-year-old men. Age isn’t a meaningful way of segmenting their market. Instead, the brand focuses on a worldview that perceives extreme sports, as a means to personal achievement.

And GoPro addresses this worldview using stories.

As a result, men of all age resonate with the way GoPro frames its stories. When they watch a GoPro video on YouTube, they feel like the video was made for them.

But it goes beyond. Since extreme sport practitioners are a tribe, they are all connected online (forums, YouTube…) and in real life. So when they practice their favourite sports together, it makes it very easy for the “GoPro story” to spread.

The example I just described isn’t a magic formula. It’s an example that aims at illustrating what I’ve explained. And I hope that it will also inspire your work.

So what’s the next step for you?

It can be difficult to leverage worldviews to create the right value proposition, and define your storytelling and marketing strategy.

So here’s what you can start doing:

While you are gathering insight, you can try to spot the worldviews that sit in your market. There are useful questions you can ask yourself:

  • What do our potential customers strongly believe to be true?
  • What do they value? What seems to be irrational?
  • How do people perceive the world today?
  • Which are the beliefs that contrast with the rest of the market?
  • Have we heard or seen something surprising or unusual?

Answering these questions should lead you to a better understanding of your market. It will make it easier to create a product that really fits what people want and tell stories that will resonate with them.

And don’t forget

Worlview is a tool.

Spotting emerging worldviews isn’t a necessary phase of the innovation process. But it can be a very useful one.

Not every success story was built on a worldview, though many have been.

There many cases in which successful businesses took the following path:

  1. They identify a tribe who shares an existing worldview.
  2. They create a product or service and tell a story that is likely fit this worldview.
  3. They iterate until it really fits the worldview.
  4. Then, once they reached product/market fit, they focus on growing this worldview.

So what is the worldview that you are targeting? What story are you telling your target customers?

How to Get Your Dream Job After an MBA or MSc

From day 1 at business school, you’re already thinking about the future.

You’ve not even settled down. And you’re already looking forward to getting a dream job in a kick-ass company.

Let’s see how you can get this done, the right way.

What the Hell Is Happening to the Job Market?

As a business school student, you’re ambitious and have high expectations for yourself. Right? So you want to prove that you can get the job you want.

Here’s the thing:

The job market is saturated. Each job opening gets hundreds of applications.

Since you really want your dream job, you default to put all your energy into it: playing the numbers game by sending as many CVs as possible. Maybe one company will randomly pick your CV and invite you for an interview. And if you’re the lucky one, you’ll end up with an offer.

Lots of people default to this plan. Unfortunately, this process is time-consuming, boring, and stressful…

Most applications get rejected. You’re not even sure why, especially since you believed so strongly that you deserved that job. If not you, who could be a better fit for the job you just applied to?

Hint:

People who’ve approached applying for jobs the right way.

Here’s a Better Approach to Landing A Great Job

You don’t go to a top business school to fill application forms…

You’re a smart person. You can do better.

The way you deal with the process of getting a job is a matter of attitude. Are you defaulting to being passive, a wait-and-see attitude? Or are you more like an overachiever that wants to make cool stuff happen?

How do others do it?

The people I know who got their dream jobs didn’t passively apply to jobs. They had lots of fun at business school instead… Not just attending “social events”, they were also active members of the business school community.

Making it in Investment Banking

A good friend of mine had no doubt about his dream job. He wanted to join the selective investment banking industry. One major challenge: he didn’t have exceptional grades. He could have merely filled application forms, hoping that, among numerous rejections, he would get an offer.

But he’s not the type of guy who just waits and sees.

Instead, he focused on becoming an outstanding applicant.

He made stuff happen for others. He set up an informal club for students who wanted to make it in investment banking. He helped them (1) connect with one another, (2) learn about the industry, (3) connect with senior investment bankers, and (4) prepare for doing well in the interviews.

So when my friend went to interviews, he had a different story to share. He didn’t have the excellent academic background that was required. But he could show his potential. He could also prove that he is a doer and is always willing to help.

Guess what?

He got a job he really enjoys.

Helping entrepreneurs share inspiring stories

At London Business School (LBS), we developed the London Entrepreneurship Review. As described here:

“It’s an online publication that captures the richness of entrepreneurial thinking at LBS. Like so many of the best initiatives, this is ‘bottom-up’, driven by the thirst of current students to draw on wonderful knowledge, experience and reflections of those who have gone before them.”

I was part of the team who led the LER from 0 to 1. Trust me, we got so much out of this journey:

(1) learning by doing, (2) meeting up with accomplished entrepreneurs, (3) helping MBA students write interesting articles, (4) sharing surprising stories with an audience of thousands of readers, (5) and making great friends.

As a passionate writer, taking part of the LER was also a chance to connect with great people and coauthor articles with them. This is how I got to meet and work with two great Silicon Valley VCs, Terry Opdendyk and Sean Foote, and did some work on neuromarketing with a neuroscientist from University College London (UCL).

Everyone who joined the LER as a member of the team, a writer, or an interviewee got something out of it. It’s one of the many examples that shows how much value gets created when you connect people.

Want to make it in Consulting?

Here’s what people get wrong about consulting

Once you understand how recruiters select their employees, things get much easier.

Many applicants think that consulting firms want them to go to coffee chants and be incredible at doing case interviews. So they tire themselves with hundreds of case preps, trying to learn every possible framework.

But this is not enough…

Consulting firms hire for potential. They want promising recruits who can learn on the job and go beyond what they’re asked to do.

A friend, who works at a top management consulting firm and has volunteered to help the firm find the next batch of business analysts, told me:

“We’re looking for people with emotional intelligence.”

She never mentioned anything about hiring fanatics who did hundreds of case preps.

So do you get a job in consulting?

As you’re smarter than most applicants, you see the opportunity to do something more interesting than just preparing for case interviews:

  • You could reach out to a non-profit organisation or an SME and offer them to build a team of business school students who would help them become more efficient;
  • You could organise an event about the future of energy and invite a panel of experts, including the partner of a consulting firm who specialises in this industry.

Opportunities are endless when you want to connect people and make things happen for others.

Another friend took the lead of one of the business school clubs. He could have merely used the existing network for his own sake and be an average president. But he had a better, bigger ambition…

He decided to do everything he could to develop the reputation and the impact of the club. He organised the biggest flagship conference the club has ever seen and created an international group for the clubs that had a similar focus in other top business schools. He put a lot of effort into making the club become remarkable.

His reward?

He developed something bigger than himself. He learnt a lot by doing. He built relationships with many senior professionals and industry leaders. And… he got his dream job at a top consulting firm.

My friend didn’t spend his precious time filling application forms. He took everything he got to make things happen for others. He was what you can call a real leader.

Do Your Homework before Going to an Interview

Browsing the company’s website and stalking people on LinkedIn won’t get you a job. What you want is to be able to demonstrate your potential in a brief interview. Show up to the interview with with additional information.

Here are some examples of what you can do:

  • Have interesting data to talk about. I heard of someone who wanted to work in consulting. He computed the number of consultants/partner in each firm. This was something that may have gotten the interviewer think: “Wow. I didn’t know this number. I like the analytical mindset.”
  • Show what you would do if you were hired. Someone, who was applying as Social Media Manager to a reputable tech company, created a fake private Twitter handle. She tweeted for a week. As it was private, she didn’t have any follower. But she could walk the interviewer through what she would do if she were hired… She got the job.
  • Have an opinion on the industry. There’s a typical question asked in finance: “What company would you recommend that we invest in and why?” The interviewer wants to understand if you have an opinion and how you support it. This can be applied to any industry. The best way to form an opinion is to read the right books.

There’s just so much you can do to show how smart you are. If you’re lacking good ideas, organise a creative session with some of your classmates.

It’s Up to You Now

Some like to create things from scratch, others prefer to join and contribute to existing initiatives.

What ever you choose, find ways to do things with people.

Those who enjoyed their time at business school the most were the ones who were the most active. You would see them everywhere. They were the ones who connected people and built bridges between the business school bubble and the outside world.

There’s more than getting a dream job

Here are the things people who got their dream jobs had in common:

  1. They made things happen for others;
  2. They knew what they wanted (and when they didn’t, they asked for advice);
  3. They weren’t afraid to go the extra mile to learn everything they could about the industry they were interested in;
  4. They enjoyed their time at business school and knew when to have fun.

Going to a top business school is an amazing journey. But it’s up to you to adopt the right attitude and make the most out of it.

The classmates who have inspired me the most have spent their entire business school experience giving back to the community. They organised events, invited world-class guests, created initiatives from scratch, shared people’s stories, and helped their classmates get jobs.

The secret sauce of getting a dream job and enjoy your time at business school is not that secret:

Make stuff happen.

The more active you are—making things happen for others and helping them—the more connections and opportunities you’ll create. This is how people create their own luck.

Thanks to Patricia de Lara for reading drafts of this.