Posted by & filed under Marketing, Social Media, Startups.

So, you have realized that nowadays being social media is a must for your business. Awesome! But now you’re thinking: what should you post to get those paying customers? Or maybe you are already doing it but it’s not really working out. If so, it’s probably not social media but what you are posting. But fear not: this post is made just for you!

No matter how cool you think the bells and whistles of your product/service are, they are only worth the value they bring to the customer. And the same thing applies to social media marketing. But usually when businesses start doing social media they either just sell, sell and sell, and are the opposite of value. Or if they have realized that is not going to work, they share things like behind the scenes shots, selfies of themselves at a fair and so on. But the thing is: nobody cares. Not even your mother, if she’s really honest. And that’s the opposite of what you want to achieve. The whole point of social media marketing is to get people excited, eager to get their hands on whatever you are selling. So, how do you do that?

Stop being so pushy, it no longer works

Before the companies that put the most money on ads to sell sell sell were the most successful. But that just doesn’t work anymore. Marketing has moved from pushing products to everyone who has eyes & ears to pulling just the right people in with value. On social media, this is even more clear. There people have all the power to decide exactly what they want to see on their feeds. In fact, to see your posts, i.e. your marketing and sales efforts, they have to click follow. They need to decide they want to see you on their feeds. And they are not going to do that if you are just the annoying company who just sells themselves 24/7.

Think about it: what do you do when a commercial break comes between a tv program you are watching? Do you perk up and make sure you hear every word they are saying? Or do you go get snacks, take a toilet break etc – basically do everything you can to avoid seeing the ads? Let me take a wild guess: it’s the latter. So, why would anyone voluntarily want to get ads, something annoying, to their feed? Well, they don’t. Thus you shouldn’t be the commercial break, you should be the most exciting tv show people can’t get enough of. And you definitely should not spend your money and efforts on people that will never buy from you. Value is what brings the right kind of people in.

On social media people get to choose who they follow. Companies can’t just shout to sell anymore. Tweet about it!

How to create value and get customers?

”That sounds all nice and dandy Tiina, but how do you do that then?” you ask. Don’t worry, I got you covered. Value depends on the people you want to reach and also what your business is about. It is different for all companies and their customers.

Step 1: know your customers

While building your business you have already learned a quite much about them (if you haven’t, marketing is not going to be your biggest problem). The more you know the easier creating value and getting them as your customers is going to be. You need to know the basics, their age, gender and so on, but especially their interests, life & family situations, values and so on. Talking to straight your customers and potential customers is, of course, the best way. But also things like the persona exercise can be of great help in creating your customer profiles.

Step 2: Think how your business is related to those interests, worries, interests etc.

Let’s say you provide banking services. Then you shouldn’t give tips about house plants, no matter how interested your potential customers are in them. That would only grow your credibility as a plant expert, which has nothing to do with your business. Instead, you should talk about something that brings value AND is related to what you do. For example, if they want to buy a house someday, giving tips on different saving methods and related ‘how to’s would make sense. That is why it is crucial to know your customers; their interests and pain points. When they feel like not only do you know your stuff but also truly understand them, they are much more likely to actually become your customers.

What to post on social media

Post something that brings your customers value AND is related to your business. Tweet about it!

Should you then never post anything about yourself or sales material? No, as long as about 80% of the things you post are value, the rest can be more sales-y. And probably even should be. After you have grown your audience and your credibility in their eyes, you should give a bit of a push to translate all that into action. And posting customer reviews, interesting articles about yourself, etc. will help with that. Just don’t do it all the time; value first.

Why just buying ads doesn’t work on social media

A common question I get is: ”can’t we just bypass all this by just buying ads?” Of course, you can push your posts to people who don’t want to see them. But the thing is, by doing that you are quite likely just wasting money. The precious money that startups rarely have too much of. On most social media channels ads look just like any other post (the only difference usually is the small ”sponsored” marking). And you still have to create value with them.

But why? Even though advertisers are what bring the social media channels money, it is all about the users. If the users disappear because of annoying ads, the channels are going to die. No matter what the advertisers do. So, social media channels need to do all they can to please the users while getting revenues from the advertisers. And that is no easy task to please both. In fact, that’s often the number one reason new channels die; failing to monetize their business without losing the users.

The solution with many big channels have come up with is this: the more relevant and useful your ads are to the people you have targeted, the cheaper it is for you to advertise. And the more your ads are also shown. But if the users see your ads as irrelevant and annoying, the channels will stop showing them even if it means they won’t get as much revenue from you. The users are the most important thing for them. So again, it’s not so much about money but value.

The more valuable to your potential customers your ads on social media are, the better your money is spent. Tweet about it!

 

But ads do have their purpose, especially when you are trying to get more people to know about you. It is a great way of growing your visibility and using those fantastic targeting features. But you shouldn’t do it before you know what you are doing. Again, you don’t want to waste money on things people don’t care about. First, you need to see what kind of posts your customers are interested in and what really works. Is it videos, pictures, tips, what is it that they are interested in. Only when you have a clue about that, start using your money.

In short: create something that brings the viewer value. It can be useful information, laughter, beauty, whatever matches them and your business. And yes, even those behind-the-scenes photos I slightly mocked earlier, can be that. So, be informed and use your creativity! That’s how you get yourself into the eyes and hearts of your potential customers (i.e. your new customers ;)).

Thanks for reading! If you liked the post, remember to share!

 

You might also be interested in: How to talk to your customers and build better products?

Posted by & filed under Banking, Fintech.

Over the past two months, I have been discussing with almost 50 banks from all over the world: from Asia to North America and everything between. By doing it I believe I have gotten a good look into what is going on in the heads of major banks; what do they think about the future and especially the rise of fintech startups.

First, you can forget the image of banks as dusty corporations that fail to admit the world around them has changed. They are very much aware of it and working hard to keep themselves relevant in the eyes of their customers. It has been truly striking to see how smart the people in banks are. They have such a vast experience of banking they know it like their own pockets. But not only that: many have come outside the banking world. And all that shows. The banks know both the worlds inside and outside the banking bubble. At least the banks with whom I have been talking.

Great advances in technology & changes in regulations make predicting the future difficult

Regardless of where the banks were located, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics, and the PSD2/open APIs came up over and over again in our discussions. It is clear these are the things that are going to have a great impact on the future of banking, but how – that is what banks are just starting to grasp. It is no easy task: before you could predict the future by looking at the past, but that doesn’t work anymore. Things like technology are developing at an exponential rate, and it is close to impossible to imagine what banking or even the world in general will look like in 10 (or even in 5) years. All that makes developing the banking industry a challenge. But it is not a challenge only for banks: investors and startups are all facing the same issues. And that is something banks have also noticed.

startups banks and banks collaborating

From competitors to collaborators

Another common nominator in our discussions was that the banks are not thinking about fintechs (or even other banks!) as the enemy anymore. They recognize the industry is under such big disruptions that they have to work together to stay relevant. Both banks and startups have their advantages, things they do and know better than the other. Using those together is going to bring much better results than them trying to just figure it all out on their own. Banks also understand that startups can bring them the kind of innovations they would never be able to create by themselves. Startups are free of many of the innovation limitations banks have, and cooperating with them is definitely a good idea.

Banks & startups both have their own advantages, thus working together is definitely a good idea. Tweet about it!

One rising trend is collaborating with other banks. Before working with your competitor was almost unheard of. But now banks are looking to join hands with other banks and tackle the challenges of future together. It is a smart move as a lot of the challenges they are facing are the same. They want to work with other banks in different environments, development phases and so on to get a more complete picture. For example, banks in cashless societies have very different experiences than banks in cash-strong environments. By combining all that knowledge, banks are much more equipped to stay relevant to their customers in the rapidly changing environment.

By working together banks are much more equipped to face the challenges of their rapidly changing industry. Tweet about it!

Another point supporting collaboration is scaling up the new innovations banks create. Even if one bank created the greatest innovation since the beginning of banking, it is hard for it to become a success, if it is not widely used. When banks work together it is much easier to scale that innovation. Of course, the innovation itself is also likely to be better when done via collaboration.

Overall, there is a strong momentum to reinvent the traditional way of banking. Banks are not only changing because they are forced to; they want to lead the change. That momentum is going to bring great possibilities for everyone, especially the ones that are in it together.

If you like this post, remember to share!

Posted by & filed under Customers, Entrepreneurship, Startups.

You’re an entrepreneurial individual, and you have an absolutely brilliant idea. Should you talk to others about it? And how much should you tell? Of course you should! At the moment, your business idea is only in your head. And everything makes sense there. You need to cross-check with reality. It’s going to be hard… but also necessary.

I know what you’re thinking — many people ask it in our workshops — “what if somebody steals my idea”? But… really, is that a risk at all?

In the early stages of your startup, people are not likely to understand your business idea at all.

NDA product startup idea

 

Sure, they’ll get a general vague idea. And they’ll tell you they understand. Because they’re nice (or IF they’re nice). But they’ll be missing the big picture. And why is that?

  • Firstly, you’re probably hiding most of the information. There is so much you take for granted. So many assumptions. All the know-how that you need to make sense of the idea. All those things that seem so obvious to you, that you have problems articulating. Talking to others, you will find out what your assumptions are. Tweet about it!
  • Secondly, you probably don’t have such a clear idea as you think. You’re probably quick to imagine details of your solution. But that doesn’t mean that you know about your business, that means you can imagine very fast. Others won’t. It’s a good sign if others they believe in your startup idea half as much as you do! Tweet about it!
  • Finally, they’re not going to drop everything to pursue your idea. Everybody’s doing something, be it our job, starting our own company, etc.. If somebody is so inspired by your business idea, you might be better off getting them to be a co-founder before they get busy with something else. People don’t have the time, the understanding or the skill set to steal your startup idea! Tweet about this!

Think about it: if after talking with you for a couple of minutes, somebody can steal your idea and beat you, you don’t really have such a great idea. Tweet about this! As Mark Cuban said, ideas are overrated, it’s the execution that counts.

This doesn’t mean that you should be that annoying guy that keeps constantly blabbing about their business. That won’t get you anywhere. The person talking can only learn from him or herself (and they rarely do).

So, how should we talk to people?

The whole purpose of talking to a lot of people is to get to listen to a lot of people. Tweet about this!

Entrepreneurs have the tendency to explain their business, to try to prove how smart they are. By doing that, they defeating the purpose of the conversation. Instead, try to really understand the person in front of you. How do they feel the problem that you’re solving? Do they know people who have that pain? How do they currently deal with that? What experience do they have? What ideas do they have?

Listening talking to your customers your idea

You’ll soon also run into the question:

Who should you talk to (or rather listen to)?

I personally think you should listen to many. Take any chance to get more understanding about anything related to your business. And worst case scenario, you’ll be training your skills in asking questions. Don’t look for confirmation of your own ideas: you’ll only end up tricking yourself. Instead, ask questions and understand how the person in front of you thinks. You’ll be surprised how much information you get. Tweet about this!

Now a different thing is how many people you should listen to. You should only pay attention to some. If the person in front of you is your customer, then you should definitely listen to them. If they know your customer, you should listen to them a bit less (and go to the original source instead). You should end up speaking your customer’s language fluently.

And if they’re not at all your customer, you shouldn’t care too much about their opinions. Tweet about this!

They might give you some insights, or some pointers to interesting stuff. But their opinion is no better informed than yours (and often worse). Even if they’re friends or family. Especially if they are. The fact that they’re related to you doesn’t make them an expert on your startup. It only means that they care about you, which is likely to bias their answer in one way or another. Even if you listen to many, you should follow the advice of very few. Make sure you always check for yourself and go to the source: your customers. Tweet about this!

 

Millenials talking to your customers idea false information

 

In short: listen to many, pay attention to some, follow the advice of very few. Tweet about this!

Dr. Daniel Collado-Ruiz, @ErCollao

Do you like the content? Do you disagree? Are you interested in hearing more about other related stuff? Drop us a line in the comments or on twitter, and let’s chat!

 

You might also be interested in: How to pitch to investors to get funding?

 

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship, Startups, Team.

An often undervalued part of building a successful startup is the team. Many entrepreneurs just hire their friends and people around them without giving much thought on what they can really bring to the table and if the combination of skills, experiences, personalities etc. is right at all. They forget that it is an important if not even the most important part of becoming a successful startup.

Like Guy Kawasaki famously said: “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” And successful implementation is all dependent on the team. It does not matter how great the idea is if they cannot pull it through. Actually, it often is better to have just a “good enough”  idea and a great (or promising) team as a starting point than the opposite.

It doesn’t matter how great your idea is if your team cannot pull it through. Tweet!

 

Even more important than the business idea?

You are going to hear the same gospel about the importance of the team also when talking to any VC investment professional or experienced serial entrepreneur. In fact, it is often seen even as the main asset of the startup. You might even get the impression that the value of the” obvious” core i.e. the business idea or product, is downplayed. This is not the case, but the team is as much core as the value proposition and product.

Building the team and company is like institutionalizing the right thing to do to do things right. You build an engine to do and repeat what seems to resonate with the real, validated market need. Steve Blank talks about startup as “ … a temporary organization looking for a repeatable and scalable business model.” Building a great team is one important step in getting the engine working. Unfortunately for many entrepreneurs, it is not that obvious.

Why the importance of teams is so misunderstood?

One of the reasons for that is that many (if not most) of the commonly used business tools don’t cover the team properly. Take for example the Lean Canvas. From it, we learn that a well-functioning business model with all the ingredients in place calls for the right balance: value proposition and solution resonating with the real market need, channels built to paying customers and so on. However, the Lean Canvas only regards the team as cost element. But why? Don’t they see the importance? Yes, they do, but you must keep in mind what the canvas is about: helping to iterate and find the right product-market fit. So, it does not downplay the role of the team, you just need to remember to cover it separately.

So, remember to not only focus on building the business model, product and what have you, but also building a team that can execute it all. After all, it is all about execution.

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Entrepreneurship, Funding, Investing, workshop.

Pitching to investors to get funding can be scary. Typical professional investor listens to hundreds of pitches every year, and this makes them busy and impatient. If you don’t make it easy for them to understand why you are the next big thing, they’ll throw you out. You have to earn every second with the investor. Here’s the simple pitch deck structure that the Nestholma startups have been using successfully when pitching to investors for funding.

When you get a meeting with an investor for 20 minutes, don’t expect it to last for 20 minutes. It’ll last as long as the investor thinks you’re interesting. If you have five minutes to pitch on stage, don’t expect the investors to listen for the entire time. If you’re not making sense, they’ll start looking at their phones while waiting for the next pitch. Investors value their time – make sure you value it, as well.

You need to deliver the punchline right in the beginning: what is your big idea, what is the real problem you’re solving and how you do it. Tweet this!

If these seem interesting, only then the investors want to listen to the details and consider funding you. Start with these three first:

1. The elevator pitch needs to say the essentials in 10 seconds

Bankiton pitching for funding at Nestholma Demo DayIn the first 10 seconds you need to convince the listener that you have something interesting to say. Saying your value proposition is a great starting line. Personally, I’m fond of Steve Blank’s value proposition formula “We help X do Y by doing Z”. You need to get the investor excited and curious to hear more why you should get funding from them. The investor may only listen to this!

2. Problem worth solving and funding

What is the problem that needs to be solved (not all problems are like that)? How have you validated that the problem really exists? Don’t over-do this, but make sure that the investor can understand what you are solving and why. If you want to tell a short personal story, this is the place to do it – not in the beginning.

3. Solution that customers are willing to pay for

How can you solve the validated problem in a way that customers are willing to pay for? Be as concrete and specific as possible. Screenshots, workflows or even a short video are great. Stay away from meaningless jargon, such as “Our solution provides unprecedented ease of use and scalability”.

Now you’ve covered the most important things. If you’re still in the room, you can go into details in your pitch to get funding from investors.

4. Real and addressable market and customers

Your opinion about the market doesn’t matter. Numbers are great but explain clearly what is the significance to your business. “We are working in a $3 billion market” may sound nice, but it is meaningless fluff. Show your traction or explain the logic for getting the customers (deals in place, access to customers or distribution channels etc.). Testimonials are always good. When you have a paying or just a potential customer (at early stages) say nice things about you, it’s always powerful.

5. Revenue model for monetizing the value you provide

If you solve a real problem, the customer will want to pay for it. It can be with money, their data, time or, for example, with services that they provide in turn. Give a clear outline of how your company makes money with the idea. What value are your customers paying for, how much and often and who are your partners etc? Focus on the logic. The details – such as $4.99 or $9.99 a month – may change.

Especially at early stages, it’s more important to convince the investors that the logic behind the revenue model makes sense. Tweet this!

6. Your unfair advantage that keeps others away from your market

Do you have something that competitors don’t have or cannot get easily? Be critical about this! It has to be something unique, or don’t say anything. It can be existing deals, IPR or, for example, unique experience. It’s not “great and committed team”. Not everyone has an unfair advantage in the beginning (just think about Google or Facebook in the early days). For an investor, it’s an added benefit but not a showstopper if you don’t have it.

7. Marketing and getting customers

How do you reach your customers? This not a list of the obvious channels (blog, some, Adwords, PR etc.), but your recipe for success. Everyone uses social media channels, but how will you make them work for you? Explain in your pitch what are the most important channels to reach your specific customer base. What is the cost or, for example, conversion rate you’ve validated? Does your product have a growth engine or can you use some clever growth hacking tactic to boost your growth?

8. Why are you better aka positioning

The thing about what makes you unique and why your customers are paying for your product. Make a 2X2 matrix the two most important things in your product as the x- and y-axes. Place your company and the competitors on the matrix. The aim is to give an easy way to see how you compare with others at a glance. You can provide the feature-by-feature comparisons to investors as background materials if requested.

9. Running the business with the numbers

Provide an overview of the business with a simple cash-low estimate. Don’t just make Excel fantasies. Justify the numbers with deals, traction, benchmarks, sales funnel, customer development etc. Your business logic is more important than the plain numbers. Remember that these may end up in the actual funding decision, so don’t treat them lightly.

Don’t show Excel fantasies to investors! You need to justify the numbers with data. Tweet this!

10. The team worth funding

Explain why you have the perfect mix of people and way of working. Why can make a big business out of the idea? Show the core team, but also mention interesting advisors, investors or board members. Unless you have 100 people and a real organization, don’t use titles like SVP of Product. That may sound nice to your mother, but for an investor, it sounds funny. Most investors will tell you that the team is one of the – if not the – most important thing in funding decisions. Therefore sometimes startups start with their team slide. I’d advise against this unless the investors know the team members. Another “greatest full-stack developer in the world” is interesting only if you have a good idea. But if you have Mark Zuckerberg in your team, put that on the cover slide.

11. Roadmap and how you’ll use the funding

Present a timeline that shows what you are going to do and how much money you need for each step. Explain how you are planning to use the investors’ money. Pay also attention also to working capital needs if your solution has, for example, hardware unit costs. Make sure that the roadmap and spending is aligned with your overall message. It sounds strange if you claim to have the best developer team, and now you say that you need to hire more developers. You may need them, but you need to have justified the new hires with, for example, the market opportunity.

12. Make the last words count

We remember the first and last things. Don’t waste time and space on Thank you’s or contact details. They’ll find them if needed. Instead, end with your value proposition. It reminds the investor why you are interesting, what value you provide. And why they should join the ride.

Collectly pitching at Nestholma event

 

Every investor has their own preferences for the pitch content. Depending on your company stage, you will be expected to deliver different types of things. Also, take into account who are the persons in your audience. What interests them, do they like technical details, numbers or something else? Before every investor meeting, make sure you find out what is the expectation. Talk to their portfolio companies, read their blog posts and tweets or just ask the investors.

This blog post is based on one of the more than 20 workshops run during Nestholma’s accelerator program.Check out also how our startups pitch to investors at our Demo Day.

Topi Järvinen @topij

 

Posted by & filed under General, Press release.

Every company is build by its people. Having a great team with complementing individual talents is crucial for success. This is why I’m thrilled that Daniel Collado-Ruiz has just been invited to join Nestholma’s partner roster.

Nestholma partners

Daniel Collado-Ruiz wears a lot of hats with ease (both figuratively and literally). He has an impressive list of accomplishments as an academic, entrepreneur, business coach and educator. On the academic side Daniel was an Associate Professor at Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain. His specialty was ecoinnovation and creativity. As an entrepreneur, he has founded Nurtup that helps people interact better through games. Both in the academia and business, Daniel has been organising workshops for people and companies to develop in five continents.

Daniel has been already working for Nestholma since last summer. During Nestholma’s Nordea Startup Accelerator his contribution as the project manager, coach and Stockholm site manager was invaluable. Daniel continue to have a key role in running programs, coaching startups and running workshops,

Daniel will be in charge of some of our most important activities. One of Nestholma’s cornerstones is the scalable program model that we’ve been using to run 19 programs around Europe. I’m very pleased to have Daniel running the program model development from now on. The other area is taking care of our international network of mentors. Having a great team is crucial for any business, but having a great network of partners is equally important. And it’s great to have Daniel developing new collaboration opportunities for our mentors and startups.

On a lighter note, Daniel (top left in the picture) also fits our partners’ hairstyle requirements perfectly :-)

Topi Järvinen @topij
Managing partner at Nestholma