3,000 Posts, and Time for Something New

Today marks blog post number 3,000! I’ve been blogging daily for over eight years and it’s time to mark the end. Early on, I did it as a challenge to myself. Can I blog daily for a week straight? A month straight? Then, it took on a life of its own.

So, what’s next? I’m still going to blog, but instead of one per day, I’m only going to blog when I have a topic or idea I really want to share. In addition to the normal short posts, I’m going to do longer, more detailed posts.

Writing is cathartic for me. I enjoy sharing a thought that I found useful or interesting. I enjoy comments and ideas, especially when I’m wrong or there’s another dimension I need to understand. It isn’t always easy, but it is always valuable.

Here’s to the first 3,000 posts, and many more.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

4 Ideas for Finding Customers

TX Zhuo has a good post up titled Teaching startups the art of the sale where he describes several customer acquisition ideas. Most startups struggle with sales — often in conjunction with not having product/market fit — making for a high likelihood of failure. From the article, here are four ideas for finding customers:

  1. Partner with the first three lighthouse accounts and charge them whatever they’re willing to pay (e.g. a big discount) so that they’ll be references and provide testimonials
  2. Spend time with investors and use their connections to find potential prospects
  3. Form a customer advisory board and use it as a way to entice potential customers (e.g. if you sign, we’ll add you to our customer advisory board)
  4. Deliver a good mix of targeted social, email, and event marketing alongside clear messaging to help your voice be heard

Sales and marketing is hard. Try these ideas and more to figure out what does, and doesn’t, work.

What else? What are some more ideas for finding customers?

Attributes of a Successful CEO

Harvard Business Review has an excellent article titled What Sets Successful CEOs Apart. The authors talk about a variety of research where they distill down the four attributes that set successful CEOs apart from other CEOs. From the article, here are the attributes:

  • Deciding with speed and conviction.
  • Engaging for impact.
  • Adapting proactively.
  • Delivering reliably.

It sounds pretty simple but it’s incredible hard for a CEO to consistently do all four. Want to learn more? Head over and read What Sets Successful CEOs Apart.

What else? Have you worked for/with CEOs that had those attributes?

When Customer Expansion Outpaces Churn

One of the holy grails of successful SaaS businesses is having the expansion of existing customers outweigh customer churn. Meaning, if the business didn’t sign any new customers in a year, the upgrades from existing customers would be more money than the lost revenue from customers that leave, resulting in growth for the company. A business that doesn’t have to sell anything new, but still grows, is in an enviable position.

Here are a few benefits when customer expansion outpaces churn:

  • More Money to Acquire Customers – When customers regularly grow their account, more money can be spent to acquire the initial account, providing additional options for customer acquisition.
  • Faster Growth Rates – The law of large numbers starts to kick in making it hard to grow fast at greater scale. When customer expansion is more than churn, it makes it easier to grow faster as there’s a built-in growth engine.
  • Raising Money – Investors look for unit economics that show the fundamentals of the business are strong, and excellent customer expansion, along with customer renewals, and gross margins are three of the most important metrics making it easier to raise money.

Customer expansion outpacing customer churn is the hallmark of a successful SaaS company.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the importance of customer expansion being larger than customer churn?

Talkative Tuesdays – Tuesdays as the Meeting Day

Back in the Pardot days, we’d hold most of our important weekly meetings on Mondays. This included the weekly tactical, weekly all-hands, and weekly company lunch. Timing wise, it worked well to start the week by aligning the leadership team and breaking bread with the entire company.

Only, Mondays proved a challenge for several reasons. First, holidays frequently fall on Mondays, disrupting the flow of the most important meetings (should we skip those weekly meetings or move them to Tuesday?). Second, Mondays are a great day to build momentum and set a pace for the week, but if 2-3 hours are spent in meetings, it’s hard to make as much progress. Third, Monday is a popular day for employees to take vacation as part of a long weekend. Finally, and most importantly, Mondays, especially Monday mornings, people haven’t had much time to get in the groove for the week and prepare for the meetings.

Now, I’ve found that Tuesdays are the go to day for the weekly meetings and know several successful startups that run all their meetings on Tuesday. It’s still early enough in the week to get everyone aligned, yet doesn’t have the holiday and three-day weekend issues. Plus the work week is in full effect.

Call it Talkative Tuesdays — the meeting heavy day of the week.

What else? What are some more thoughts on making Tuesday the day for weekly meetings instead of Mondays?

When Angel Investing Isn’t Charity

Over the years I’ve gone on the record saying angel investing should be viewed as charity work for the majority of investors out there. Why? As an angel investor you get intangible benefits helping entrepreneurs and you’ll almost always lose all your money. Yep, sounds like charity to me.

Now, angel investing isn’t always charity. I know a handful of people in town — less than 10 — that have done well as angel investors. Here’s what they have in common:

  • Long-Term Focus – Angel investing has incredibly long-time horizons. An “average” investment takes 7-10 years to see a return, and most investments don’t see any returns. Angel investors that do it for fun when the market is hot — known as “tourists” — quickly leave when they see just how hard it is to make money, and how messy it is to build a startup.
  • Dozens of Investments – Angels often think that if they make three or four investments, one of them will do well. For angels to make it work, it takes dozens of investments. Think about investing $50,000 per deal, and saving 2x that for startups that go on to raise future rounds. Over dozens of rounds, plus a limited number of follow on rounds, it’s well over $1,000,000 to build a true portfolio.
  • Time Allocation – Sourcing dozens of investments, and talking to hundreds of entrepreneurs, requires a huge amount of time. Most entrepreneurs and ideas aren’t investable upon first meeting, and all investments take multiple meetings.
  • Defined Strategy – With tons of entrepreneurial styles, startup industries, and technologies, it can be overwhelming to pick investments. Successful angels define a thesis or strategy and use it to help in their decision making process. Most bet on people and markets.

For angel investors that have a long-term focus, make dozens of investments, allocate a sufficient amount of time, and have a defined strategy, angel investing isn’t charity work. For all others, they’re providing a charitable service.

What else? What are some more thoughts on when angel investing isn’t charity?

Video of the Week: How the blockchain is changing money and business | Don Tapscott

For our video of the week, watch How the blockchain is changing money and business | Don Tapscott. Enjoy!

From YouTube:
What is the blockchain? If you don’t know, you should; if you do, chances are you still need some clarification on how it actually works. Don Tapscott is here to help, demystifying this world-changing, trust-building technology which, he says, represents nothing less than the second generation of the internet and holds the potential to transform money, business, government and society.