Friday, September 25, 2009

Branding for Financial Sites

I'm reading a marketing classic called "Positioning" right now. I've already read it once but think I need a refresher, as I'm trying to think hard about PeerFX's branding efforts.

I did some research the past 2 days on other online financial sites and how they brand themselves. I saw the usual, green, white. (uh oh. those are the colors that we were thinking of too). The key thing that I noticed was the tag lines for their logos.

Here are a few:
"The Currency Site"
"The World's Favorite Currency Site"
"Foreign Exchange & International Payments"

After reading that I really can't blame people to saying that our industry is boring. BLAH.

Some of the claims made in those tag lines are similar to the corner store that says their pizza is "famous".

I love our tag line - Changing Exchanging

The one thing is that since we've commercialized the platform we saw that the people using our service aren't the ones we had expected. We had designed the website for a younger crowd in their 20's, and here we were attracting groups in their 30's, 40's, even 50's. We figured it's because the youngsters aren't transacting enough to see significant savings.

What this means for us is that we need to go through a mini-rebranding process, while we can still afford to make the changes before a push with our national marketing efforts. Any ideas? What does PeerFX make you think of now? What should we change in order to attract the right customers? Which are males age 30 - 55 who are owners or management in a small-to-medium sized business with US business relations? We also have consultants selling services across the border getting paid in USD but have Canadian do we add spice to our brand so that people remember us (and of course use our service)?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Trust in Business

Trust No One.

You hear this one often enough right?

It holds true to a certain degree. The people that whine and complain about how they can't trust anyone in business just haven't realized and accepted the reality that everybody to some degree have their own agenda/motives behind each decision.

Take for example, even an "innocent" introduction for a friend into your own company, these thoughts may flash across your mind:
"Do I think this person does good work and has good work ethics so that I will not get in trouble for introducing him into the company? It's my reputation on the line here and what he does indirectly reflects on my performance as well."

How about an introduction to connect 2 businesses? Jim may ask Bob to connect him to Jane for a business deal. Bob considers his experience dealing with Jim in the past and also what impact this will have on his business relationship with Jane if Jim doesn't deliver on his business promise.

It's not really a "trust" issue we are debating here - it's more of an issue of whether you get how the business world works or not. What you need to do is understand the interests of the other party and evaluate whether they match or are complimentary with yours. If yes, great, you make a business connection; if not, then move on to the next potential. Remember, the key lies in the INTERESTS of both parties, it's up to you to uncover it; you whine about them not telling you outright what their interests are, well I'm here to tell you that 9 times out of 10 business breaks down because of "communication" issues. Have fun with that.

Every day, and I repeat, EVERY DAY, we are making these decisions, and we think through the consequences of making these business introductions, doing somebody a favor, because of their actions will impact our business reputation. YES. This means that the same goes for the person at the other side of the table.

Are you asking them for a favor? You can bet on the fact that they are evaluating what the impact is for their business and for themselves if they say yes or no.

So why be a hypocrite? If you are making business connections based on what these people can do or could potentially do for you in the future, why are you whining and complaining when they are also looking out for themselves?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Even though I've graduated from Sauder back in 2007, I'm still pretty involved with the school's activities relating to entrepreneurship.

It's interesting since I've been asked to speak at 3 different events in the next couple months. They all want to know how it's like to build a business. I can probably summarize it with one word: HARD (for all the other entrepreneurs out there I know you feel like adding "descriptive" words in front of that word).

I'm playing over a couple ideas in my head right now as to what I want to say for my speaker session - I want to give them a dose of reality and at the same time encourage them to keep trying. Building a business really does require determination and persistence; if you thought revenues come within the first month for this great business plan you have, chances are you can multiply that timeline out by 5 times at least.

Here are the ideas that I have so far for the speaker session topic:

- bootstrapping your business in tough economic times
- two sides of the coin: investors vs. entrepreneurs
- the entrepreneurial curve: expect things to go downhill for the first little while

Given that I will be speaking to budding entrepreneurs I think the above topics will be suitable. Thoughts?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Confusing Activity with Productivity

I think one of the things as an owner of a start up that's challenging and interesting is you always have to figure out what to do next.

Let's say we had an increase in our budget for the next month:

Should you bump up your marketing budget?
Should you increase the number of direct salespeople?
Should you use the budget to improve your website/product?

I believe that most start ups nowadays are constantly torn by these decisions that they have to make.

Some people end up doing all three - and most of the time this is when all three components suffer from a mediocre improvement. The key is figuring out what's most important. Will you get more customers if you invest in more sales and marketing if your product sucks? Probably not. So instead of dumping money equally into the three components, you should prioritize. Have a list for what you want to achieve and number them.

  1. Improve Product
  2. Bump up marketing
  3. Increase number of salespeople
Here's the rationale behind these choices:

  1. With a product that sucks, bumping up marketing first means telling MORE people that your product sucks. Go figure.
  2. Yes - bump up marketing after your product has been improved, then at least you have progress to show to your existing userbase and a better chance of attracting new prospects that have higher standards than your version 1.0 product.
  3. Lastly you increase salespeople after you bump up marketing because you don't want to send them in to die. Literally. Have you tried knocking on a buyer's door and telling them that you are from P&G [or insert other big name recognizable brand]? Now, have you also gone knocking on doors when you first started your business? It's much easier to get in the door when people have at least heard of you.
Here are some stats to prove it.

We had a list of people who had signed up for Beta testing back in December of last year - we couldn't fit them into the testing group given our constraints, so we emailed them back when we launched our commercialized version. More than 30% of them converted within 2 days.

We then got a list of importing businesses in Canada, and tried emailing and calling them; we had about 3% call us back or at least take our call - because they had never heard of us. Plus, we're asking them to trust us with their money - what do you think happened?

So go through that process to prioritize the tasks for your company and the results will differ by a great deal. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Unveiling our First Partnership!

On Yahoo! Finance:

On Reuters:

On Forbes:


Needless to say I'm excited!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What are you doing for marketing?

I was revisiting this over the long weekend while everyone else was out enjoying the holidays. It's great. Holidays are actually the only time I get to think quietly about the "big picture" for PeerFX.

So here's what we're doing for marketing:
  1. Website
  2. E-mails
  3. Press Releases
  4. Facebook
  5. Twitter
  6. Adwords
  7. Youtube
  8. Blog
  9. Online game
There might be even more than that but that's just off the top of my head. We've been so involved with the day to day operations of the company that we haven't slowed down to figure out exactly what we want each of these channels to do. Specific channels may be more effective for distributing information such as press releases, special promos, etc. Whereas other venues can focus on branding, customer-relationship building, etc.

I went through the exercise of listing the above marketing channels, labeled each of them "push" or "pull" (which just means whether you're pushing your product DOWN through your distributors via discounts to the vendors, etc. or if you're pulling your customers to you via promos to end-users, etc. there are may examples of push and pull in marketing) and also the function that I expected each of these channels to be responsible for.

Then evaluate each channel on its effectiveness based on conversion rate to actual transactions (or whatever is applicable in your case indicating a "sale" of some sort that generates revenue)

At the end of this you should have a clearer picture of where you should be spending more effort and money to promote and hopefully have a more consistent branding/marketing strategy - remember, you should always have an overarching objective that you're trying to achieve.

Get specific - is your strategy supposed to get you 200 new customers (actual conversion)? or simply spread the word to 20000 new potential customers (awareness)?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

JailHouseFire Hotsauce

You can take full advantage of your situation - whatever your situation. This is exactly what the inmates at Florida's Hillsborough County Jail did, using the peppers grown on site to develop 3 flavors of hotsauce which they are marketing under the brand JailHouseFire. I love the fact that they've used their situation to help brand the product, naming the three different flavors Original, Smoke and No Escape.

Each brand tells a story, and their is definitely an interesting one that stands out from the everyday brand you see the at the supermarket. You can read the original article here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gmail has Failed Me

I forward most of my emails to my gmail inbox.

Today it failed me. Server error was what it said. GREAT. I keep most of my communications with my development team and marketing side of things in this inbox. I'm trying to get access to one of the development documents to confirm something but it just won't load.

It says I should try again in 30 seconds. I've waited probably more than 900 seconds now and it's still. not. working.

This is what happens when we get too tied into our blackberry's, emails, etc. but I can't really save a copy of all my emails on my computer - since that would mean I need 3 external hard drives -_-"

Crossing my fingers now and hoping that gmail will be back up soon. PLS!