What I Would Do as CMO of Voice123

magician

I’ve been involved with entrepreneurship since my senior year of college where I built and launched Bruin Consulting from the ground up.  Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to lead the marketing, branding, and acquisition campaigns for early-stage startups (where I was the founder) to the largest brands in the United States such as Sephora, Whole Foods Market, and the Los Angeles Clippers.

There is a clear distinction between early-stage marketing, growth-stage marketing, and big-brand marketing

Early-stage marketing: Early-stage startups must conserve cash at all costs.  Their goal is not necessarily to bring in A LOT of traffic or generate a ton of revenue; rather, their goal is to find product-market fit.  During the early-stages of RewardMe, I implemented the following grass-roots methods of marketing and user-acquisition:

  1. Door-to-door sales: Yup, I did it.  I walked door-to-door to sell RewardMe to restaurants and retailers.  Keep in mind, I did this without even having a finished product to show them — I basically sold them with nothing more than a vision and screen shots of what it will look like.  
  2. Gift box drop-off: Because door-to-door sales was very time consuming, I developed a plan to reach more people at once and ensure that they’ll read our marketing materials.  I created a RewardMe “Gift box” that I would drop-off at their restaurant location that was addressed to the General Manager or owner. I put on my courier hat, took a pen and clipboard with me to make it seem like I was a courier, and dropped off the gift boxes to about 100 brick-and-mortar stores in the Mountain View area.  You can see what these gift boxes looked like here and here.
  3. Free food promotions: In order to get users to download and use our app, we partnered with our clients in Mountain View to create a “Free Lunch” campaign.  A user who downloads our app receives a free lunch that day with our partnered restaurant.  We successfully ran this campaign over 5 days.

Growth-stage marketing: Growth-stage marketing happens when you have found your product market fit, you have a finished product, paying customers, and capital to grow your company.  For RewardMe, our growth-stage started during the Fall of 2011.  We successfully raised $1,000,000 in Angel funding, had a fully functional product, and had paying clients.  I utilized the following marketing and sales techniques for our growth-stage:

  1. Conferences and Trade shows: We sponsored several conferences and trade shows in the franchise vertical.  Here I am at CETW 2012: watch video here. It was a great opportunity to meet with high-level executives from our target market: franchises with 50 locations or more.
  2. Company blog to build thought leadership: My goal from the beginning was to build though-leadership in the loyalty marketing industry.  To accomplish this, I built the RewardMe blog, which posts expert content on how to utilize loyalty marketing.  We rank well to this day for specific keywords and successfully launched posts that drove leads:
  3. Case Studies, Videos, and Guides: In addition to the blog, I wrote case studies, created videos, and published guides to further established ourselves as the absolute experts in the industry:

Big-brand marketing: Big brands generally hire agencies for a specific campaign.  For example, Sephora approached me to help them build a social platform that acquires more users into their Very Importan Beauty Insider Program.  You’ll notice that the marketing campaign is very very specific.  I therefore built the Birthday Sephora App, which continues to drive users to this day.

What the CMO’s role should be at Voice123

Voice123 is in their growth stage: they’ve found a product-market fit, have users, have a product that people pay to use, and are profitable.  They’re now ready to take their marketing to the next level and really focus on scaling out the business — this means establishing thought leadership and expertise in the industry, building out a content strategy for social marketing and SEO, creating a paid advertising campaign that measures ROI, and A/B testing elements to improve conversion rates.

This is what I would do as the CMO of Voice123.

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Would your company still operate if you fired yourself?

fire yourself

Take a look at your business.  If you fired yourself right now, would your company still operate as normal?  Have you created systems in your company that allow you to remove yourself from the equation and still have a fully functional business?

Notice that the key word here is operate.

A business that operates on its own not only gives you more free time to do what you want (lifestyle business), but it also allows you to focus on growing the company.

Furthermore, a self-operating business positions an entrepreneur to grow the company intelligently – instead of hiring more people because there’s too much work to do, an entrepreneur can hire more people when it’s time to scale.

These are the steps I take to remove myself from the equation.

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The Journey Begins Once Again – Viralogy is raising angel funding

journey

3 years ago, I left my corporate job to pursue Future Delivery full time with Yu-kai, Stephen, and Joseph.  Back then, we had no understanding of how to run a company, how to finish a product that people would pay for, or how to sell our product.  The result: two failed startups.

A year ago I was given the opportunity to build a digital marketing agency.  In one year, my agency team and I grew it to a $1.2 million company and I was making as much money as my investment banker friends.

[showmyads]

A sophomore in college once told me:

“Jun, if you had made it as an Investment Banker, you would never have become an entrepreneur.  The money is all that matters.”

I used to doubt myself.  What if I had become an investment banker?  Would I still blog or be an entrepreneur?  Or would I settle down with my nice salary and live a long, comfortable life?

You can’t possibly know who you are until you’re put into the situation.  3 years out of college, I was given the choice:

Follow the money: Stay with the agency and make a high 6-figure salary by the end of this year
or
Follow my heart: Leave the agency and work side-by-side with my startup team on Viralogy

I now know who I am.  And I’m so very happy to be the person that I’ve always wanted to be.

I left my agency last week – all the money in the world can’t hold me back from following my heart.

There is only one goal on my mind right now: To have a successful exit with my startup and to do it with my team

And you know what, we’re closer to reaching this goal than ever before.  We’re so close that we can taste it, and it tastes so good:

  1. We have successfully launched our product
  2. We have validated that our product works and increased revenue for our clients by up to 15%
  3. We have paying customers
  4. We currently building more and better features for our product

For those of you who are curious about what my company does, this video will tell you in detail:

The team is ready to receive an angel round of funding that will allow us to increase inbound leads, scale our infrastructure, and increase our product features. If you or someone you know has money to invest, the following sections detail the pain we solve, the market opportunity, the business model, the milestones we’ve hit, and what we plan to do with your invested dollars:

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How to reignite your inner fire by becoming a battle born entrepreneur

maren kate donovanThis is an Entrepreneur Spotlight guest post from Maren Donovan from Escaping the 9 to 5

I’ve been on an entrepreneurial path since the age of 19, and its felt like I’ve been fighting an uphill battle for the majority of the time.  People around me don’t understand why I’d rather work for 10 hours straight than go hang out with everyone at the river and enjoy a beautiful day outside.  I tell them it’s because I’m battle born, which usually brings odd looks, but being battle born isn’t a bad thing and if you understand it it’ll change the way you do business forever.

Nevada, the place I currently reside, is nicknamed the “Battle Born State” after their induction into the Union during the Civil War. Similarly, the battle born entrepreneur is launched into struggles and challenges before they’re necessarily ready.  It’s because of these hardships that the entrepreneur learns the value of patience, diligence, and persistence, attributes that you’d never find if your path in life was laid out for you nicely with a little map.

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Remember your first time?

I remember my first time so well.

It was Spring 2007, and I was an inexperienced 21 year-old getting ready to graduate and enter the real world.  My brother Yu-kai Chou had already done it and I thought, “Yu-kai seems like such a Fob.  If Yu-kai has done it, then I should be able to do it as well!”

I was nervous.  I had consistently heard my peers talking about how good it felt, and those wild college success stories made it seem like it was just so easy to accomplish.  It was my last year in college, and I knew if I didn’t do it now, there was just no way I’d be able to do it later on in life.

So before graduating, I took a deap breath, took the plunge, and became a man…

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Startup Advice: A State of Mind

(Please take the time to watch the video.  Trust me, Raul Midon is amazing!)

Most entrepreneurs focus on the cash flow, team, market, and product, but neglect one of the most important factors in the success of the startup – morale.  Morale is the thing that keeps you working at 2am in the morning; morale is the element that keeps spirits high when cash flow is running low.  Without high company morale, your startup will feel like it is failing even when things are going very well.

[showmyads]

I’ve recently been plagued by low moral.  I had low energy during my startup meetings and I found myself arguing with Yu-kai all the time.  Maybe creating an internet startup from scratch that changes the advertisement game is too hard? Perhaps I should just take the Tim Ferriss approach and create a business that is focused on driving revenue and nothing more.  A self-automated business that allows me to do what I want when I want does sound pretty sexy.

Yesterday I decided to change my state of mind.  I decided to throw out all of my thoughts about Viralogy and focus on it with a blank slate.  This is the list I came up with:

  1. We just closed a round of funding (our first ever!)
  2. The team is financially secure
  3. Talking to agencies at conferences has shown that there is a high demand for our service
  4. We have sold our product to clients and validated our model
  5. We’re looking to hire a full-time developer and full-time sales person and have the cash to pay them!

I realized that Viralogy has been doing much better than it has ever been before!  Why then do I have such low morale?

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How to keep your girlfriend happy when you’re an entrepreneur

Girlfriends are hard to keep happy no matter what.  As a young entrepreneur with very little income, it’s even harder to keep the boss happy.

Kim and I got into one of our worsts fights last week.  I don’t even know what started it; all I know is that it was the first time I felt her disdain, frustration, and anger with my career choice.  She has been the most understanding, wonderful person this past year and a half, but everyone reaches a breaking point.

At the climax of the fight, I realized what a terrible boyfriend I had been.  I made a promise to her and myself that I would not only make more time for her, but that I would use my time efficiently to make her happy.

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Down With Entrepreneurship’s Glamour

This is a guest post by my good friend Carlos Miceli who blogs at Owl Sparks.

We are a “hype” culture.

Every time some topic gets some buzz going on, we start associating it with as many stories, movies, and anecdotes as possible.

Why? Because it sells. It makes the topic recyclable.

There’s one worrying consequence because of this: Glamour.

This is what’s happening with entrepreneurship. It’s been glamourized, and we are ignoring it.

We are focusing on the nice part, we are embracing incomplete versions of what being an entrepreneur is like. Countless people are choosing the path without really knowing why (yes, we are that susceptible).
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