Diggen Attends the Small Business Web Summit

As an entrepreneur, my time is limited and divided between many tasks. Making the time to attend conferences, let alone choosing which conferences to attend is a daunting task. My good friend Dina Moskowitz, the founder of SaaSMax, told me about the Small Business Web Summit and their organization where she is also a board member. I knew this was one conference I couldn’t miss primarily for two reasons.

First, our missions were aligned, since the Small Business Web Organization and Summit’s mission is to help small businesses with technology. At Diggen we believe access to data shouldn’t be complicated, nor expensive. We are building a platform allowing any size business the ability to source and integrate marketing data, so businesses can better understand their audience and leverage the data to improve their marketing initiatives.

Second, the right people were attending. If you’re speaking to the wrong audience, it doesn’t matter how great your mission statement sounds. Before attending any conference, it’s good to know who else will be flying in. Conferences are the ideal way to connect with many individuals you would normally spend weeks trying to reach. When doing my conference due diligence, I discovered many of the companies on my target list were attending, but also the right person to connect and discuss opportunities. It was a blend of technology startups and large software companies, but the people were the Founders, CEOs, Heads of Partnerships, Alliances, and Product.

So I booked my trip to the Bay Area and off I went!

Evening Before The Summit

I arrived earlier than expected and was excited to make the pre-conference dinner scheduled for attendees. It was held at the Tied House in Mountain View and I was very pleased with the evening.

It was a long table with about 15 people and it immediately felt like a group of coworkers getting together after work. My end of the table was Josh Sanderson from Lightspeed Capital, Alex Fong from Microsoft, and Sunir Shah from Olark. Josh and I instantly hit it off and connected over our GE background.  Apparently he was involved in the proposal to acquire GE Information Service at the exact time I was a program manager there.

After eating my dinner, drinking some cider, and chatting with this side of the table, I moved over to the other side to meet more attendees. Ironically, I recognized Mike Montano from ReviewBuzz, since we were on the same flight from San Diego and we were also in the same Uber riding sharing from the airport.

After an hour, Sunir moved over to this side of the table and I got a chance to talk in more detail with him. He asked me very specific questions about my business and seemed fascinated with the overall challenges of SaaS companies to grow. In addition, Sunir is a board member of the Summit and he also MC most of the Summit. We discussed running an event and creative approaches to increase ticket sales since I am on the board of Startup San Diego and we run San Diego Startup Week coming up in June.

Summit Day 1

The conference was hosted at the Google Quad Campus. Armies of dedicated engineers trotted all around and I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a surreal science fiction film. I’m familiar with the Googleplex main campus since they were a partner at the last company and I visited every so often. However, it was amazing to visit yet another Google campus just a mile away.

I attended the track format sessions in the afternoon with Anand Kulkarni from Lead Genius and Chris Campbell from Review Tracker, and Jon Ferrara from Nimble as speakers. All were informative and entertaining presentations, which were also relevant to my business. When I connected with Anand and Chris afterward at happy hour, we chatted about our mutual background in local search. They were familiar with my former company Localeze. It really is a small world in the data industry!

I finally got to connect in person with Lou Salfi and Hannah Shain from Cloud Elements.  After many phone conversations, it was a pleasure to put faces to the names and voices. Cloud Elements is a company I found researching potential partners to integrate as a key component of our platform, so I’m excited to integrate in the future as part of our offering.

I ended day 1 with meeting Cody Jones from Zapier. Zapier is another integration for Diggen, since we make it easier for Zapier’s customers to source marketing data into their ecosystem. Cody is just establishing the business development initiatives at Zapier and we are excited to watch their fast pace growth!

The night ended with another brewery event  at Steins Beer Garden in Mountain View sponsored by Microsoft. It’s nice to see the micro brewery scene booming in other California cities! San Diego still holds the title of the most microbreweries, so let me know if you come visit and need a tour guide.

The two people that stood out in my research in deciding to attend the Summit were Richard Gilbert from Infusionsoft and Pamela O’Hara from Batchbooks. Not only are they board members of the Summit and focused on software for small business, but I was also interested in sharing Diggen’s embedded service for CRM platforms and get their thoughts.

Summit Day 2

The beginning of the day was focused on speakers, which were statistically and number driven. Started with Dawn Poulos from Mattermark. I follow the founder Danielle Morrill online, so it was nice to hear a bit of their story. Dina Moskowitz from SaaSMAX had a panel next to discuss the missed opportunity and value of building a reseller program to grow your software business. SaaSMAX is a growth engine for SaaS companies and their resellers, so it was an interesting discussion to identify a viable growth channel.

Last speaker before lunch was Tomasz Tunguz from Redpoint and I also follow him online, since we have similar backgrounds as mechanical engineers and entrepreneurs. I was the first person to welcome him when he walked in, so I got the opportunity to chat with him. Always great to talk with a former founder and current investor in your space.

Rarely do you attend a conference and you look forward to the food. However, the Google campus will spoil you and yet another reason employees are hooked. Being gluten free, I’ve been spoiled with the health conscious options in San Diego, so I want to take a moment to thank Christina Hug from The Makers Nation. She also manages the Summit and it was thoughtful of her to request from the Google Chefs gluten free options for meals.

Both days in the afternoon were structured as separate group conversations to have interactive sessions around a specific topic. It was called “Birds of a Feather” and it was a new format being tested by the Summit. Personally, I liked the idea and I hope it continues to develop. I also greatly appreciate when organizers listen to their customer’s feedback from previous events and adapt to continually improve the value.

Later I attended a growth session with Vasil Azarov from StartupSocials since we had talked many times before based on our passion for helping startup founders to grow their business. He was interviewing Zach Onisko from Hired and my friend Neal Bloom is launching the San Diego business for Hired.

The last session was from Bob Ogdon from Swiftpage and Sam Laber from Datanyze. I was entertained listening to Bob since I remember the history of Act! And using the shrink wrap software years ago. It’s rare for a company to continue to innovate, especially with the transition to the cloud. I had already chatted with Sam and their goals at Datanyze, so it was nice to check out his presentation about marketing technology and analytics supporting their growth success.

The Summit ended in a happy hour outside with plenty of drinks. In fact I was literally the only person left and it was entertaining to observe random people walk by. They would walk back, check out the table, and then load up their arms with bottles of wine and beer. The employment incentives from Google will hinder innovation for the rest of us.

In Summary

From the facility to the amenities, the attendees, and food, the organizers did an absolutely amazing job! What I enjoyed most, was it wasn’t a typical mass appeal event, but much more targeted. I felt that I was able to harness the full value of connecting with others at a conference by making genuine business relationships that will ultimately focus in on helping each other grow. I felt more like a group of friends in the same industry getting together and welcoming the opportunity to figure out whether we could collaborate. I was surprised to learn the conference is 7 years old and I can’t wait to be part of it again next year. Or possibly attend the east coast version when visiting my hometown!

What is a Marketplace? Business Model To Accelerate Growth

Online marketplaces are taking over the Internet. In the next year, online marketplace sales are expected to reach $350 billion, which would mark an all-time high in the e-commerce world. And it’s no wonder. The convenience and ease that online marketplaces provide for consumers means that more and more of them are popping up each and every day.

What is an Online Marketplace?

An online marketplace, also often called an e-commerce marketplace, combines products or services from other companies to bring everything together in one, convenient spot. Big-time examples of online marketplaces include Amazon, which purchases products from other retailers and then takes care of payment and shipping when it sells them back to consumers, and eBay, where private sellers are the product providers. Craigslist is also an example of one, often providing services in addition to products. The goal of an online marketplace is to curate products or services from other vendors so that consumers can easily purchase them.

This provides a complete solution and economies of scale, so companies focus on their products and services opposed to overhead business services. This delivers commodity services to companies, including an online storefront, marketing, payment processing, shipping, support, etc… However, the challenges of launching a marketplace are exponentially more compared to a direct online business. It is called the “Empty Room” dilemma, since you have to target 2 markets to make it successful. Balancing the growth of buyers and sellers creates a unique hurdle to solve in a go to market strategy. For example too many buyers with limited products or Too much product with no buyers will not grow the marketplace.

Why is an Online Marketplace Beneficial?

An online marketplace is beneficial to everyone involved. The consumer receives the conveniences — and often discounts — of shopping for a specific category of product or service, all in one place. Many online marketplaces also offer faster shipping than the service or product provider.

The service or product vendor wins, too. They receive additional business from the marketplace, which is bringing their products to a new group of consumers they may not have otherwise engaged with. In many cases, getting picked up by an online marketplace also means a steady stream of business.

What is the Upside of Having a Marketplace for Sourcing Data?

Products and services are some of the most commonly sold items online, but just as they can be curated and presented to consumers, so can data. A data marketplace saves marketers, journalists, government organizations and business people the trouble of collecting data through surveys or interviews. A marketplace that specializes in data connects people who have data — or can easily access it via digital scraping, mass surveys and more — with those who need access to the numbers.

By hosting a website providing data to those in need, an online data marketplace creates a bridge between the data vendors and the person or organization who is in need of data. This type of online marketplace provides convenience and speed to its consumers in the same way that Amazon or eBay appeals to shoppers. The only difference is that e-commerce consumers are after clothing, goods and products, whereas data shoppers are after the numbers.

The convenience that online marketplaces provide for consumers makes them a go-to destination for shoppers around the world, as well as an industry that will continue to grow in the future. But while this traditional e-commerce approach has dominated the industry for years, a data marketplace brings numbers to those who need them and it is a high growth area for the future. In addition, it provides additional educational content and tools to source the right data at the right price.

In a digital age, in which we so heavily rely on technology and data-driven numbers to make decisions, an online marketplace that provides the information its consumers are hungry for will continue to make waves in online industries. Data marketplaces are changing the way we think about the online world and provides access to more information than ever before, right at the consumer’s’ fingertips. As consumers, companies and organizations continue to hunger for information, online data marketplaces will thrive.

Sources

http://www.bloomberg.com/ss/08/11/1107_ecommerce/1.htm
http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2014/08/20/why-online-marketplaces-are-booming/
http://www.webretailer.com/lean-commerce/statistics-marketplace-seller-survey/
http://www.ebusinessguru.co.uk/10-statistics-online-marketplace-seller-survey-infographic/
https://www.pixelmedia.com/blog/5-ecommerce-stats-trends-you-should-know-about
http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/data-marketplace-data-market
http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/startups/2015/03/online-marketplace-experfy-now-has-1-100-data.html

The Modern Customer Funnel

Originally, businesses created a traditional sales funnel where the company was in control and got to push the prospect through the sales grinder. That original model is dead now that a new model has emerged. The main difference in the new model is that instead of businesses working toward a “close,” both customers and businesses alike are starting to see the funnel as the beginning of a deep and valuable relationship with each other. The new model was coined Pirate Metrics by Dave McClure because of its infamous acronym: AARRR! This stands for the five key metrics that McClure believes map out the lifecycle of the customer: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue.

AIDA vs. AARRR

The original AIDA model has been around in the marketing world for ages. The lifecycle went like this:

A is for Awareness, or attracting the customers’ attention.

I is for getting the Interest of the customer.

D is for getting the customer to Desire your product and convincing them it will satisfy their needs.

A is for Action, which is leading customers toward the actual purchase.

While its principles still have some value, it is now pretty out of date. The main difference between AIDA and AARRR is that McClure’s followers start with acquisition of customers instead of Awareness building, according to Sean Ellis. From there, it goes on to extend the life of the client-relationship with the retention phase.

Data Driven Analysis and The Funnel

Consumers don’t follow a linear path through the funnel any longer. Much of the journey relies on digital engagement. For instance, consumers often check out product reviews on websites and across platforms, look at their social media accounts and then make purchases online. All of this information is tracked and available for us to analyze. The split-funnel attribution model takes advantage of this data-driven insight into how each part of the funnel boosts conversions by tracking impressions, clicks and conversion info. In turn, this data-driven analysis helps you to create more personalized content that drives acquisitions, leads and revenue as well.

The Acquisition Phase

In the new marketing funnel, you place a lot of emphasis on your first contact point with your customer. Your initial marketing efforts worked and you have their attention. They’ve probably visited your website and some of them have even taken an interest in your content. These numbers serve as the starting point for analyzing which of your marketing channels are working. You can see which types of content are holding people on your site and which ones are trickling down and out. Breaking this into stages helps, such as who signed up for your mailing list, who signed up for your Beta list and how long their engagement with certain aspects of your site was. The ones who are subscribing are the ones in an advanced stage of acquisition – these are the ones you want to push forward with your Activation steps.

Retention Phase

In today’s connected world, the conversation doesn’t end when the sale is ‘closed’. For example, Halloween is confined to sales during September and October. However, the conversation doesn’t abruptly stop after the 31st. Technology allows for companies to have a continuous conversation with customers, make them continuously feel appreciated, and increase their lifetime value as a customer.

Traditionally, it was hard to monitor when customers were talking about a brand and required more resources to focus on retention vs. customer acquisition. In the modern era, we have technology such as Oracle’s new image recognition software designed for brands to ‘listen’ for when customer post photos including recognizable brand attributes. These tools make it easier to focus on increasing the lifetime value of customers through engagement with the intention of increasing their individual net promoter score as well.

 

Sources

https://www.ensighten.com/company/newsroom/lets-split-funnel/

https://www.convertwithcontent.com/the-content-marketing-sales-funnel/

https://twitter.com/seanellis/status/629699744097439745

http://www.samuelhulick.com/life-inside-dave-mcclures-pirate-metrics-funnel/