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Timing is everything — especially in startups.

You need to be pretty durable to be an entrepreneur. It’s said that the best lessons in are often the most painful emotionally and financially. And entrepreneurs get hit by these type of lessons almost daily, sometimes twice.

I awoke this morning to find the New York Times had just the ripped the duct tape off an old, painful wound:

In early 2011, I sunk my life savings to launch PoliMobile. We would bring mobile marketing tools into the world of political campaigns. I didn’t make this decision lightly. I spent six months speaking to politicians, political campaign managers, party officials and others. It was enough due diligence to risk it.

Three years of 70-80 hour weeks, two pivots and some successes followed. I left the decision to the results of a meeting of a 20-something campaign staffer. (I won’t mention the campaign. I respect Al Franken.)

He proved to be a carbon copy of most campaign staffers. He was young, clueless, not curious and somehow arrogant despite this being his second race. He preached that young voters would never connect with campaigns using mobile. His iPhone never left his hands.

Moments later, I happily killed off my startup. I never looked back on those three years until this morning’s tweet, but I learned these lessons.


#1: Due diligence never ends.

While in development, we checked in the with a group of political advisors. They provided excellent feedback. It helped us create a great platform that solve critical issues.

Unfortunately, I was asking the wrong questions to the wrong people. The BETA of our platform got great reviews. The question I didn’t ask the right people is “what you pay for this?” No campaign wanted to buy it..

The reality is that 90% of all the money campaigns raise goes into media buys. The rest goes for food for the volunteers and minuscule salaries for those who manage them. Outside of the candidate in a few key campaign staffers, the rest tend to be pretty worthless.

Those key campaign staffers got to their positions by following the status quo. They stuck to using outdated campaigns tools: lawn signs, direct mail and broadcast media.

Never quit doing due diligence. You can always pivot sooner than later.


#2: Customers pay you.

Startups put a lot of weight on building a sizable user base. They invest hordes of funds to get users. And adapt to keep them.

Users don’t matter. Customers do.

Many campaigns signed up for trials. We invest new features based on some of the feedback we received. Unfortunately, most of them never used our platform for one key reason: they never paid for it. No matter how much you give away, most will never use what they won’t buy.

Focus on those who pay. Fuck the rest.


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#3: Timing is everything.

You could do everything perfectly. You could have a few paying customers to validate your work. But if the market is not ready it doesn’t matter.

PoliMobile was ahead of the curve. We launched time when mobile was in heavy use with consumers. Some enterprising campaigns had great success with mobile tools like we offer. Most campaigns today are still not ready for what we offered in 2011.



I ran into that same campaign staffer later. He was pushing bean water at a second tier coffee chain and didn’t recognize me. I left him an $8 tip on a $2 tea in thanks. He saved me from another few years of pain.

Learn how to use mobile marketing to grow your craft brewery

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Craft brewing is exploding in America. Per the Brewers Association, Americans now enjoy beer from more than 3,000 breweries with another 2,000 coming. This level of choice makes building a sustainable customer base challenging for craft brewers.

Since 99 percent of craft brewers have limited distribution and budgets, most promotional methods remain financially out of reach, and are largely ineffective on a local scale. Unlike traditional tools, mobile marketing can have a huge, quantifiable impact on building awareness, generating taproom traffic and earning customer loyalty for craft brewers. And you don’t need the marketing resources of MillerCoors to impact your bottom line. In fact, most mobile marketing tools remain inexpensive, easy to use and simple to scale up. Having worked with many craft brewers, here are some quick suggestions:

Start simple, with your website

Your site is how people find out your taproom hours, who stocks your beer and what’s coming out of your tanks. It’s your information foundation. If your goal is to drive distribution sales or garner more awareness at beer fests, you won’t get far if people can’t access your information easily.

Since people don’t walk around with laptops, make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices — both smartphones and tablets. If you fail to take this step, most of your mobile visitors will likely never return, your social media efforts will fizzle and your other marketing investments will be wasted. Many of my clients have found that mobile traffic to their website continues at double-digit growth and often exceeds that from desktop browsers. This step can’t be skipped.

Focus on the beer fans and forget the rest

I’ve seen many of my craft brewers decrease their spending on traditional marketing tools like print ads or eliminate them altogether. That’s counter to typical marketing logic. Despite the blazing growth of craft breweries, big brewers still control 92.2 percent of the market. While that figure is eroding quickly, a majority of American beer drinkers still remain in the clutches of the big players with their massive national marketing budgets.

Read more in Craft Brewing Business.

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Harvard, Drive-Bys & Fat Tire

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As most analysts have expected, mobile’s grow exceeding their estimates. A few days ago, Pew Research released a study that showed 56% of Americans are using smartphones (for Latino and African American users, those numbers are 60% and 64% respectively.)

That said, most businesses are still lagging in mobile adoption. According to a survey 1,800 digital marketers commissioned by Adobe, only 27% of companies have a mobile-optimized web site and 7% have developed a mobile app.

Congrats if you’re within either or both of these groups. If you’re not, there’s is still plenty of time to incorporate mobile into your enterprise.

Here are five mobile stories that you might of missed from last month:


#1: Insights from Harvard

Few would consider Harvard on the cutting edge of marketing thought. That said, the Harvard Business Review provides a great summary on the growth trends of mobile-only users: http://bit.ly/ZqLZhE

#2: SMS for Healthier Eating

Birdseye partnered with Share Our Strength and Healthier America to provide tips for better grocery shopping. Users receive up to eight messages a month that include ideas on how to save money, what to look for in the shopping aisles and links to recipes.

Why SMS? Households earning less than $30K annually use twice the volume of text messages than those earning more than $75K.

Learn more about this innovative behavioral change campaign at Mobile Marketer: http://bit.ly/11l4w9q

#3: The March of the Latino Shopper

It is no surprise that communities of color are more sophisticated mobile users. This is especially true in Latino communities. Research shows that 16% of Latino shoppers are making purchases on their mobile devices. That’s 25% higher than the general marketplace.

Check out the piece in Progressive Grocer: http://bit.ly/ZqMCaU

#4: Mobile Drive-Bys

Approximately 200 Clark, Marathon, Phillips 66 and Sunoco gas station in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are capturing the attention of drivers. The system connects to WiFi and Bluetooth-engaged mobile phones that pass within 300 feet of a transmitter, and the sends them an offer via push messaging.

Unfortunately, they do so without mobile user opt-in. So expect that loop-hole to close with the first class action lawsuit.

Read more in AdAgehttp://bit.ly/11l2TIN

 

#5:  Social, Mobile & Fat Tire.

Some of the best campaigns rarely come from big brands. Case in point is New Belgium Brewing. Having launched a mobile app for their flagship Fat Tire Amber Ale last summer, NBB expanded their 2013 summer campaign to mesh mobile and social with more traditional media.

Catch the whole story at Mobile Marketer: http://bit.ly/ZqP810