More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
9 months ago
I've Never Seen a Sales Deck This Good
It’s Zuora’s, and it’s brilliant. Here’s why.
My friend Tim got a sales position at a Series-C software company that garnered $60 million from A-list investors. He's one of the best salespeople I know, yet he emailed me after starting to struggle.
Tim has a few modest clients. “Big companies ignore my pitch”. Tim said.
I love helping teams write the strategic story that drives sales, marketing, and fundraising. Tim and I had lunch at Amber India on Market Street to evaluate his deck.
After a feast, I asked Tim when prospects tune out.
He said, “several slides in”.
Intent on maximizing dining ROI, Tim went back to the buffet for seconds. When he returned, I pulled out my laptop and launched into a Powerpoint presentation.
“What’s this?” Tim asked.
“This,” I said, “is the greatest sales deck I have ever seen.”
Five Essentials of a Great Sales Narrative
I showed Tim a sales slide from IPO-bound Zuora, which sells a SaaS platform for subscription billing. Zuora supports recurring payments (e.g. enterprise software).
Ex-Zuora salesman gave me the deck, saying it helped him close his largest business. (I don't know anyone who works at Zuora.) After reading this, a few Zuora employees contacted me.)
Tim abandoned his naan in a pool of goat curry and took notes while we discussed the Zuora deck.
We remarked how well the deck led prospects through five elements:
(The ex-Zuora salesperson begged me not to release the Zuora deck publicly.) All of the images below originate from Zuora's website and SlideShare channel.)
#1. Name a Significant Change in the World
Don't start a sales presentation with mentioning your product, headquarters, investors, clients, or yourself.
Name the world shift that raises enormous stakes and urgency for your prospect.
Every Zuora sales deck begins with this slide:
Zuora coined the term subscription economy to describe a new market where purchasers prefer regular service payments over outright purchases. Zuora then shows a slide with the change's history.
Most pitch recommendation advises starting with the problem. When you claim a problem, you put prospects on the defensive. They may be unaware of or uncomfortable admitting the situation.
When you highlight a global trend, prospects open up about how it affects them, worries them, and where they see opportunity. You capture their interest. Robert McKee says:
…what attracts human attention is change. …if the temperature around you changes, if the phone rings — that gets your attention. The way in which a story begins is a starting event that creates a moment of change.
#2. Show There’ll Be Winners and Losers
Loss aversion affects all prospects. They avoid a loss by sticking with the status quo rather than risking a gain by changing.
To fight loss aversion, show how the change will create winners and losers. You must show both
that if the prospect can adjust to the modification you mentioned, the outcome will probably be quite favorable; and
That failing to do so is likely to have an unacceptable negative impact on the prospect's future
Zuora shows a mass extinction among Fortune 500 firms.
…and then showing how the “winners” have shifted from product ownership to subscription services. Those include upstarts…
…as well as rejuvenated incumbents:
To illustrate, Zuora asks:
Winners utilize Zuora's subscription service models.
#3. Tease the Promised Land
It's tempting to get into product or service details now. Resist that urge.
Prospects won't understand why product/service details are crucial if you introduce them too soon, therefore they'll tune out.
Instead, providing a teaser image of the happily-ever-after your product/service will assist the prospect reach.
Your Promised Land should be appealing and hard to achieve without support. Otherwise, why does your company exist?
Zuora shows this Promised Land slide after explaining that the subscription economy will have winners and losers.
Not your product or service, but a new future state.
(I asked my friend Tim to describe his Promised Land, and he answered, "You’ll have the most innovative platform for ____." Nope: the Promised Land isn't possessing your technology, but living with it.)
Your Promised Land helps prospects market your solution to coworkers after your sales meeting. Your coworkers will wonder what you do without you. Your prospects are more likely to provide a persuasive answer with a captivating Promised Land.
#4. Present Features as “Mystic Gifts” for Overcoming Difficulties on the Road to the Promised Land
Successful sales decks follow the same format as epic films and fairy tales. Obi Wan gives Luke a lightsaber to help him destroy the Empire. You're Gandalf, helping Frodo destroy the ring. Your prospect is Cinderella, and you're her fairy godmother.
Position your product or service's skills as mystical gifts to aid your main character (prospect) achieve the Promised Land.
Zuora's client record slide is shown above. Without context, even the most technical prospect would be bored.
Positioned in the context of shifting from an “old” to a “new world”, it's the foundation for a compelling conversation with prospects—technical and otherwise—about why traditional solutions can't reach the Promised Land.
#5. Show Proof That You Can Make the Story True.
In this sense, you're promising possibilities that if they follow you, they'll reach the Promised Land.
The journey to the Promised Land is by definition rocky, so prospects are right to be cautious. The final part of the pitch is proof that you can make the story come true.
The most convincing proof is a success story about how you assisted someone comparable to the prospect. Zuora's sales people use a deck of customer success stories, but this one gets the essence.
I particularly appreciate this one from an NCR exec (a Zuora customer), which relates more strongly to Zuora's Promised Land:
Not enough successful customers? Product demos are the next best evidence, but features should always be presented in the context of helping a prospect achieve the Promised Land.
The best sales narrative is one that is told by everyone.
Success rarely comes from a fantastic deck alone. To be effective, salespeople need an organization-wide story about change, Promised Land, and Magic Gifts.
Zuora exemplifies this. If you hear a Zuora executive, including CEO Tien Tzuo, talk, you'll likely hear about the subscription economy and its winners and losers. This is the theme of the company's marketing communications, campaigns, and vision statement.
According to the ex-Zuora salesperson, company-wide story alignment made him successful.
The Zuora marketing folks ran campaigns and branding around this shift to the subscription economy, and [CEO] Tien [Tzuo] talked it up all the time. All of that was like air cover for my in-person sales ground attack. By the time I arrived, prospects were already convinced they had to act. It was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to sales nirvana.
The largest deal ever
Tim contacted me three weeks after our lunch to tell me that prospects at large organizations were responding well to his new deck, which we modeled on Zuora's framework. First, prospects revealed their obstacles more quickly. The new pitch engages CFOs and other top gatekeepers better, he said.
A week later, Tim emailed that he'd signed his company's biggest agreement.
Next week, we’re headed back to Amber India to celebrate.
9 months ago
In November, I made an effort to pitch 10 brands per day. Here's what I discovered.
I pitched 10 brands per workday for a total of 200.
How did I do?
It was difficult.
I've never pitched so much.
What did this challenge teach me?
the superiority of quality over quantity
When you need help, outsource
Don't disregard burnout in order to complete a challenge because it exists.
First, pitching brands for brand deals requires quality. Find firms that align with your brand to expose to your audience.
If you associate with any company, you'll lose audience loyalty. I didn't lose sight of that, but I couldn't resist finishing the task.
Delegating work to teammates is effective.
I wish I'd done it.
Three people can pitch 200 companies a month significantly faster than one.
One person does research, one to two do outreach, and one to two do follow-up and negotiating.
In 2022, I'll outsource everything.
I felt this, so I slowed down at the end of the month.
Thanksgiving week in November was slow.
I was buying and decorating for Christmas. First time putting up outdoor holiday lights was fun.
Much was happening.
I'm not perfect.
I'm being honest.
Less than 50 brands pitched.
Result: A deal with 3 brands.
I hoped for 4 brands with reaching out to 200 companies, so three with under 50 is wonderful.
That’s a 6% conversion rate!
I needed 2%.
Here's a screenshot from one of the deals I booked.
These companies fit my company well. Each campaign is different, but I've booked $2,450 in brand work with a couple of pending transactions for December and January.
$2,450 in brand work booked!
How did I do? You tell me.
Is this something you’d try yourself?
8 months ago
In 2022, can a lone developer be able to successfully establish a SaaS product?
In the early 2000s, I began developing SaaS. I helped launch an internet fax service that delivered faxes to email inboxes. Back then, it saved consumers money and made the procedure easier.
Google AdWords was young then. Anyone might establish a new website, spend a few hundred dollars on keywords, and see dozens of new paying clients every day. That's how we launched our new SaaS, and these clients stayed for years. Our early ROI was sky-high.
The situation changed dramatically after 15 years. Our paid advertising cost $200-$300 for every new customer. Paid advertising takes three to four years to repay.
Fortunately, we still had tens of thousands of loyal clients. Good organic rankings gave us new business. We needed less sponsored traffic to run a profitable SaaS firm.
Is it still possible?
Since selling our internet fax firm, I've dreamed about starting a SaaS company. One I could construct as a lone developer and progressively grow a dedicated customer base, as I did before in a small team.
It seemed impossible to me. Solo startups couldn't afford paid advertising. SEO was tough. Even the worst SaaS startup ideas attracted VC funding. How could I compete with startups that could hire great talent and didn't need to make money for years (or ever)?
The One and Only Way to Learn
After years of talking myself out of SaaS startup ideas, I decided to develop and launch one. I needed to know if a solitary developer may create a SaaS app in 2022.
Thus, I did. I invented webwriter.ai, an AI-powered writing tool for website content, from hero section headlines to blog posts, this year. I soft-launched an MVP in July.
Considering the Issue
Now that I've developed my own fully capable SaaS app for site builders and developers, I wonder if it's still possible. Can webwriter.ai be successful?
I know webwriter.ai's proposal is viable because Jasper.ai and Grammarly are also AI-powered writing tools. With competition comes validation.
To Win, Differentiate
To compete with well-funded established brands, distinguish to stand out to a portion of the market. So I can speak directly to a target user, unlike larger competition.
I created webwriter.ai to help web builders and designers produce web content rapidly. This may be enough differentiation for now.
When paid search isn't an option, we get inventive. There are more tools than ever to promote a new website.
on social media (Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn)
Marketing with content that is compelling
Listings in directories
references made in blog articles and on other websites
The Beginning of the Journey
As I've labored to construct my software, I've pondered a new mantra. Not sure where that originated from, but I like it. I'll live by it and teach my kids:
“Do the work.”
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8 months ago
7 Scientifically Proven Things You Must Stop Doing To Be More Productive
Smarter work yields better results.
17-year-old me worked and studied 20 hours a day. During school breaks, I did coursework and ran a nonprofit at night. Long hours earned me national campaigns, A-list opportunities, and a great career. As I aged, my thoughts changed. Working harder isn't necessarily the key to success.
In some cases, doing less work might lead to better outcomes.
Consider a hard-working small business owner. He can't beat his corporate rivals by working hard. Time's limited. An entrepreneur can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but a rival can invest more money, create a staff, and put in more man hours. Why have small startups done what larger companies couldn't? Facebook paid $1 billion for 13-person Instagram. Snapchat, a 30-person startup, rejected Facebook and Google bids. Luck and efficiency each contributed to their achievement.
The key to success is not working hard. It’s working smart.
Being busy and productive are different. Busy doesn't always equal productive. Productivity is less about time management and more about energy management. Life's work. It's using less energy to obtain more rewards. I cut my work week from 80 to 40 hours and got more done. I value simplicity.
Here are seven activities I gave up in order to be more productive.
1. Give up working extra hours and boost productivity instead.
When did the five-day, 40-hour work week start? Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company founder, experimented with his workers in 1926.
He decreased their daily hours from 10 to 8, and shortened the work week from 6 days to 5. As a result, he saw his workers’ productivity increase.
According to a 1980 Business Roundtable report, Scheduled Overtime Effect on Construction Projects, the more you work, the less effective and productive you become.
“Where a work schedule of 60 or more hours per week is continued longer than about two months, the cumulative effect of decreased productivity will cause a delay in the completion date beyond that which could have been realized with the same crew size on a 40-hour week.” Source: Calculating Loss of Productivity Due to Overtime Using Published Charts — Fact or Fiction
AlterNet editor Sara Robinson cited US military research showing that losing one hour of sleep per night for a week causes cognitive impairment equivalent to a.10 blood alcohol level. You can get fired for showing up drunk, but an all-nighter is fine.
Irrespective of how well you were able to get on with your day after that most recent night without sleep, it is unlikely that you felt especially upbeat and joyous about the world. Your more-negative-than-usual perspective will have resulted from a generalized low mood, which is a normal consequence of being overtired. More important than just the mood, this mind-set is often accompanied by decreases in willingness to think and act proactively, control impulses, feel positive about yourself, empathize with others, and generally use emotional intelligence. Source: The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest
To be productive, don't overwork and get enough sleep. If you're not productive, lack of sleep may be to blame. James Maas, a sleep researcher and expert, said 7/10 Americans don't get enough sleep.
Did you know?
Leonardo da Vinci slept little at night and frequently took naps.
Napoleon, the French emperor, had no qualms about napping. He splurged every day.
Even though Thomas Edison felt self-conscious about his napping behavior, he regularly engaged in this ritual.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's wife Eleanor used to take naps before speeches to increase her energy.
The Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry, was known for taking regular naps in his dressing area in between shows.
Every day, President John F. Kennedy took a siesta after eating his lunch in bed.
Every afternoon, oil businessman and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller took a nap in his office.
It was unavoidable for Winston Churchill to take an afternoon snooze. He thought it enabled him to accomplish twice as much each day.
Every afternoon around 3:30, President Lyndon B. Johnson took a nap to divide his day into two segments.
Ronald Reagan, the 40th president, was well known for taking naps as well.
Source: 5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Nap Every Day — Michael Hyatt
Since I started getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, I've been more productive and completed more work than when I worked 16 hours a day. Who knew marketers could use sleep?
2. Refrain from accepting too frequently
Pareto's principle states that 20% of effort produces 80% of results, but 20% of results takes 80% of effort. Instead of working harder, we should prioritize the initiatives that produce the most outcomes. So we can focus on crucial tasks. Stop accepting unproductive tasks.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.” — Warren Buffett
What should you accept? Why say no? Consider doing a split test to determine if anything is worth your attention. Track what you do, how long it takes, and the consequences. Then, evaluate your list to discover what worked (or didn't) to optimize future chores.
Most of us say yes more often than we should, out of guilt, overextension, and because it's simpler than no. Nobody likes being awful.
Researchers separated 120 students into two groups for a 2012 Journal of Consumer Research study. One group was educated to say “I can't” while discussing choices, while the other used “I don't”.
The students who told themselves “I can’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time. Meanwhile, the students who told themselves “I don’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bars only 36% of the time. This simple change in terminology significantly improved the odds that each person would make a more healthy food choice.
Next time you need to say no, utilize I don't to encourage saying no to unimportant things.
The 20-second rule is another wonderful way to avoid pursuits with little value. Add a 20-second roadblock to things you shouldn't do or bad habits you want to break. Delete social media apps from your phone so it takes you 20 seconds to find your laptop to access them. You'll be less likely to engage in a draining hobby or habit if you add an inconvenience.
Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change. Source: The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
3. Stop doing everything yourself and start letting people help you
I once managed a large community and couldn't do it alone. The community took over once I burned out. Members did better than I could have alone. I learned about community and user-generated content.
Consumers know what they want better than marketers. Octoly says user-generated videos on YouTube are viewed 10 times more than brand-generated videos. 51% of Americans trust user-generated material more than a brand's official website (16%) or media coverage (22%). (14 percent). Marketers should seek help from the brand community.
Being a successful content marketer isn't about generating the best content, but cultivating a wonderful community.
We should seek aid when needed. We can't do everything. It's best to delegate work so you may focus on the most critical things. Instead of overworking or doing things alone, let others help.
Having friends or coworkers around can boost your productivity even if they can't help.
Just having friends nearby can push you toward productivity. “There’s a concept in ADHD treatment called the ‘body double,’ ” says David Nowell, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist from Worcester, Massachusetts. “Distractable people get more done when there is someone else there, even if he isn’t coaching or assisting them.” If you’re facing a task that is dull or difficult, such as cleaning out your closets or pulling together your receipts for tax time, get a friend to be your body double. Source: Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are
4. Give up striving for perfection
Perfectionism hinders professors' research output. Dr. Simon Sherry, a psychology professor at Dalhousie University, did a study on perfectionism and productivity. Dr. Sherry established a link between perfectionism and productivity.
Perfectionism has its drawbacks.
They work on a task longer than necessary.
They delay and wait for the ideal opportunity. If the time is right in business, you are already past the point.
They pay too much attention to the details and miss the big picture.
Marketers await the right time. They miss out.
The perfect moment is NOW.
5. Automate monotonous chores instead of continuing to do them.
A team of five workers who spent 3%, 20%, 25%, 30%, and 70% of their time on repetitive tasks reduced their time spent to 3%, 10%, 15%, 15%, and 10% after two months of working to improve their productivity.
Last week, I wrote a 15-minute Python program. I wanted to generate content utilizing Twitter API data and Hootsuite to bulk schedule it. Automation has cut this task from a day to five minutes. Whenever I do something more than five times, I try to automate it.
Automate monotonous chores without coding. Skills and resources are nice, but not required. If you cannot build it, buy it.
People forget time equals money. Manual work is easy and requires little investigation. You can moderate 30 Instagram photographs for your UGC campaign. You need digital asset management software to manage 30,000 photographs and movies from five platforms. Filemobile helps individuals develop more user-generated content. You may buy software to manage rich media and address most internet difficulties.
Hire an expert if you can't find a solution. Spend money to make money, and time is your most precious asset.
Visit GitHub or Google Apps Script library, marketers. You may often find free, easy-to-use open source code.
6. Stop relying on intuition and start supporting your choices with data.
You may optimize your life by optimizing webpages for search engines.
Numerous studies might help you boost your productivity. Did you know individuals are most distracted from midday to 4 p.m.? This is what a Penn State psychology professor found. Even if you can't find data on a particular question, it's easy to run a split test and review your own results.
7. Stop working and spend some time doing absolutely nothing.
Most people don't know that being too focused can be destructive to our work or achievements. The Boston Globe's The Power of Lonely says solo time is excellent for the brain and spirit.
One ongoing Harvard study indicates that people form more lasting and accurate memories if they believe they’re experiencing something alone. Another indicates that a certain amount of solitude can make a person more capable of empathy towards others. And while no one would dispute that too much isolation early in life can be unhealthy, a certain amount of solitude has been shown to help teenagers improve their moods and earn good grades in school. Source: The Power of Lonely
Reflection is vital. We find solutions when we're not looking.
We don't become more productive overnight. It demands effort and practice. Waiting for change doesn't work. Instead, learn about your body and identify ways to optimize your energy and time for a happy existence.
2 months ago
Why Bitcoin NFTs Are Incomprehensible yet Likely Here to Stay
I'm trying to understand why Bitcoin NFTs aren't ready.
Ordinals, a new Bitcoin protocol, has been controversial. NFTs can be added to Bitcoin transactions using the protocol. They are not tokens or fungible. Bitcoin NFTs are transaction metadata. Yes. They're not owned.
In January, the Ordinals protocol allowed data like photos to be directly encoded onto sats, the smallest units of Bitcoin worth 0.00000001 BTC, on the Bitcoin blockchain. Ordinals does not need a sidechain or token like other techniques. The Ordinals protocol has encoded JPEG photos, digital art, new profile picture (PFP) projects, and even 1993 DOOM onto the Bitcoin network.
Ordinals inscriptions are permanent digital artifacts preserved on the Bitcoin blockchain. It differs from Ethereum, Solana, and Stacks NFT technologies that allow smart contract creators to change information. Ordinals store the whole image or content on the blockchain, not just a link to an external server, unlike centralized databases, which can change the linked image, description, category, or contract identifier.
So far, more than 50,000 ordinals have been produced on the Bitcoin blockchain, and some of them have already been sold for astronomical amounts. The Ethereum-based CryptoPunks NFT collection spawned Ordinal Punk. Inscription 620 sold for 9.5 BTC, or $218,000, the most.
Segwit and Taproot, two important Bitcoin blockchain updates, enabled this. These protocols store transaction metadata, unlike Ethereum, where the NFT is the token. Bitcoin's NFT is a sat's transaction details.
What effects do ordinary values and NFTs have on the Bitcoin blockchain?
Ordinals will likely have long-term effects on the Bitcoin Ecosystem since they store, transact, and compute more data.
Charges Ordinals introduce scalability challenges. The Bitcoin network has limited transaction throughput and increased fees during peak demand. NFTs could make network transactions harder and more expensive. Ordinals currently occupy over 50% of block space, according to Glassnode.
One of the protocols that supported Ordinals Taproot has also seen a huge uptick:
Taproot use increases block size and transaction costs.
This could cause network congestion but also support more L2s with Ordinals-specific use cases. Dune info here.
Storage Needs The Bitcoin blockchain would need to store more data to store NFT data directly. Since ordinals were introduced, blocksize has tripled from 0.7mb to over 2.2mb, which could increase storage costs and make it harder for nodes to join the network.
Use Case Diversity On the other hand, NFTs on the Bitcoin blockchain could broaden Bitcoin's use cases beyond storage and payment. This could expand Bitcoin's user base. This is two-sided. Bitcoin was designed to be trustless, decentralized, peer-to-peer money.
Chain to permanently store NFTs as ordinals will change everything.
Popularity rise This new use case will boost Bitcoin appeal, according to some. This argument fails since Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency. Popularity doesn't require a new use case. Cryptocurrency adoption boosts Bitcoin. It need not compete with Ethereum or provide extra benefits to crypto investors. If there was a need for another chain that supports NFTs (there isn't), why would anyone choose the slowest and most expensive network? It appears contradictory and unproductive.
Nonetheless, holding an NFT on the Bitcoin blockchain is more secure than any other blockchain, but this has little utility.
Bitcoin NFTs are undoubtedly controversial. NFTs are strange and perhaps harmful to Bitcoin's mission. If Bitcoin NFTs are here to stay, I hope a sidechain or rollup solution will take over and leave the base chain alone.
4 months ago
Reddit NFT Achievement
Reddit's NFT market is alive and well.
NFT owners outnumber OpenSea on Reddit.
Reddit NFTs flip in OpenSea in days:
NFT sales will make Reddit's current communities more engaged.
I don't think NFTs will affect existing groups, but they will build hype for people to acquire them.
The first season of Collectibles is unique, but many missed the first season.
Second-season NFTs are less likely to be sold for a higher price than first-season ones.
If you use Reddit, it's fun to own NFTs.