Thursday, January 31, 2008

If You're Selling to Humans, You've Got to Tell Stories

The Story of Soup If a friend of yours told you he was going to make soup in his kitchen and deliver it to you each week, would you find that appealing? You might wonder about health issues.

What if he told you it would be $10 a quart? That's a bit pricey.

What if he told you he was going to deliver it on his bicycle each week? That certainly sounds a bit unreliable.

This was the business proposition of the Soup Peddler, an Austin phenomenon created by David Ansel that has grown into a commercial kitchen, a small fleet of delivery trucks, and a loyal group of "Soupies" who order week after week.

How did David build a business peddling soup around Austin? He sold something more valuable than good soup. He sold a story.

Here's how the Soup Peddler described Tomato Basil soup back in April of 2002:

This week's Tomato Basil Soup is sure to get your summer started right, and may indeed have the power to stoke your fire inside...Tomatoes and Basil are firmly entrenched among the ranks of the most aphrodisiac of nature's offerings.

He then goes into a history of the tomato; about it's reputation as the "love apple" and the scandal created by its "red, juicy, sensual flesh."

With regard to basil, he warns against frequent smelling, as it was believed that this would cause "spontaneous generation of a scorpion inside the brain."

I've got to get some of that soup.

His prose never talked down to his readers. In fact, he always assumed that they were like him.

I know many of you probably join me in the habit of curling up in bed with a good cookbook. You read the little headnotes, scan the ingredients, make mental notes of the clever little twists to the recipe or improvements that you'd likely make.

He gave his customers the honorary title of "Soupies" making them part of the business. He cajoled them to return their empty containers because he believed reuse was important to protect the environment.

While he's no longer peddling through the streets of Austin to deliver soup, he continues to write the stories for his creations each week and to dote on his Soupies.

I only tasted his soup once, at a semi-formal dinner. The hosts spent considerable time telling us the story of the Soup Peddler. The soup was good, but I remember the story most.

Your Hidden Story

When you stop taking yourself so seriously; when you pull your head out of the financials and the management details of your business; when you think about those customers that you really love to serve, what stories come to mind?

If you didn't feel that you had to put up a professional image, what parts of your personality would shine through?

Try This

Hire a creative writer to describe your business. Tell them you want three versions of the description, each one completely different. Arrange for them to go to happy hour with your employees.

Your stories may start to emerge.

Can accounting software be a "breath of fresh air" in an otherwise constricting environment? Can manufacturing equipment be "soldiers at the ready, guarding against waste and flaws?"

You tell me. Tell me about the businesses whose stories you're engaged in. The comments are open.

Find more of David's tasty prose here in his Menu Archive.

Brian Massey for the Bootstrap Blog

Brian Massey writes about online marketing and conversion on the Customer Chaos Blog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vivek Wadhwa debunks Business Plans and describes Demo/Sell/Build

Vivek is a seasoned entrepreneur who has taken both the bootstrap and funding-driven paths. He teaches entrepreneursship and writes regurlarly for BusinessWeek.

In this article he starts with fallacy of business plans in the Ideation stage. My favorite line: A startup business plan is always a good piece of fiction filled with great ideas. He then goes on to describe the Demo/Sell/Build process from which the business plan emerges.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bootstrap Film Subgroup

The Bootstrap Film Subgroup was kicked off at the June 2007 meeting with Tim League, owner and cofounder of The Alamo Drafthouse. He inspired bootstrappers by sharing his journey of creating a successful business and demonstrated how bootstrapping a business has its rewards. The film subgroup is led by Brandy Rainey, who provides us with a review of the year's speakers and topics. The dominant theme: technology has impacted all aspects of film making and is creating opportunities for bootstrap film makers everywhere.

Chris Hyams of B-side Entertainment gave us some insight on how the industry is changing and how alternate models for distribution will find their way to the mainstream. B-side is being very smart with their approach by matching an audience's demand with the content they are seeking, and creating a win-win for the audience, filmmaker and distributor.

Daniel Benner launched his online social community Gindie and shared his vision for creating a space where filmmakers can network to find resources, talent, and crew and promote themselves, their projects and their respective groups.

Stacy Schoolfield passed on some valuable tips that she learned first hand on how to self-distribute a film. She was very generous in providing us with contact information of several independent theaters throughout the country that were receptive to filmmakers contacting them directly. She encouraged us to be open to finding who the film's real audience is and constantly adjust the marketing plan to reach that audience.

The group discussed how the internet has opened doors for more and more filmmakers to have their content seen by an audience; however the quality of many of the films found is very bad and it is somewhat frustrating to be lumped with a group of amateurs when you are out to use the technology as a serious and viable way of connecting with your audience. Jason Cronkite offered us a solution by informing us how Kulabyte can provide ways to condense HD files to allow filmmakers to post quality work on the web. He also introduced us to NetCastHD, which offers content distribution for HD and SD works on the web with video-on-demand capabilities. Revenue streams for independent film are slowly but surely making themselves available.

Dave Evans introduced us to Snapse, a web based turnkey video sharing solution designed for marketing and promotion. They are experimenting with different applications and challenging filmmakers to provide content that is then mixed and meshed to create something new. Product placement has become another revenue stream whether integrated with the content or advertisements placed before short videos. This will continue to rise.

There are very diverse applications of people's creative energies within the film subgroup. I would like to encourage everyone to keep thinking outside the box and ask yourself these questions:

  1. How can I get my film to its audience?
  2. Who is the film's REAL audience?
  3. What marketing strategies can I use to gain notoriety for myself and my film?

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Art of the Startlet, i.e. Bootstrapping

I thought this was an interesting use of 10 minutes. It's a video featuring Guy Kawasaki called The Art of the Startlet. Kawasaki started his new venture Truemors for about $12,000. Some of his most interesting points include:

Don't spend money on Marketing. That's easy for him to say given his celebrity.

Spend money on the lawyers to setup the company (he spent $5000).

He 'offshored' development to North Dakota for $4500. Apparently anything outside of the valley

He spent $1000 on domains.

The best quote: "more people can try more $25,000-things than they can $2 million things."

Debuting FoundWatch: “The Art of the Startlet” with Guy Kawasaki « FoundRead