Warning: Use These 7 Startup Experiments At Your Own Risk

Testing Value Propositions

You have learned how to design stunning value propositions or positioning statements using the proven examples of successful entrepreneurs and inspired business thinkers.

You probably spent hour after hour inside your office, turning every little word of your positioning statement to make it shine. Now, wouldn't it be nice to find out what actually sticks with your audience and what doesn't, before you invest even more into it?

To get you started, here are 7 super simple ways to quickly test your value proposition in social media.

1. LinkedIn Value Proposition

Your LinkedIn headline is visible in LinkedIn's search results pages, in the "profiles others have watched", in group discussions, and more.

By adding your value proposition to your headline along side a call to action in your profile summary, you could easily measure variations in number of profile views and contact requests, using LinkedIn's built-in stats.

2. Twitter Bio Value Proposition

Add your value proposition to your Twitter bio. Start engaging with prospective customers or users on Twitter. Did the updated bio get you more followers, requests? The high-level pitch template might be a good choice since  the Twitter bio is limited to 160 characters.

3. Tweet Your Value Proposition

Tweet your 140-character (or even better, make it 120 characters so that fellow tweeps can pass it on) value proposition, using a clear call to action in the end. What is the feedback, number of clicks, conversations? Measure and adjust.

4. Blog Your Value Proposition

Blog posts are excellent for testing your problem and solution hypothesis. In doing so you'd use a high-level value proposition for the headline and more detailed version for the head and copy. Further, you’d add your blog post to Hacker News, Reddit etc. or experiment with guest posts depending on where your customer segment lives.

Make sure to make the permalink generic so that you can adjust the headline based on feedback; unique visitors, page views, bounce rate, and more importantly, conversations. Use comments to get feedback from customers. See more under landing page value propositions.

5. Landing Page Value Proposition

Worth a post on its own there is an array of advice for properly doing landing page testing. But you don't need to make it rocket science.

Set up a simple landing page, using WordPress or Twitter bootstrap templates, or tune your existing site to make sure it clearly communicates your value proposition alongside a call to action. Look up Google Analytics or locate a split testing service such as Unbounce.com to test for different variations of your value proposition copy.

6. E-mail Value Proposition

E-mail is not only a powerful tool for testing your value proposition, but also for delivering it. Here, your high-level value proposition goes into the subject field while your longer version goes into the e-mail body. Target your customer with validated learning in mind, and measure accordingly.

7. Phone Propostion

Pick up the phone. Just dial up. Now.

Beware vanity metrics

The beauty about testing your value proposition in digital media is, it allows for quick feedback, quantitative as well as qualitative.

But beware vanity metrics. Because the amount of unique visitors, page views, likes or followers seldom tell you if you're on the right track or not.

Rather, use these techniques to start a conversation and drive actionable metrics that help prove the viability of your business model.

Let's chat on Twitter.

What Innovation Tools Are The Most Popular: Lean Startup, Business Model Canvas, Disruptive Innovation

innovation tools compared

Today, more than ever, companies looking to create new growth have tools at their hand to help reduce risk and increase the odds of success.

The Google Trends chart above shows a selection of "The Fantastic Four" and their relative interest over time.

Historically, Blue Ocean Strategy sees the most interest, but is slightly declining. Disruptive Innovation sees less interest among the four, but is growing. Both Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas are rapidly growing. The chart speaks for itself. But the comparison is only as good as what people search for on the web.

Although the frameworks take different angles on innovation, they are not mutually exclusive. They overlap and complement each other. And in many ways the later frameworks build upon the former, applying similar concepts in new wrapping.

In innovation there is no one-size-fits-all. So rather than looking at what are the popular tools, companies should look at what are the right tools.

Personally I find it useful taking a modular, “lego-like” approach, combining and distilling the methods into tailored frameworks, which is what I will look at in my next posts.

What methods and tools do you use? How do you combine them?

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to stay tuned.

3 More Proven Templates for Creating Value Propositions that Work

value proposition examples and templates

Your value proposition is the first, and often the only, opportunity you have to make an impression on a prospective customer, user, or investor.

Research shows that the attention span of a person may be as short as 8 seconds before their mind starts wandering. In fact, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of your copy.

Since readers seemed to find my 7 Proven Templates For Writing Value Propositions That Work useful for writing value propositions and positioning statements, I thought I’d share 3 more proven templates and examples.

#1 Clay Christensen’s Jobs-to-be-done

According to Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen, designing an innovative customer value proposition begins with genuinely understanding the customer's jobs-to-be-done (JTBD).

JTBD is not a product, service, or a specific solution; it's the higher purpose for which customers buy products, services, and solutions. Its premise is that customers don't really buy products. They "hire" them to do a job. Instead of asking what products customers want to buy, the JTBD method asks what fundamental problems they hope to address.

The authors of The Innovator’s Toolkit suggest using a “job statement” to describe a JTBD.

Template

Action verb: _________

Object of action: _________

Contextual identifier: _________.

Sample(s)

“Manage personal finances at home”. (Mint.com)

“Preserving fun memories.” (Kodak’s Funsaver)

“Listen to music while jogging.” (iPod)

#2 Simon Sinek’s WHY

According to Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” Sinek’s Golden Circle framework shows you how to turn an idea into a social movement by leading a focus on WHY.

This step-by-step process teaches you to clarify your Why, articulate your Hows, and the importance of being consistent in What you do.

Template

Why: ___________

How: ___________

What: ___________

Sample(s)

Why: In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.

How: The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.

What: We just happen to make computers.

#3 The Minto Pyramid aka SCQA

SCQA – Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer – also known as The Minto Pyramid Principle, helps you organize ideas to write compelling business documents. It be memos, presentations, emails, blog posts or – key to all the former – value propositions.

Template

Situation - describe what is the current situation

Complication - describe the issue in the situation

Question - describe the question in response to the issue

Answer  - suggest answer to ease out or mitigate the issue

Sample(s)

With the rise of smartphones and online video the use of data has exploded.

Consequently, wireless networks become congested and slow.

How can mobile operators increase their quality of service?

Our patented routing algorithm helps mobile operators radically increase throughput.

Want more? See my post on 7 Proven Templates and Examples For Writing Value Propositions That Work or subscribe to get tips and tricks in your inbox.

How My Startup Got Robbed

startup co-founder thievesWTF!?, I cried as I discovered that half of all the company's cash equivalents had been withdrawn from its bank account. But when I found out who had made the withdrawal, I realized we had not been screwed. We had been robbed. The investors' money, my face. It was gone.

A short week earlier the company had held a board meeting. The director of the board and my partner (who I will keep anonymous) had naturally resigned, arguing that he wanted to focus on private matters. The board had been discussing the change of board seats and settlements, but disagreed. I have never ever witnessed such an unprofessional behavior from anyone I've trusted in business.

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Turn Your Blog Into a Lean Startup and Business Model Design Tool

Business Model Canvas for WordPress

Business Model Press is based on Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Blogging is not only useful for introducing ideas. It's also the primary way many companies communicate with and get feedback from their customers - making blogging a killer opportunity for business model- and customer development.

After having more than 100 students and 20 startup teams doing exactly that - blog their business model - I learned that it helped the teams systemize collaboration, speed up the learning process, get going with customer development and more quickly take action on their business model assumptions.

Yet, the teams still had to download the business model canvas, convert it into a picture, upload it to PowerPoint, take notes on top of it, and store it as a new picture. Following, they had to upload, resize, and import it to the editorial before finally publishing - and repeat for each and every iteration of the business model. Not very efficient.

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Heads-up on TechCrunch’s Take at Norwegian Startups

Norwegian Startup Troll

See the full article on ArcticStartup.

TechCrunch recently published a timely article questioning if Norway is leaving its tech startups out in the cold. Here’s why the discussion needs another angle and the problem in fact is the problem.

Mike Butcher starts out comparing the ones of Spotify, Rovio, Tradeshift, and Everbread to the lack of evidence of successful startups from Norway, even pondering upon Opera as a half-fledged success. The arguments are as half the truth as pointing at Bipper and Wonderloop (both Norwegian semi-expats) as examples of the opposite.

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7 Proven Templates for Writing Value Propositions That Work

Value Proposition Examples and Templates

You already know that getting your value proposition right is critical to your business model. You can have the best features, the most perfectly executed presentation, the most stunning price, but no one will ever know of it if they don’t get past your high-level value proposition.

But how do you craft such a pitch?

Continuously looking to perfect your value proposition you'd consult lengthy articles only to find that there's a jungle of advise out there. What you need are applicable examples from entrepreneurs and investors who have successfully given and taken thousands of pitches, right?

So I've put together 7 proven templates that are designed to help you create a clear, compelling value proposition in minutes.

#1 Geoff Moore's Value Positioning Statement

Probably the most popularized -  in his seminal book Crossing the Chasm - Geoff Moore suggests a specific template for outlining your value positioning. In addition to the first part below, Moore also introduces a second statement focused on competitive positioning.

Template

For  ____________ (target customer)

who ____________  (statement of the need or opportunity)

our (product/service name) is  ____________  (product category)

that (statement of benefit) ____________ .

Sample(s)

For non-technical marketers

who struggle to find return on investment in social media

our product is a web-based analytics software that translates engagement metrics into actionable revenue metrics.

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10 Scrappy Minimum Viable Products That Made It

This collection includes the early websites of Facebook (still with the The), 37signals, LinkedIn (not that bad in fact), eBay (without the pictures I'm afraid), Twitter (probably the first sketch), and more. Note that some may miss CSS and therefore may not display identical to the original.

If "preach what you teach" still holds, this better be a minimum viable blog post. As far as I put the slide deck together in under 1o minutes, did the research for it during a quick train trip this morning, and publish this as soon as possible (even if it's a bad time to post), it would need iterations.

Symptoms of the Norwegian Startup Ecosystem

This post originally ran on ArcticStartup.

Norwegian Startup Ecosystem - ArcticStartup

As inventors of the object-oriented programming language and the modern GSM technology, you would expect Norway to have the perfect ingredients for a vibrant startup scene. If you, however, search this or any other notable tech blog for news on early-stage Norwegian startups, you would find next to nothing.

While Nordic and Baltic startups seems to thrive, why don’t we see any ventures emerging out of Norway, several Nordic and European professionals questioned me. After talking to a handful of entrepreneurs, investors, and scholars about why this is the case, I discovered seven symptoms of the Norwegian start-up ecosystem that might explain why Norway’s tech innovation is lagging behind that of its neighbors.

Found and lost

Called “black gold” the Norwegian oil imperium is the usual suspect and by long the cliché. But it is still the most used argument in explaining why Norway lags behind its Nordic counterparts. As Finnish Travelling Salesman (Kristoffer Lawson) reports from his visit to Norway in autumn 2010: “Software is not at Norway's heart”. That needs a closer look.

As mentioned above, Norwegian researchers developed the object-oriented programming language back in 1960, which was later used for creating Java and many of today’s popular web application frameworks. In fact, oil & energy industry is still dependent on specialized software to work its magic. Similarly, this industry needs communication systems and infrastructure. That is why today many Norwegian software developers work and have their customers in this space.

The problem, however, is that this space is pretty much owned by large service providers and consulting companies, and much of supply and demand exists inside of Norway. Although the oil & energy industry might not have a direct impact on tech startup scene, it plays a substantial role on the industry structure that makes up the startup ecosystem.

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Six Lean Lessons For Corporate Startups

Egg Incubator

Big corporations want to build the next Facebook, Twitter, or Groupon as much as you, I, and the entrepreneur in a garage somewhere.

While corporations might have an advantage in resources and capital to do so better than anyone else, they do at the same time meet with challenges that independent startups don't.

Over the past years I've been fortunate enough to learn from corporate finance analysis, product launches, and early-stage M&A assessment on the one hand, and from founding and funding new startups on the other. And there is a pattern; the methods used by big corporations often turn counterproductive when launching new ventures.

Besides from knowing your customer development and lean startups basics, I share here some musings that you should consider if you want your corporation to innovate like a startup.

Rehabilitate from analysis paralysis

While a challenge in corporate business planning is that it often is comprised with mountains of information—in an early stage startup there usually is a minimal quantifiable track record.

Doing what they do best, corporations cram old information about existing products and markets to that of the startup. Executives and managers have founding teams develop detailed financial estimates and market analysis way too early.

Secondary data may be good for known and proven conditions, but not for unknown conditions, which most often is the case of new startups. The answer lies not with your thousand dollar Gartner report. Rather, it is time to un-MBA and get out of the building.

Learn like your kids would

With time grown-ups gradually stop learning. Kids, however, learn all the time. Kids experience their environment and make assumptions which are tested against reality, again and over again. For companies adopting new technologies in a fast pacing and quickly changing market the learning process is not much different.

Emerging entrepreneurial methods such as Lean Startup and Customer Development assume that startups are children, not smaller versions of mature companies. So, startups need their own methods and tools, which means it is time for even high-paid managers to get their hands dirty.

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