Canada is home to many great citizens, thinkers, inventors, activists, and marketers. We often forget that culture bubbles up from these agents, and the brands they advocate for, fight against, and believe in.
It’s sometimes rare to find all of these people in one place, but in Vancouver on April 23rd, BCAMA gathered some real hard hitters and change makers at its VISION Conference. Instead of just hiring some marketing experts, BCAMA raised the game and searched for people that are visionaries in their field.
This article provides insights from some of the VISION Conference speakers on how to survive and thrive in the real world. Instead of recaps of their entire talks, I will focus in on some of the key truths these speakers shared and provide my thoughts on why they matter to startups.
“You cannot do new world business from old world places.”
– Cindy Gallop, MakeLoveNotPorn.tv
Large companies constantly try to innovate, yet leave old processes and operations in place. Often, a great idea goes in, and a watered-down idea that conforms to old processes comes out the other side (i.e. an idea that will have minimal impact). No innovation that needs to get to market quickly survives this.
Startups avoid this trap because often they have little process embedded at the start. What they do have are great ideas, hopefully in abundance. However, startups can still fall foul of bad advice from investors (and friends) and limited thinkers. So move quickly and validate. Don’t spend time finding lots of points of validation to prove you idea is good. If you have two or three insights that contradict your thinking, then change the idea and validate again. You need to ensure that all members of the team have a say as well.
“Being a leader in the future is very paradoxical.”
– Aaron Dignan, Undercurrent
Some modern organizations, like VALVE and Zappos, operate in an organic and fluid way with few limitations on where ideas come from, how they happen, and which members of the team execute them. Both companies are hugely effective and profitable. It’s the art of leadership without leadership: empowering your team members in every part of the organization can deliver dividends.
There is a warning here. Changing from an existing structure can be hard, and if some members of your team cannot work in the new way then it’s likely time to say ‘thank you’ and ask them to move on to their next opportunity. No one likes that kind of change, but the company needs to survive and the world changes quickly.
“There is no Product Manager for the Internet.”
– Aaron Dignan, Undercurrent
We all ride on a global system of interconnected computer networks. There is a huge amount of mobile devices, known and anonymous traffic, bots, ad networks, wearable data, connected car GPS coordinates, text, pictures, bits and bytes being thrown around. It’s chaos with a slight dose of control. We fight for it, but it changes all of the time.
At VISION, Aaron explained that the fundamental principles of what the Internet is pushes against that very idea of controlled growth. Startups must design their companies to be adaptable in this chaotic ecosystem. Focus your energies on those parts that you feel match to what your company is trying to achieve. The organizations that try and wrestle multiple parts can become time poor, losing momentum and burning cash. Look at Whatsapp, SnapChat, and Instagram: all with a limited scope to functionality and huge success. That brings us to some of the mechanics of taming the Internet, and the websites that we use to represent who we are as companies.
“Building a well-SEO’d site may be less valuable than building a powerful brand.”
– Rand Fishkin, MOZ
While the Internet may not have a Product Manager, Google certainly does. They toy with our online lives and keep us on our toes. Rand took us through a hugely insightful presentation ‘Why SEO that used to work fails’ where all understanding of SEO as wizardry and meta tags was smashed into pieces. Rand covered the shifts in search engines and user behaviours that have caused SEO tactics of years past to fail in the modern era.
Rand has 4 simple steps to help us think more strategically:
● Do amazing stuff – content, product, press, events etc.
● Get attention from those who can amplify to a bigger audience – find the influencers that will become the advocates for you.
● Grow your amplification abilities – invest in tools, test your outreach capabilities, hire growth hackers to drive traffic and optimize all parts of your marketing.
● Earn more attention, amplification, and growth next time – be authentic, be powerful, make a difference to the businesses that use your product.
This can seem like painful news to startups because it means they need to invest in marketing and content. Well, IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP. Marketing is not an afterthought. I chatted to Kim Breakell Mech, President of BCAMA, about the challenges startups face with marketing.
“Marketing is no longer a step after a product has been created,” Kim said. “It will have a role right from the very start in product development through to becoming very successful. We can inject a deeper level of customer understanding and positioning. Marketing will have a seat in the front of the car, rather than the back.”
Photos courtesy Phillip Chin / BCAMA.