Sometimes it’s hard to gain insight from listening to mega-successful business people. They tend to talk either at such a high level or in generalities that often aren’t particularly insightful (perhaps holding their card close to their respective chests). Either that or you’re thinking – you’re already just SO FAR AHEAD, how will anything you talk about ever apply to me?!
But entrepreneurs who’ve built a business from scratch always have some gems to share, even if it’s just to remind you of what you already suspect or know.
The first panel I saw at SXSW 20114 featured these mega-digital brands:
- Steve Kaufer, Founder and CEO of Trip Advisor – the largest travel site on the web
- Carley Roney, Co-founder and CEO of The Knot – the Internet’s most-trafficked one-stop wedding planning solution.
- Jeff Housenbold – CEO of Photo-site Shutterfly- Not the founder but took the company from $54 million in revenue to $473 in revenue.
- The panel moderator was Michael Dell of Dell Computers.
So what did I take away…
It’s not about new customers, it’s about repeat business:
- A staggering 75% of Shutterfly’s business comes from repeat customers. This shows being great at what you do, and servicing your customer well, is the best marketing you can do (which is surprisingly hard to convince people of!)
- The Knot was able to use their original audience to eventually launch and build their next massive sites The Nest and The Bump. They understood that once a woman is married, she usually starts thinking home and children. So they didn’t go looking for new customers, they just offered more to their existing customers.
You may not be in the business you think you’re in:
- Jeff from Shutterfly pointed out that almost no-one in their space is profitable. They are. He says this happened when they realised they were in the business of ‘storytelling’ and they weren’t storing photos, they were holding people’s ‘memories’. This also meant they thought differently about who their target customer should be, and when everyone else is going after teens and early twenties, they are going after women and moms (as the chief memory keepers in most families).
- Jeff also talked about the huge shift in what the sell. It used to be 50% of their business was in prints – now that’s 4%. The biggest chunk of their business is now photobooks – which if you’ve ever ordered one, you know is a massive upsell from a 10 cent print (which people can often now do at home too).
There’s pluses and minuses of being a public company (from Shutterfly):
- The money is great to help you grow your business & it’s a lot easier to get media exposure.
- But….if you’re competitors aren’t listed and you are, they get to see all your data whilst having to show you nothing
On China (from The Knot):
- It’s a ‘post PC world’ in China – it’s all about mobile. The laptop is no longer relevant, so stop thinking about that when you’re designing a ‘site’ or an online business for that market.
- If you have a brand – even a digital brand – it has massive appeal in China
Why aren’t there more female entrepreneurs? (from The Knot)
- Carley from The Knot is convinced it’s because there aren’t enough female (software) engineers. She’s involved in some projects to change this. (She also pointed out that lack of female VCs doesn’t help either!)
Being a technologist can help if you have a digital company (Trip Advisor)
- Steve was the only programmer and his tip was that it was it helps to know when your coders are telling you something is hard (or impossible), when it’s not!