Merrimack Valley Time Exchange
Class: 2014 Winter Accelerator
The Merrimack Valley Time Exchange (MVTE) is a new "time bank" program at the Coalition for a Better Acre." Community members can sign up to become members of the MVTE and after a reference check can choose to exchange services, skills and resources through the "time economy." Members set up profiles listing services they are offering and those they are requesting, they earn "time credits" for providing services to other members and can spend these credits to get services they need from any other member of the time exchange. One hour of service is always worth one unit of credit. As the program grows and new members join the services offered through the exchange become more and more diverse. For more information call Joy Mosenfelder at 978-452-7523 x 815 or email MerrimackValleyTimeExchange@cbacre.org
SEO and SEM
Presenters from Car Gurus
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
What it is - a tool to increase traffic to your website by editing HTML that makes it easier for google to discover and understand your site
Suggestions from the expert:
- The rules are always changing, try to be aware of the rules and make changes, you should see a gradual increase in traffic
- Play nice. Don't try and circumvent the rules.
- Measure everything! Suggested tools: Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools
Things that are important:
- Inbound Links/Social Media
- Site Speed
- Avoid duplicate content
- Site should grow and change to reflect current products and information
- Use a "canonical" meta tag <link rel="canonical" href="http://thisisyourwebsite.com">
- Use 404, 301 response codes
- Any changes to your site will take google awhile to figure out. Every URL google knows for your site needs to be handled by any site changes
- Intra linking: Homepage serves as main door and has highest energy - use it to direct users to other good pages
- Page titles <title>things that are, relevant, seperated by, commas</title>
- Meta tags <meta name="keywords" content="stuff, that, things, search, for/><meta name="desciption" content="more, stuff"/>
- Disallow: followed by page will tell google not to search a page
- Sitemap generation is a table of contents for search engines
- Be data driven!
Adwords and Keywords and Negative Keywords (Negative Keywords are things you tell google not to match for you)
For SEM you want to make sure your targeting is as specific as possible so you are not paying for traffic that doesn't generate income
Ad slot order notes: Top ads get more click throughs but lower conversion rates than ads further down the list
"Anyone who calls you up and says we will get you on the first page of google is trying take your money."
Cold Calls, Customers & Sales
Presentors: Greg Page and Lester Sydney
Key Principles of Cold Calling and Customer Acquisition:
- Keep it short and sweet - people are busy, have a script in mind for what you want to say
- Know what your goal is: Sending information? Building a relationship? Getting a commitment? Signing them up? Scheduling a meeting?
- Be confident about your product and your message
- Use a quota system - set a goal for how many new customer touches you will make each day
- Consistency + Smart Small Choices + Time = Radical Change / Even the smallest tasks add up over time to create real progress
- FIDO - F*** it drive on
- No means "Not Today" not no forever. You have to be able to take rejection. Try to ask "why not" or "what would change your mind"? Find a reason to follow up
- "Long Term Greedy" it isn't about closing people on the first call... it is about building that long term relationship towards your end goal
- Always find a way to follow up
- Don't give people an out, keep it short but get your pitch in
- Make sure you get the decsion maker
- Research the company you are calling
- Don't make voice messages
- You are demonstrating your value by pitching your idea - believe that they want and need what you are trying to sell
- Set and event in their head regarding when you will follow up
- If you can identify a problem you know exists that your product addresses open with that
- Tracking calls and follow ups is important - smaller busnesses can use spreadsheets
- Leave the person with questions
- See how much you can get the other person to talk
- Ask open ended questions
- Focus on the results, what does the product do for them
- When you follow up, do it slowly, don't overwhelm potential clients by contacting them too often
Sandbox Accelerator Challenges and Successes:
Pro-Diagrams - Has Pivoted Significantly to focus more on professional services... now needs to develop a new test product.
Meet Caregivers - Working on a new partnership with another care management company. Biggest challenge is legal stuff around liscensing, etc...
Merrimack Valley Time Exchange - Successes include new funding and better brand recognition than thought. Challenges include engaging members, particularly building a leadership team and learning to delegate and let go.
Story to Song - met with mentor in person, has new gigs coming up, may have first customer, and working on art and music. Still only has two mentors and how to get people intersted in the product.
Help Around Town - Having a great time working with mentors, however it is also a bit of time commitment to update them and give them work and there is a debate between her and mentors about focuing on just jobs or opening it up to other things.
AreoShipIt - Connected with a WPI professor who has led a team working with autonomous robots who can have students help build a prototype. Has been running into chicken and egg around building a prototype.
RoundShipIt - Was invited to a small group with an angel investor. Had basically a two hour hot seat and was asked some very tough questions and now thinking about pivoting to talk to focus on businesses.
Susu - Meeting with Mentors regularly and pivoting to focus on medical device companies.
Drainage Wear - Almost finished with business plan. Also found a place to do a clinical trial. Challenge is getting a prototype made, need 50 to 100 pieces for trial.
Catie's Closet - has just completed their valuation proposition... came into the sandbox valued at nothing and are now valued at more than $1,000,000. Biggest challenge is putting together a grant plan.
IndigoPixies - Added new elements to the product and had a radio interview for an hour and have rethought social message around helping. Cannot get in touch with one of mentors.
Delightful Surprise - Has been invited to go speak at a college through MassRehab. Challenge is figuring out how much fudge needs to be sold to cover costs. Working on figuring out which flavors sell best.
Mill City Glass - Has made steady progress across the board on all of needs. Has made progress towards getting ready to become hot. Biggest challenge is understanding how to operate as two seperate businesses and create an llc in a way that makes sense. Still planning on doing all bookkeeping. Also, haven't been able to make new pieces yet this year due to working on this. Suggested to outsource the admin stuff and also to try and get a longer lease option.
Heavenly Cakes - Still working from home, working on finding space. Being reffered to Axion for low rate loans for entreprenures. Got accepted at LCW into a program for funding for businesses.
Faux Pas - Changes in strategy on how to execute a market test and position self in market while talking to mentors and customers and is going to focus on accessories at first to cut-out the challenges of apparel until the model can be fine tuned and scaled. Barrier to sign up for accessories is lower. Working on developing advisory board and having meetings with professionals. Made into the design chair at Pratt's office. Still need to figure out tech portion of how this will work.
Hot Seat Pitches (Murder Ball)
MVTE Went first. Had some great questions.
Indigo Pixies - Refine ask, think about where and how you are walking, talk about the uniqueness of product, studies about postive reinforcement
Story to Song - How much can you charge and how many gigs do you need to book, Logistically how will the structure for this work, Really break down costs associated with the business, think about taking yourself out of the business pitch, look for towns celebrating community events,
AeroShipIt - user education and training, prepositioning vs.mobility, service vs. product, possible pivot produce delivery from rural farmers to urban centers, what is the energy source, what sort of range does it cover, what sort of regulations and trust building would you need to go though, what sortof tracking system is on the drone, what are the obstacles and what is the market
Heavenly Cakes - How will you get clients? Leverage your partnerships: LCW, places you have taken lessons, while you are saving up for your own shop can you be a guest teacher offering Spanish language classes, Have you thought about a YouTube Channel, cost to be sustainable, how many hours on producing cakes vs. teaching, how many employees/interns? What potential community partners can you add?
Lost the First half of my notes due to a web glitch.
List the Relevant Attributes of Your Product or Service?
- Matching the needs and skills of members to each other
- Giving people an alternative way to get services without spending money
- Giving people a way to connect with each other
- Giving organizations a way to reward volunteers
- Giving organizations a way to connect to skilled volunteers
Issue: Which of these attributes are more important, which are less important to your customer/Client?
Surveys with many options are inconsistent and don't accurately reflect what a user values over time. If you design a study with a forced choice the data is more likely to accurately reflect the weight customers give to different attributes.
Price cannot be one of the attributes, you want to look at price seperately.
Sunk Investment - money that you have already spent
Everything you do around pricing should be analytical.
"Show Me the Money"
Must-Do Action Steps for Raising Money
Presentor: Barrie Atkin
Barrie opens with two questions for us: What is money? How does money make you feel? On a scale of 1-10 one being low, 10 being high rate your feelings about money.
Are you ready to Raise Money?
- What stage are you at? Seed or Start-Up?
- You need money - BUT investors are risk averse. No one wants to be the first to invest.
- The question you have to answer is "Why should ______ give you money?" What is special about what you are doing? What are your strengths? Etc...
- Conduct a realistic self investment before asking for money.
- Do you have a PLAN?
- Elevator Pitch
- Executive Summary
- Business Plan
- Cash Flow Projection - know how much you need and what it will be used for
- Other documentation
- Do you have a PLAN?
- If you are struggling with cash outflow there are a number of strategies you can use to limit expenses.
- Cash Flow strategies include things like Pre-Orders, Advance Payments, Etc...
Sources of Money - What's Right for You?
- There are many sources of money but the compition for funding is fierce
- Sources of funding change as your business goes through various stages.
- Why will (or should) people invest? What about you and your idea will people believe in? What is the passion that drives you/can you translate that for other people? Also, you have to ask.
- Friends and Family: How do your family and friends feel about money? That makes a difference in how you ask. Within the same family people can have very different feelings about money. When it is awkward to talk about money talk about your passions instead. You can also ask for advice. (Barrie's Fundraising Mantra: "If you want advice ask for money, if you want money ask for advice.") Also, be clear about expectations on both sides.You have to be able to convey confidence!
- Crowdfunding: Many options, often a pre-sale type situation, some of them require business modesl, some are all-or-nothing, often take percentages, read the rules and know what you are getting into.
- Angels are people who invest their own money - often successful business owners. Asking Angels can be an ongoing process - no doesn't mean no, it means not right now. Always thank people for letting you ask, try to follow up with what would make you change your mind?
The Process - Some How-To's
- Networking is the best way to get people involved and engaged.
- Get to know people before you ask for money.
- Make sure to thank, profusely, often, and sincerely. - Use you more than we, be specific
- Keep in mind investors are also looking for opportunities to invest as much as you are looking for people to invest in you.
- Keep track of meetings what expectations where and what the followup needs to be.
How to become more comfortable asking for money
- Know your own feelings about money, be in tune with the fact that other people's feelings may be different
- The ask will be successful if it is the right person, at the right time, at the right place, for the right amount
- Understand that there are people out there who want to spend their money, they are going to give money to somebody find a reason for them to give it to you.
- They key is to keep asking questions and follow up with the people who match your interests, what you care about, and your passions.