Category Archive:Pitching

ByCarolyn Keane

Do You Know Your Customer? Buying Cycle & Triggers

This article looks at why customers expect different interactions with you depending on where they are in the buying cycle. It also examines how specific events trigger them into a buying mode. It then explains how you can use this information to make your marketing more effective.

The Customer Buying Cycle

A simple way to look at the buying cycle is to break into three stages:

  1. Awareness – when a customer first becomes aware of your product. Or could also refer to the point where a customer first becomes aware of a need that they want to fulfill.
  2. Consideration – when a customer starts evaluating solutions to their need
  3. Purchase

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How Buying Cycle impacts the sales approach needed

Imagine that you wandered in to a clothing store while walking around the neighborhood. You didn’t have a particular idea of anything you want to buy. You are approached by a hungry salesperson who is convinced they can get you to buy something. You are are annoyed by too much attention, and feel that they are ruining the peaceful browsing experience that you hoped to have.

Now imagine that you have gone into the same store. However In this situation, you have a urgent need to purchase a black sweater, and don’t have much time to waste. You want a salesperson to help you immediately, so you don’t waste your time looking for the item. However you can’t seem to get the attention of any of the salespeople. You are highly irritated by the lack of attention.

What’s the difference?

The difference between these two examples is where you are in the buying cycle. In the first situation, you are early in the Awareness stage, and in the second example, you are right at the end of the purchase cycle.

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Depending on where you are in your buying cycle, your expectations for how the sales people in the shop should treat you are different. If you are early in the cycle, you want to be largely left alone to browse around and get educated. If you are later in the cycle, you want highly responsive help to complete the purchase. Using the wrong sales approach leads to buyer frustration.

How do you adapt Marketing to a buyer’s stage in the cycle?

In the online world, we need to provide different paths through the website that are appropriate for each stage. It turns out that visitors will self-identify where they are in the buying cycle by the paths they take, provided you give them the option.

 

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What to do with visitors that are not ready to buy? (Lead Nurturing)

Since visitors who are early in their buying cycle are NOT likely to buy on their first visit to your web site, we need to know how to best handle them in case they do turn into buyers later on. This is a path that I am surprised to see is often not given the right level of attention and results in leads leaking from the funnel and lost marketing investment.

The key is to do a great job of staying in touch with them over a period of time, and building a trusted relationship (Lead Nurturing). Then if they do hit an event that triggers a buying cycle, your product is likely to be the top of their shopping list.

To allow us to do this, we need their email address. Since website visitors are initially reluctant to provide that, we need to entice them with something of value to them. How to do this has been covered in other articles in this blog (When selling is the worst way to win customers & Optimizing your customer acquisition funnel).

Once we have their email address, we can nurture them through the buying cycle using a customer success stories, a blog, newsletters, webinars, etc.

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Lead nurturing is best done with marketing automation software like that provided by HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, etc. Those products allow you to segment your customers to make the messages you send most directly relevant to them, and therefore most likely to be read. They also allow you to track who is advancing in their buying process by observing whether they come back to visit pages, such as the pricing page, that indicate buying intent. You can then apply more expensive sale resources to those leads, knowing that they are qualified enough to warrant the additional cost.

Effective lead nurturing is all about accelerating leads through the consideration process. Customer success stories, product comparisons, etc. all help to provide the data and info that a prospect looks for in their own research. If you provide it for them you make it easy for them to consume that info and move to the step in the process.

How on-line lead sources relate to the Customer Buying Cycle

Different lead sources produce buyers at different stages of the customer buying cycle:

  • People that are later in the buying cycle are most likely to be using tools like Google, and review sites to search for vendors and products to solve a problem. Those leads are highly valued because there is a high level of buyer intent. They are usually in the Consideration or Purchase stages of the buying cycle.
  • Many other lead sources (e.g. social referrals, Twitter, Facebook ads, banner ads, pr stories, educational presentations at conferences, etc.) produce buyers that are earlier in their cycle, and frequently just becoming aware that there is a potentially interesting product now available.

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Market maturity also plays an important role in the stage that your leads. For early stage markets where there is still a lot of education required, most leads will be very early in their buying cycles.

For the rest of the article https://www.forentrepreneurs.com/buying-cycle-and-triggers/

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ByCarolyn Keane

Why Outsourcing Your Invention’s Reviews Increases Efficiency

Image credit: Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko/Shutterstock

Determining whether your invention will be successful or not is an integral part of being an entrepreneur. Here are three reasons inventors are outsourcing the review process to increase efficiency.

When entrepreneurs and companies invent new products or technologies, they are understandably reticent to share their ideas with outsiders. After all, the business landscape is cut throat. They do not want to risk giving away their competitive edge. Still, most entrepreneurs are aware they need some feedback to ensure that their ideas are viable. They may form an internal review team to analyze their prototypes and conduct a market analysis.

While this choice may seem logical, internal invention reviews can be a waste of time and money. External reviews are a smarter choice. For instance, consider independent taste testers, who food companies outsource sensory testing of their products to in order to capture a broad and objective range of preferences. Beware of in-house reviewers, who are often incapable of delivering the objective analysis and insights you need to make sure your product does not fail.

Internal vs. external reviews

We will come back to the point about internal reviews inherently being nonobjective. There are additional reasons to outsource the invention review process. For starters, internal reviews can require significant time and money. Since the team members tasked with the review are employees, they may have to balance this assignment with their other responsibilities.

Generally speaking, internal reviews can take up to 30 hours at minimum, although they can take up to 30 days at larger companies. If you are paying employees over $75,000 per year (and, in the case of an attorney, far more) and you assign several people to the task, you are looking at thousands of hours and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct your internal reviews, when they could be working on developing the top ideas and technologies instead. Be aware of where you’re spening money, as very little of your review expenses should be on the front end.

In addition, internal reviewers are not necessarily trained to conduct these types of analyses. A quality product study includes thorough research into your market, competitors and patent prospects. Someone who is not trained to vet ideas for commercial potential will not be able to generate the level of insights and recommendations you need to screen a technology. By comparison, external teams specialize in product analyses.

Privacy can be a concern when inviting outsiders to review your ideas. However, a non-disclosure agreement or confidentiality clause can prohibit external reviewers from revealing any sensitive and proprietary information. There are both legal and business incentives to adhere to these guidelines as the reviewers want to build a reputable business and are not in the business of stealing ideas for themselves. If the right safeguards are in place, you can trust that the review process will not expose your business’s important competitive information.

Here are three ways in which an outside review is more advantageous than an internal report.

Speed

Unlike your team members, review agencies focus solely on compiling invention reports. They can turn around an analysis much faster than your internal staff, and it will include a SWOT analysis, competitive research and intellectual property (IP) research – all the information you need to decide whether to move forward.

Cost

While some consultants charge high rates, many third-party vendors offer fast and affordable services. Instead of paying salaried employees to produce a lackluster review, you can secure a top-quality analysis at a fraction of the cost, freeing up your employees to concentrate on the development of your best ideas and IP assets.

Objectivity

I promised we would come back to this and saved it for last because I cannot stress it enough. When it comes to evaluating your commercial prospects, objectivity is everything. You need input from professionals who have no stake in the product’s performance. A third-party team is solely concerned with getting you informed answers and giving them to you with no pretense. Their jobs and egos do not depend on your product’s success. Those are the people you want reviewing your invention because then you will have solid feedback and perhaps fresh insight into whether your idea can be successful.

The worst thing you can do for your company is go to market blindly or with misinformation. Sourcing high-quality evaluations from professional invention reviewers will provide you with the necessary knowledge to help your company succeed. Whatever the reports contain, it will give you the knowledge to make informed decisions and develop ideas the world really needs and wants.

Why Outsourcing Your Invention’s Reviews Increases Efficiency

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ByCarolyn Keane

Child’s trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome) condition spurs mom’s invention

Biomedical engineer Melanie Watson had plenty to grapple with when prenatal tests during her second trimester revealed her daughter, the second-born of two, had a very serious genetic condition called trisomy 18. In this condition, instead of normal two chromosomes on the 18th chromosomal pair, there are three.

Half of all babies born with trisomy 18, or Edwards syndrome, die within the first week, with many others stillborn. Only 5 percent to 10 percent live beyond age 1.

“She is my miracle baby,” Watson said of Claire Juliette Watson-Ray, now 5½. It’s important to get the one-half in there “because every day counts,” said the Trine University assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who earned her undergraduate and doctorate degrees from Louisiana Tech.

Watson has fought every day for her fragile daughter’s life, not accepting the no-hope pronouncement given by doctors at the Texas hospital where Claire was born and not giving up when Claire, at age 14 months, was diagnosed with liver cancer.

That tenacity and resolve to give Claire the highest quality of life possible is what also led Watson on a journey to seek an innovative solution to quickly and easily perform routine blood tests so Claire — and anyone with a health condition that requires frequent blood testing – can do so wherever and whenever they want, with results sent via a cell phone to the doctor.

The eighth version of the hand-held, blood-testing device prototype is now being 3-D printed, and Watson is in the process of patenting the invention. It is the culmination of more than five years of research and development, and Watson’s entrepreneurial endeavors through her company Blaire Biomedical have drawn high praise from regional and state funders. She was recently named one of two first awardees of support through Indiana’s Elevate Ventures’ new Community Ideation Fund.

The fund, created in 2018, enables ideation-stage high-potential companies to move closer to a specific, measurable technology or product development milestones through an investment between $5,000 and $20,000. Eligible applicants include Indiana-based companies with headquarters in communities under a partnership with Elevate Ventures, and with no more than $50,000 in trailing revenue over the past 12-month period.

Elevate Ventures, a venture development organization based in Indianapolis, Ind., provides entrepreneurs with the expertise and resources needed to transform ideas into profit-making companies. The Community Ideation Fund $17,500 convertible note will help Watson move ahead with final development of the blood-testing device by hiring a part-time design engineer.

“We need to improve the optics (in the device) in order to increase the accuracy of blood tests,” Watson said, noting this funding and a recent $1,000 micro-grant from the Elevate Northeast Indiana Farnsworth Fund, plus additional funding she is seeking through other regional and state sources is crucial. “It is essential for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to get into the seed round to draw venture capitalists and angel investors.”

Already available is a hand-held blood glucose testing device that operates similarly through a phone app, but Watson said there is no other such device on the market that can perform multiple blood tests.

“There has to be a better way”  To read the rest of the story click:

Child’s Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) condition Spurs mom’s invention

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ByCarolyn Keane

The Cade Prize rewards inventors and entrepreneurs…..

The Cade Prize rewards inventors and entrepreneurs who demonstrate
a creative approach to addressing problems ​in their field of expertise
​resulting in an innovative, not iterative, invention.

The Cade Prize is one of the largest cash prize competitions for innovation in the state of Florida. It is open only to Florida residents and Florida based companies. Since its launch in 2010, it has drawn hundreds of creative thinkers from Pensacola to Miami. Every year the applications are drawn from diverse sectors. Previous entries have included biomedical, healthcare, IT, tech, environmental, and agricultural ideas. The Cade Prize attracts cutting edge inventions that have a real possibility of making it to market.

The Cade Prize is in search of entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, and early-stage companies planning to take their idea to market. $50,000 in cash prizes (provided by the Community Foundation of North Central Florida) along with in-kind incentives are awarded to the final top four finishers of the competition each year. The goals of the $50,000 prize are to provide seed capital and publicity for great ideas with market potential. For the first time, awards will be given to the top four entries. The award for first place is $25,000, $15,000 for second place, $7,500 for third place, and $2,500 for 4th place. Individuals and companies with inventions that will remain in Florida for at least one year after the Prize is awarded, are eligible to enter. “Outside investment” is defined as funding from investors; This does not include grants, personal funds, or loans from friends and family.

The Cade Museum for Creativity & Invention is excited to announce that the 2018 Cade Prize is now accepting applications from inventors and entrepreneurs in the state of Florida. For the first time, the Cade Prize will award the top four finalists! The application fee is waived until June 22nd at midnight. Beginning June 23rd, the application fee will be $55.

For more information, please visit www.cademuseum.org or email Ashley Bryant at abryant@cademuseum.org.

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ByCarolyn Keane

Families, Invent Away! Frito-Lay Announces Return of “Dreamvention” to Find the Next Best Invention Idea

Actress Cobie Smulders Teams Up with Frito-Lay Variety Packs to Inspire Families to “Dreamvent” Together for $250,000 Grand Prize

Frito-Lay Partners with STEM-Focused Museums to Offer Free Admission and Help Spark Creativity


PLANO, TexasDec. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Families that play together can invent together. Frito-Lay Variety Packs, one of the flagship brands from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, is calling on families to dream big in the second year of its “Dreamvention” program and submit ideas to solve an everyday problem for a chance to win $250,000. Frito-Lay, which initially created Dreamvention after seeing so much ingenuity from families in their daily lives — from big inventions to daily life hacks — is bringing the program back after receiving thousands of creative ideas in its first campaign. After all, Frito-Lay Variety Packs believes that if you can dream, you can invent. Families can submit invention ideas and learn more about the program starting now at MyDreamvention.com.

Cobie Smulders, a mom of two young children who knows the importance of spending meaningful time with family and making each moment count, is helping Frito-Lay encourage families to brainstorm invention ideas together. Smulders, best known for roles such as Robin Scherbatsky from “How I Met Your Mother” and Maria Hill from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has long had a passion for creativity and scientific endeavors — she was even an aspiring marine biologist in her youth before she pursued acting full time.

“As a mom of two kids, we’re always making really weird stuff together!” said Smulders. “It’s really cool to join them on these projects and help them with their imagination. That’s why I admire the Dreamvention program, because it gives families a platform to showcase their creativity, hard work and determination. I can’t think of a better way for families to spend time together than by encouraging each other to dream big.”

To spark creativity for Dreamvention, Smulders and Frito-Lay are partnering with four STEM-focused museums across the country to offer families free admission between December and February, with Smulders helping kick off the first event today at the New York Hall of Science. Families will get hands-on Dreamvention experiences to inspire their own invention ideas to submit online. To see the museum schedule, visit MyDreamvention.com.

About Dreamvention
Earlier this year, Frito-Lay Variety Packs announced the inaugural “Dreamvention” contest where thousands of creative inventions were submitted by aspiring entrepreneurs from coast to coast. These imaginative and practical inventions were narrowed down to five finalists and an eventual $250,000 grand prize winner, including:

  • Maria DeLong from Brownsburg, Ind., who submitted “Pleasant Awakening” (finalist)
  • Anna Kreager from Cedar Park, Texas, who submitted “Chalkers” (finalist)
  • Julia Luetje from Leawood, Kansas, who submitted “Storm Sleeper” (finalist)
  • Grace Murphy from Needham, Mass., who submitted “Shoe Purse” (finalist)
  • Andrew Young from Batavia, New York, who submitted “Toaster Shooter” (winner)

All of these ideas were brought to life for the finalists to experience, with the help of MAKO Designs + Invent, a full-service consumer product development firm, through official prototypes of their inventions. Families can see the prototypes at the museum stops between December and February.

“This year’s competition was fueled by the passion and creativity that aspiring entrepreneurs brought throughout the contest, proving that if you can dream, you can invent,” said Jeannie Cho, Vice President of Marketing, Frito-Lay North America. “We are pleased to announce next year’s competition to keep this celebration of innovation and family connection going.  And we’re looking forward to what families will ‘dreamvent’ together next as they work to bring their best ideas to life.”

About the Contest
Families can participate by thinking up a fun invention idea, creating a simple drawing and short explanation of it and uploading both1 to MyDreamvention.com starting now through February 26, 2018 for a chance to win. Five finalists will be announced in October 2018 at which point Frito-Lay will pass the baton to America to vote for its favorite Dreamvention. The winning invention, based on votes, will be announced in December 2018.

Here are a few tips for how families can get started:

  1. Have a brainstorm with family and friends.
  2. Look at everyday things and think of a way to make it better.
  3. Think of an everyday problem you have and dream up a way to fix it!

You can also “Dreamvent” on-the-go! Frito-Lay Variety Pack features pre-portioned, single servings that can be taken with you wherever you go. Variety Packs include everyone’s favorite Frito-Lay snacks, such as Cheetos cheese flavored snacks, Doritos tortilla chips, Fritos corn snacks, Funyun’s onion flavored rings, Lay’s potato chips, Rold Gold pretzels, Smartfood popcorn, and SunChips multigrain snacks. Variety Packs are available at retail stores nationwide for a suggested retail price of $2.69 – $13.99.

To submit an invention idea and to learn more about the contest and the official rules, please visit www.MyDreamvention.com.

For high-res images, broadcast-quality b-roll and other press materials about Dreamvention, please visit www.magicbulletmedia.com/MNR/DreamventionFamilies

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/families-invent-away-frito-lay-announces-return-of-dreamvention-to-find-the-next-best-invention-idea-300570419.html

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ByCarolyn Keane

Turning Your Patent into a Business: A Practical Guide to Equity Crowdfunding

By Irwin Stein & Adoram Shemesh
November 11, 2017

Once your patent has been awarded you may still need additional capital to turn that patent into a business. Fortunately it is not as difficult to find investors as you may think. Equity crowdfunding is on the path to surpass venture capital as the preferred way for start-ups and small businesses to raise capital.

In a nutshell, equity crowdfunding is the sale of equity (or debt) in your business directly to investors using an online platform instead of a stock brokerage firm.  It is also less expensive than hiring one. Although direct to investor funding over the internet has been around since the late 1990s, it came of age with the JOBS Act in 2012.

The JOBS Act provides for three regulations that govern distinct types of offerings. The offerings differ by how much money you can raise and from what type of investor you can raise it from.

Regulation A (Reg. A) permits offerings of up to $50 million dollars. This is a “registered” offering meaning that the company needs to file a registration statement and investor prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). An audit of the company’s books for the two most recent years is also required unless the company has been in operation for a shorter period of time.

There are two main benefits to an offering under Reg. A. The first is that you can solicit and obtain funds from any member of the general public including younger millennial investors. This might be a benefit to a company whose product is targeted to this audience, like a video game company or a company whose technology might interest younger consumers as opposed to baby-boomers.

The second benefit is that once the offering is complete, the shares you have registered are freely tradable in the public market including the NASDAQ or New York Stock Exchange. There are specific listing requirements for these markets, but companies that go through this process then have access to mainstream capital markets. Also if the company does well, the shares are liquid and can be sold by the insiders.

The downside of Reg. A offerings is that they are time consuming and expensive.  It can take 6 months or more for lawyers to prepare the paperwork and for the SEC to review, comment and approve an offering.  Legal and accounting fees alone can easily reach 6 figures.  There is also an annual audit and given that you will likely have thousands of small investors; you will probably need at least one employee to deal with investor relations.

There is also the cost of finding those thousands of investors. There have been several successful Reg. A campaigns that have raised $10 million or more. The upfront marketing costs for an agency to design and execute a campaign to reach those investors can also be substantial. If you are using Reg. A to raise $10 million or more, a budget of $250,000 or more would  be appropriate.

On the lower end of the scale is Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg.CF) which allows companies to raise up to $1,070,000 per year directly from the general public. There is no need for an audit if the raise is less than $107,000 and above that only a CPA review, not a full audit of the last two years is required. There is no SEC review process, just a filing.

Anyone can invest although investors of lesser means are limited to a total investment of $2200 or 5% of the lesser of the investor’s income or net worth within each calendar year.  It is not unusual for a company raising $1 million to have thousands of shareholders who put up $100 each.  As with Reg. A the legal and marketing costs can add up.

A Reg. CF offering must be made on a crowdfunding portal (website) which in turn must be registered with the SEC. At this time there are about 30 portals that have registered and some are better than others in terms of their visibility and reputation. Several specialize and only host offerings for companies involved in green energy or companies owned by women or minorities, etc.  Selecting the right website or portal can be crucial to your offering’s success.

Most companies find that the most cost-effective way for them to raise funds is Regulation D. Reg. D is an exemption from the registration requirements of the federal securities laws. It has been around since 1982 and today is an active $1.7 trillion per year market.  That is much more than traditional public offerings or venture capital.

Traditionally these private placements were sold through stock brokerage firms and many still are.  The firms and issuers were always limited to making these offerings only to people with whom they had a prior business relationship.  The JOBS Act changed that to allow issuers to advertise and solicit investments from accredited investors, those whose income is over $200,000 a year or possess over $1 million in assets outside of their primary residence.

The vast bulk of the money raised through equity crowdfunding is raised using Reg. D. As a practical matter the cost of preparing the legal paperwork is usually less than with either Reg. A or Reg. CF.

Accredited investors are presumed to be more sophisticated and the amount of information that needs to be provided is usually less. At the same time, they often ask more thorough questions before they invest.  The company will have to designate a knowledgeable person to help investors who want to kick the tires.

Accredited investors are relatively easy to reach and because they are taking a larger slice of each offering (often a $10,000 -$25,000 minimum investment) issuers need to reach out and connect with a far smaller group of potential investors. This substantially reduces the upfront marketing costs.

In sum, a Reg.A offering raising $5 -$10 million can cost several hundred thousand dollars whereas a Reg. D offering, raising the same amount, may cost less than $50,000.  You can use Reg. D for a $1 million raise as well and unlike Reg. CF if you get a good response you can accept more than $1 million to provide your business with some extra cash.

Unlike venture capital or angel investors with equity crowdfunding the company seeking funds controls the process and the terms. The hard part is to present to investors a better deal that will make yours a more attractive investment than the other offers they receive.

There are multiple ways to structure a Reg. D offering that provides investors with a good return on their investment. For patent backed ventures; a licensing, royalty or revenue sharing structure is often possible. That allows the company to structure the financing “off the balance sheet” in a way that the owners of the company retain ownership of 100% of the equity.

There is no way to sugar-coat the fact that 90% of start-ups fail. A study published by MIT last year suggested that the likelihood of growth is 35 times higher for firms that apply for patents. That fact is not lost on investors, but you may want to remind them of this fact when you are seeking their investment.

That is one of the reasons that I am working with PatentAngels, an IP-centric investment platform that is focused on Reg D offerings for companies with registered patent rights.  The IP aspect increases the level of certainty for investors, especially when making investments online and they may not be able to meet the management team in person as traditional VC’s do. Think about it, if you made an online investment in a company with multiple unknowns, would you rather know they at least have their technology patented?

I advise any company that is getting ready to start raising funds to take the following actions:

  1. Get dressed. By that I mean get your corporate books and financial statements in order.  Have your Board of Directors in place and make certain that they are people who have some experience to the business that you are in.
  2. Have a detailed business plan that is well researched. Any investor will discount your financial projections but that does not mean that your projections should not be based in reality.  Know your market, your customers and your competitors.
  3. Hire the right people.  Having a patent is great, but investors expect execution. You are going to need marketing and sales executives and a CFO.  Hire them or at least identify them so that investors can evaluate their skills and experience.
  4. Know how much money you need and be prepared to describe how you will spend it. A line item that says “general overhead” does not tell investors what they want to know.  If you need office or manufacturing space, you should have a good idea of how much space, where it will be located and how much it will cost.  You should be able to estimate how much each executive salary and benefits will cost and how many other employees you will need.
  5. Be prepared to mount an aggressive and focused marketing campaign to drive investors to your company. There is a big difference between a presentation that says “look at this great widget I patented” and one that says “look at this great patented business I am building!”

Equity crowdfunding has created a new, intelligent and efficient way for small companies to access the capital markets. If you have taken the time and expense to obtain a patent for your product, it is certainly worthy of your consideration.

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