A couple of the great things about running a small business are the people you meet and the skills you develop. Because you end-up wearing many different hats, you encounter people that you’d never meet in a “normal” more specialized career. And because of all of those hats, you find yourself learning skills in areas you could safely ignore in the past.
As an engineer, the technical parts of Vanatoo have been a lot of fun. But they haven’t been unfamiliar ground. What has been new is marketing. Dictionary.com defines marketing as “the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.” Vanatoo did a smart thing by partnering with Amazon for shipping, storing, and consummating the sale. That still leaves advertising and generating interest in the sale to Vanatoo. That is new ground for an engineer!
Small businesses have traditionally relied on word-of-mouth to get their message out; make a great product, give great service, and let your customers share their happiness. This technique is still alive in the 21st century, but of course the methods have changed with the times and the technology. What was once called “word-of-mouth” is now called “social”.
Vanatoo has established a small but growing following on Facebook and continues to dabble on Twitter. We have also worked with our marketing consultants (Crazymonkeymarketing) to reach-out to some of the opinion makers in the social media world. Through Crazymonkey we were introduced to a couple of people that are on Forbes list of “The Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers.” The first guy, Chris Voss, did a nice video review of the Transparent One (check it out on YouTube). The second guy, Robert Scoble, has the way-cool title of “Startup Liaison Officer” for Rackspace in San Francisco. Rackspace is a leading provider of web hosting and cloud services, and “the Scobelizer” gets to interface with many of the startup business that turn to Rackspace for support. And he was lucky enough to get to work with Vanatoo (or is it we were lucky enough to get to work with him?)!
Rick and I flew to San Francisco for a video interview with Robert. I lost the double-sided coin flip and was therefore the on-camera guy. My comfort in front of an audience or a camera peaked in the 5th grade with the play I was in, but I somehow muddled through. Robert is a fascinating guy who actually sold speakers while in college and has lots of stories of working with and hanging-out with an incredible array of famous and not-so-famous personalities. He set us at ease right away and was really engaged with what we are all about at Vanatoo. But of course the thing he was most interested in interviewing me about was Vanatoo’s marketing plans. “How ya gonna sell this thing, kid?” And I was all geared-up to talk about the cool technology we leveraged….
Check out the interview, which was a lot of fun. While it was a little scary, we all know that venturing outside of our comfort zone is good for us. And when you are running a small business, you have to learn to get comfortable outside of your preferred zone. Fortunately there are a lot of interesting people willing to help along the way!