Have been busy in work resulting in a short downtime on my blog sad Today, I received an email from one of my blog readers who is connected with me on LinkedIn and just wanted to know about how I reached 500+ connections.I just thought it would be great to share some of my tips; which would also help me to look back and check whether I am using this great tool to the fullest !!!

Below are my Ten tips [starting with my so called own MANTRAS] which makes my LinkedIn usage effective and helpful.

My Own Mantras

1. Target relevant people:
Many of us who are part of startups would be a part of many mailing lists like OpenCoffeeClub, Startup Specialists etc. This would be the best place to build your network.What I do is “While reading the email of a person on the list, if I get a feeling that it would be useful[as well as relevant] to connect with that person , than I send the invitation” and I am sure that there are lot of smart people around on such lists….Figure them out and add them !!!

2. Be Specific and Personal:
Assuming you follow point(1), you feel that a person X would add value to your network and you would like to add him. What next “Send an invitation” smile [check the image below and the part in Red Color which mentions PERSONAL !!! ]

When you are meeting a person for the first time, it is very important to introduce and specify “WHY” his addition to your network and your addition to his network would be very much useful.Remember Permission Marketing by Seth Godin – “The privilege of marketing to people who are relevant to you“, the same principle applies here as well.

It takes 2-3 minutes to be specific but it is indeed helpful. An improved example invitation below:

3. Build a useful conversation and than get the work done :
In case you are connecting with a USEFUL but unknown person, make sure that once you are connected to him/her; you know more about the contact. Write a “Thanks” reply and try to know as much as you can about him/her.
Once you are well acquainted , speak up and let him/her know the NOT SO OBVIOUS reason for the invitation.

4. Group your contacts:
Once you have multiple number of contacts; it may seem difficult to remember WHO,WHY & WHERE of a particular contact.Hence, on a regular basis ; export your contact list into .xls/.csv/other format and align the contacts in proper categories like Friends, Colleagues, Unconferences, Startups etc. to make your search simpler and faster !!!

The Obvious Mantras

1. Be an Open Networker:
The start is always difficult and if you are a waiting for your first connection, than this should be the first step. Just include your email-id in the Last Name field in your Profile page eg. Himanshu Sheth(himanshu.sheth@gmail.com) . This would give an impression that you are open to connect with anyone [with an obvious filter on whether the invitation would be relevant or not].

2. Put relevant keywords:
The difference between “S/W” and “Software” is huge.If you are an engineer and someone searches for Software, profiles tagged with S/W would be filtered out….So, just like coming on Google Search is important, being in relevant LinkedIn searches is important to increase your network.

3. Attach personal photograph:
Imagine being at a conference where you might have many of your new & yet Unknown LinkedIn connections, so “How would they identify you? ” ……In such cases, personal photograph on your profile page would be very much helpful.This may also help you reconnect with your very old colleagues.

4. Use LinkedIn badge:
If you have a blog/website, do not forget to use your LinkedIn badge.Many times, the Blog name is not so obvious eg. ThoughtsPrevail is just a random name and does not convey that “Himanshu Sheth” writes that blog [Though smart people would always google for it smile ]

5. Recommend relevant people:
Always try to write Recommendations for people ; who you feel are worth to be recommended.Many people read the recommendations written for/by a person and a recommendation can really add value to the recommender’s profile [for his openness] and the recommended person[for the great work that (s)he might have done].This indirectly makes searching for Smart people on LinkedIn easier.

6. Ask and Answer relevant questions:
“Q&A section of LinkedIn” provides an excellent platform to gain & share knowledge, not to forget adds lot of Stars to your profile with the golden word – EXPERTISE.

If you have some more relevant inputs, do let me know and I would add them in the Reader Contribution section.

Reader Contribution:
Ramjee Ganti – Guy Kawasaki on Ten Ways to use Linkedin

Startup means a lot of things for many people and there are a variety of motivating factors for different people.It takes a lot to leave a high paying job and to join an early stage startup or to start working on your own idea.

IMHO, it is very simple to write on blogs and to review others startups but it takes a GREAT HEART to accept criticism[in the right spirit] for our own startup/idea.

As mentioned above, though motivation for a startup are different undoubtedly, one thing should be starting point – PASSION ; but when a bunch of people gather to create a startup to make quick bucks, you are sure to reach the dead end soon !!!! Let’s look at what could go wrong for such organizations.

1. Not SO-GREAT Minds also think ALIKE :
All of us know about this very famous saying – Great Minds think alike but when not so-great minds meet, they also think alike.When startups have such minds and money is the SOLE intention, you can be very much sure that there would be some dirty games being played in the minds of each & every member.

2. Focus shifts from QUALITY to QUANTITY :
The most important part of any software is it’s quality , without which there would be no quantity[in terms of customers, revenue, growth etc]. But if the sole aim is to earn money, you would always keep Quantity in mind without even thinking that it is quality that gives birth to Quantity and not vice-versa. So, the focus should be on Quality with a clear road map on how that would lead to tangible quantity.

In case a highly passionate person[who has the willingness to learn and to do something in life] lands up at such a place, it would lead to lot of misunderstandings with the fellow co-workers which in turn would lead to an unhealthy working environment.This Mr./Ms. ‘RIGHT’ would in turn stop other Mr./Ms. RIGHT(s) from joining such a startup leading to a bad reputation in the market sad

The onus of building a good/great company lies on the initial members of the company. The great thing of an initial stage startup is that it is like a BABY that has to be nurtured continuously by it’s so called Father(s) [or Founders] wink It is very important for a startup that there are regular brainstorming sessions/discussions to ensure that every person is in sync and have the same & updated information.
However, when money becomes the motive, there would be very less transparency and team members would tend to hide information from each other….And if there is no information exchange between the first few people, than how do you ensure a transparent culture in the new people[many of which may belong to point(3) ] who join your company ?

5. HIERARCHY , the serial Killer :
Combination of points (1) and (4) gives rise to point (5) – Hierarchy. Gone are the days when there was a person called “BOSS” who wanted to keep an eye on everyone nowadays, people enjoy an open culture and there can never be a successful company built using the bricks of “Hierarchy”. Sure, once the number of employees increase, we may need Managers[and not bosses] , but if we have Hierarchy followed from Day-1 ; you can be rest assured that it would be followed till the time the startup exists smile…..and it is needless to mention the fate of such startups !!!!

If you have any other points, please mention them in the comments section and I would be happy to add them in the article.

Many times meeting investors becomes similar to applying for a job in a company.There are some set of basic questions which are repetitive and many times, the answer to these decide your fate.The only difference being in a job interview, the mistake may turn out to be less costly[since,it is only YOU who is affected] whereas any mistake while pitching to an investor won’t only affect YOU but everyone CONNECTED with you in the STARTUP.

Just came across an interesting and a worthy presentation which gives an insight into the basic questions and the answer to simple those simple questions biggrin

Reader Contribution:

Lakshman Srikanth shares this insights on OpenCoffee Club dated 21st June,2008 here

Few months back, I came up with an article titled “What before a Business Plan”.Today, we would focus on something which is inseparable from the Business Plan called “Feasibility Study”. It is true that once we have the B-Plan ready, the very next step is to get going and focus on how to achieve the optimistic figures mentioned in the B-Plan rolleyes However, few things mentioned the B-Plan is written keeping the investor’s in mind but along the entire journey; Customer is and will remain the HERO. !!! This leads to a report titled “Customer-Driven Feasibility Study” [from this point referred as Customer-Driven F.S. ] and my current read The New Business Road Test by John Mullins explained that to the core of it !!!

This article is divided into three parts namely:

  1. What is Customer Driven F.S ?
  2. Thin line of difference between B-Plan and Customer Driven F.S
  3. Contents of Customer Driven F.S

What is Customer Driven Feasibility Study
During the course of any opportunity, the Market Analysis/Study phase always remains iterative.However, at one point of time, the evidence gathered through the research would help us understand whether the opportunity is REALLY an opportunity.This feasibility study is Customer Driven because , unlike most organization charts which has the founder/ CEO at the top and people serving the customer at the bottom, the feasibility study begins with the target customer, without whom there would be no business. It is an internal document that should cater to the seven requirements which are discussed later.

Difference between Business Plan and Customer Driven Feasibility Study
Though there are a number of overlaps in the B-Plan and Customer Driven F.S , there are three major areas where they tend to differ :

1. Customer Focus :
The purpose of any business it to win customers and the Feasibility Study completely caters to that requirement which is quite different from that of most B-Plans – to win an investor. If there is no likelihood for customers, there would not be any investors.

2. Fundamental Economics :
The feasibility study addresses the fundamental economics of the business, by identifying the key drivers of cash flow: revenue, required capital investment, gross margins etc. If these drivers are satisfactory, than detailed strategies like marketing, operations and financing can probably be developed to make the venture economically viable.

3. Mindset :
The purpose of the study is not to sell the venture’s merit whereas a B-Plan organizes the answers delivered by the feasibility study and goes on to develop marketing, operating and financing strategies in an effort to sell the opportunity, in a focussed way, to the investors and other stakeholders.

7 step “Customer Driven Feasibility Study”

This briefly describes what follows [tells the reader(s) what you are going to tell them]

2. MICRO- level MARKET assessment :

  • TARGET market and it’s pain identified; benefits of your solution identified, with evidence that those in this segment are willing to pay a price that works.
  • Target market segment, size and growth rate.
  • Options to grow into other segments.

3. MACRO- level MARKET assessment :

  • OVERALL market size and growth rate.
  • Macro trends analysis to assess future market growth and attractiveness.

4. MACRO – Level INDUSTRY assessment :

  • Five forces analysis : Whether or not the industry is attractive.
  • Likely changes that may happen going forward.

5. MICRO – Level INDUSTRY assessment :

  • Any proprietary elements.
  • Any superior organizational processes, capabilities or resources identified that are not easily duplicated or imitated.
  • Economic viability of business model established :

– Revenue Forecast.
– Customer acquisition & retention costs and time required to obtain a customer.
Gross margins.
Break even analysis.
– Operating Cash Cycle characteristics.

6. TEAM assessment :

  • Team’s mission, aspirations and tendency for risk.
  • Team’s ability to execute the mission.
  • Team’s connectedness up, down and across the value chain.

7. SUMMARY and Conclusions :
Tell the reader(s) the key highlights of what you have told them – why this is/is not – opportunity attractive and future prospects of the opportunity.

As you might have seen on my blog, I am an ardent fan of Guy Kawasaki.It is an honor for me[as well as ThoughtsPrevail] to get featured in the India Section of his website AllTop

Below is a email confirmation from AllTop Team:

It is a great moment for me [since, AllTop is Guy’s startup] , to add this badge to my blog smile

Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

Thanks to each one of you for making this happen !!! An interesting journey for ThoughtsPrevail with one more feather to it’s cap ; some of the so called “Past Achievements” can be found here, here and here.

This is just the beginning and more is yet to come !!!!

In continuation to the previous article by Scott Fox , author of the best selling book Internet Riches[who is the Guest Writer on this blog]; let us now look at the remaining two factors that would help to create more online opportunities for Entrepreneurs in India.
“I” in the article refers to Scott Fox.
4. India’s English Triple Advantage
With their greater literacy in English, Indian entrepreneurs can continue to capture a greater share of English-speaking customer dollars than entrepreneurs from other countries like China.
This linguistic advantage is important because it allows Indian startups to:
  • Compete on a global basis by more easily marketing their e-commerce products and services outside of India into affluent English-speaking markets worldwide.
  • Take advantage of proven e-commerce platforms from the U.S. for use in India. Services like Google’s Adsense, Paypal, eBay, Elance, and many others are all available to English-speaking Indian entrepreneurs today, at least for imitation and research if not outright deployment in Indian markets.
  • Access the huge amount of technical and strategy information available in English online. Many of the most important lessons learned by American entrepreneurs are well documented online and often available for free. This expertise includes technical documents, the U.S. Patent Office libraries, community forums of all sorts, and even thousands of free email newsletters and e-courses [like those I offer at ScottFox.com] that teach many of the e-business revolution’s tactical innovations for free.
5. Anyone Can Play Online
Perhaps most exciting about the E-Business Revolution is the liberation of the creativity of non-traditional entrepreneurs. With little capital required, low risk, and worldwide reach, the World Wide Web offers economic opportunity to a wider class of people, including the disenfranchised, the physically disabled or house-bound, and lower socio-economic classes, than ever before in history. Particular opportunities are emerging to serve youth markets [with more than half of the Indian population under the age of 25], and women [only 23% of Internet users in India are female], for example.
As previous online innovations like eBay, YouTube, Facebook, and CraigsList have demonstrated in the U.S. , it’s difficult to predict how new platforms for commerce and communication can empower people. Today e-commerce’s egalitarian approach to allowing participation and making money is increasingly available to inspire bursts of creativity from Indian entrepreneurs. Additionally, it’s easy to foresee dramatic advances, including the establishment of new billion-dollar companies dedicated to serving the unique needs of previously underserved sectors of Indian society.
Increasingly, the only entry requirements into the race for internet riches are a broadband connection, creativity, and some hard work. As discussed in my book, Internet Riches, and with free updates by email from my blogs at ScottFox.com , I look forward to helping nurture this coming tidal wave of achievement too. I am excited to see the innovative, profitable, and inspiring ways that Indian entrepreneurs of all kinds will find to respond to the opportunities offered by the e-business revolution.
With this closing remark from Scott, I would like to thank Scott for being a guest author on ThoughtsPrevail and hope to see him back in the near future !!!

With Internet growing leaps and bounds in India, the number of online opportunities for entrepreneurs have also grown as well.The growth of internet penetration in India has opened up new doors for Part-preneurs [My terminology for a person who is yet to completely take the entrepreneurial plunge but works on his venture part-time so that one day he can pursue his dreams full-time].

To tell us more about these opportunities, there would have been no better person than Scott Fox, more about him below.

About Scott Fox:

Scott Fox is the Author of Internet Riches, the worldwide best-selling guide to how anyone can use the Internet to start their own business, even without much money or technology. He blogs and offers free email newsletters about e-business success, entrepreneurship, and online marketing advice on his website.
This article is divided into two parts so, without much wait, let us see what Scott has to say about India and opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs online.

“I” in the article refers to Scott Fox.Before we start, my heartful thanks to Scott for being a guest writer on ThoughtsPrevail.

Internet riches for Indian Entrepreneurs – I
Today the Internet offers to Indian entrepreneurs even more potential for e-commerce success than was available in the U.S. in the 1990’s.

The waves of broadband penetration and low cost e-commerce tools that led to mass adoption of the Internet in the United States are now reaching Indian shores. Although millions of Indians have been online for years, millions more are just beginning to gain access to the global digital marketplace. Most are still connecting at dial-up modem speeds but broadband penetration in India doubled again in 2007. And while the early adopters of e-business in India mirror those of the U.S., these waves have also broadened their reach during the time and distance they have traveled from the U.S. to India to include more people, more kinds of people, and new platforms like mobile phones.

Its huge population alone suggests that India should be an economic superpower. Usually this massive population is viewed as a potentially profitable consumer market to be exploited. I would prefer to see India’s people as a massive natural resource that smart entrepreneurs can leverage to achieve huge financial success. Current challenges in providing basic services like electricity and water will be overcome, and India’s astounding continued economic growth rate offers major opportunities to a new wave of Indian e-commerce start-ups today.

At least 5 factors[with two mentioned in the next article] will combine in India to create exciting new markets and unprecedented millionaire-making opportunities for a new generation of Indian entrepreneurs.

1. Capitalism without Capital:
The low cost of entry for starting a business online is unprecedented. The costs of a PC, broadband connection, and especially the education to put them to work remain significant obstacles. But these foundations of e-commerce success are still so much less expensive than erecting a bricks-and-mortar business that small business ownership is increasingly within the reach of millions who have not fully participated in the economy previously.

2. Low Risk:
Because the e-business revolution so reduces the need for start-up capital, it is much less risky. By starting small online, millions of new Indian entrepreneurs will find that they can build their own businesses without leaving their current jobs, mortgaging their personal assets, or otherwise unduly risking their futures. This ease of market entry introduces increased potential competition but also allows rapid product development iteration, customer feedback, and online market testing to accelerate the success of winning ventures.

3. New Local Market Innovations:
Internet-delivered local services and advertising are sure to spread in India even faster than they emerged in the U.S. Years of U.S. and EU innovation in web site and mobile phone-based services will benefit localization business efforts by Indian entrepreneurs, helping them speedily deploy new tools [whether invented in India or imported] to profitably serve their vast domestic market.

I hope that you found insights from Scott useful as well as interesting.You would find the continuing part in the next article.

Reader Contribution:
Get updated Motivation Quotes by Scott Fox using this Google Gadget by Manish Panchmatia

Time has changed and gone are the days where you had to spend huge money to advertise on televisions, radios or any such medium.With the advent of Web 2.0, companies especially startups have found a better, easier and faster method of spreading their ideas.You can find interesting thoughts on Traditional Marketing in my previous articles here & here.

Just came across an interesting video [shown below],which demonstrates “Why the big bucks spent on marketing may not be good enough to catch the eyeballs of the consumer !!!

Source : Marketing Amnesia

If you [does not matter if you are a technical person like me] are interested in Marketing and want to interact & learn from other marketers, do join the Marketing Unconference group called MarkCamp here and here.You would also find the likes of Mahesh Murthy and other industry experts in the group so you can be assured that your first marketing campaign would not end in this way biggrin.

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Harry Beckwith on “Selling something that no one can see