Learning from Wesabe. And beta max.

Second, Mint focused on making the user do almost no work at all, by automatically editing and categorizing their data, reducing the number of fields in their signup form, and giving them immediate gratification as soon as they possibly could; we completely sucked at all of that. Instead, I prioritized trying to build tools that would eventually help people change their financial behavior for the better, which I believed required people to more closely work with and understand their data. My goals may have been (okay, were) noble, but in the end we didn’t help the people I wanted to since the product failed. I was focused on trying to make the usability of editing data as easy and functional as it could be; Mint was focused on making it so you never had to do that at all. Their approach completely kicked our approach’s ass.

Mark Hedlund CPO, then CEO of Wesabe says it like I need to hear it.  Many of you have asked (and at times shrieked) about why I have pulled winwin offline. The answer is in Mark’s quote. Read his full write up about his startup’s failure here.

To boil it down for those of you who dread the click through he blames his failure on three things:

  1. Himself- he worked “peerlessly”
  2. Focus on changing user’s behavior rather than giving them instant access to simple data
  3. Building an internal aggregation system rather than partnering with one that was already on the market.

His reasons for 2 and 3 are clearly understandable- he wanted to afford users secure, accurate and prescriptive views of their financial habits. To do this he avoided partnering with a crumbling and opaque data aggregation system. His hubris that he could help the our entire countries culture of spending is laudable…if not accurate.

Why is this a cautionary tale for winwinapps?

So many many ways.

  1. Our beta (now deemed prototype) version was written on a custom frameowrk, and was not able to take advantage of entire development communities advances
  2. I worked essentially alone, with expertise in the world that our customers lived in and not the technological field.
  3. I prioritized the ability for users to customize and manage every aspect of fundraising and marketing from the winwin dashboard, rather than making each tool as simple as possible to use.

Customers who met me, and were trained side by side with me felt that the app solved all of their organizations problems, and for that I feel some measure of pride. New users were unable to reap the benefits.

winwinapps 2.0 is growing slowly, and each module is stupid simple. Check out the first iteration using icouldbe.org as a tester. Thanks for your patience as we re-build you a stupidly simple product to help you raise money.

Social Media Return on Investment

After a great talk by Curves Trend Marketing founder Bibi Mukherjee, I created a quick weekly and monthly tool to calculate my return on investment for time spent on Social Media. I figured some of you might want to use it too, so I made it public here.

Those numbers are all filler, insert your hourly rate, and estimate hours per week spent on the three main platforms. Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook. Then actually visit google analytics and determine referrals from each of these three sites. Don’t just guess what all of these efforts are gaining your organization!

Hairdos and Humor as a connector

So I couldn’t not share this.

It is a hard and lonely road that leads in and out of startupville. I regularly reach out to other companies that are related to what winwinapps does. Mostly these companies are only tangentially related, but yesterday I exchanged a few emails with one of the founders of Crowdrise.

I know Ed Norton is the face of the company, but clearly he is not the one writing the code.

Although I have some gripes about pricing, one part of Crowdrise that I celebrate (and its core funtionality imo) is its humor and fun.

Their mission is to make volunteering and giving FUN. In this they succeed. With points, jokes, and an incredible ability to interact in social space they remind us that giving back should be a blast. Their style is flippant as well as frivolous their tagline in fact is: if you don’t give back, no one will like you.

So what of the animal hair? Robert and I have chatted very briefly about our businesses, where winwinapps goes beyond donations to act as an overall toolkit for nonprofits, but mostly we have talked about hair. It makes him seem more real to me, makes me feel more connected to him, and fits well with the brand identity of his company. Not sure winwin needs those dos, but we do try to mix in a fair amount of fun with business. As for Crowdrise founder Robert, I like him.

winwinner Wednesday: Bluebird Tavern

That’s Nate and Aaron up there, and their incredible food. Although you can’t see Sue or Laura or the rest of the crew’s smiling faces, their mark is everywhere. From butcher boards, to great pours, to reclaiming reclaimed bars to keep things ultra local, Bluebird Tavern is my favorite place to eat, drink, and visit with friends.

Their incredible dedication to turning out food that is art is matched by their desire to make their community better. Bluebird hosts Community Night Wednesdays where they give 10% of their sales to a local non-profit partner, asking only  for basic help marketing the evening. (Application linked above.)

Their blue room, recently updated by the old bar from Harlem (via Smokejacks), features wifi (as does the whole venue) as well as projectors and large scale seating. This flexible space can host a stand up cocktail party, a sitdown dinner for many, or your best board meeting ever.

This Sunday they are co-hosting a bash at the barn at The Intervale. From 4:30-8:00 they will be serving up spicy (and not so spicy) bouillabaisse, and Dedalus will be pouring at least 6 versions of Rose. (A varietal you either already love, or need to try again in its current renaissance.) You can buy $40 all you can eat and drink tickets via their winwinapps webstack.

Although this event doesn’t benefit a local nonprofit in the most strict sense, it helps our community by advancing the Intervale Barn as a venue, supporting local small business, and all of the local vendors that Bluebird works with regularly.

Join us Sunday evening, and you will see what I am harping about!

About “winwinner” Wednesday: Each week we profile one of the nonprofits using winwin apps to make the world a better place. If you’d like to be featured on our blog, drop us a line!

Lessons from the line

Event organizers dread them…but why not take advantage of your captive audience.

Look over there at The Clothes Exchange. Last year we had 400 shoppers, this year we almost doubled that. What does it mean? A bit of panic for sure, last minute streamlining the check in process (save those marketing questions for check out or your follow up survey) but it also provides an incredible opportunity to establish our brand, educate our shoppers, and raise extra money.

Getting in the Door

  • Set the stage. Your decor, customer service, all should appear in the waiting area. We have 8 or more “greeters” who hand out fresh lemonade, explain the process, and answer any questions shoppers may have. Next year we have the greeters administer our marketing surveys in iPads online.
  • Share your message. Once they are in the door our shoppers are interested in one thing only: THE CLOTHES, this is the time to share the mission of the our beneificary The King Street Center, and the logos and tag lines of our sponsors.
  • Whet their appetite. We hang sample items (shoppers can pull off of clothes lines and buy right there), as well as set up outward facing windows with one of a kind temptations. When possible we pipe music into the line area, and offer bits of entertainment.

Getting out the Door

  • Upselling and personal appeals.  This is our last chance for raffle tickets, branded merchandise and a great opportunity for thank yous- we staff the check out line with board members and staff of our beneficiary organization. An appeal from them has more meaning, and a thank you together with a quick story (viewed now as connection rather than distraction) can turn a shopper into a supporter.
  • Rethink and revise. For 2011 we are relocating our silent auction to the check out holding area. We will set it up on skinny tables, or have clipboards hanging from clothes line. We will use the auction as a way to define the line, and give folks waiting to check out a chance to bid.
  • Bottom line basics. No matter how busy the line, we always take time to ask for a specific round up donation, and double check the email address.  Emails are necessary for their winwin receipt, thank you, and future communications. Our beneficiaries often add hundreds of local supporters to their lists each year.