New Venture – Transforming Email Marketing

Having spent the past year attempting to build an online real estate marketplace, I have made the decision to focus on a more familiar problem – email marketing. As a first time entrepreneur, many people have talked about growing a list well before you plan to sell anything.

I installed MailChimp and tried to grow a list. And for me, it didn’t work too well. My list got outdated fast. I was connecting with various people outside of email (i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter, FB, etc.) And it’s such a pain to add these connections back into my contact list.

The user interface wasn’t terribly great either and as someone new to email marketing, there’s a lot to learn. I wasn’t able to hook it up to my landing page and in the end, I resorted back to just email and a Google Docs spreadsheet.

I feel like there’s an opportunity in this space. Even with the millions of email marketing software companies out there. Even with HubSpot and Marketo leading the charge. There has to be an easier way for a company to get started building an audience and engaging them personally.

And that’s what I’m aiming for with my new venture. How can we transform email marketing? What are the biggest challenges that marketers face when it comes to email marketing? What are the biggest opportunities?

Passion will inspire you to greatness

Hiroshi Mikitani (Founder of Rakuten)

“When started my company, I learned a lot during my first 90 days. Some of these lessons became Rakuten’s Five Principles for Success. During the next few weeks I’ll share some of the lessons I learned during my #First90 days.

Why did my new business take off and grow? There were many factors, but I’ll share one with you today because it is a factor that is within anyone’s control. My business took off because I was fully passionate about it.

I was so passionate that I entered the Internet industry, despite the fact that it was littered with early failures. I was so passionate that I traded a secure career for a life of an entrepreneur. It was that passion that pushed me forward in those early days. It’s that passion that continues to drive me now.

Passion will inspire you to greatness. It can make you capable of things you never thought possible. Think of it this way: suppose you are running to catch a train. If you are on your way to the market, you may move at one speed. But if your dearest love is on that train and is leaving on a long journey, how fast will you run? Passion brings out your best efforts.

Passion was so important to our early success, I have made it part of our culture even as we have grown. I list it as one of the five pillars of our corporate culture. I even wrote about how to be passionate recently here on LinkedIn.

At Rakuten, we strive to be “passionately professional” in everything we do. Foster and channel your passion. It is the secret to success.”

Source: LinkedIn

3 Key Questions to Ask When Starting Your Company

1. What is the problem?

The path to building a sustainable, profitable company means that you need to be providing a service that helps solve people’s problems. The problem has to be painful enough that someone is willing to pay you to take away his/her problem. It’s also really important to hone in on just 1 problem when you’re starting out. This provides focus.

2. How big is the market?

If the market isn’t big enough, your company won’t go far. That’s fine if you’re looking at starting a niche business but if you have plans to scale and grow, you’ll need market big enough to support your growth.

3. Who is my customer?

Knowing who your customer is is absolutely essential. If you don’t know who they are, step back and rethink this.

Markov Chain

A Markov chain is a sequence of random variables X1, X2, X3 … Xn with the Markov property. The Markov property states that given a present state, the future and past states are independent.

Example: A bug eats exactly one time a day. If it eats cheese today, it will eat bread tomorrow. The bug’s eating habits tomorrow does not depend on what it eats yesterday.

Personal Brand

The unmistakable bitten-into apple symbol. The Olympic rings. The golden arches. Even as I describe these symbols without revealing the originator, you probably already have some idea of who these symbols belong to. And you probably have formulated some image of each of these organizations and what they represent.

Branding is such a powerful concept. There are an abundance of iPhone and Android applications that offer logo quizzes. Chances are that we can recall at least 50% of the logos depicted in those quizzes. From a human perspective, it is fascinating to notice just how much brand power can affect our behaviours – emotional, purchasing, association, etc.

As I came across a blog post entitled 3 Ways to Pitch Yourself in 30 Seconds by Jodi Glickman, I began to draw the connection that we are just communicating our personal brand. All those marketing lessons that you learn about mission statements, values and visions that are applied to organizations can and should be applied to your own personal brand.

Communicating that consistent message and telling that story about who you are, why are you here, and where you want to go helps bolster the image that develops around you. From a philosophical perspective, it helps you truly understand who you are and guides your decision making when uncertainty creeps in. From a marketing perspective, it gives the people around you a better understanding of you.

Jodi gave 3 ideas to think about when pitching yourself:

  • Have a compelling reason for why you want to be there, as in “why did you decide to join the firm?”
  • Know what it is that uniquely qualifies you for the position so that you can answer the how, as in “how did you actually get a job here?”
  • Be able to explain what ties together past and current experiences in a way that is compelling and makes sense — what is the glue that holds your story together?

These are 3 great ideas that really build a brand around you. However, I would like to add some few ideas of my own:

  • Communicate where you are going — what is it that you are trying to accomplish? There is something extremely compelling and inspirational about listening to someone’s hopes and dreams.
  • Know who you are — business and life in general is fraught with uncertainty and the values that you hold will be the ones to guide you in your decision-making. To be a trusted leader, you have to be trusted to do the right thing. And the right thing is driven by our values and our perspective on life.

Zhuge Liang and the Empty Fort Strategy

Zhuge Liang, also known as Kong Ming, was a well-known Chinese military strategist during the Three Kingdoms Period. A hundred thousand strong army led by Sima Yi, an opponent of Zhuge Liang, has come to invade the fort.  However, Zhuge Liang has few troops to defend and they had insufficient time to flee. Thus, he devised the ‘Empty Fort’ strategy.

As Sima Yi’s army approaches the fort, the citizens were seen sweeping the front door. The castle gates were wide open and everyone was calm. Zhuge Liang was playing music on his Chinese musical instrument. Upon seeing this, Sima Yi concluded that there must be an ambush set up within the empty fort, given the calmness of his opponent and the citizens. An army general requested permissions to charge the fort but Sima Yi knows that Zhuge Liang never takes risks and has probably set a trap for them. Sima Yi and his army soon retreated back home. However, Zhuge Liang, indeed, has few troops to defend. Had Sima Yi and his army attacked, they would have overrun the castle. The fort was empty and no ambush had been plan. The illusion of a plan completely threw Sima Yi and his men off. Luckily, Sima Yi did not and the fort was safe for the time being.

In the context of business, this relates to building brand perception and utilizing it in order to achieve a particular outcome. Some might say it is also reverse psychology. You may have heard of the quote “fake it till you make it” as well. Companies with significant investments in R&D are perceived to be innovative. However, there is only so much time until your competitors figure out that you’re just an empty fort with nothing within. The amount of investment does not tell the story of a company’s capability to create new products and market them successfully. While this is a great strategy to throw off your competitors, it is unsustainable in the long-term. However, it is a useful strategy to have when you know the company truly has nothing left to offer and you need to buy it some time. Groupon anyone?

Empty Fort Strategy


Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture can be divided into 4 subsets:

  • Business architecture
  • Data architecture
  • Application architecture
  • Technology architecture

Business Architecture

Business architecture defines the business strategy, governance, organization, and key business processes.

Data Architecture

The data architecture describes the structure of the organization’s logical and physical data assets and data management resources. This will include things such as where particular databases are located.

Application Architecture

The application architecture defines a blueprint for the individual applications to be deployed, their interactions, and their relationships to the core business processes of the organization.

Technology Architecture

The technology architecture describes the logical software and hardware capabilities that are required to support the deployment of business, data, and application services. This includes things like IT infrastructure, middleware, networks, communications, processing, standards, etc.