You’ll never believe what these guys are really selling!

The other day I was in the airport where a new startup was sampling itself. It’s an app to jump the coffee queue. I’m always stoked to see people having a go at a new business and got them to give me their pitch. It’s always good for entrepreneurs to practice unprepared. Then I realised I got a coffee but didn’t use their service. And here’s why:

Part of what I’m buying is the wait.

Yep, some of the people getting their morning java actually enjoy the wait. The wait is what is being sold. Sometimes it’s the conversation with the Barrista, and sometimes it’s the walk to the cafe. I guess we can throw the coffee on that list too.

Morning coffee

This is why you’ve seen a hundred other apps for people to jump coffee queue and they never quite work. I’m also wondering what happens if the app is successful?  Wont all those who used it end up ‘in a queue again’ via a digital deli ticketing system? The problem probably isn’t the arrival time, but the output bottleneck in peak demand times.

It;s another reminder that an effective business model isn’t just about demand – it’s very often about why we buy, and the model and the friction… and how money can be made through the transaction process, not just with the transaction itself.  As for the entrepreneurs, they did the right thing by having a crack. They could prove me wrong and I hope they do. Their worse case scenario is that they learn plenty and pivot closer to the success they deserve.

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The greatest pricing hack of all time

Before I tell you this story, you need to understand a couple surprising facts about airlines.

Fact 1: The airline industry is a ‘net loss’ industry. If you add up all the profits and all the losses of airlines since commercial aviation began it’s around $60 billion in the red.

Fact 2: The profit margin on a 1 hour flight is around $2 per passenger. (around 1 GBP)

Now for the greatest pricing hack of all time.

When a low cost carrier like Ryan Air sells 10 pound fares, or 1 pound fares for that matter – they make more money then we’d imagine. The reason is simple: around half of the travellers who bought these ultra cheap tickets don’t turn up.

They buy the tickets as a kind of ‘future travel insurance’ – a ticket in case they want to go to Prague… I mean they intend on going, but the tickets are often bought very long in advance, and so cheap, life gets in the way and they decide to not go. It’s only a small amount of money, the cost of a coffee….

Ryan Air CEO

Crazy Michael (The Ryan Air CEO) keeps the money. The ‘no show’ money is 100% pure profit, and often more than what they’d make with an actual passenger. But here’s the kicker, there is no refund or changing of dates, so he gets to sell those ‘no show’ tickets again. After a period of time Ryan Air have worked out an algorithm of how many forgo their cheap tickets. They then over sell the flights by that amount of passengers. They know the percentages, and they’re nailing it.

This hack will keep on working, so long as they don’t get greedy. If the special is on too often, it will reframe price expectations, and change the ‘no show’ ratios. If they can resist temptation, they have a winning formula.

It’s another great example as to why price should never be an afterthought. The price is something every startup should be hacking daily.

Follow me on SnapChat – search ‘Sammartron’ for more business insight.

The problem with ‘How To’ advice

How to Advice

The internet is filled with How To advice. Which proves how important it is in building the life you want. But it has a simple flaw we ought remember:

How to advice is disposable.

How to’s are a set of tactics which need to change as the world around us changes. This means we need to constantly re-assess what we know, and ask if it is still relevant. With the pace of technological change today, this is a question we need at the top of our list.

This is why philosophy is always greater than tactics. Philosophy is enduring, and tactics and temporary. If we have a guiding philosophy on what we are doing and why, finding the best tactic for the day becomes infinitely easier.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

A tyre is only flat at the bottom

flat tyre

When I got my first car I once had a flat tyre and asked my dad if he could come out and help me change it, show me how to do it. And he said;

“I wouldn’t worry about it, it’s only flat at the bottom.”

A pretty funny dad joke. But a very good analogy for problems we face in business.

The entire business is running smoothly, except for some cultural problems in the warehouse.

The UX and product market fit of the app is great, the server is just a bit slow.

The retail store layout, the range and prices are all perfect, we just keep running out of stock.

Our startup is perfectly placed to disrupt this industry, it’s just there’s no way to scale it.

Our customers, supply chain and brand perception are as good as it gets, it’s just our margins are too small to make a reasonable profit.

While the tyre may only be flat at the bottom, it affects the entire operation.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The only way you can compete on price

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My favourite blogger Seth Godin talks about competing on price as being a race to the bottom. I couldn’t agree more. Yet, it can be a valid business strategy, and here is the only time when competing on price is a smart thing to do:

When everything the customer does not see is focused on price.

If you want to compete on price, then the price tag itself is the least important part of the ‘low pricing strategy’. It’s the back end, and every single thought and action in your business needs to be about efficiency and reducing cost, all day, everyday.

If we can manage to do this, then we can win on price. But we should always remember a price sensitive customer is always the least loyal.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Two simple ways to grow your startup

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The two ways to grow your startup are the same two ways to grow any business no matter how established or formative it is.

  1. Same product sold to wider range of customers.
  2. New products sold to the current customer base.

Either of these two options provide a simple strategy for growth. In addition they provide a succinct feedback loop of where our problems and opportunities are. They inform us of our Product – Market fit and tells us if it is right. The most important thing to remember though, is that it is pretty hard to do both at the same time. Trying both will just confuse us as to what is working and what isn’t.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.