My name is Stijn Hendrikse and I’m excited to welcome you to The Green Ants startup accelerator blog.
Who am I, and why The Green Ants?
I have held various positions at Microsoft for over ten years and have worked at many startups. Every one of them had the same basic needs, yet often I had to reinvent the wheel, doing the same mistakes many people have done before me, searching for best practices that were helpful for starting software companies.
While marketing Microsoft's Office Product, I have learned that the size of the marketing budget can never trump the relevance of the product or its message. I have also learned many lessons on messaging, positioning, and competing with new challengers. These are all vital insights applicable to startups. In my last position at Microsoft I had to rebuild the global SMB marketing organization to fit into a digital, cloud-enabled world. It was my first attempt at reassembling a team around the new metrics like conversion, CAC (Customer-Acquisition-Cost), churn and ARPU (Average-Revenue-Per-User). We had to change the culture of outbound buds-in-seats event marketers and make-more-noise-buy-lists campaign managers to marketing professionals who could work with data, digital channels and customer lifecycle management approach. Marketers who could emphatically listen to data and customers to understand them and turn them into personas that help guide the product and the messaging. We made a lot of progress, but the complexity of Microsoft's different markets and products prevented us from creating a perfectly oiled machine optimized for digital cloud age. I couldn't wait to apply the lessons I had learned in a smaller startup environment to build a business in a pure and agile way.
I got my chance at Acumatica, the startup I joined after Microsoft. Everything was digital now. We achieved great results with guerrilla marketing, blogging, cool events, press parties, new ways of branding and influencer marketing. But we also fell into the trap of making more noise than the competition instead of focusing on our customers' needs. I struggled with inbound marketing taking more time as opposed to quick and dirty noisemaking or buying lists. My team had a hard time changing from producers of content and “stuff” to listeners that understood and anticipated what prospects and customers really needed, and wanted to hear. I was tempted to focus on things like PPC (Pay-Per-Click) to get quick results, versus engaging customers and building great content. I let my team pay influencers for their attention, although we knew it was not a scalable way of being acknowledged. We did amazing things and grew the business tenfold in just two years, but we could do better.
At MightyCall, the startup I lead now, I’m submitting to the philosophy of not making any noise or pay-to-play or spray-and-pray marketing. Working at both small and big software companies, failing and succeeding at building startups, managing generations X, Y, and Z in all their colorful combinations has finally transformed me into a 100% inbound marketer.
On this blog I'd like to share and discuss what I have learned, in complete transparency, the same way I would talk with a mentor. I’ll talk about picking a company name, building a website, developing your first partner program, filing for trademarks, drafting your first marketing budget, and general information on marketing, sales, legal support and management of a fast growing software startup. If I’ve done something stupid and or failed at something (believe me, there are many examples), I’d like to talk about it too. I will also be inviting a guest bloggers, people who have built and led startups and have something to share that I would have found helpful the past few years.
My hope is to inspire software companies to grow by listening to their customers, to transform and succeed in the noisy world, to be relevant, to build a great reputation and execute to ship. The Green Ants posts will be the ingredients you can add to your startup recipe. With luck, this blog will become the place to help you, little ants, grow into big well-functioning anthills poised to become as huge as mountains.
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Here is a "software startup to-do list" of a lot of the topics that my team and I have run into and plan to write about. You can think of it as my "to-do" list for growing a software startup to adulthood.
Thank you for reading this far. We’ll talk soon.