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7 The Role of Luck in a Startup

Marketing podcast with Mikkel Svane

When you look at a seemingly successful company – say one that went from meager to startup to household name to public phenomenon – it’s easy to gloss over what it took to get from the garage to the board room.

ZenDeskMy guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Mikkel Svane, founder and CEO of Zendesk.

From humble beginnings: “Zendesk was started in a Copenhagen loft by three friends who used an old kitchen door as a desk. They wanted to bring a bit of zen to the chaotic world of customer support. And they wanted to do it with software that was nice to look at and easy to use.”

Today Zendesk is a publicly traded company located in San Francisco with customers worldwide and a market cap around $1.65 billion.

Svane chronicles the ZenDesk story in his new book Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea into a Global Business.

Perhaps most notable in the story is the role Svane assigns to luck. Many great companies are often in the right place at the right time, but of course it’s what they do with that timing that makes the difference.

Zendesk was started at a time when the voice of the customer movement was still a bit of a whisper. With the mainstream adoption of social media, customer service became a public affair and companies large and small had to get very serious about providing higher levels of service in the instantaneous and often public manner in which the customer now demands.

Zendesk met the market demand with a product that brought together both customer and market with the fusion of design and functionality that was perfect pitch.

It’s both interesting and inspiring to hear founders talk in such humble terms about how they took side gigs to pay the bills when far too often what we see today is simply the fruit of luck and hustle coming together.

25 The New About Us Page Is a Social Beast

Since the dawn of the web there has been the trusty old About Us page. It seems a tad cliche, but what the heck, why fight it, visitors to your site have come to expect to find an About Us or Contact Us page, so why not make the most of it.

The traditional About Us page is typically filled with information about the owner, the history of the firm and an overview of what the company does.

Today’s About Us page has the ability to be a tool for real engagement. In addition to providing some information about the firm, it must also be a place where they can find out where to find out much more About Us, a place where they can discover our social graph and who they know that already knows About Us, a place where they can find a myriad of ways to connect with us, a place where they can get specific information, request even more specific information and start to build a relationship that may involve immediate interaction.

Below are some of the tools and tactics that may make it much easier for you to turn you boring static About Us page into a social hub. (This is a perfect place for me to further suggest that using a tool like WordPress to run you entire site makes what I share below much, much easier.)

Meebo

Add Chat – Using text chat services like Meebo or Bleetbox or video chat like Oovoo you can make it very easy for visitors to your site to ask questions and chat directly with your staff right from your About Us page.

Social graph – A new service called SocialBios – allows visitors to your page to see who they might know in your Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, GMail or Twitter worlds. This can be a great way to facilitate referrals and make connections easier. Try it out with me here – SocialBio for John Jantsch

Add Your Social Profiles – By using a Social Media Page Plugin – you can add all the other places you hang out to any page or blog post you like. It might look something like this.

Connect With Us –

Contact Us – You do want to make it easy to contact you for the next step and that may indeed include listing email addresses and phone numbers on your pages, but contact forms are the best bet. You can make them fun and interactive but the best part is that they can be safe and secure and allow you to route email to multiple places based on the request. There are lots of contact plugins out there but I love Wufoo.

This tool allows you to build elegant and feature rich forms and embed them anywhere you like. The form data can be forwarded or stored for multiple folks to view. You could build forms like this yourself, but nothing is as easy to build or update as Wufoo forms.

Tech Support – Using a tool like Zendesk you can turn your About Us or Contact Us page into a customer support center as well. Adding help desk functionality allows you to easily assign multiple people to some of the same tasks so you could provide round the clock engagement if you like. Zendesk also has some social and community features that make it nice for sharing.

File sharing – I use a service called Dropbox as my file storage and backup in the cloud. You can also use an addon to Dropbox that would make it easy for visitors or customers to upload files for you to view. This could be a great way to offer free evaluations or simply to receive large files that you may need to engage a client. (You can also make this option available on a Wufoo form)

There, that should keep you busy creating the monster About Us page!

5 Weekend Favs November Six

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr.


Image credit: joiseyshowaa

Good stuff I found this week:

ZenDesk – web based customer service management tool with self service and social media integration.

MarketMeSuite – billed as social media marketing for real businesses this desktop application runs on Adobe Air and has some great looking features that go a little deeper than some current apps

MyNextCustomer – this tool is gives businesses a simple way to measure phone calls, web leads and sales from social media,
seo, paid search and offline marketing campaigns.