Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Why You Should Be an Entrepreneur Right Now

We know, you have a lot on your plate. You probably forgot to eat more than once while cramming for midterms and dealing with a dysfunctional, non-responsive people for your group project. Starting a company probably seems lofty, big, unattainable, and a great way to waste precious time you should be spending trying to maintain a social life.

But think again.

Your idea has value. Your solution to that every day problem has merit, and instead of sleeping on it while other people are out there building their own futures, eating up all of the available resources at Northwestern, it’s time to make it happen. Because now, as a student, is the best time to get your startup off the ground. There are more resources available now than ever before for students interested in tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship at every level and in every school. As a Northwestern student, there is a network of people both inside and outside the university who you are connected with and need no introduction to.

More important than all of those resources though, college is a place where it’s okay to experiment, learn, grow, and yes, even fail. It means you’ve tried something new and learned something from it, and here in our entrepreneurial bubble, it’s also fuel to get up and try again with the support of fellow student founders and mentors to guide you. We know from working with students for a while that entrepreneurship isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.

When you leave the comfortable cradle of the Northwestern family, things may change. You might find yourself losing eligibility to get non-dilutive capital through university based business competitions. Maybe that full time job will eat up a lot more time than you anticipated, leaving you with just late nights to keep your venture up and running as a side hustle.

Because the last thing you want to become is a thoughtrepreneur: a person who sits on their idea and never executes. Being an entrepreneur requires serious grit, dedication, and expertise and it’s our goal at The Garage to give you a toolkit you can reach into for years to come. Part of the success of a student startup ecosystem at any university is the realization that it’s just as important to discover you don’t want to be a founder or entrepreneur as it is to discover that you do. And you’re far better off doing that now, while you still have the comforting arms of Northwestern hugging you tightly.

Be exuberant. You have an unparalleled opportunity as a student with an idea to take advantages of resources across Northwestern and at The Garage. Need some inspiration? Check out the Dorm Room Fun 5-Year Report.

Make moves. Now. Build your network and schedule office hours with our staff or visiting experts.

Create memories. When things don’t go well, and you fail, which you inevitably will, it’s an experience giving you insight.

Elisabeth Wright is a marketing pro with experience in the public and educational sectors, with a special interest in international relations and social entrepreneurship. She joins The Garage at Northwestern with a passion for work in higher education and a love of all things student centered. Elisabeth received her BA in anthropology and her MPA from Northern Illinois University.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Growth Hackers: 3 More Growth Hacking Strategies to Boost Business (Based on Insights from Zapier)

As a growth hacker, you’re obsessed with growth. That’s pretty obvious. But beneath all that, you’re also constantly in pursuit of tools that enable you to work fast, efficiently, and effectively. And that’s where automation comes in. As a Communication Studies major with a concentration in Digital Media also studying Integrated Marketing Communications, I’ve been digging through news and research on workflow automation, and I’ve come across 2 articles on Zapier.

How Zapier, an API SaaS pioneer, views the industry today by Annie Musgrove and Ed Shelley at Chart Mogul, features an interview with Zapier’s Co-founder/CEO, Wade Foster. In addition to Foster stating the “unbundling of point-specific apps” is an inevitability of the industry, the interview covers Zapier’s startup growth story. Most notably, Foster shares how team used gut calls to focus on apps that they believed were already popular. As he puts it, they essentially “brute forced” their product development to build traction. Fortunately, this 80/20 approach worked. By focusing on their own personal list of the top 50 web apps, they attracted attention, and soon inbound interest was flowing in with minimal effort on their part. To maintain this growth traction, Zapier then adopted a Freemium model. This allowed its user base, both acquired and potential, to get in and play with the product in a way that was personally relevant to them. The result? Users found high value in Zapier for their workflows, and Zapier officially became a sticky product in their lives. Obviously, Zapier’s early stage strategies were successful. Today, the company manages a library of over 800 web apps which its users can hook up together to create customized and complex workflow automations.

Workflow automation is important to growth hackers

Source: Force Talks

Rather than sharing on the company’s story, the second article, Growth Hacking Automation With Zapier by Apostle Mengoulis at Growth Rocks focuses on the product itself. Mengoulis provides a detailed overview of how to spur growth with automations for Lead Management, Lead Nurturing, and Content Marketing. His guide for each area is comprehensive, and effective. His Zaps allegedly allowed him to grow his lead generation conversions by 38% in a month since he could properly track leads and use that spare time elsewhere. In aggregate, his suggestions are compelling in that they encourage fellow growth hackers to 1) reexamine how they work 2) identify areas that can use improvements 3) break down their processes into small steps 4) string them back together to perform a larger task in a quick and efficient manner.

Based on my review of these two articles and my relevant studies at Northwestern University, here are 3 growth hacking strategies we learn from Zapier that should be implemented for success:
  • Use Brute Force -- You need to cover all your bases and execute relentlessly with what you know works before experimenting with nuanced tactics
  • Let Them Taste -- You need to save yourself some effort and give leads the opportunity to sample your product/service so it has a chance sell itself
  • Stack Your Processes -- You need to outline simple workflows that stack up and piece together into a bigger picture with huge optimization benefits
Growth hacking is inherently a very interdisciplinary practice; there are many ways to approach it. Still, using others’ successes as a model for your own has its benefits. With that said, take some time to review your work performance, and see if there are opportunities to apply these 3 Zapier-inspired growth hack strategies.

Lisa Larbi (@LisaSLarbi) is a digital marketing enthusiast with a passion for nurturing growth. She will be graduating from Northwestern University in June 2017 with a major Communication Studies with a focus in Digital Media, as well as a minor in Business Institutions and a certification in Integrated Marketing Communications.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Social Strategist: 3 Actions Items to Promptly Connect With Your Audience Without Alienating Them

As a social strategist, it is important to quickly connect with your high value markets to participate in discussions, exchange ideas and grow your business.  As a graduate student at Northwestern University, the Medill School of Integrated Marketing Communications, I have two articles that will help you understand why it’s important to monitor social media and be opened minded beyond the feedback that you receive.

The NYTimes article United and Pepsi Affairs Force Brands to Respect Social Media by Sapna Maheshwari, discusses the importance of in-house monitoring of social sites and reacting quickly to address any situation at hand.  For example, when the United Airlines passenger video being dragged off the plane had gone viral, it reminded companies to understand the power of conversations on social media and its negative effects on the brand image.  Today, all the social media feedback is made public therefore pushing companies to invest more and build a stronger social media team.  Companies are using analytics to group data, understand the gravity of the situation and train employees to better respond with a high awareness of consciousness.


Cass Sunstein, author of #Republic takes on a different approach to social media’s effects on society.  He states in The Economist article, In Praise of Serendipity,  that the filters used by social media limits different points of view to readers.   For example, his book talks about Facebook promoting shared experiences through similarities and people in the same circle of family & friends. Sustein believes that people should request social media to play a role to “foster a culture of curiosity and openness.”  Today, marketing is in real time and listening has become mandatory for communities and companies.  Society can benefit more from "eye opening"news and shared content if companies like FB can provide content curation with opposing viewpoint offered through an algorithm option of more or less information.

After reviewing these 2 opposing articles and from my graduate studies in the Northwestern Medill
IMC program,  I highly recommend a few action items that you should consider in your social media strategy.

  • Simplify Customer Access – Make sure your brands have an easier way to access consumers in real time by investing in social media monitoring.
  • Interpret Consumer Responses – Use social media analytics to tackle situations before they spread and welcome new ideas to prevent future mistakes.
  • Promote Curiosity – Share opposing views with your audience by introducing to them to new sources of forums, blogs and networks.                             

As marketers, we must practice humility connecting with our audience and define new ideas to them.  If all the social media content is customized, then people will NOT be exposed to new ideas and different perspectives in life; aka democracy.

Bella Brahmabhatt is a passionate marketing and social media strategist.  She’s pursuing her Master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications at Medill- at Northwestern University.   Bella is a lifelong learner and you can get in touch with her on Twitter @bhatt_ta.