Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #14b: Confessions and Reflections

This is the second of two posts reflecting on what has worked, and what hasn’t, since conceiving and implementing the Hot Mommas Project case study competition. See first Confessions and Reflections post.

It ain't pretty. Computer + Face Mask = Fake Relaxation

It ain't pretty. Computer + Face Mask = Fake Relaxation

Pictured here, I am “relaxing” with my computer open.  Quite unsightly on a number of levels. First confession: I may be a part time working mom physically, but I am full time-plus mentally. I am constantly thinking about the project. I’m freaking exhausted. I seriously think I have carpal tunnel in my shoulder. Continue reading

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #14: How to Do a Business Model

The Hot Mommas Project is making CLOGS, but not the kind you think.

The Hot Mommas Project is making CLOGS, but not the kind you think.

The Hot Mommas Project has no business model. Is that wrong? Okay, maybe that is not totally true. We have 5 out of 6 parts of a business model.  The clincher: We’re missing the economics.  So, to rationalize this – I have decided there are two primary ways to look at business models. This can be summarized as:

A. What I teach my students at GW.
B. The “Because it would be cool” theory.

A. Okay, let’s first start with what I teach my students about business models. One of the best business model tools out there is a 6 part process constructed by a team at Syracuse led by Michael Morris.

The 6 parts of the business model – in layperson’s terms – according the the Michael Morris paper are:

1. How we create value – what you do/make and put out there in society
2. For whom – okay, this one is self explanatory
3. Internal comp advantage – operational efficiencies or processes that make you better
4. External com advantage – how folks outside the company know you’re better
5. Economics – how you make money
6. Exit strategy – what is your exit from this business, is there one?

This is an incredibly back-of-the envelope description of the paper by Mike Morris and his team, but, you get the general idea.  There is a grid at the back of the paper I have students fill out using various business examples. First, we start with a seemingly non-businessy example. Mine is Lord of the Rings. I hand out a summary about the filming, the tax advantages they gained filming in New Zealand, how they filmed it all at once, how they locked in the stars for all three in doing that, the rights to the book, the cult following, and some other stuff. Then, using information we just know – because we walk upright and have cable – the students talk about how the movie makes money.  That’s fun. That’s when they realize they know more than they thought about business. Last, is the exit strategy part. This is a zinger. LOTR really shows students how movie makers put in a TON OF MONEY for something that they HOPED would make a ton of money back in a relatively short period of time.  There is, however, no way to be sure.  What does this sound like? Uh?  Venture Capital?  So, the movie industry has been doing this for a loooooong time before VCs became the Britney of finance.  Mark Ordesky was one of the LOTR producers and we have talked about collaborating on this curriculum, which would be cool. Which gets me to my next point.

P.s. Don’t confuse business model with business plan. Here is a good piece on business plans.

B. The “because it would be cool” business model.

I started the Hot Mommas Project because it was needed (See first post, and blog brief or about page).  I also thought it would be cool. People had, and continue to have, all sorts of ideas for how the Hot Mommas Project can make money. However, I am pretty much just forging ahead with what fills a need in women’s education. Exposure to role models correlates with women’s professional success. So, we provide role models on paper so the stories of those leaders can be read anywhere, anytime, free.  (Side note: We used to sell the cases, but, that was a pain.)  Family and work life balance is a HUGE issue globally impacting the supply and demand side of employment. So, Hot Mommas Project cases address the personal lives and backgrounds of case protagonists are discussed along with business lessons such as the 4 Ps of marketing and what have you.  All of this is geared to be taught in a classroom, so educators are preparing the next generation of workers with the toolkits that research – and reality – shows they need. I am not sure how we are going to make money to be honest. I’ve thought of a coaching network with exclusive access to our data. I’ve thought of workshops and conferences. I just don’t know. All I know is I’m doing the right thing by starting this initiative and I’ll let the case readers tell me what they need.

page_po_fashion_70s_01_0706041803_id_32471I am intrigued by the term “CLOG” – which I made up the other day – since what we are producing is a hybrid between a case study and a blog. So, maybe we’ll be the inventor of CLOGS, but, a clog we can all be proud of and not just associated with bell bottoms and unattractive hair styles. Here is a sample CLOG (the kind we are building).

Others who I perceive have a “because it would be cool” business model:

Guy Kawasaki and www.Alltop.com. Here is Guy on Twitter.  More on Alltop. Even MORE!

Peter Shankman and Help a Reporter Out. Here is Peter on Twitter. More on HARO.

Both of these guys are successful and intelligent. My guess is they don’t get involved in much of anything that won’t ultimately make scads of money.  However, at the outset they appeared very personally connected to their ventures and doing it because they though it would be cool….not just for money.  Is this true guys? I would love to know and will forward you this post.  Clearly there are big markets for both areas in which Guy and Peter are involved. Ted Leonsis, friend of the Hot Mommas Project, won’t get involved in a market under 10 million clients.

The Hot Mommas Project is involved in the education market, specifically written products which is a $15 billion dollar market globally.  Can you help us brainstorm a financial model for the Hot Mommas Project?

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #10: How We Are Getting Press & Buzz

Let’s continue our discussion of how to do marketing and pr, shall we? Especially since Esther and I spent all %*$#i day organizing our email folders since we are so overwhelmed by the response to our project (good) and seem to have had the email-organization part of our brains partially lobotomized (bad).

We are a tad overwhelmed at the Hot Mommas Project right now and looking forward to Fall reinforcements

We are a tad overwhelmed at the Hot Mommas Project right now and looking forward to Fall reinforcements

Left, please find the metaphoric “Rock Holding Steamroller.” It is the visual representation of how we are feeling right now.  I am not sure if we are the rock, or the steamroller, but I think we are the rock.

Here are things we’ve learned about PR over the past couple of months which is a mix of:

1. Stuff we’ve read

2. Stuff we’ve done

3. Meeting with experts, namely Hot Mommas Project case protagonist Susan Apgood who owns one of the nation’s largest radio PR companies (News Generation) and Racine Tucker-Hamilton at the George Washington School of Business communications office.  Also, White Trash Mom from the BlogHer conference says she’ll help us. Note: PR is completely new for me as my background is in nerdy service-type businesses where no one cared what we did (see “pre-steps” section of older post for more on background).

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INTERLUDE [Samba music plays]

First, let’s start with a quick story about how MUCH we had to learn about PR, buzz, and getting the word out there for the Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition.

Setting: Bus on the way to Guy Kawasaki’s party.

Esther and I are sitting toward the rear of the bus and the women in front of us learn, through Twitter, that another bus is lost. Esther and I were about to learn we were WAY behind in the social media department.

Women in front of us: “Hey! Are you all up front on Twitter?”

Voice from front of bus: “Who’s NOT on Twitter?”

All: Laughter

Me and Esther: [Blank stare. Silence]

Women in front of us: “Hey driver! The people on Twitter on the other bus just told us they’re lost.”

Bus driver: “What’s Twitter?”

All: Laughter

Me and Esther: [Blank stare. Silence]

With social media tails between our legs, Esther and I immediately sign up for http://www.Twitter.com on our mobiles. I am “chiefhotmomma” and she is “hotmommasintern.”  I had not gotten on Twitter before thinking it was sort of stalkeresque.  However, in Silicon Valley I felt like Bert – my father-in-law –  when he said he “couldn’t be bothered with all that email mumbo jumbo” and that his grandkids could, “pick up the phone so he could hear their beautiful voices.” (Sorry to out you Bert.) I am happy to report now Bert is on email…and we are now on Twitter….”Tweeting.” Feel free to “follow” us as ChiefHotMomma and HotMommasIntern.

END INTERLUDE [Samba music ends]

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Now, on to our PR takeaways:

1. PR is the cheapest form of marketing. If what you’re doing is newsworthy, work it. And, if you THINK you are creative, think again. Esther and I thought we were creative. We developed this press release titled “Hot Mommas Project Produces Role Models on Paper for Women Across the Globe.” Ha! We were totally delusional. Look what Racine Tucker-Hamilton came up with: http://business.gwu.edu/news/archive/2008/0703.cfm

2. Develop a media plan.Racine shared a one-page media plan with us that articulated the following:

– GOALS: What is the goal? To increase news coverage, create awareness, all of the above? Articulate these goals in 1 to 5 bullets.

– AUDIENCE: Who is the audience? For us, it could be women, but, we’ll probably also be targeting their husbands, partners, and leaders in education and policy. Articulate this in 1 to 7 bullets.

– MESSAGES/PITCHES: Write out the message points in 1 to 5 bullets. My friend who has a long history in PR used to say, “Focus on 3 message points max.” So, my guess is that we will draw the 3 best points from our list depending on the conversation. Make it clear how you are different. Click here for some sample what, where, when, why message points I am going to run by Racine and Susan along with the following:

Exposure to role models increases one’s sense of self efficacy, or the feeling of ‘I can do that.’ The Hot Mommas Project approach of providing role models on paper hits the nail on the head and fills a void that exists in women’s leadership education today.

-MEDIA TARGETS: This can be as big as one needs it to be, however, Susan recommended we target folks like Working Woman, Pink, etc. News release service providers like Cision, Vocus,and MediaMap (which was acquired by Bacon’s, which merged with Cision) can help as well.

-PLAN/KEY ACTIONS: These are action steps that will be taken based on the above goals. 5 or so bullets.

-TIMELINE: These are dates associated with key actions, like creating a press release, creating media lists, distributing press release, pitching, and follow up (to include thank yous to contacts).

-MEASUREMENT/KEY NUMBERS: Susan also mentioned being very clear about what we want to accomplish (e.g., x media impressions, or x placements in certain types of magazines or newspapers). We need to have a way to measure hits (aka coverage).

3. Develop a press kit. Again, we consulted Susan Apgood of News Generation on our story angle.  We had it completely reversed, so, were glad we had spoken with her. Here is a pretty concise article on developing a press kit. If there is no interest in the story, Susan says you can sometimes resort to a “what’s in it for you” approach (e.g., we are targeting professional women and you will have exposure).

4. Distribute the press kit/press release.

4a. Push the story out through press releases or Hot Mommas-initiated contact. Here are a couple of resources: Peter Shankman’s “Help a Reporter Out” which is AWESOME and FREE. He sends 3 emails a day on stories reporters are looking to write.  Michelle Woodward, who is a master-certified life coach (sort of like the Mr. Miyagi of life coaches) put us onto this. Also, you can distribute mass news releases in a targeted fashion with Cision & Vocus.

Note: This same method can be used with organizations (see #5 below) where you might want to promote something to their membership or employees.

4b. “Pull.” For instance, George Washington University School of Business did a newsletter piece on the Hot Mommas Project. Then communications for the entire university put it out there. Then the story was picked up by newswires. People started calling. We just sort of sat there. It was awesome.

4c. There may be some other way of which I’m unaware, so, adding “c” in here.

Side note: Make it easy for the reporter.  A year or so ago our cases were being used at Western Michigan University and we wrote a press release, looked into media outlets, and followed up. At the end of the day, it failed miserably because we were making the reporter work too hard to figure out the story.  So, being clear on our story is key, as is running it by some PR experts (as to whether it is a good story…or, whether it totally blows). We have our facts, figures, quotes, and sources teed up.

5. Interviews and Appearances.

– INTERVIEWS: Susan says before meeting with anyone, have a media training session and prepare for potential questions. Have fun facts memorized, and learn how avoid answering certain questions. I am still working on this and talked with a really amazing reporter the other day who gave me some great feedback.

– PRESENTATIONS: Know audience and practice. For example, I delivered a presentation recently at an Entrepreneur’s Organization  retreat (formerly YEO, like YPO but funner. Yes, “funner” is a joke people): “What Women Want: 3 Secrets to Attracting and Retaining High Performing Female Employees.”  I thought the presentation went pretty well, and was right in the sense that the presentation received one of the top scores. (Here are the presentation notes eo_what-women-want_61108.) However, I recorded it with my video camera and realized I said “uh” a bunch of times (hence, the practice concept mentioned at the top of this paragraph).

6. Whatever works in your industry.  The ultimate caveat of caveats: Remember to adapt any PR or marketing strategies to your industry. For instance, friend and Hot Mommas Project Host Committee Member Richard Barney said that in his former industry (real estate), the company tried tons of cool stuff and events and giveaways. But, it all came down to referrals, referrals, referrals. Whatever works in your industry, do it. We are figuring it out right now. I have some creative giveaway ideas with which www.OnSalePromos.com is helping us. (OnSalePromos on Twitter).

7. Create buzz. To create buzz, we are largely relying on the world of social media and membership organizations. To the extent that it links in with coverage in press, great. So, what are we doing?

– Now: Blogging. We are not sure if this is working, but then we get out to BlogHer and people say, “Oh! We’ve heard of you!” Maybe it’s because we’re listed on http://moms.alltop.com.  Sample research and role model series posts. As you read in the vignette above, we’ve also gotten ourselves wrapped into Twitter.

– Now: Twitter.Twitter is like the “what are you doing now” application on Facebook. That’s it.  I’ve heard some folks say it drives traffic to their blog, their site, or whatever they’re posting in their status updates. See our last post mentioning Chris Brogan’s ideas on how to use Twitter.

– Now: Podcasts (examples SBTV and Hip Tranquil Chick). We’ve had a good reception with these. After this we were approached by Pink Heels and others and will be doing some partnering.

– Now: Partnering with bloggers. For instance, really cool bloggers from the BlogHER conference – like White Trash Mom and Your On Ramp – are blogging about us in September and October near the time of the Oct 13 Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition launch.

– Now: Partnering with organizations. For example, Women’s Presidents Organzation, SBE Council, WE Inc, and the American Mustache Institute (this second one for our Cool Daddies beta section of the case study competition). They work with us to communicate with members about the competition in exchange for formal recognition as a marketing partner.

– Now: Partnering with connectors. There are some folks who we call “connectors” (like Malcom Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point). They are people with extensive networks who are enthusastic about the Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition. Many of these will become marketing partners, like Julie Lenzer Kirk. Others will become Host Committee Members like Michael Goldstein of Content Now or Brian Scudamore of 1800GotJunk (host committee members will email their networks for us).  Also, in a major win, Guy Kawasaki of www.Alltop.com (we’re listed here) is going to advertise the competition for us.

Future: More press. Will also ask Susan at News Generation if our stuff is radio worthy and see if she can help us get on some talk shows, etc.

Future: Facebook group, cause, or “fan.”

Future: Group on LinkedIn…if this can be done…someone told me they could put me in touch w/ the founder and that hasn’t happened.

Future: Search optimization/Google. Shashi is the man on this.

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PARTING THOUGHTS: So, at this point it’s probably pretty easy to see why I am overwhelmed and very behind on my sponsorship contact goals. Time to pick that baton back up and run with it. (Click here for sponsor post).