What’s your business?
Virally is a hosted social content marketing software platform. We’re bridging the gap between social media and traditional lead nurturing campaigns using content marketing.
We launched our Alpha product a few months ago and have been in Beta for around two months now.
What’s interesting about it?
We’re the only suite in the lead gen space with such a deep integration to social networks. Particularly in B2B, audiences are now quite familiar with the concept of content marketing and all our testing and data shows that by adding the familiarity and data transparency provided by social networks, we can improve the user experience and make the marketer’s life easier.
How’s it going?
Pretty good. We’re seed-funded and have some early paying clients, though we’re still reliant on the funding.
The core product is pretty solid but we’re getting lots of requests to offer more tools to visualise and understand the social data inside a marketer’s Virally account. That’s really important for us, as the last thing we want to do is reinvent the wheel when it comes to traditional CRM with rows and tables of endless data.
Also, Virally is completely user-centric at its core but we want to add even more convenient tools for the end audience. Facebook has set a great example with their aproach to data transparency, and we’re hoping we can bring the same to the content marketing arena.
What are the highs of running your own business?
Right now we’re on such an exciting journey – we’re in the stages where every single day is different, brings a new challenge, a new customer, new customer feedback. There’s a lot of excitement and buzz in the office and it’s just great to be a part of that. Also, I’m curating the team and headhunting pretty fast, so it’s really fun to meet lots of potential employees who have the same passion for the product as we do.
And the lows?
The biggest highs right now are also responsible for the biggest lows – we’re pulling some silly-long days, weekends have disappeared and social lives have become distant memories. It’s tough, particularly as now we’re all a little older we’ve got personal relationships and stuff to balance. It’s worth it, but because Virally is so much ‘bigger’ than previous projects we’ve done I think we’re feeling it a little more.
What has been your biggest success in business to date?
There’s a pretty cool acquisition/merger deal happening right now and should complete soon, but I can’t say any more at the moment as nothing’s final…
What mistakes have you learned from?
When I was a bit younger I made some pretty big doozys with customer support, particularly around expectation management.
One particular event involved me promising 150% of a potential client’s expectations/requirements in order to win the business. When we only delivered 100% of their expectations, the result of course was they felt like they’d received an inferior service to what they should have (even though we’d met all of their original requirements).
The CEO of that (rather significant) company was actually good enough to call me after the whole deal had finished, and told me an important lesson: “Liam, we’d have been happy to pay your full price for a lot less, and nothing more.” Since then, I’ve applied transparent expectation management to pretty much all the areas of our business.
Which businesses/entrepreneurs inspire you and why?
I’m expected to say Branson or Sugar inspired me, but I had my inspiration way before I’d heard those names. When I was in secondary school aged 14, I had a friend who used to buy packets of 20 cigarettes from his older brother and then sell them individually with a single match for 50p or £1, depending on if you were older or younger than him.
He would stand outside the shop near our school, and catch demand from all of the schoolchildren who had just been denied sale of cigarettes because they were underage. Forgetting all of the moral/ethical/legal issues here, that kid taught me a lot about business that I still apply today.
Keep an ear to the ground for a demand. Find an exclusive supplier who can provide the service or product you cannot directly source, and your customers cannot directly source. Break up the product to sell it in smaller chunks, and ideally add value to each chunk or package different chunks together. Identify your target buyer and go to where they are. And then finally, charge whatever price it’s worth to the buyer.
Since then I’ve been as dazzled with all the usual celeb entrepreneurs as everyone else, but I’m aware that witty entrepreneurs with good business sense exist in lots of unexpected places.
What’s your top tip?
Always be looking at the ‘next step’ in your business. Build a great team who can deal with the here and now, but only you can provide the vision in your business. You might risk growing too fast, but that’s why you put an awesome team around you to play devil’s advocate.
What would you like tips from other small businesses on?
It’s unusual but I’m always curious to hear how business people manage ‘life’ with their business. I might be young, but I’m frightfully aware of how many older successful entrepreneurs I know who have gone through divorces and/or don’t hang out with their families anymore. There’s got to be some wise tips about finding the balance.