Strategy

With so much content being created each day, it’s getting difficult to find the most valuable information; not just the latest news or the most popular, but news that brings us inspiration that can help get us outside of our daily routine. Here are some of my favorites, including a brief explanation of what each offers and how they benefit me as a CEO and a lover of great content. PSFK compiles the day’s top 15 stories in technology, retail, advertising, design and commerce. The site, which is fanatically focused on innovation, offers a broad scope of industry-related information. It also goes beyond the traditional scope of business by highlighting creativity and upcoming creative events and conferences. Netted by the Webbys promotes one new company, service or website each day. Selections are made based on companies the site considers “worthwhile, indispensable, or even life changing.” Between managing our time for careers and family and obligations, we don’t always have time to sift through the internet hoping to discover something cool and useful. Netted by the Webbys does a great job highlighting the companies, services or products that focus on improving our lives and not just the technology we use. Shft.com is a highly curated website focused on increased sustainability through the lens of how we consume video, design, art and culture. Founded by film producer Peter Glatzer and actor-filmmaker Adrian Grenier (of Entourage fame), Shft.com’s board includes Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, and loads of other inspiring people. The site is broken into sections on architecture, fashion, sports and other topics you wouldn’t necessarily associate with sustainability.
Despite constant grumblings that flash sales, daily deals and private sales sites are a fading fad, holiday numbers indicate that consumer interest is dramatically increasing. According to this Reuter’s piece, holiday business on e-commerce websites specializing in limited-time or flash sales grew at least twice as fast as other online merchants. This was predicted by The BDO Retail Compass Survey of CMOs, which revealed back in December that flash sales would be a top priority for 30 percent of retail chief marketing officers during the holiday season. Even in July, a New York Times article painted a rosy picture of the flash sales industry. “Over the last five years, the flash sales industry has had average revenue growth of almost 50 percent a year, according to the research firm IBISWorld, which expects the number of flash sale sites to reach about 150 by 2017, up from about 90 today,” according to the Times piece. Although the Times cited analysts who projected a deceleration of consumer enthusiasm, it’s clear from the first round of 2012 holiday numbers that flash sales are here to stay. As I’ve mentioned before, flash sales, private sales and daily deals continue to be important marketing tactics. They enable companies like Totsy to bring you the best prices, whether you’re shopping during the holiday season or for a one-off household item. Ultimately, our consumers will continue to come to us because our sales are opportunities to buy high-quality products at unbeatable prices that big box retailers can’t provide.
Building out a formidable team is incredibly important regardless of the size of your organization. Work ethic, character, and creativity are among the many attributes that contribute to the overall success of a business. Startups face the added challenge of having to change their hiring strategies as they grow. Here are several aspects of hiring post-early stage to contemplate before taking on new recruits: Does your prospective employee align with your company culture? Start-ups can be unpredictable places. Company directives can change at the blink of an eye and job descriptions can change every six months. It’s imperative to seek out people who are flexible enough to be able to adapt. If a candidate is looking for the comfort of stable workflow and a long company roadmap that won’t ever diverge, he or she is probably not suited for life at a start-up. In addition, your candidates should share your company’s values. At TOTSY, our core commitment is to serve moms and have a passion for promoting sustainability. If a candidate finds these initiatives boring, then they probably aren’t right for the position, no matter how qualified they are, and may experience boredom or frustration decreasing the likelihood that they will be a long-term employee that helps promote the culture to others. Can your candidate lead existing employees?  Oftentimes, start-ups begin building out teams by hiring young talent because they can’t afford more senior level executives and subsequently complementing them with senior-level managers who can utilize them to the best of their ability. The managers you choose will be working with people who are much younger than they are so they must be able to have a talent for working with more junior level staff and the ability to take them to the next level without prolonged initial culture clashes and backlash.
In 2012, Google’s annual revenue eclipsed $50 billion for the first time in the company’s history. Revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012 alone was $14.4 billion, a 36% increase from the fourth quarter of 2011. It’s no secret that search engines are important to retailers hoping to get discovered by new audiences. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that search is also driving direct sales. According to an Advertising Age article, Google’s Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora cited Google’s new product listing ads as one of its many high-performers, and roughly 10.7% of paid-search spend in retail last quarter came from Google Shopping. I would be foolish to downplay the importance of paid search for retailers. However, I think it’s important we continue to discuss additional opportunities for brand-building beyond pouring dollars into SEO, SEM and PPC. Not many companies have the resources to stand toe-to-toe with large companies like Apple or IBM and buy their way through search. Because of the nature of private sales and our ever-changing product offerings, Totsy had to adopt alternative methods of brand-building in order to remain competitive. Marketing through search would mean we would have to update our search terms for every one of our 3-5 day sales, which would be unrealistic. Instead, we’ve used the following tactics: Earn consumer trust by engaging with them on their own terms: Very early in our company’s history we discovered that our audience of moms values blogs as a highly trusted resource for recommendations and community interaction. We realized we could provide the kind of content these moms wanted, and we could subsequently become an important source of information for their buying decisions (as well as a resource for general advice and entertainment). We launched the Totsy Mom Committee, a group of mompreneurs, bloggers and website divas that are hand-picked from across the country to provide expertise, advice, trends, and more. We invited the bloggers to be our brand ambassadors and to work with our social media and PR teams to extend our voice and to offer feedback on how best (and where best) to engage with moms. It was an excellent way for us to connect with our member moms without a hard sell in order to become a valued and trusted community resource.
MamaSourceMost of you have probably already heard the news: On January 8th, Totsy acquired the assets of mom-centric daily deals site, MamaSource (see press release here). We are thrilled to provide our existing members with MamaSource’s premium selection of offerings, and we are eager to begin serving its more than two million moms. At more than five million moms, the Totsy family is growing faster and faster each day. We’ve worked with MamaSource for the past several years as an affiliate partner. They impressed us with their ability to deliver value to partners and consumers. As a result, we felt comfortable partnering with them in 2012 to leverage our e-commerce platform to power their private sales site — a move that worked out very well for both parties.