Thursday, 31 March 2011

10 (and a bit) things you didn’t know about Market Dojo

  1. We’ve run an auction on our software before via a mobile phone – true cloud technology!
  2. In 10 clicks of the mouse you can log-in, create an Event, gather pre-bids and run an auction on our software.
  3. You can use our software not just for e-auctions but also as a centralised RFQ system to gather quotations, questions, specifications and supply pools.
  4. Our Annual Licence can be used by consultancies for multiple clients, as we don’t restrict you to one licence per client.
  5. We are self-funded and so we treat our clients as real people rather than part of an investors exit plan.
  6. The literal meaning of Dojo is the “place of enlightenment”, so we are the marketplace of enlightenment!
  7. We have actually been on the moon!  If you don’t believe it, check out the video on our YouTube channel.
  8. We can run our business anywhere in the world provided we have internet as everything about us is securely hosted online, even our landline phone numbers!
  9. Our tagline is ‘online auctions made simple’ – we aim to bring e-auctions to businesses that were either priced out or were bamboozled by existing software.
  10. One of our clients turned around an e-auction on our software in just 6  working days, which included picking a suitable category, gathering line item data, collating the RFQ documents, sourcing suppliers, hand-holding them through the process, responding to questions, collecting qualification bids and finally, running the auction!  What a fantastic effort.
  11. Our founders are a Mechanical Engineer, an Aeronautical Engineer and a Physicist.  It’s safe to say we like a good challenge!
  12. We give lectures to business schools and universities and have developed an interactive e-auction game for them to take part in.
  13. Our software is entirely owned and developed by us, so we can take it in whichever direction our clients wish us to.
  14. Our software is written in Ruby on Rails, an extremely agile and scalable programming language used by Twitter, Yellow Pages, Scribd, Get Satisfaction and Groupon.
About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.   

    Wednesday, 23 March 2011

    What are the top things to do when starting a new Pay-per-click campaign?

    I recieved a question on LinkedIn recently.  Specifically it was: "What are the top things to do when starting a new PPC campaign or optimizing an existing one?".

    Not really being an expert in this area but having learnt a lot through trial-and-error recently from our Adwords campaigns, below is the response I gave.  It happened to receive the "Best Answer" accolade on LinkedIn so I thought I would share it here, in case it may be of use to our readers;

    1) Typically I'd begin by thinking what I am looking to advertise, particularly if my website has a number of different products or services. I'd build that top level list of products or services that I wish to promote.

    2) I'd think about the landing pages I would want for each ad and whether my current webpages match the ad objective, or whether I need create a completely new webpage that would convert the customers better.

    3) I would then get stuck into clustering my ads into groups that share the same keyword types, e.g. an ad group that has ads focused on tracker mortgages, another ad group that has ads focused on fixed rate mortgages, and so on, all within the campaign, "Mortgages".

    4) Once the ad groups are created, I'd try and get into the head of my target customer and think, what do they want to see, what would make then click the link, what would make my ad stand-out vs the competitors. This would then influence what I would write for my ads, e.g. "Best Tracker Rates for the most affordable mortgages on the market, click here" or whatever! It's important that the ad must contain words that are relevant a) to what the customer wants, and b) the keywords you are going to apply the ad to.

    5) Which brings us on to the keywords for each ad. Use various Google suggestion tools and those from other sites to research a great list of keywords, their revelance, their search frequency and your gut-feel for suitability. Apply those keywords and define a sensible bid price that won't ruin you on day 1. With high volume searches you will have a good load of feedback very early on to then make refinements, keeping a close eye on your Quality Score (mostly based on the keyword Click Through Rate), AdRank (based on cost per click and Quality Score) and overall daily / weekly / monthly cost vs return.

    6) So, with the objectives defined, the campaigns set up, the ad groups organised, the keywords targeted, the ads appropriate and the landing page catered for, all that I would then do is go live! Then monitor very closely for performance and not be afraid to make tweaks along the way.


    About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.    

    Friday, 11 March 2011

    The Market Dojo eWorld Purchasing & Supply experience!

    Despite being in existence for only 7 months, we decided to invest in exhibiting in the eWorld show, having recognised it to be the premier event to exhibit for organisations in the e-procurement market after several great recommendations. 

    Organised by the very personable and accommodating Claire Boffey from Revolution Events, we were fast-tracked at the very last minute for the March 2011 event at the QEII Conference Centre in the heart of London.   Our position was in a great spot sandwiched between two networking areas and adjacent to the buffet area which allowed us to chat with the hungry visitors.  The London Eye and Big Ben provided the fantastic back-drop to our stand.  Setting up in the morning was the greatest challenge, unravelling our pristine banner and laying out the freshly printed brochures, although the highlight was the relief sought after dropping the heavy cargo off my now-disfigured back!  Revolution Events were very helpful in making sure we had all we needed, helping us overcome the usual technical issues of connecting to the wireless internet.   Chatting to our neighbours left and right whilst setting up, we discovered we were in the presence of an ex-Dragon’s Den contestant, which provided a fun start to the day to learn the truth behind the scenes of a smoothly-edited television programme!  

    Our first visitor popped by shortly after 9am and by 9:30am we had a steady stream of engaging discussions.  We were able to give live demonstrations of the software which proved popular, as did our prize draw for a free e-auction, amongst other prizes.  One thing we did see was the very noticeable ebb and flow of visitors in harmony with popular presentations scheduled throughout the day, which meant that one minute all would be quiet and the next you would have people queuing up to talk with you.  This did become a tricky balance as you didn’t want to cut visitors short or allocate them a later time for fear of appearing rude, yet at the same time you couldn’t keep people waiting either.  Even with the four of us on the stand it did get a little frantic on occasion, but naturally we took this as a great sign of encouragement!  Bizarrely it took us until the afternoon to realise that rather than doing a full live demonstration of the software each time, we would be just as informative by talking visitors through the 2 minute demonstration video that we have on our homepage of the complete e-sourcing process.  I don’t know why it took us so long to think of this.

    As the afternoon passed, the visitor numbers began to dwindle, as did the resoluteness in our feet.  We met our final visitor on the dot of 4:30pm whilst those around us were starting to pack up.  Looking back on it, we were quite fortunate for not packing immediately as our visitor had just arrived, saw that we were the only ones still going, and we now have an exciting meeting scheduled with them.  We also have already had a great meeting post-eWorld with one of our neighbouring stands and we have many more meetings lined up as well. It really was a brilliant day for generating numerous opportunities and I highly recommend eWorld to anyone else thinking of taking part, be it presenting a talk or sponsoring a stand.  

    We were also pleased to announce that the winner of the free e-auction out of our 30 or so entrants was the Alzheimer’s Society.  I hope that this will be of great benefit to them and a very worthy cause it is too.

    About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.   

    Thursday, 10 March 2011

    Old versus new: why work with a start-up?

    As a bootstrapped company trying to make our forays into a mature market, there is one major trait that we have that our competitors can never encroach and that is that we are a start-up, having only been in existence for 7 months.  However, is this a good thing that we should be exclaiming from the roof tops or does it have a negative connotation that we should surreptitiously conceal?  Well, here are some of the reasons for why it is a huge advantage to work with a start-up like ourselves as well as some of the common objections that we have seen since our inception.

    The advantages

    Enthusiasm: Start-ups are typically founded by individuals who are experts in their field.  Start-ups are also hugely conscious that referrals and testimonials are their key to success.  The best way of ensuring the referrals is to go the extra mile and this is exactly what any self-respecting start-up will do.  Combine expertise with boundless desire to excel and you have a fantastic offering.  Take us for example, for our first client we analysed over £12 million of spend data and made recommendations on tender strategies at no additional cost, simply because we wanted to exceed all expectations.  The attitude of start-up isn’t just “can do”; it is “will do”.    This positive mentally can be very contagious and is hugely refreshing in a market that has gone a bit flat.

    Flexibility:  Market feedback is important to all companies, but none more so than for start-ups.  In combination with the willingness, start-ups can act on requests, suggestions and continuous improvements on almost a daily basis.  The number of times we have encountered a company who is unhappy with their provider as they have failed for the nth time to listen to their request.   A start-up feels ashamed even when a client has to make a request for the first time, “doh, why didn’t I think of that already – I’ll get it done tomorrow!”.  We use start-ups ourselves for many of our requirements and on occasion it is almost like they read our mind as we think about a feature, “wouldn’t it be nice if it did so-and-so” and later that week there it is!  

    Accessibility: If you were to call our switchboard phone number, you will be answered by one of the founders, equipped with the in-depth knowledge of our company, our clients, our software and our expertise.  If you are the client phoning our switchboard, then we’ll know you very well indeed!   How many times have you called a company switchboard and not even been put through to someone, even if you have a serious issue?  If your internet fails, for example, it could take hours to get through to someone who can help.  With the majority of companies, if you send an e-mail after 5pm it won’t be looked at until 9am the following day, at which point it is buried in a list of a hundred other e-mails.  Send a start-up an e-mail, you’ll likely have a response within 20 minutes, even at 9 o’clock at night.  Again, these kind of free service levels are frequently overlooked but they really do add value.

    Innovation:  Start-ups are not content with the status quo.  Start-ups wish to grow their products and services, to innovate and to expand into new markets.  By working with a start-up that has such raw energy and drive, a client can feed from it and use it to their advantage.  Help influence the creation of products that will set you apart from your competitors.  Use their services to enthuse and educate your employees.  Start-ups have an eye for an opportunity and they will not hesitate to make suggestions to their clients for improvements to their way of working.  After all, it is in the interest of the start-up that their clients are growing in the right direction as well and so expect a symbiotic relationship that you may not get elsewhere.

    Typical objections

    Financial risk: Certainly there is a risk that a start-up can decide the pull the plug at a moment’s notice and so it is wise to have mitigation plans in place.  However in reality start-ups are more in control of their budgets than many large companies. For example we know our balance sheets implicitly and we don’t have long-term costly expenditures like employees, leases, supply contracts and so on that would drag us into the red when quiet periods occur.  In fact we can exist on a shoestring so that any money that comes in from our clients is largely re-invested into our software to benefit our clients further.

    Inexperience:  A question you cannot avoid as a start-up is “who are your clients?”.  Naturally when a client wishes to work with a company, they want the reassurance they are not the guinea pig or the crash test dummy.   Unfortunately we encountered this many times in our very early days and we were honest by saying we had none.  Now some people immediately saw the advantages, as listed above, whilst others would be visibly put off by this.  Prospective clients, when faced with this situation, should bear in mind the advantages of working with a start-up and should entertain the prospect of requesting freebies in return for feedback, market penetration, referrals and testimonials.   As a start-up, we would far rather have this response from a client than a categorical “no thank you”.  And remember, whilst the start-up may be inexperienced, the people within it are frequently highly skilled and are quite the opposite.

    Reliability:  As start-ups may not have proven foundations or products, prospective clients can be very hesitant to work with them on the basis that failure is deemed more likely than with an established outfit.  This is a very understandable concern and it is rather challenging to overcome.  You can make promises until you are blue in the face yet they will never be a method of prevention.  Whilst we carry out product testing each and every day for a myriad of scenarios, we cannot guarantee that everyone else in the world who uses our software will not find a fault.  However, this is not just restricted to start-ups.  Every organisation in the world has a risk of product failure, just think of Microsoft!  However, try as you might to get Microsoft on the phone to come round and fix your problem, at least with a start-up you can be rest assured that the moment you tell them of your troubles, they are probably in the car on the way over to see you!

    Resource constraints:  It is recognised that start-ups typically have all hands on deck at any given moment.  This means that if a prospective client does come along with a significant project, the risk that delivery is compromised or even never materialises is significant.  Naturally, being a start-up they may not be so inclined to turn down business and so the ambition can lead to over-ambition if not carefully managed.  Clients recognise this and do take comfort from larger companies who can bring in extra resource if required.  Nevertheless, larger companies do have carefully controlled budgets and will not allocate additional resource unless there was something in it for them.  Compare this with the aforementioned passion and drive that start-ups possess and you may find that a start-up with a “whatever it takes” attitude will work a 12 hour day, 7 days a week at no additional cost and is able to achieve more than a larger company can with double the resource.  Furthermore start-ups quickly build up a network of like-minded individuals as they propagate through the market and so they can draw on partners with the same ethos if the work does mount up.

    Summary 

    I hope that this has provided some insight into the perspective of a start-up and the challenges we encounter and how we actually think they can be positives.  I suppose from the tone I have adopted for this article I have answered my own question posed at the beginning: being a start-up is something to be proud of.   I have encountered companies that advertise their ‘US office’ which is little more than a dedicated mobile phone sitting on the bosses desk in the UK, all for the appearance if seeming bigger than they are!  Being labelled as a start-up is a privilege with a perishable timescale, so make the most of it whilst you can.  Who knows, that start-up you partner with could even become the next Google!

    About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.