Collaborations don’t need timelines

In January, I declared 2017 the year of no networking.

Two years into San Francisco life, I swore off “networking” events and took a step back from teaching at General Assembly. I started studying data science and started writing on a consistent basis.

I recently took time to reflect on the most memorable moments in San Francisco. For me, it’s easy to fill my time with speaking events, coffee dates and tech events. However the most interesting moments have been spent writing in San Francisco and checking out talks at City Arts & Lectures. Ira Glass, Jennifer Doudna, and most recently JJ Abrams and Andy Cruz.

For me personally, these talks have very practical applications for personal and professional life. Personal storytelling is an art that takes a lot of practice. After hearing Jennifer Doudna, I reached out to Hillary Wicht to diligently work on my voice and personal storytelling.

Most recently, I learned from JJ Abrams and Andy Cruz’s talk that “collaborations don’t need timelines.” Meaningful collaborations take time.

Collaborations don’t need timelines 

One of my first projects at Expedia was the creation of a global partner program. Our goal was to monetize our web traffic, social channels and other owned properties with global partners like tourism boards, hotel chains and airlines. Coming from a performance marketing background, I wanted to create a highly profitable media network to fund my future growth experiments. Early tests were successful, particularly in emerging markets where US partners were not familiar with platforms like WeChat. But the key was audience, timings and measurable outcomes.

Too many collaborations dilute your brand

With my performance marketing hat on, I only thought about scale and efficiency. The primary metrics were return on ad spend and direct revenue from partners, however a secondary metric was repeat partner activity. Media Solutions become a highly profitable channel, however I feared our brand was becoming diluted. As you start to scale, it becomes harder to find companies with an audience and design that complements your brand.

In my particular case, this led to early influencer marketing tests where we created a network of influencers and partners paid a premium for on-brand creative.

The “x” collaboration model is broken

In a world with so many collaborations, brands are seeing audience fatigue. Big retailers like Target and H&M saw success with early collaborations, however today we’re seeing fewer more strategic partnerships like Target’s collaboration with mattress company Casper.

“Following a 10-or-so-year run of nearly constant collaborations from many a fast fashion retailer, the status of the designer x mass-market retailer situation is up in the air a bit. It seems the days of Missoni for Target-induced hysteria are gone… A trending hashtag does not ensure sell out status of a collection.” [The Fashion Law]

For Abrams and Cruz, they presented a new concept that flips our traditional view of collaborations. Often times, collaborations are not created for the consumer.

The collaboration is purely a creative escape for the artists. 

Over a number of years, Abrams and Cruz have developed a wonderful friendship with no true business collaboration yet. Cruz described this by saying “collaboration doesn’t need focus groups or timelines.” To create an authentic collaboration, you need time.

Go deep and perfect your craft 

This is something I’ve been exploring for a while.
There’s a misconception that building a network means going wide. But as you become more skilled in your craft, it’s more important to go deep.

Cruz talked about starting with a shared philosophy to give you structure and community. When you start with a common ground, it establishes credibility and empowers you to evolve your personal style over time.

The key is to keep doing the work and go deep to perfect your craft. When you find someone with a shared philosophy and exceptional craft, then keep working until the collaboration comes to life. If that person happens to be JJ Abrams, then you’re just pretty damn lucky.

In 2017, Distrust has gone viral

In 2017, distrust has gone viral. Companies are blowing up on social media and trust is at an all-time low. This presentation looks at the top reasons why your customers don’t trust you. Learn ways to build trust into your product and improve your customer experience.

Please contact me for speaking opportunities or workshops. brianne.kimmel@gmail.com

 

Cleveland Hipster in Residence

The North Coast is a new destination for many travel geeks. With annual conferences like Content Marketing World every September, Cleveland is quickly becoming a surprisingly hip weekend experience. Just remember to keep your Chef Curry shirts at home.

Much like San Francisco, the best bars, restaurants and shops are tucked away in neighborhoods. So I asked Cleveland Hipster in Residence (my brother) for his go-to’s.

Hipster in Residence (@PJKimmel)

Where to Wifi 

When you’re in a city like Cleveland, it’s easy to get sucked into a Starbucks. Avoid the downtown area and find a local roaster instead.

The Loop – local art, vinyls and a quiet upstairs (Tremont)

Phoenix Coffee Bar – rooftop, record player and a nitro toddy (Ohio City)

Hip light bulbs
Beanie wearing bearded barista
Stop for the Insta

Passenger’s Cafe – local beans, bagels and breads.

Check out the chalk bored and disloyalty card. Trey (the coffee guy) was previously at Micro Roaster of the Year Award winning Gimme! Coffee in New York City. Mark (the hostel guy) has traveled to over 70 countries and stayed in ~100 hostels.

Together, they’re cool AF.

Passenger’s Cafe
The real deal (pop tarts)

Where to stay

The Kimpton Schofield Hotel – newest hotel in Cleveland (opened 2016)

Located in a circa 1902 landmark building, the Kimpton is a 7-minute walk from Playhouse Square and less than a mile from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

The hotel has a retro-chic feel with midcentury design and comic books scattered throughout the hotel.

Cleveland is behind on boutique hotels compared to cities like Pittsburgh with Ace Hotel and Hotel Monaco. For a local experience, Airbnb is best.

Ohio City and Tremont are both walkable neighborhoods with plenty of local cafes, art galleries and farmer’s markets.

Iron Chef Michael Symon rents out his personal home in Tremont from $90 per night.

Michael Symon’s personal kitchen (on Airbnb)

A few locals to follow

The best way to avoid tourist traps in Cleveland is to connect with a few locals.

@WhyCle – neighborhood events from #LocalCLE (food, wine and non-profit fundraisers)

@CSledzik – breweries, bars via Untappd and food trucks (enough said?)

@BikeCLE – neighborhood tours of CLE + local tips (fun fact: I met Anne in 2011 and took an early tour when she was just getting started.)

@CLEFoodTrucks – find them, try them all.

Know someone else I should add to the list? @briannekimmel with an intro!

Questions, comments, complaints? Blame @PJKimmel.

 

Upcoming Events & Talks

Join one of my upcoming events or talks (schedule updated regularly).

2017 talks include: Pioneers Vienna, Growth Talk with The Family in Paris and #AMA with Growth Hackers.

Want me to speak at your event? Please contact me directly to confirm availability.

If you’d like to sponsor a Zendesk for Startups event or host an original event in our San Francisco office, please email startups@zendesk.com.

 

  • Point Nine Capital Founders Conference: portfolio companies only
  • Relate Live NYC: tickets still available
  • Kent State University: September 22
  • Product School SF: November 15 (more info coming soon)

 

Glossier CEO Emily Weiss on Customer Experience

For tech companies, brand marketing is generally one of the last functions to be built. Traditionally brand marketing requires a large media budget and a visionary executive (think Bozoma Saint John, the woman sent to save Uber). However, with the influx of disruptive, direct to consumer companies like Allbirds, Everlane and Glossier, we’re seeing a new intersection of brand, customer support and product.

These customer-centric companies focus on trust, transparency and community as a competitive advantage against traditional retailers. Early customers are actively involved in product development and brand building. While most large retailers struggle with transparency and the immediate ROI of community, the new breed of customer-centric companies focus on building for the customer and the value of a long-term relationship.

According to a study by Label Insight, 73% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for a product that promises total transparency. 

At YC Female Founder’s conference, Emily Weiss shared her vision for Glossier and the future of customer experience. For Glossier, the 1.5M unique visitors per month are more than just shoppers. They’re content creators, product testers and brand advocates.

Some thoughts from Glossier CEO Emily Weiss:

On metrics:

  • Engagement metrics aren’t soft metrics: likes, comments and original UGC impacts the bottom line. Every comment doesn’t change the overall product strategy, but each customer is heard. Beauty recommendations happen offline and online, so every customer has voice. They are actively building the brand and fueling growth.

On community:

“Beauty is an activator for connection. It provides a voice. Every woman has an opinion and she curates her own daily routine. Beauty is an equalizer among women.”

  • Community builds brand trust and credibility: Glossier’s social content includes a mix of brand and user-generated content

On product:

When we look at beauty before YouTube, it was a relatively solitary routine. There was no community or ongoing education for the average person. Early lessons from mother figures and offline recommendations from friends influenced future purchase decisions.

  • Commerce has become democratized by reviews and star ratings: women want the best, so reviews and user-generated content are expected.
  • Listen to your users, but don’t 1:1 crowdsource. Glossier listens and engages on social media, but it does not 1:1 crowdsource product and editorial direction. Glossier’s goal is to listen, engage and inspire. Inspiration encourages experimentation and accelerates your beauty routine. In beauty, free samples provide a low risk way to test new products and go a little bigger and bolder.

Modern iconic brands have a strong editorial direction and a humble approach to customer feedback. 

Weiss spoke to Glossier’s NYC showroom strategy, which encourages women to come in store and experiment. The retail location was designed for experimenting with new products. It’s become a social space where women meet before brunch and try new items together. It creates a sense of community and a tangible way to interact with the brand.

Glossier Showroom NYC

Follow me on Twitter for more on brand, customer experience and product.

Skilling up without getting distracted

When I hit my two year anniversary in San Francisco, I realized it was time to start giving back to the tech community.

Throughout my career, I’ve had a number of incredible mentors.
From moving overseas to starting and selling my first company, I’ve learned that asking for help is a strength and not a weakness.

So I started weekly office hours and 30 minute jam sessions in Hayes Valley to give more time to my GA students and fellow Y Combinator alum.

Through many conversations and matcha lattes at Boba Guys, I’ve found many of the best and brightest young entrepreneurs I meet are missing one thing: focus

For some, this can be attributed to a recent move to the Bay Area.
They’re frantically exploring all facets of technology and hitting every Meetup and startup event in town.

For others, they’re bouncing around in what I call the pinball effect. They pull the trigger by moving to San Francisco and then bounce, bounce, bounce hopping to hit the jackpot.

Here’s a quick summary of insights shared in my office hours:

  1. Start with a goal – write it down and track it in Trello
  2. Conduct a skills gap analysis – be honest with yourself
  3. Skill up – take a class, learn from peers, find a mentor
    • Reduce the number of networking events
    • Go deep – develop one or two skills at a time
    • Take a class that tactically teaches this skill
    • Find a peer or mentor to help build this new skill over time
  4. Stay focused – refer back to 1.

Some examples of tactical courses: 

How Snapchat Spectacles changed my view on video

As a marketer, I’m always looking for ways to scale content creation.
Creating great content takes time, money and the right team.

I often times refer to the Cheap, Fast, Good equation.

Fast + Cheap ≠ Good
Good + Cheap≠ Fast
Good + Fast ≠ Cheap

Thinking back to my early days at Nikon and later Expedia, we struggled with quality creative at scale.

Sure, you’ll find one-off photographers or even travel bloggers who can support your content strategy.
But replicating this model globally gets time consuming and expensive.

When I first heard about Snapchat Spectacles, I was very skeptical.
Having worked on the launch of Nikon 1, I was afraid that Spectacles would have a similar delay between shooting and publishing.
If you’re using the Spectacles for travel footage, then you’ll need to consider that WiFi is not readily available when you’re backpacking in Southeast Asia or at any major sporting event or festival.

On a personal level, I’ve found that it’s fine to share your favorite moments, even if it’s not “in” in the exact moment.
If you’re a brand, having this delay is likely not an issue.
The Spectacles can be viewed as an easy way to create more content, which still needs slight editing before sharing.

For marketers, we all know that video is a great way to create a strong connection with your customers.
I’ve always been bullish on video, however I have yet to find a solution that can scale video efforts.
The end to end process of storyboarding, filming and production takes way too long.

As I’m personally experimenting with Snapchat Spectacles, I’ve began to adopt a different mindset for branded video content.

  1. It’s okay to sacrifice quality for scale. 

If you’ve come from a traditional marketing background, then the focus has always been polished campaigns suitable for print, OOH and TV. Today, 50% of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand-produced content, so we need to rely heavily on our customers and their favorite influencers to create successful content.

Rather than focusing on quality, the key for brands is scale. And scale can only come from giving creative control to our customers.

Scale also has a direct impact on the business.
For example: Adding a video to a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%

  1.  Empower your customers to create content for you.  
Video has the power to create immediate connection with your customers and humanize your brand.
Yet, many of us still struggle to justify the costs for production budget and the resources to execute effectively.
One of the easiest ways to get started with video is empowering your customers to create content for you.
It may take some prizes or incentives to start, but UGC allows you to create content quickly. You’ll also see a nice bump in organic shares and WOM referrals as contributors are motivated to share your branded content.

My biggest piece of advice to other marketers is to create a branded contributor guide, which outlines what type of content you’d like customers and influencers to create. Provide specific examples of what works and what doesn’t work for your brand. The guide should be visual and not too prescriptive, so you empower the users without limiting their creativity.

A couple branded UGC Snapchat campaigns I love: 
Sour Patch Kids sour then sweet hijinks
 
  1. Test and double down on what’s working. 

Using engagement data from Snapchat (opens and replies), you can quickly identify which types of content perform best. For more robust platforms like Facebook of Instagram, you can get even more sophisticated with your audience targeting and testing strategy.

For more tips on how brands can use Snapchat Spectacles, check out this post on Social Media Today.

A better bubble

I had a lightbulb moment this week.
One that took me back to my freshman and sophomore years of undergrad.

 

As I scroll through my Twitter feed and read trending headlines, I realized something…

 

 On paper, I’m a white girl from Ohio.
While I didn’t vote for Trump, I’m sure I know a couple people who did.

 

In San Francisco, I often times get mistaken for a “Marina girl”.
A label that I still don’t quite understand, but for simplicity let’s say it’s some fancy variation of a “basic bitch.”

 

After getting hit with a few nervy comments this week, I decided to make a few personal declarations.

 

I don’t agree with the white majority.

 

How can a white girl from Ohio say that?

 

Well, my entire understanding of the media changed after taking courses with Gene Shelton. A former publicist for Motown & CBS Records who worked with Prince, Stevie Wonder and served as Michael Jackson’s manager.

 

For the first time in my life, I was encouraged to question everything. Question everything and proactively find ways to truly walk in someone else’s shoes.

 

If you look at my Twitter feed, I read Blavity.
You won’t find a better news source for African American news.
From amazing stories of unsung heroes to in-depth coverage of national headlines.
Blavity Founder Morgan DeBaun

 

Dig a little deeper, I read Muslim Girl.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, this is the year of Amani Alkhat. Look out!

Muslim Girl covers hot topics like immigration and more fun topics like fashion, fitness and music. It’s a great source for Muslim news and cultural trends.

Muslim Girl Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

 

I don’t believe in making America great again.

We can’t stay stuck in the past.

The future is Female.
Black.
Muslim.
etc. etc…

 

I don’t believe in bubbles.

 

Before moving to San Francisco, I was warned that I would hate the bubble. The lack of diversity, the subtle sexism and the homogeneous tech lifestyle.
After spending two years in the Bay Area, I couldn’t disagree more.
When you proactively seek out unique perspectives, you will find them.
If you feel like you’re in a bubble, change it.

“If you live in a diverse city, you are not the one living in a bubble” 

 

Socialize your financial goals

If there’s one topic I’m passionate about, it’s personal finance.
I tend to be very open about this topic and over the years many of my friends will buy me a coffee for some quick advice. Over the last month, I noticed some interesting observations from meeting with a dozen or so ladies:
  • All said they didn’t have a clear goal for savings and future investing (ie: I’m saving money, but don’t have a strategy or plan for investing)
  • All said they were not comfortable talking about personal finances (ie: I’m not seeing an advisor and I wouldn’t talk about it in a group setting)
  • Most said they keep 100% of their take-home pay ($100K+ annually) in just a checking account and standard savings account (Really?! That means no interest or compounding benefits)
Given that this is purely a personal qualitative study talking to friends who work in tech and live in San Francisco, I did some research and found my qualitative findings weren’t too far off…

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, shared some great findings in Refinery29.
  • About half (51%) of women report feeling positive about their financial futures
  • 42% of women say they are confident they are making the right savings and investment decisions
  • Of all the assets controlled by women, 71% are held in cash — a.k.a. not invested.
In addition to Sallie’s work, a number of studies attribute the gender savings and investing gap to lack of confidence. Only 47 percent of women feel confident when talking about finances with a financial professional—compared to 77 percent who would be comfortable discussing medical issues with their doctor.
If women are afraid to share with financial professionals, then we’re definitely not discussing savings or investing in social settings.

From my coffee date surveys, it wasn’t easy talking about this stuff at all.
But by the end of the conversation, all agreed that it was one of the most productive coffees they had all year. I’ll be the first to admit that socializing your goals is a really scary thing, but it’s the only way to build community and accountability.
So, here’s my story and some helpful tools curated from friends and mentors:
When I started a business in Australia in 2013, “the money stuff” was the one thing that scared me most.  As a first time entrepreneur, I didn’t want to take outside funding to ensure I had complete control of the business and the flexibility to exit whenever I was ready to move back to America.
I self-funded the business, which forced me to get really good with numbers.
As a self-proclaimed “words nerd,” I loved doing just about anything but activities involving the numbers. This forced me to seek out the best professional help and self-help programs to get the business running smoothly. Within in a week, I had a fancy financial advisor (who thankfully didn’t charge his usual fees and gave me way too much of his time for free) and enrolled in 10thousand girl.
As part of 10thousand girl, I joined a GIG group (Girl Investment Group).
Think: local book club, but we talk about personal finance, investing and goals
Outcomes from the group included: creating life plan, budget, day-to-day money management, increasing saving levels and understanding investing.
While all of these things you can learn on your own, I found it was much easier to do this in a group setting and hold each other accountable. If any or all of these things sound interesting, there’s also an online version which works too.

Once you set clear financial goals, there are a number of free tools to help you smash them.
Not to mention, most of these are new (launched in 2016) and free in the App Store:
  • Penny: Your personal finance coach
    • Penny will categorize your spending and text you updates
      • Food (and coffee and cocktails)
      • Transportation (hello, Uber)
      • Bills (rent, internet, etc.)
      • Other purchases such as groceries (Amazon)
      • Income
  • Digit: The app that’ll save for you
    • Automate your savings
    • Every few days, Digit checks your spending habits and saves a few dollars from your checking account if you can afford it
    • You can then transfer the savings back to our bank account (hint: vacation funds, etc.)
  • Truebill: Find, track and cancel your subscriptions
    • This app is a lifesaver… period. Comcast, Netflix, Rent the Runway, all in one place.
    • It pulls all monthly subscriptions, which is particularly helpful if you sign up for any “first month free” services
    • Plus, the average Truebill user saves $512 per year
  • Read Ellevest’s Seven Chapters on Financial Feminism 
 As we head into 2017, I hope to apply the same process to other aspects of my life as well.
Socializing goals is scary, but from my personal experience it’s the only way to really stay consistent. Would love to hear your thoughts and tools you’re using!

My morning routine

I’ve been spending lots of time on Whale. I have to admit I’m a total sucker for social apps and will download just about anything, but I generally lose interest after a week or so.

With Whale, I’m hooked. You meet awesome people and you ask them basically anything you want. Lately, I’ve been asked some really great questions which warrant a more thoughtful, long-form response.

Someone recently asked me how I start my day, which got me thinking about overall productivity and life hacks. So, I’ve been asking friends, mentors and randos* on the street for their best tips.

*Currently writing this from Sydney and rekindling my love for Aussie slang

For now, here’s how I start my day:

Gym or some form of exercise 

Having spent four years living in Sydney, I quickly assimilated to the early morning Bondi lifestyle. This is something that’s stuck with me and I’ve found my most productive and memorable days always start with an early morning workout.

When I first moved to the Bay Area, I joined ClassPass and found this was the best way to discover new neighborhoods and meet like-minded, fitness-loving girls in the city. Now, I’ve transitioned to developing my own workouts using a mix of apps and trainers I follow on Instagram.

Artsy 

This may sound like a peculiar way to start the morning, however I’ve found Artsy’s recommended works and explore functionality to be very inspiring. Now that I’ve spent a lot of time on the app, the recommendations are great and it’s my own personalized creative outlet.

Recent recommendations include: Massimo Vitali, Yoshiyki Ooe, Alec Soth

"Sari" by Alec Soth
“Sari” by Alec Soth

Google Alerts 

When I started out my career in advertising, I made it my mission to learn everything about my clients. In agency land, there’s a very thin line between personal life and professional life.

During my time working with Nikon, I did everything possible to understand the whole journey for a photographer. I geeked out on hardware, invested in great editing software and spent a lot of time with professional photographers. Hence, all of my wonderfully creative friends in Sydney.

As part of my morning routine, I found Google Alerts to be the best way for staying on top of client news and discovering relevant content. To this day, I have a dozen alerts set for trending topics and companies I’m watching closely.

Product Hunt 

It’s obvious that PH is the best place to catch the latest tech announcements and discover new and trending gadgets. For me personally, I’ve learned so much from the PH community. It’s a great way to connect with new people and share your thoughts on the latest technology.

By geeking out on PH each morning, I find water cooler convos at work get instantly more interesting. For example: While everyone is talking about Spectacles by Snap and the random vending machines across America, it turns out you can create instant Spectacle-like videos with SnapView.

watch-snapchat-surprise-a-mom-and-her-two-kids-with-spectacles-after-they-couldnt-get-any