Tutor @ The Alchemy Diploma of Digital Marketing – April 2015

Proud again to announce something cool that I am going to do this year in London. I’m going to put my Digital Marketing, MBA and Entrepreneurship skills & experience to good use mixed with the seasoned methodologies of the Digital Marketing Institute to create the space for Londoners to take the first steps in the digital world. Here’s the blog post I wrote for the class earlier in the week. Please feel free to share 🙂 And use the EARLY BIRD code when registering.

Update 6/3/2015: Supersaver code expired, please use Saver 🙂

Update: 24/3/2015: The Saver code is gone now!

alchemyclass

We believe in giving before taking, so here are our 10 key digital marketing tips that will help you build amazing campaigns using the best digital mix.

1. Be helpful, honest and open – the rise of the internet & mobile connections have brought people closer together & closer to brands. It’s now more important than ever to stand out with a helpful message. Give before you ask.

2. Write for your customers, not for Google – too much we have focused on keywords and link-building for search engine optimization and forgot about the power of digital PR, organic mentions and fresh content.

3. The click is just the beginning of the journey – use today’s wide variety of pay per click networks, but don’t forget to track your customer all the way from the banner/link ad to your thank you page. You will learn a lot.

4. Email is king – if used correctly, email is still a very powerful tool, even with the rise of social media. Gets people clicking and gets people buying. What would you do without all those travel deals, Timeout offers or cool discounts that you get every day?

5. Display advertising enriches brands – pictures are worth 1000 words, especially in display advertising. Show what’s great about your product of service, make people smile, laugh or go “aha” with that design and copy. Clicking isn’t everything here.

6. Use that mobile connection wisely – our (smart)phone is the most intimate communication tool of them all. We carry it around with us every day and use it regularly. Do everyone a favour and don’t be intrusive. Connect with a purpose and add value.

7. Measure everything – the internet was a big leap forward from the TV or print ads because we now can track each and every marketing tactic. So we know what works and what doesn’t and focus just on the stuff that works. Analytics tools have to be part of every digital mix, no matter how small.

8. Social media is about being social – Don’t just start a social media channel to broadcast, use it to connect and engage with your customers, answer their questions, post useful content and entertain them. Oh, and use photos and videos a lot, it works.

9. Not all social networks are useful for your business – or for yourself for that matter. Learn how to choose from the wide range of networks and go where you can best provide added value and reach your customers at the same time. I know, a tricky one.

10. The strategy pulls it all together – the mix of tools is not a campaign unless we make strategic choices and establish a clear path, a tone of voice, narrative, approach, network mix and a set of indicators that will tell if we are successful or not. Never start a digital marketing effort without a strategy. You’ll never know if you are successful.

This is just a 5 minute taster of a 10 module Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing, an accredited course we are running this spring in London. Just to give you an idea of its scale, over 9,000 professionals from 36 countries have graduated and taken enhanced digital knowledge back to their businesses. So why not join them in April?

We have two types of classes, both full time and part time, run by two experienced tutors, Mike and myself.

The Extra Dish on Wall-Street.ro: Delicious business in the UK: A Unicorn start-up for food lovers

Needless to say how happy I am that The Extra Dish has had such amazing feedback and is now featured on one of the biggest news & business websites in my home country. I’ve translated the article below and plan to make it the first of many. Thanks Wall-Street.ro & Alex Goaga for letting me put it up here, too!

Titus, 27, is at his fourth attempt in the world of startups. This time, along with two other partners, he chose a field full of flavor – a platform that connects people who cook at home dishes that are more more or less conventional and those who want to order home-cooked meals. The network is called TheExtraDish.com.

Meet the founders of The Extra Dish

The Extra Dish founders, Kate Wolfenden, Roberto Lucci and Titus Capilnean met in the Executive MBA program at the Hult International Business School where they worked together on several projects. After graduating, they kept a close relationship and the three are now working together for The Extra Dish.

Kate, 34, spent the past few years in the charitable sector and in the past had a business that combines pubs and street festivals in London. Kate is now working on WWF and will serve as a Non-executive Director for The Extra Dish.

Roberto Lucci, 46, is the one who came up with the idea in the first place. He helped build a tourism business focused on luxury villas, business that has achieved multi-million turnover and where he is now working to automate the processes using digital tools.

Titus, 27, has worked in the online industry in Romania from 2008 to 2014 on NGO campaigns, in agencies and in the corporate sector, when he decided to move to London. It’s the 4th attempt in the world of startups, having tried to build two agencies and a foursquare for websites on which he worked in various stages and in different positions.

The team is now expanding with Alex Nicolaica, who recently moved to London and will bring his expertise in marketing and digital built in the IT&C & FMCG sectors, and Aishlyn Angill, a Londoner who loves meeting new people and is excited by the big challenges behind such a business like The Extra Dish, where she can put her amazing sales skills to good use. Alex takes care of marketing strategy and Aishlyin of the operations and relationships with the home cooks.

Why The Extra Dish?

In Romania, such a platform would be a niche of a niche, as it would cover a still very small, only emerging market. However, only in the UK, convenience and take-out food markets exceeded 60 billion pounds in 2014. This includes all fast-food delivery, restaurant delivery services and convenience food sales in stores like Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s.

“Roberto, a lover of good food tired of restaurants or traditional takeout, came up with the idea when he tried to order something from a local cook. He couldn’t find a solution to solve the problem and knowing that there are other people with the same needs, started working on the project with me and Kate, “says Titus.

The first iteration of the idea consisted of a Business Model Canvas, a few platform specifications & user journeys, a business plan and lots of enthusiasm. These were validated at Startcelerate London, Seedcamp Office Hours in Paris and LCIF London and also helped to attract about 50 people potential cooks who love doing this at home and to whom they will facilitate the connection with “foodies” in London.

The Extra Dish Startcelerate Pitch

“Looking ahead, our vision is that everyone who is a talented home cook should be able to use their talent through The Extra Dish. That translates into global infrastructure (directly or through partners) and a brand at least the size of Airbnb and Uber”, said Titus Capilnean.

What is the business model?

“The business model is simple and transparent – we create a link between people who cook at home and those who want to order home-cooked meals and we charge a percentage for brokering the deal (the order will have a set minimum value adding the delivery fees on top). We try to close the circle when it comes to take-out, as we have learned from all other food startups that we have studied while defining the concept of The Extra Dish. Our ambition is to create an ecosystem that will connect people passionate about cooking with those who want to order food cooked with love and care, and that means we need to cover all stages of the transaction – presentation, packaging, transportation, payment, so the only concern of the cooks is what to cook next and for those who order to benefit from an experience at least as good as ordering from a restaurant delivery service“ notes the young Romanian.

Currently, the team have been in touch with dozens of home cooks who have shown interest in being included in the platform and estimate that in the next 12 months, they will have about 500 active home cooks.

“From the marketing point of view, we are looking at a two sided approach, with the cooks group being our beachhead. The tactics and channels are somewhat different then for the foodies. For the home cooks we use recruitment events and cooking groups, cooking schools and generally we are targeting the information providers and learning platforms that they visit, like forums and cooking magazines. The initial focus will be on the cooking schools, as there we have the security of having a qualified audience of willing and skilled home cooks or future chefs.”

The other side of the market is that of users who want to order home-cooked food. Here we’re talking about standard channels: performance marketing, social networks, cooking blogs, but beyond acquisition campaigns, the entrepreneurs will work on retention and loyalty campaigns for users. They will also leverage platform usage data and personal preferences to generate the best recommendations.

Looking for investors

For the last few months months the three have been working at both the testing and modelling concept and presentations, pitches and individual meetings and are in discussions with a number of investors. “We want to enter in a partnership with one or more investors who understand the business and want to contribute actively to the its development, bringing on board their experience, network and ideas, not just the money. We’re a super strong team, enthusiastic and full of energy and will put all our “brain power” to good use to achieve fantastic results!“, says Titus.

They aim to fully launch platform in the coming months, with own resources and use the capital injection to ensure a consistent impact and strong growth. “In the coming weeks we are preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign where we would love to see contributions from everyone who believes in our vision and ability to go global. Of course, if wall-street.ro readers (or my blog readers for that matter) are interested in our business, we are open to any investment proposal (just say hello (at) theextradish.com) “.

For the first 18 months, the focus is on the London market, given that the main goal is to become sustainable before the next step into new markets. Most of the team is already there, the market is very large and very dynamic. “We want to cover about 50% of the London until next year and then to replicate the model and learning onto other markets. We’re looking at the US, especially the west coast, but the list includes 2-3 cities in Europe, too “.

(…)

The initial investment

So far, the founders have invested some thousand pounds in project and expected that they will continue to fuel it’s setup, “but our time was the main resource to date and consisted of tens of hours per week invested in documents, meetings and presentations. So the 6 months of dedication would amount to a total of ÂŁ60-70,000” according to their own estimations.

“But back to the discussion about investment, we need at least ÂŁ50,000 to launch and then a total of ÂŁ600,000 pounds during the first 12 months to be sure that we can scale the business at the desired pace” set out by the “blue sky” scenario. The recovery time of such an investment is about 3 years.”

“In the world of startups, we would call our company a Unicorn, which requires a bigger initial investment, as it’s profitable only at volume. Investments in this type of companies support the fixed costs and the expansion, but when the business becomes profitable, the results are usually extraordinary. The other type is the Pony, meaning that the company produces enough income from the beginning and the only cash it needs is that which it helps it to grow faster, but the growth & gain rate is not as staggering. The Pony is a more common type of tech startups, easier to launch, but usually they don’t scale as much as a Unicorn,” concluded Titus Capilnean.

An extra dish of lokshen kugel

e39f24718bd53bddf7383cbd5f7840b9I moved out of my home country this year and I had previously left home for college 7 years ago, so home cooking was something I used to get just on public holidays, when I would travel home and my mum would cook for me. But somehow, with all these years past, I still longed for a piece of lokshen kugel (sweet noodle pudding for those who don’t know what I’m talking about).

I couldn’t find it anywhere in Bucharest, where I had lived prior to coming to London, and even here you could only get it in certain Israeli restaurants, but never as good as my grandma used to make it. You know what I am talking about, we all have our lokshen kugel even if yours is called differently. It’s that dish that your elders used to cook for you with everything in the right place, perfectly cooked and with that extra sprinkle of home cooking to make it taste right. No restaurant or takeaway or convenience dish can match that. It’s just something you have to make in your own home.

The why

This September, myself and two great friends decided to work together towards something that we think could revolutionize the way we order take-out food. We call it The Extra Dish.Just a few months later and we are ready to tell the world about it; and this is where we need your help. We know you have a great community of passionate home cooks and we’re sure that some of them are based in London and would surely benefit from our project.

So what is The Extra Dish?

It’s a food sharing platform. But instead of connecting restaurants, professional chefs or takeaways, we connect hungry commuters with talented home cooks in their neighborhood. Imagine getting an amazing Brazilian stew from the woman that knows it best, or maybe that secret-recipe curry or proper Yorkshire roast dinner like you remember your mum making back home. That’s the food we will be sharing — The food restaurants just can’t do. Now, what if we had all of that and we promised that every meal bought on the platform also bought an emergency meal for someone, somewhere else in the world that needs it most?

Scouting for talented home-cooks

Right now we are on the scout for talented home cooks that would want to make a bit of extra income from home by doing what they love the most — cooking! All they would need to do is make the food and we would take care of the rest — even the delivery! Plus ordering, advertising and money transfer is all handled safely and securely online (soon enough, we’re still in pre-launch phase). So the cook earns the money and the food-lover gets fed a great home-cooked meal. This is why we would very much appreciate your thoughts on The Extra Dish and, if you really like it and want to empower talented home cooking, we’re recruiting in London, Zones 1 or 2 for our initial launch.

Painful democracy

IMG_8545This weekend, just like two weeks before, I waited patiently for hours to vote, a right our parents fought for 25 years ago. In London tens of thousands of people, most of them calm, smiling, queued with us in the hope of a better future back home, where they still have family members, friends, businesses. I didn’t get the chance to do it though, unfortunately, after waiting for 10 hours.

When is the last time you queued for 10 hours to exercise your right?

This sad, sad moment reminded me of a story about communism that my parents and grandparents used to tell me. I was born in 87, when times were very hard. They told me that they used to go and queue to get food – eggs, milk, meat (which was a rare treat). Electricity and hot water were scarce and we used the stove to keep warm when heating was cut too. That was painful communism.

Today we don’t have to queue for food anymore, but for something else. We have to queue for the power to change a system that has driven us out of our hometowns, out of our country in search of a better future. Why would a democratic system cause its citizens so much pain, so many hours wasted for tens of thousands of people.

We switched the painful communism with painful democracy – a pain to vote, a pain to travel, to do business and to be happy. I hope this weekend is a step to put an end to this. And i hope the next MCV report will reflect the poor state of the nation and its institutions. Events like this, voting queues, should not be possible in 2014, European Union.

Along side the poor deployment from the organizers(Government), there is one more notable mention. I am ashamed that some people who call themselves patriots and Romanians disrupted the peace and quiet of Kensington and resorted to shouting, verbal violence and raised the tension in the peaceful queue. There were agitators, people that were there just to anger the others, not to vote or anything else. They are the representation on the uncivilised side of Romania and none of us should ever encourage them.

I distance myself from these agitators and disrupters and I ask you, the non-Romanian reader, to see beyond this uncivilized representation of nationalism and take a good look at us, the silent, numerous and mannered group that are part of your communities in the EU and all over the world. We are the victims of the painful democracy back home.