04 – Plans

Listen to Podcast on Your Favorite Service

The Top Six Secrets in this Chapter:

Maybe naming a car no va as Chevy did is a problem. 

Just how easy is it for someone to troll your brand

“Top or Not” reads “to porn ot” – Just give it a try.

What does that name mean to people? Why might Maddoff’s Mattresses fail at providing a night’s sleep.

There are evil-doers lurking on the web. Sometimes when you search a great name for Domain Services, it gets bought while you delay.

Having a dot-co and dot-com can be useful. Also protecting your brand from trolls is good too.

Transcript

By July 2019, we drafted perfect plans. We’ll get to market something quick. We will hit 75,000 subscribers within six months. We’ll beat all related records.

Of course, we were wrong. Our plans for marketing and technology fizzled by August. By September we exuded confidence as we found new paths forward. One element of our plan remained pretty solid: the product name.

With a product name, a marketing plan, and a technical plan, we need a business structure.

Then it goes, grows, and fumbles on from there…

The original marketing plan involve getting pulled along by a powerhouse in the podcasting marketspace. Some super-big, super-important person – that I had never ever heard off. A name mentioned with reference. We had a backup super-important person, another global influencer. And even a backup to the backup. Regardless of the charismatic influencer, the plan involved splitting revenue with that human being for their market.

This is why I was being told to use pastel versions of pink and green – which I entirely hated. My business partner, John, hated the palette too.  I say: those colors are exclusionary. A huge pile of people looking at anything with those colors would say: That’s just not for me while walking. In my youth, I knew of a few men who would wear such colors, but only at the country club and golf course.

By September, thankfully we abandoned pink and green. Kelly worked towards new plans.

Together, we walked the roads around our place in Vermont re-inventorying our assets and direction. By the time, we took this walk, the technical team hit our first major failure and set back.

What was a few quick thoughts of: take an existing product, paint it pink-n-green, selling to a enthusiastic market proved to be a bit optimistic reminding us that a product launch, or a business launch is always more complicated, has more setbacks, and requires more work than one envisions in the early hours.

Our technical failure, told in the next chapter, related to our need to process payments.

Data security stands as a global crisis and problem. Data firms love to collect it. And thieves love to collect it. If you don’t collect the types of data thieves put a high value on, then you’ve reduced your risk somewhat.

John and I host systems that manage a lot of money on behalf of governments. BUT! That money is not cash. I can not be spent. We track and record activities related to the money. And we tell our clients that we do not accept the storage of personal identification information, also called PII. Storing tax identification numbers, personal addresses, dates of birth and the like involves a heightened level of security. While we meet and exceed these standards, we also do not like the risks. Our system does not require these data, so why open ourselves to this expose.

Our podcasting project with an engine or tool that we will sell retail means that we must find a means of accepting payments and working very closely with PII. Holding PII and working in a retail space increase risks significantly.

John and I run a firm that is rather obscure and little visibility. We sell to governments and basically nobody else. We don’t need to advertise or do much that is flashy.

The podcast project will run ads, make a murmur that may be heard around the globe. Notoriety cuts both ways. With revenue and visibility may also mean you are a lovely succulent target for thieves.

Working with credit cards and banking data requires even more security that storing PII. PII is the sort of thing one can find in a telephone book, on voter registrations, records of donations to political parties. While sensitive, people often publish it anyway. Credit cards and financial data ticks ups the concern.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is a globally accepted means of increased controls around cardholder data and reduce credit card fraud. Any firm that accepts credits must work within the PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards. The absolute best means of complying with these standards is by not collecting or managing data related to cardholder data.

Ironic?

In order to get paid by any retail customer on the internet, you must accept credit cards and on-line credit processes. When you do, you increase your risk of exposure and step into a strict regulatory environment. Risk exposure and financial regulations cost money. Adherence is also good. This is not the moment a business owner spews: “Regulations are evil.”

Following the regulations protects people, their credit, and all sort of good things.

John, an expert in cybersecurity, firmly stated: “We are not touching credit cards”. I offered no argument.

Therefore, we need a vendor to manage credit card purchases for us at that wire-speed we expect in the Center of the Internet. In other words, the moment a customer pays, we setup accounts, email a welcome statement, and do all of the right things. And do it without delays.

Done right and well, we have minimal compliance and provide proper safeguards to our customers.

The master plan has a few tasks:

  • Develop a product name;
  • A business plan and a business structure;
  • Find a vendor slash partner to managed credit cards and payments;
  • Design a means of registering a customer without any effort by our staff, or with added delays;
  • Re-design with application with a new color scheme (yay!);
  • Design a new marketing plan;
  • Studying the software for improvements (why not, we’re taking out a paint brush to recolor it anyway).

Product Branding

The Apple Computer Company formed in 1976. The internet protocol was two years old.  The barest of skeleton exists for the ARPANet, the predecessor to the internet which was then 10 years old. And 1976 was six years prior to the release of the IBM PC.

Apple Records is a record label founded by the Beatles in 1968.

In the 2000s, the two companies named apple, each with an apple profile as a logo collided and faced conflicts with on-line music services.

In 1962, the Chevrolet automobile company introduced the Nova as a small automobile. The name stuck around for two decades. In Latin, nova means new. In Spanish ”no va”, means “not going”. Few people want a car that does not go. I am more a vamanos sort of person .

IBM introduced a product named the Personal Computer which everyone abbreviated to PC. People got particular enough about their brand loyalty that if you asked a user of an Apple computer to go to their personal computer, meaning the computer that they personally own, they would inform you that they do not have a personal computer.

IBM effectively took two common words and branded them together. Owners of Apple products eschewed any sort of personal computer. They owned an Apple.

Thus, endeth my treatise on branding.

Branding is important. It is global. And the context of a brand name changes with decades.

When branding via the internet, there added challenges. The name you want must be available for a price that is reasonable and must be safe. For a while in the 1990s, the domain “Whitehouse.com” carried the unsuspected visitor to a porn site.

My checklist for branding a product or company involve the following:

  • Check the name in other languages (think: no va)
  • Check the misspelling of the name
  • Break the name into funny segments: “top or not” also reads as “to porn ot”. Avoid that bit of awkwardness in your life – unless you are serving porn, then charlie-mike (continue movement) my friend!
  • Search the name aggressively on internet search tools – news articles around the globe; anything that might show why “maddoff’s mattresses” might be result some surprises in the marketspace.
  • Search the domain name with your favorite trusted vendor for such things – and be ready to execute. When you find a name, buy it. There are unscrupulous people and unscrupulous vendors who when finding interest in a name, buy it while you ponder. Better to buy and let the name expire or go in a year than to lose the perfect name because you took two days to think.
  • Buy the domain name with some popular variants.

We use a “dot co” version for a Google account. We used a “dot com” version for Microsoft email and accounts. Also be fair – you have about 8 billion neighbors living with you on this blue marble. Maybe you are that person just buying domains to hold them hostage as a business model. Good for you. Sleep well. I’ll sleep a bit better by being a bit fairer.

Our team bought “podcast-flow.com” within hours of having the idea. By mid-July 2019, we bought related domains: podcastflow.info and podcastflow.net

In early October 2019, Kelly envisioned selling a course about planning, production, promotion, and profiting from podcasts. The first name was Podcast with Purpose. I immediately drew a cartoon image of a porpoise at a microphone wearing a headset. From then on, John and I insisted the course was named “Podcast with a Porpoise”. Within days, Kelly found a podcast and other internet material with similar names – several people using variants of that name.

We backed away from the name “Podcast with Purpose” (or Porpoise).

 

Podcasting with Porpoise
Podcast with Porpoise

Our process remained consistent as we expanded the business plan and marketing plan. Search, check, review in multiple languages, chunk up the letters oddly, then execute blindingly fast.

One of our course names is “Hack Your Podcast”. John and I still prefer to call this: “Hacky our Podcast”. It is the same spelling. And it annoys Kelly to our delight.

Business Venture

John and I owned a company together. Kelly does her own thing. Therefore, we needed a new business venture to unify the effort. We registered Podcast-Flow LLC in Vermont. I wrote our agreement on an email resulting in a more formal version of the napkin agreement or handwritten agreement one would find on lined notepaper. We used no lawyers and accepted little risk.

We own this. You own that. We’re joining forces as Podcast Flow LLC for this purpose.

In time, we formalized and improved. We accepted the small risks associated with an informal email. We did get a lawyer involved, and a CPA firm. And all of that messiness. But not in the first months.

Credit Cards and PayPal

In the next chapter I explore our efforts and failures with PayPal. I alone thought PayPal belong in our plan. Within months, I retreated with frustration. We were defeated by PayPal. There slips PayPal into history. Bye, Bye, PayPal. You’re now a faded sticker in a store window.

Semper Gumby

The master plan remains as flexible as my plastic friend Gumby. Within six months of our simple idea to re-use an existing product, we were building a new product. Actually, two. And we blasted through two more marketing plans. And we recognized we needed more on-line partners. And we recognized that our help-desk tools and software were insufficient for the job ahead.

Oh, and we need to find a means of collecting sales tax in the United States.

The complexity manifested day by day in front of us.

Our failure to recognize the growing scope, well, rather our willingness to expand our own scope resulted in delays and added work and added costs. We are a tiny company with few financial resources investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in research and development. We pursued the investment with an understanding of a rapid payback with a brilliant and large launch of a product into a welcoming global market of podcasters.

By December 2019, we all started seeing news of a new virus in Asia. By January, we knew it was in the US. An old expression from the army is that “no battle plan survives the first bullet”. The corollary to this adage: “no business plan survives a global pandemic”.

Another battlefield expression is: “Semper Gumby” – always flexible.

Gumby
Semper Gumby

A Newer Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan version 2.0 or was it 3.0? We recognized, everyone recognizes, people do not buy software. Frankly, a lot of people hate software. In a prior chapter, I stated that software, apps, applications, and websites are all the same thing. To some, apps are sexy and cool. Software is stodgy and grey.

Regardless, Kelly started designing courses for podcasters to resolve specific issues, share trick and techniques, and to also support our app. This approach cradles our podcaster customers in the warmth nurturing happiness that they may want.

Unknown to me was that each version of the marketing plan required additional technical effort, additional software development, and additional costs.

Harrumph!