What A Malaysian Restaurant Owner Taught Me About Focus

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A few weeks ago, I was heading to Strathfield to eat Korean food. Strathfield is a Korea town in Sydney with a lots of Korean restaurants. Specifically I was craving KFC, also known as Korean Fried Chicken.

It was getting late, about 9pm on a Friday evening. It was impossible to find parking on the surrounding streets. After driving around for a while, I parked at Strathfield Plaza shopping centre. On the main strip, there’s a couple of Korean restaurants that do this dish so I knew where I was going to head.

In the back of my mind, I knew it was late in the evening. Based on my prior experience, I knew it would take some time for the food to arrive and I dreaded the wait. As we walked through the shopping centre, I walked past this restaurant. Something about it caught my eye.

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Awarded Australia’s Top 20 Best Business Blogs by Smart Company!

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I have some fantastic news. SmartCompany awarded inspiredworlds as a top 20 Best Business Blog in Australia! You can read it here – we’re #18. Here’s the big ol badge they gave me below! I also permanently stuck it on the blog on the right hand side.

SmartCompany Top 20 Best Business Blogs

I’m definitely humbled by it. I’ve been toiling away on this blog for years. I haven’t been the most consistent blogger, posting sporadically when I have time. As I’m running my consultancy Tapmint which makes mobile apps and Native Tongue which creates language learning apps. If you are interested in mobile apps, check out the tapmint blog where I am also blogging frequently.

Inspiredworlds started as a personal blog to share things that inspired me, in the hope that it would inspire other people. I’ve also narrowed that focus to the things that interest me which are primarily the intersection of digital and business. I’ll definitely be more motivated to post regularly now with the SmartCompany award. I have to live up to this reputation!

I started this blog because I was new to the technology industry. I didn’t know many people in the digital space 7 years ago. I started going to events and networking. Meeting new people in the industry, sharing ideas and thoughts. Not much has changed :) I don’t go to as many events but I still love writing. I believe that a blog is a great platform to share and meet more people. Its a more scaleable platform for my voice and engage with others. It can also be a place to share my experiences and my expertise. Its uncensored because YOU can write whatever you want and press publish. Then its available to the whole world.

If you would like to receive more award winning Australian best business blog content, then sign up to my email list :) I send out a fresh newsletter once a month, including the latest updates on this blog.

I’m out like the Oscar Awards,
Matt Ho

Completing my resolution for 2014 and plans for 2015

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It was my goal last year to launch one product. It came up in a conversation with my friend Murray at 2am on his balcony on New Year’s Eve. More or less, he told me to just do it (shoutout to Nike). After that, my business partner James and I agreed that we were going to ship one product. We felt this was an achievable goal for 2014.

The background is that I had been doing a lot of consulting work in 2013. I had decided that I was going to work on one of my own projects. I had previously made language games for my business Native Tongue which are still being downloaded to this day. In fact, I’ve received an email today from an elementary teacher in the US. She informed me that she had installed the Spanish Smash app on 4 ipad’s for her Spanish class. I’ve had a lot of fun doing consulting and working on various projects. But I’ve also had this itch that I needed to make something new.

So in-between consulting work in 2014, we created an app called “Haha”. Its a fun, cheeky little app that sends infectious laughter to your friends. Its a consumer app. We submitted to the app store last week and I’m proud to say its now available! If you have an iPhone/iPad, get it here. For Google Play, download it here. There’s a screenshot below of one of the screens in the app. Its an awesome app :)
haha iphone app screenshots

I’m also working on another product for teams that do agile software development. Its SAAS (software as a service) and more business-y.You’ll be the first to know when its available if you subscribe to my email list! Its my goal for 2015 to launch this product. We’re continuing to do consulting work and ALSO working on our own products. A lot of people said that we wouldn’t be able to do it. However, we have proven them wrong :)

We did everything by bootstrapping. We do consulting work creating web/mobile products for businesses. The Tapmint business gives us the platform to do creative stuff and to employ a team. This is the path we’ve chosen and it works for us. Its a slower journey and fueled by organic growth. Also, if we weren’t doing software consulting, we might not have come up with the second product which solves a problem that we have.

Startups for the rest of us! Shoutout to Rob Walling.

Plans for 2015

I’ve got some more things planned for 2015. I will be creating a podcast called “This Mobile Life”. Its about two topics: 1) Mobile Apps 2) Being Mobile i.e having a mobile work environment and working remotely. I’ve recorded the first episode but we’re going to re-do it to make it shorter and snappier. That’s because I want to make it more punchier for you :) I’ll give you a sneak peak of the podcast cover design.
this mobile life podcast cover

Towards the end of last year, I also wanted to write a ebook about mobile apps. However, I’ve decided to take a shorter route and start with something simpler. I’ve written a 5 day email crash course on launching mobile apps which you can find on our Tapmint website. It now has 15 subscribers in the past few weeks with very little promotion from me. I’ll be applying everything I know to launching both apps and will be adding more content to the email course. If you are interested in launching a mobile app, join the course! I’ll be spending more time in 2015 refining the course.

In 2014, I started to see a pattern of people asking about analytics. So I made it my goal in 2015 to do more in this area. An opportunity came up with General Assembly to teach a course on mobile analytics as they saw my email course. Its an area that I have experience in. So I’ll be teaching a course on “Intro to Mobile Analytics” in February 2015. It is the first time its been taught in Australia. I believe its an area of GREAT importance to businesses and startups. It is also not very well understood. I will be developing more authority in this area along with Mobile UX. I will also be offering a consulting service on mobile UX that combines with mobile analytics. I’m in the process of defining what this service is so watch this space!

Did you achieve your goals in 2014? What are your plans for 2015?

I’d love to hear from you!

Redesigning the NBA League Pass Boxing Day ad for Australian fans

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I’m a huge NBA fan and diehard Chicago Bulls supporter. I’ve been watching NBA games online everyday during the holidays using League Pass. I’ve actually just finished watching Bulls vs Pacers game which the Bulls narrowly won.

Over the past few days on the NBA League Pass website I noticed there is a Boxing Day ad. It has a 25% discount for a League Pass subscription. Its pretty hard to miss it because its one of those annoying pop up ads that takeover the whole screen. I couldn’t watch league pass without closing the ad. This is the ad that I saw.

NBA boxing day ad luol deng

Boxing Day, if you are not familiar with it, is a day that is well known in Australia for when shops go on sale with deep discounts post-Christmas. The tradition behind it is that servants and tradespeople would receive a “Christmas box” gift from their employer. This Boxing day ad offers a 25% discount during the Boxing day sales period.

On closer inspection of the ad I noticed something wrong with it. The player on the left hand side is Andrew Bogut, starting centre for Golden State Warriors. The player on the right hand side is Dante Exum, rookie guard for the Utah Jazz. Bogut and Exum are Australian players. Who’s the player in the middle?

Luol Deng boxing day promotion

In the middle is Luol Deng, small forward for the Miami Heat. Deng is a British player, originally from Sudan and grew up in Egypt. Deng represents Great Britain in international competition. I know this because I am a Bulls fan. Deng played 10 seasons with the Bulls. In fact, Deng is the cover athlete for NBA Live video games in the UK.

NBA Live 10 UK

So Luol Deng in the Boxing ad for Australia looked out of place. I suspect what has happened is that the NBA has boxing day promotions for different countries. Based on your IP address, it would work out your location and serve you one of their localised Boxing Day ads. According to Wikipedia, Boxing Day is celebrated in United Kingdom, Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other former British colonies.

I assume that they used a picture with Deng for the UK. I assume that someone has made a mistake putting Deng in there or just added two Australian players next to him to localise it for the Australian market.

So what I have done is redesign the Boxing Day ad for the Australian market with the help of one of our designers. The most well known Australian player other than Andrew Bogut is Patty Mills. He’s a guard for the San Antonio Spurs and played on last season’s championship team. See the original ad and the new version below.

Boxing Day Ad Luol Deng

This is the new one with Patty Mills, Australian player replacing Luol Deng, British player.

Australian NBA boxing day promotion with Patty Mills

Ah this looks much better! Now back to watching League Pass :)

I’m out like Luol Deng from the Australian team,

Matt Ho

p.s. Sportal sucks.

How Red Balloon convinces you to buy – Facebook retargeting for shopping cart abandonment (Part 1)

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Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the internet
All the servers were stirring, not even a crash.
The events were hung by the tag manager with care,
In hopes that the customer soon would be there.

My lame attempt at a Christmas poem, remixing “Twas The Night Before Christmas“. Firstly Merry Christmas all and happy new year!

I was inspired to write a blog post about an experience I had with Red Balloon website whilst shopping for a Christmas present. I do like the idea of giving out experiences which money can buy via Red Balloon. Also thanks to Murray Hurps from Fishburners who posed the question “what is the best Facebook ad you’ve seen at Christmas?”

Here are some observations and analysis I’ve made about how Red Balloon convinces you to buy. Its the first company I’ve seen that has used Facebook retargeting ads for shopping cart abandonment. I’m going to show you how it works and how you can implement it.

1. Browsing the Red Balloon website

I was about to buy a Red Balloon experience for my girlfriend before Christmas. I had filled out the shopping cart to buy a 1.5 hour spa & massage experience. However, before entering the checkout process, I ended up abandoning that purchase. I bought something else from another website.

I want to point out that its quite normal for a consumer to abandon a shopping cart. A consumer starts going through the process to buy an item. Before they check out and buy the item, a number of things can happen to cause them to not continue. They may get distracted, their credit card details might not work, they decide that its not what they want, they want to do some more research, they go to another website. For whatever reason, the consumer decides not to purchase.

I’ve looked at google analytics for various websites. I’ve seen statistics that show that the majority of consumers that complete transactions are ones that revisit. Its possible that they find exactly what they are looking for and buy the first time. If they are like me, they’ll go there several times, particularly if its an expensive purchase. In this case, I was looking at an item that was $185. For the bulk of the transactions & goal conversions I have seen, its on a repeat visit.

2. RedBalloon’s Facebook retargeting ad

The next day, I was on Facebook and noticed this Red Balloon ad in my news feed.

red balloon retargetting ad

Now I don’t “like” Red Balloon on Facebook. As in I haven’t clicked the “LIKE” button for the Red Balloon Facebook page. However, its managed to appear in my feed. What Red Balloon has done is retargeting or also known as remarketing. I hovered over the URL on the Facebook ad and then I clicked on it. I noticed it said “custom audience” in the URL. It looks like they have used Facebook custom audience tool which is for retargeting. I’ll explain below how it works.

After I click on the Facebook ad, it takes me back to the Red Balloon shopping cart page. Its been pre-filled for the spa package I had looked at previously and had in my shopping cart.

RedBalloon Shopping Cart abandonment page

This is why I thought the Facebook retargeting ad is brilliant. I had already spent a lot of time on the Red Balloon website but I didn’t checkout. The Facebook ad convinces me to come back with the discount and the messaging. Then it makes it really easy for me to continue my purchase because its the same checkout page I had abandoned earlier.

Red Balloon has to pay for the retargeting ad on Facebook. But its a much smarter & more effective way of advertising to me. As I’ve already been to the Red Balloon website previously. I’ve invested time and effort into perusing the website and was looking to make a purchase. I had spent several hours on the Red Balloon website. Red Balloon wants to re-engage and convince me to complete my purchase.

I’m going to show you how it works.

2. Retargeting customers using Facebook custom audience

Facebook custom audience is a relatively new feature for Facebook advertisers to do retargeting. Facebook gives advertisers a special tracking code to install on their website. Facebook will recognise that a user has previously visited your website and/or visited specific pages on your website. You can add these users to an audience group known as a “custom audience”. Then the user will be retargeted with a specific ad for that custom audience enticing them to come back.

Previously this feature was only available using external retargeting tools such as Perfect Audience and AdRoll. It uses Facebook ad exchange program and these were official partners of the program. These external tools can also do retargeting across the web, mobile and on twitter. Facebook custom audience now allows you to do this directly within Facebook and in the Facebook Power Editor for advertisers.

3. How to do retargeting using Facebook custom audience

I did some investigation to understand how it works. I’ve worked with Google remarketing tag, Facebook ads and the Facebook conversion pixel. It looks like it operates in a similar way. This is the process for setting up Facebook Custom Audience.

Getting Started With Custom_Audiences From Your Website

If you are a Facebook page admin, you go to your Facebook page. Then you do the following steps: Build an audience > ads manager > audiences

facebook custom audiencesYou will be presented with several options. We want to select “custom audience” which is the first option. “Lookalike audience” is an audience similar to people that like your Facebook page, that have visited your website or an existing custom audience. We’re only after the first one which is “custom audiences”.

create a custom audience vs lookalike groupIn the next screen, it says we can create an audience for everyone that visits the website or for those that visit specific pages on your website. To do the shopping cart abandonment, I would include the Shopping Cart URL but exclude the confirmation page for the purchase. This way I can target those who specifically do not complete the purchase.

After you select “create web remarketing pixel”, it generates some specific code for your website. You will need to get a developer to install this. Its a similar process to installing the Facebook conversion pixel for tracking Facebook ads.

create custom audience

The custom audience pixel code looks like this:

custom audience pixel

There are several ways to create a custom audience. These are:

  1. Using a customer list: Uploading a list of customer’s email addresses, phone numbers, Facebook ID’s, importing a list of emails from Mailchimp. 
  2. Website traffic 
  3. Mobile App activity: There’s some code you can install in your mobile app. You can create events such as “reach level 3″ in your game or “added item” to shopping cart in your eCommerce app.

website traffic

We want to select the option for “website traffic”.

On a side note, for option 1, create a customer list – its scary that an advertiser can upload your email, phone number, or Facebook User ID to Facebook for advertising purposes. I presume what happens is if they upload your email address, it matches the email you use to login via Facebook. Then it matches to your Facebook User ID. Then they can serve you very specific advertising just for you (and that audience group). Lets not even get into the privacy concerns of uploading your info to Facebook by an advertiser! I read that Facebook does anonymise your email using hashes but still a bit concerning.

Create audience
In the screenshot above, I’ve chosen the option for “people visiting specific web pages but not others”. I’ve included the URL for checkout, but excluded the thankyou confirmation page. This way I can isolate those that have been in the checkout page but not reached the thank you page. This is how I can create an audience for those that have abandoned their shopping carts.

I’ve used the URL contains “/checkout” as an example. Red Balloon uses https://www.redballoon.com.au/cart, so they would use “/cart”. I never made it through to the Red Balloon confirmation page. But lets assume your website uses “/thankyou”. We put this as the exclusion URL.

Another method to create a custom audience is to create two website custom audiences. One for those that have been to the checkout page, and another for those that have been to the thankyou confirmation page. Then you can exclude users that are also in the second group.

You need to give the audience name a title, so I’ve just used “WCA – Shopping cart abandonment”.

3. Breaking down Red Balloon’s Facebook ad

The retargeting ad that Red Ballon showed me was very clever. I’ll break it down below for you.

Red Balloon Annotated Facebook  Ad

1. Relevant text – “your cart is waiting”

They recognised that I had previously placed an item in their shopping cart. I was literally about to enter my credit card details but after reading the reviews, I decided that particular experience wasn’t ideal. It is very relevant to the last action I look on the website and speaks to me. They could have also used “Your experience is waiting”. They know I was going to buy and want me to come back.

2. Offered discount to incentivise purchase

This was what drew me to the ad. An offer of a $15 discount when I spend over $69. Its also a specific code “CTAB1214″, so they can match this to the completed purchase. Its probably not a unique code for me, but a code for the custom audience group. They probably use separate codes for different audiences. If they have several ads within the same audience group, they will have a different code for each ad. This will let them know which retargeting ad is more effective to that custom audience.

3. Call to action for “Shop Now”. 

Facebook has specific calls to action (CTA’s) available for ads. These range from “enquire now” to “shop now”. These CTA’s can’t be text that you write but are a set from which you can choose from. “Shop now” is the most relevant one for eCommerce websites. We use “enquire now” for the Tapmint website since its a consulting business. No one wants to “shop now” for a $50,000 mobile app. We wish!

4. Facebook graphic with FOMO text

I like the “Don’t miss out” text. I do like FOMO type text (fear of missing out) as it can be quite effective in advertising. I mean they’ve practically used it just not the “fear of” part!

Since you have already left previously and here’s an incentive to purchase, “don’t miss out” probably means “don’t miss out on this experience”. My guess is that its a generic reference to someone purchasing for themselves, not as a gift for someone else. Either way, the text is still pretty good.

If they could recognise my prior click stream was searching for “gifts for her > girlfriend”, and use the phrase “Don’t let your girlfriend miss out” that would be incredibly spooky & even higher converting. You could potentially create a custom audience for those that have visited “girlfriend” page and “cart” page.

5. Facebook graphic with product image from cart abandonment

In the right hand corner, there is a woman getting a massage. Now the purchase I was about to make was a spa and massage experience. I don’t know if they have a specific ad for this product since they have a number of different images and massage might just be a popular one. They could go to that next level of customisation / creepiness if they had just the massage graphic. This is possible as you can create a custom audience based on visiting a category page.

4. Link returns to shopping cart checkout page

After I click on the Facebook ad, it takes me back to the Red Balloon shopping cart, pre-filled for the spa package I had looked at previously. This is why I thought the Facebook retargeting ad is brilliant. What they have probably done is taken me back to https://www.redballoon.com.au/cart. It has recognised that I was there previously and had filled out the shopping cart.

RedBalloon Shopping Cart abandonment page

 

One thing that they could have done was include the discount or the promo code on this shopping cart page. Hence, I could see that the price had been discounted by $15 from $185 to $170. I did some digging around and went through the checkout process. Based on their checkout flow, the ability to enter a coupon appears several steps later in the checkout process.

Conclusion

I was really impressed with how Red Balloon did their retargeting on Facebook for shopping cart abandonment. Hence I wanted to do some more investigation to see how it was done. So I went through it step by step so you could implement it.

You could also go to that next level by creating custom audiences for each stage in your website conversion funnel.

I hope you like it and if you want to hear more, sign up to my email list to hear more updates. I’ve also written a Part 2 – How Red Balloon builds credibility and trust on the website to convince customers to buy. I’ll post it up tomorrow :)

I’m out like 2014,

Matthew Ho

Taking weekends off

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This weekend I did something unusual. I decided not to work on the weekend. Over the past two months, I’ve gradually been working less and less on the weekend. I use to work on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoon. In fact, for the past few weekends, I rarely worked with only a few minor tasks or urgent things to do.

On Friday afternoon, I got a call from my co-founder saying that he was tied up and could speak to me on Friday night. But I stated that it was the weekend and we could discuss it on Monday. It could wait. In addition, there was a project for a client I could have worked on and promised delivery first thing on Monday morning. Instead I communicated to them that we would deliver it on Monday. This gave us more time to regroup, recharge over the weekend and complete it.

I also received a new client enquiry at 6.46pm on Friday as I was leaving the office. Normally, I’d jump on it straight away. But in all these cases, there is a reasonable expectation from a customer that a business is closed on the weekend and will re-open on Monday.

With all these things, I realised that this was pressure that I was putting on myself.

When you are running your own business, its very tempting to work all the time. However its important to take a break and recharge. I asked a staff member if they could work on Sunday. I thought about it after I asked them. If I wasn’t going to work on the weekend then I shouldn’t get them to do it either. I would be taking their weekends away as well.

A decision not to work on the weekends

My co-founder and I had decided earlier this year that we would get our weekends back. By working on the week days, you can be more productive. This is because you know that you are limited to only those days and hours. If you know you can catchup or do more on the weekend, you can waste more time procrastinating or stretching something out. You can also start out the week feeling really tired. In the past, if I worked all weekend, then sometimes I would take Monday off, either whole day or half day to make up for it. I have that flexibility as I run my own business. But that flexibility is a double edged sword.

This weekend since I didn’t have to work, I decided not to check my emails. Ok, I admit that I took a brief glance! But then I decided that these were not that important that I had to answer them right now. In fact, if I looked at it any more, I would have probably gone ahead, created work for myself and answered them. Also, if you answer emails on the weekend, you build an expectation from the customer that you will be available on the weekend and out of hours.

Instead my weekend looked like this

With the free time, I decided to start a new blog on Saturday morning. I created a food blog called “Where’s My Sauce“. It took me about 1.5 hours to setup and publish my first post on visiting Mary’s City, which is a new burger takeaway store. I wrote about visiting there on Friday night because I wasn’t working. I was able to start a passion project. Something that I had been thinking about for weeks. I’ve always been interested in food, predominatly eating & trying new restaurants. It is a website & writing content, which are things that I get involved with normally during the week but I was doing this for fun.

I was also able to take a break and see my girlfriend, friends and family. I had dinner with my family. I went to karaoke with friends. I went to Bible Study & attended Church. I went to a Quentin Tarantino t-shirt exhibition. I had time to enjoy life. In addition, I came back on Monday refreshed and ready to work. It gave me enthusiasm to talk to people about my new food blog and the other interests I have. It gave me another perspective and dimension to my life because of the weekend activities.

Creating an optimal business environment

As an entrepreneur, you can create the kind of business you want to work in. You don’t have to work 24/7. You can choose to but thats a lifestyle choice in my opinion. If you have raised significant amounts of investment and you have a lot of external pressure, then maybe you feel obligated to work more hours to meet the expectations of a huge exit. But thats not the kind of business I want to run.

When I took time off over the weekend, I started considering how I could make money without being as involved. How I could make money in my sleep and have time to enjoy the things that I want to do. How could I make more money in less hours of the week. How I could work smarter, not harder.

For my business, Tapmint which is a consulting business, there are several paths to do so. These can include the following options:

  1. Increasing our rates
  2. Charging based on value as opposed to hourly
  3. Productized consulting
  4. Have products with recurring income, typically SAAS (software as a service business)

These options can move you off the hamster wheel of consulting. But this is a discussion for another day.

For now, I’m just looking forward to the next weekend when I’m going to a really big water slide with some friends, going to Cirque Du Soleil and to a friend’s bday :)

I’m out like the week day,

Matt Ho.

How to prepare for the iTunes Connect 2014 Christmas Holiday Shutdown

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During the Christmas Holiday Period, the iTunes Connect store shuts down. This has an impact on app developers and app marketers. Its also the time when the app store experiences peak downloads during the year. I’ve written a blog post over at the Tapmint blog (my consultancy) which explains in more detail why it closes down and how you can prepare for it. Read more here.

Best motivating speech in a movie award

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Easily one of my favourite speeches. Everything can be summed up into this: “its a game of inches”. Whether its startups, football, life – the person that’s willing to go that extra inch will succeed.