Peter Ward, Co-Founder and CEO at the world’s largest social travel network WAYN.com (Where Are You Now?) spoke at the Figaro Digital Travel, Leisure & Entertainment Seminar. He tells us what he’s learned during a decade on social media’s frontline
1. Start with a dream
But be flexible about how you’re going to achieve it.
2. Identify a clear problem to solve
“That sounds obvious but it’s amazing how often people don’t focus on this,” says Ward. It’s easy to be swept away by a cool-sounding creative idea, but forget that it needs to address a specific problem or need. “Really focus in on that and ask if there’s a market for it.”
3. Do at least one thing really well
It’s easy to become a jack of all trades, says Ward, but to succeed you need to master one. “Identify the single most important thing you can do: the one thing that’ll make everything else easier. For us at WAYN.com, everything is focused on where travellers can go next. Be really clear when you set out your vision or your goal for a campaign. Always have focus.”
4. Aim for product/market fit
“A lot of people have great ideas but haven’t identified how they can scale them up and create a viable business,” says Ward. He advises thinking about your ‘minimum viable product’. “That means the minimum you can do to ensure you’re sufficiently viable to then scale. People in the past would build stuff and have all the bells and whistles. Then when they launched they discovered that the product was never going to work in the first place. They could have found that out if they’d launched with just the bare bones six months earlier.”
5. Test and iterate
Back when the BlackBerry was first in development members of a focus group were asked if they preferred the pink model or the yellow one. Responses duly noted, participants were then offered a free handset. Everyone chose the black one. “Look at what your customers are actually doing,” says Ward. “Not what they say they’re doing.”
6. Innovate and imitate
Not everything requires you to re-invent the wheel. Don’t be afraid to learn from the leaders in your market, particularly in areas that aren’t central to your business. “What you have to focus on from an innovation point of view is what is core to your business, and make sure it’s distinct.”
7. People influence people
“This has been the core driver of our business at WAYN.com. We’ve grown to over 20 million users for free. No marketing cost, no acquisition cost. That’s because we’ve found a way to get our users to recommend our service to others, which has also generated a huge amount of valuable data.”
8. Get the right people on the bus
Any organisation is the sum of its parts. WAYN.com’s recruitment strategy, says Ward, has been to hire smart and able people at the beginning of their careers, and to allow more experienced workers to take the organisation to the next level. His advice: don’t hire experts too early in your company’s development and give people the time and space to impact your business.
9. If it doesn’t work the first time that doesn’t mean it won’t work
Or to put it another way, never give up.
10. Have fun
“If you’re working 10 or 12 hours a day trying to become the best at what you do, why do it in something you’re not interested in? Life’s too short not to follow your passions.”