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Mini series: Lessons for success, learned from my biggest blunder

This blog has become more personal than I intended at the start. I have rewritten it a total of 3 times because each time I couldn't follow it, I went from one thing to another. Only when I wrote from my own experience, how for me the past twelve months have brought new lessons, a clear story came on paper. I hope you can benefit from it. I want to show you that although a lot has gone well, we/I am absolutely not an automatic success. It is above all personal because I was the biggest advocate of the action that went wrong.

3 successes thanks to 1 mega miss 

In the past 12 months we have had a few visible successes and misses. If I count them I come up with 3 successes. From the launch of our drop off network to Save your Bouquet and finally the launch of with the help of an e-book. On the other side are the failures. Of course, little things go wrong every day. For example, we regularly have challenges at specific sorting locations for various reasons. Also, every day there is a driver somewhere who has a breakdown or drives into an accident. This is the reality of a company with over 700 drivers.

The real miss of the last 12 months was a much bigger and more visible one and one that hit me hard myself. It's about the crowdfunding campaign for CO2 free delivery throughout the Netherlands. I went all in and visibly committed to this because I believed in it. Was it a success? Well, no. Yet I want to dissect it together to see what went wrong and how this has contributed to the three successes above. 

How it began - Entrepreneurial school aka practice

Halfway through 2019 I was feeling particularly confident. We were making serious strides with our most ambitious project to date, fully CO2 free delivery in 2 years, and to reinforce this I personally thought it would be a nice idea to set up a small crowdfund campaign to show the world that CO2 free delivery was relevant to everyone and individuals were also willing to pay for it. 

Let me start with the fact that almost everyone said to me that this was not feasible or they went one step further and just immediately declared me crazy. Still, I couldn't imagine that with a monthly reach of many hundreds of thousands of people through our deliveries, our social media channels and the media attention we have, we couldn't raise a relatively small amount of money. We were talking about €100,000 while the total investment required was approximately €11 million.

In my stubbornness I attracted quite a few people so in just under 3 months a crowdfunding campaign was set up including a launch event with almost 300 guests. A super fun event (if I may say so myself) with various food trucks, a guest speaker and my own far too nervous face on stage where I announced the campaign. Behind me, of course, was a large meter showing the current status of donations. In the audience were investors, partners, friends and family. While I was standing there, a press release was sent to over 700 journalists, including a specially made campaign video.

We had done everything, or so we thought. There was even a pre-collected list of email addresses (voluntary) and an online Facebook community for Future Logistics (name of the campaign). Not only did we put our name, and mine, but we also invested quite a bit to set it all up. After all, we wanted to make a good impression on the world with our wonderful campaign. 

End result after 30 days: €25.000 raised, not enough to buy even 1 electric bus, and a red face from the slap I got in my face. 

There you are with your big mouth. Super entrepreneur Sam! Well not exactly. Fortunately, I'm not someone who sits with the pack for very long and I decided to learn from it. These lessons I would like to share with you and so you can not only benefit from it but also see that adversity brings opportunities. 

What did I learn from this miss?

Lesson 1: Ego vs Market.

First of all, I was reminded that I do not know everything and that it is not always wise to do something that nobody believes in. As a race entrepreneur it is sometimes very motivating to do something that nobody believes in, but then you have to go for at least 100%. I still had a company to run and we didn't exactly have a big budget for the campaign so we had very limited help. A large part of the work had to be done by people who also had full working days, including myself. At the same time, there are things that just can't be done. There is a lot of research done on customer behavior regarding sustainability and e-commerce. It mainly shows that the customer wants it but does not want to pay for it. Seems pretty clear to me Sam!

Lesson 2: Preparation.

I also learned a lot about the importance of preparation. Preparation is key in an online campaign. Whether it's a crowdfunding campaign or a marketing campaign, it all boils down to the same thing. You want to persuade as many people as possible to buy your product. In our case, that product was a new service. We took far too little time beforehand to ask interested people for their email addresses. In online campaigns, email addresses are key because they give you a direct connection to the potential customer/ donor.

Lesson 3: Timing and momentum.

I thought timing was everything and in a way it is. Personally, I just didn't believe that "later" could be either. I didn't believe in a campaign in the fourth quarter. Simply because we would then be busy with the Sinterklaas and Christmas rush and, at the same time, because the outside world would probably be spending all the money on those same holidays. Who is waiting to sponsor a logistical party that, if all goes well, will have a record-breaking month?

However, what was not accepted by me was that wrong timing does not necessarily mean you should not do it, but simply postpone it. I don't like postponing so we didn't do it. In this case, a campaign in Q1 would have been much better. We would have had much more time for the preparation, described in point 2. At the same time, timing is also momentum. It is easier to stay in the flow than to get into it. So you want to grab the momentum of success as quickly as possible and not let it go. Our momentum with the crowdfund campaign was gone after 24 hours. After that we had to fight for every euro.

Lesson 4: Platform.

The choice of your platform is crucial. Can you use large platforms where the reach is already great or build something yourself? We chose to build our own because the big crowdfund pages weren't exactly set up for a service. With our own platform we were also completely free to do what we wanted. Disadvantage? You have to take care of the legitimacy yourself and the reach (see next point) is entirely on your own plate.

Lesson 5: Reach.

If you have everything right, you still need reach. And not just any reach but reach among your target group. If all goes well you have chosen your target group based on your research and you can start targeting them. Did we have this too? Yes, we had chosen 3 target groups and we focused on them with our communication, but did we reach these people? Limited. Our channels were very broad. We used our own site where thousands of people come daily but we also had a lot of press attention. However, this was also mainly focused on e-commerce. As a result, we hardly reached one of our main target groups, young parents and especially mothers. Of course young parents work there too. But there are much better channels. 

What did we do with it?

Not everything we did in the other campaigns was planned. I wish we were that perfect, but if we were I wouldn't have made a mistake with the crowdfund campaign. That's why we can keep them next to the successes to see what it did. In this mini series, I'm writing 3 pieces about the campaigns that became a success partly because of the crowdfund campaign failures. Today first up:

Part One of the mini series "Lessons for Success", "Launching our Drop-off Network".

Click on the link to read Part 1.

Have fun doing it!


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