'1871' CEO: The market is studying you

'1871' CEO: The market is studying you

by Karl Sorensen

Like many of the iconic entrepreneurs of our time, Howard Tullman makes his first impression with his clothes. Last week at the Abbey Resort in Lake Geneva, WI, surrounded by a roomful of stoic business leaders in crisp, European-tailored suits, 1871’s CEO whimsically jogged to the stage in faded jeans and Hawaiian shirt. Nevertheless, silence still followed him to the podium. Everyone wanted to hear what the most casual person in the room had to say.

Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871

Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871

Tullman was the keynote speaker at the 'Inspiration for Innovation' Conference, sponsored by the German-American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest. Speaking before a select crowd of some 60 entrepreneurs, business leaders and potential investors, the engine behind Chicago's dynamic startup incubator gave his unique perspective on contemporary trends, industry trajectories and the outlook for opportunities.  Here are some insights he shared:

-- FOCUS -- “Niches are the name of the game. The crowd is useless, so always focus on the niche.” The masses will always gravitate to life’s short-lived absurdities and fads, he explained. So, if you narrow your focus “on the people who are highly influential,” your product will transcend socio-economic borders and stand a much better chance of success;

-- CONNECT -- “Right now, there is an internet trifecta; content, community and commerce. Connecting digitally with interactive consumers by providing compelling and relevant content creates valuable, sustainable and extensible communities"; 

-- CUSTOMIZE -- “If you don’t send messages in the right context, people don’t care. And if you’re doing traditional advertising, you’re wasting money.”  Today, people expect to engage with the marketplace in very specific ways.  Vendors must provide engaging, relevant and customized content at the right time, in the right place, he said.

-- STAND OUT -- Before the internet, your competitors were those only within your industry.  Designers competed with other designers.  Specialty contractors competed with other specialty contractors, and so on.  Now, with the ever-encompassing connectivity of the internet and the relentless barrage of advertising, you are now competing for attention with everything.  “We live in a world where consumers have unlimited choices.”  So, the challenge now is to figure out a way to separate your company from the rest;

-- INTELLIGENCE -- “Personal data is the oil of the digital age; tell me what you’re interested in and I’ll tell you who you are," he said. "Society is moving towards transparency and efficacy.”  The feedback loop between advertising and commerce has never been more accessible than it is today. When a consumer watches a movie from Netflix, for instance, the video provider will then suggest similar films for future viewing. Over time, Netflix learns your personality and gain the ability to predict your next purchase.  BUT the video market is not the only industry doing this, Tullman explained. It is being done on a global scale with supermarkets, credit card companies, ticket vendors, online retailers and more. And if you are not gathering this information about your customers, rest assured that your competitors are;

-- GET SMART -- Today’s culture is continually connected, from social media and the internet to sensor technologies and smart phones. Intelligent devices are even transforming everyday items like forks and trash cans to anticipate our needs. Sound absurd? Go online and check out 'haptic forks' and 'big belly' solar trash cans. So, Tullman advised attendees not to dismiss such potential opportunities out of hand. Intelligent upgrades of just about everything may soon be possible. So, remain connected to your consumers, and provide ways for them to stay connected with their environment, he added.

Stay tuned for more coverage from the 'Inspiration for Innovation" conference.

Started in 2012 and named for the extraordinary year of rebirth after the Great Chicago Fire, '1871' encourages the city's "brightest digital designers, engineers and entrepreneurs to shape new technologies, disrupt old business models, and reset the boundaries of what’s possible." To learn more, go to www.1871.com. 



Karl Sorensen

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