Archive for July, 2009

Tuesday Push –

Tuesday Push -

The Tuesday Push is a bi-weekly cooperative effort by bloggers to help get the word out about the chosen web service in a co-ordinated way. This time around it’s

“MyTown provides local information about each Irish town, such as weather forecast, news, events, attractions, maps, and business listings (including accommodation and entertainment).”

I usually take a slightly different approach to the Tuesday Push and try to highlight things about the web app or service that works, and things that don’t. This week is no different. Hopefully the guys behind MyTown will find this helpful and constructive feedback. That’s certainly my intention.

The Strategy – The Good Parts

First off, the strategy. Lets look at what’s good about the approach of MyTown.

It’s operating in a narrow channel.

Having a niche is a great. It means you can focus on delivering exactly what that small set of people want, usually resulting in a very focused and specific tool. But sometimes the niche is a little small, reducing the overall potential of the business. To counter this, MyTown are providing hundreds of narrow channels, each one focused on a small community. This has the potential of encouraging people who live locally to gain a voice online.

They’re asking for money.

Straight off these guys are setup to take payments online. Too many web services launch with a ‘wait and see’ approach. Hoping that they’ll be able to figure out a business model at some stage down the line. This is unsustainable without funding. So a better way is to start charging users from the get go. MyTown have taken this approach. Fair play.

It’s a manageable amount of content.

Whether it’s user generated, imported, scraped, or hand written there’s a manageable amount of content on the site. Each town has a reasonable amount of sections and sub sections to fill data into them. But with little micro communities constantly submitting content, this should ensure that the content grows steadily with the user base.

It’s a franchisable scalable business.

If it works in Ireland it can work anywhere. A lot of entrepreneurs use their home town as a testing bed for something with a potentially wider appeal. If MyTown becomes a successful viable business, then there’s no reasopn why it wouldn’t work in the UK or anywhere else.

It’s up and running.

It’s easy to criticise from the sidelines. To point out other people’s mistakes and feel smug when it doesn’t go right. But you’ll never get anywhere with that attitude. It’s dispicable. These guys from MyTown have put their heart on their sleeve and launched something. Now that they’re out there they can tweak, improve, test, tweak, and improve again. All under the eyes (and with the input) of their users. This is the only way to get things done. By actually doing it.

The Strategy – The Not So Good Parts

Despite all this positivity, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Here’s a few of my thoughts on their strategy and how it might be improved.

Who is this website for?

I can’t figure out if this website is for locals living in these towns or for tourists visiting it. I think this is a crucial decision as I don’t think you can provide a great service for both of these people in the one place. They’ve got totally different needs. For example, if I’m a local I don’t need a Google Map showing me where in Ireland I live. And if I’m a tourist, I don’t need to know what cars are for sale in the area.

Having a defined target market is absolutely critical, and I’m not sure who that is here.

There’s huge competition in this space.

This is a pretty cluttered market at the moment. Listings websites are a dime a dozen. There’s,,,,, for property and for cars. All of these sites command huge audiences and focus on one specific niche. MyTown is trying to cover all of this under one roof. Very risky.

Lots of features but not enough data.

MyTown offers a large variety of sections and listings for each town, yet a lot of them have very little content. For instance, the gallery sections in may of the towns I looked at were completely empty. And the same with the events calendar, not a lot going on.

I would almost cut some of these features and focus on nailing just a couple of them first. Doing it better than anyone else. Once you get a small part of it right, grow it out and slowly reintroduce some of these additional features. It’s all about having a critical mass of users, built up slowly over time.

What’s compelling me to stay?

MyTown seem to be doing a lot of things reasonably well, but nothing stands out that would keep me here and get me coming back. There’s no compelling data, local community or a killer feature enticing me to revisit the site.

There’s no clear call to action on the homepage either. I don’t know what to do next.

To encourage people to visit, and then to keep coming back I think there needs to be at least one very compelling reason. Whether that’s the sum of all the information about my town or something else entirely, it needs to be dressed up and presented in a way that gives a sense of community. Because the best thing MyTown has got going for them is the narrow channel of each town.

I’d focus on that, and add on the rest later.

Comments Closed

Don’t Be Different – Be Yourself

Desiring to be Different... and Failing.

I’m thinking of buying an iPhone. One of the new 3GS’s with video recording, improved battery life and all those lovely bells and whistles…

Now I know I’m a little late to the party on this, and everyone in the tech industry already has theirs, but the truth is, I’ve been waiting for an iPhone with a better camera before I dove in and signed myself up for an 18 month contract with O2.

One thing has been bugging me a little over the decision to buy. Something holding me back, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it – until now. So here goes.

Staying Ahead

The thing is, I love being ahead of the posé and I love having something different. I always want to be the one that has the gadget no one else has. The coolest TV or the fastest broadband. Whatever it is, if I haven’t got the best one, I’d often prefer not to have one at all.

It’s pretty shameful I know, but I’ve always been like this. Recently I’ve been thinking about why I crave it. And I think the answer is that I want to be seen as a leader and not a follower. That’s not so strange right? I mean who doesn’t? But what I’m coming around to now is that it’s not about being different or special. That’s not important. It’s about being yourself. So whether that’s wacky and unusual, or completely mainstream, the key is being honest with yourself.

Mainstream versus Alternative

I’m coming around to the idea that if I want to be alternative and quirky, then that’s what I should do. Similarly, if I fancy going mainstream and moving with the crowd then that’s what I should do too. So long as in both cases, I’m being true to myself and not making decisions on what other people think.

So, if I want to buy an iPhone, I shouldn’t have a problem that everyone else already has one. I should recognise that Apple have made a killer device that’s head and shoulders above the rest. So despite the fact that it may be cool and different to buy a Pre or a Hero, I should embrace the iPhone because it’s the best phone in the world. Who cares if everyone else agrees with that!

The Little Voice

But it’s not that easy, because there’s this little voice inside my head saying “Hold out for the Hero, it’ll be awesome”. – That’s just me sitting on the fence again. I really wish that voice would disappear and let me get on with purchasing that iPhone I want so badly.

The point here is that regardless of whether you want to do something amazing, buy something outrageous or be something totally different, or whether you want to follow the crowd, fit in, and play it safe it’s all absolutely fine. So long as you do it for your own reasons. Being different is great, it gets you recognised. But if that means having an inferior phone (or whatever else you’re considering), then maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Now watch me buy that iPhone.

Comments Closed

New Webstrong Web App – TrackPath


Earlier today over on the Webstrong Blog I launched the first phase of TrackPath. A simple web app to help you track your quotes and proposals. Below is a copy of the post. You can find the original one here.

Today we’re launching the first phase of a little app called TrackPath. Available at, this simple tool lets you track your quotes and proposals. It measures their success rate and provides meaningful statistics to help you make better decisions so you can write more effective proposals in the future.

We’re quietly excited about this project because it scratches an itch we had in our own business and also because we managed to launch it less than 10 days after the idea came to mind.

The Pain

During a recent seminar, I (momentarily!) lost concentration on what was being said and instead started to think about all the proposals I had out at the moment. I tried to recall which ones I needed to follow up on and which ones still needed to be sent. But, I couldn’t remember them all.

I then started to wonder about proposals that had gone out in the past. How many had I won? How many had I lost? If so, why did I lose them? Was I too expensive? Did I not follow up fast enough? Did I have the wrong approach? Was it a cold lead?

All these questions came flooding in and I realised I didn’t have any answers. Moreover I had no easy way to get the answers because I wasn’t tracking the success /failure rate of my proposals.

The 10 Day App

So, I quickly scribbled down a basic wireframe for a simple app that would let me track my proposals.

The next day I booted up Photoshop and started turning the raw sketches into proper designs. I built 5 screens in all and made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t add any new features to these designs until I had launched the app as was laid out here.

To put myself under some pressure I set a launch date for July 6th, just 9 days later, and I setup a Twitter account, registered a domain and launched a teaser site announcing the project and launch date.

I handed the designs over to Phil, who started slicing and dicing the screens into proper code.

Meanwhile I began configuring the application framework. Things like login, registration, authentication, password reminders, etc.

Once I was all done, Phil had the dashboard coded up in HTML and CSS and it was ready to be ‘turned on’ with data driven content.

I quickly built a couple of database tables (one for users and the other to store the proposals). And then started coding up the PHP and SQL statements to pull everything in.

Each time I finished a page, Phil would have another UI screen ready to go,. And it went on like this until we had all 5 screens built.

The Business Model

No project is worthwhile without a business model, and while I accept that this is a very simple app I do think it’ll be a valuable addition to any small business in the B2B space and I think it’d probably be reasonable enough to charge a small fee for the app at some point in the future.

But for now, it’s completely free until we gauge people’s interest and see what the response is like.

Moving Forward

TrackPath is a single user app. But it’s very likely that we’ll flesh this out in the future to include multi-user accounts so each rep can each access their own proposals, with a managerial account overseeing these proposals and tracking the performance of each sales rep. We’ve a hundred different ideas about where to take this new project but we’ll carefully consider each one before including it in TrackPath. Because at it’s core it’s a simple app, and that’s how we want it to stay.

Please check it out at, we’d love any feedback you might have.