Imagine building an amazing and powerful product that would help people and businesses, but you have fewer users than Zune (Microsoft’s discontinued answer to the iPod).
You ultimately know that product value is determined by your customer behavior around the product.
The easiest way to fail is to run on the “if we build it, they will come” mindset. The hardest part is early stage traction and retaining an audience.
Most startups envision Dropbox growth instantly after they finish building their product. They may start believing that if they “growth hack” the audience with a few different tactics then they will be able to bring thousands of eyeballs to their product.
However, building traction and growth is a process. Even though growth hacking is a fast way to scale, each hack requires a well-thought out plan and process.
Here are the three components startups can focus on for early stage growth and customer acquisition:
Reach: Why build something great if nobody will see it?
We’ve heard many times that all it takes is matching the right message with the right audience. But how do we amplify this effect? We have to first decide what solution path we are going to take.
As mentioned above, what’s the point of building a world-class product when you can’t seem to get eyeballs all over it?
Here are a few questions to consider when matching your message with your audience:
A. Will you be reaching out to your audience directly through an outreach process?
B. Will you build something and expect people to spread the word virally?
C. Do you know what your audience currently consumers? If you do, make it a goal to get involved with anything that influences them. I.E. if they one read Forbes, make sure you are a contributor or you are getting quoted on a regular basis.
How do you check your process and make it work effectively?
Let’s start with the “who?” – and how you can go about finding your target audience
The best way to determine your audience is through a series of in-person interviews. The goal is to be able to understand your customer better than they understand themselves. Then use your product to bridge the gap between your customer and what they are looking for.
Here are other ways you can go about understanding who your customer is:
A. Facebook Ads and Audience Insights
C. Google Adwords
After the “who” is crystal clear – you will hunt for what influences them
Who do they listen to?
What do they read?
Where do they gather?
I’ve found that conference websites (based on my niche) are a great resource. I look at their speaker lists and add these people to my influencer list.
This strategy does all the grunt work for me. You know if a speaker is invited to a conference, the audience is already interested in them and what they have to offer.
Better still, the conference website has their name, website, and Twitter handle listed right on the page. From there, it’s easy to begin commenting on their posts and engaging with these influencers on social media.
Once you have the influencers, you can reach out to them and involve yourself with anything they are affiliated to. This can be as simple as helping them write a guest blog post on a topic that was already on their “to-do” list, or inviting them to interview on your podcast, or having them speak at your event.
For me, hosting webinars is the most effective way to involve influencers.
Most influencers are on the hunt to brand themselves in every way they can, so give them an audience that will help them shine!
Once you find the influencers, then find out what publications you want to get involved with to strengthen the relationship with the influencers.
Bonus Tip: Reach out to relevant industry leaders and ask them to answer one question.. Once you compile a list of quotes from different industry leaders, merge them into one content piece. Then ask the leaders to share it. If they find value in it, they will. When quality content intersects with influencers you’ve got gold! (Now you see why there are over 2M results for “what the top [blank] think about [blank]”)
Finally, use a combination of Google Searches, Similar Web Searches, Feedly and BuzzSumo to find out what resonates most with your audience. This is the last step of the process for fueling your content engine and getting it going!
“If you can acquire customers in a channel your competitors are ignoring, that’s a huge competitive advantage.” -Jason Cohen, WP Engine
Retention: Getting attention and keeping are very different things.
Now that you are getting the eyeballs you want on your product, that’s actually the easy part. This is just like so many things you’ve done before, whether it is your first job or your first date, you must learn how to keep and maintain what you caught.
The “reach” isn’t the toughest part but keeping the retention rate high is. There are tons of competitors out there and that is why marketing moves fast.
Determine your testing programs beforehand, then hypothesize on the impact they will make, and will there be a compounding effect?
Here are a few metrics you will want to keep in mind:
A. Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)
B. Lifetime Value (LTV)
C. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
These metrics will determine the efficiency of the testing programs. You’ll know if you need to go through a pivot or keep the current campaign going. Once the customer is acquired, here are a few ways you can keep them entertained:
A. Contests work like a charm – Most startups stray away from contests, believing they will only attract the people who want the prize and not the people who are into their product. This is why it is crucial for the prize to compliment the product. The contest can be around a value-add on the products sold by the startup. I.E. A special one-on-one call with their favorite industry expert.
B. Nurture Email Campaigns – The best type of nurture campaigns leave the audience anticipating your next email. I’ve seen that “10 Commandment” series work well. Each email would provide value and have a large call-to-action that keeps the prospect moving towards the end of the funnel.
C. Tours and Small Events – When you help others build their network, they will become loyal to you. If your prospects see value in your network they will want to jump on the bandwagon. One way of carrying this out is through events. When you create events, you’ll be able to bring partners, attendees and customers all in one place. Then add the experts to your mix and you have a successful event!
Revenue: Attention doesn’t pay the bills, but an audience does.
If leads aren’t converting and loyalty isn’t building then the revenue is going down too.
When it comes to measuring revenue, it isn’t about the Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) or optimizing your ads.
If a customer likes your product they will purchase from you whether your call-to-action button is red, blue or green.
While looks does play a huge part in sales, it isn’t a direct measure of revenue. The amount of revenue depends on if your customers are reaching their goals with your product.
How many advocates do you have?
What is going to keep them going?
Here is how you can estimate revenue when your startup is pre-revenue:
Conduct market research to learn about your competitor’s sales figures
Identify ways that your product is better
Consider advantages your competition has over your business
Conservatively estimate the revenue your business is likely to secure
It is common to use 33% of maximum revenue as an estimate if two competitors are equal and one is new to market.
Now you’re ready to create the next great product – that everyone hears about.
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