People are used to paying for software from Intuit or Microsoft or whatever; offering to build (tiny! like, 5-minute one-offs!) features _just for them_ sort of blows their minds. And those features almost always make the product better, usually in a way that I would never have thought of.
I’ve also had pretty great success with an old-school hack: I use an affiliate marketing scheme to turn our most enthusiastic users into mini sales reps. For every new customer they can sign up that converts, I credit their account with a few free months. It totally won’t scale, but it helps me grow into markets where I can’t physically travel out and do sales in person.
How did you manage to do that without making it impossible to add major new functionality to your app? Did you nail the basic functionality of the app from the starting gate and go straight into maintenance/feature-tweaking mode?
meticulous hand-holding through the first few weeks usually convinces them to stick around
This must have created some awfully high expectations from users, which is a double-edged sword. Were you able to keep up with expectations when you got enough users to sustain the business?
It seems worth noting that this can also be a dangerous strategy. It's really easy to fall into the trap of giving each customer exactly what they ask for, rather than learning what they actually need. If gone unchecked, this is the sort of product strategy that easily leads to disastrous results for product usability and experience.
This isn't to say that as a business you're always (or ever) better at knowing what your customers want than the customer is; but you are in a strategic position to be able to understand what similar customers are asking for, and distill that down to the core problem that needs to be solved.
I'm sure this isn't the extent that the original comment was aiming for, but it felt worth expanding on this since the whole topic is about early products getting users. A key component of that is ensuring you're building a product that people want to use.
Best case scenario you get to build the feature once, based on a spec that fits the needs of a larger pool of customers. This reduces the overhead of more customers inevitably requesting similar features weeks or months down the line.
Worst case scenario you still wind up releasing a feature that only one customer is going to use. At least you've tried your best to fold more customers' needs into a single unit of work. Better to have asked and found no takers than to have not asked and wound up with repeated requests for similar features once it's too late to combine the work.
do you know any product/company examples where this was/is the case?
- Windows Mobile (pre WP8): Customers may have asked for a mobile computer, but most did not actually want a weak version of their computer crammed onto a tiny screen. Apple and Google helpfully showed them what customers actually wanted with iOS and Android.
- Blockbuster: Customers may have asked for a large selection of movies for rent, but they didn't want a physical location they could drive to and browse through. Netflix gave people a new option (multiple new options)
- MySpace: "Customers" may have asked for customized/personalized profiles, but they didn't mean a dumping ground of random html and css that eliminates any sense of uniformity, brand, identity, etc. Facebook gave people the personal touch they actually wanted without compromising the experience.
Now, these are colossal failures, and we can endlessly debate whether you believe these failures were the deciding factor in their respective products. But I think we can probably agree that, at the very least, failure to cater to the actual customer need (instead of what they simply ask for) was a major flaw in all of these cases. And these are just a few examples.
Also, I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but you cut my quote at an interesting spot. I'm not trying to suggest that a business should not cater to its customers' requests. Rather, that it should not do so at the expense of trying to understand the need behind the request.
The result is completely unmaintainable. You can't change anything because every piece of data has accidentally acquired special meaning.
"You can't remove the dog_shave_preferences column! It's how we distinguish between customers who were added before June 2013 and customers who were added after!"
The work to add a customer whose data doesn't trigger the right special case logic starts to be seen as a "new feature" rather than fixing bugs.
"Hold on, this is a fundamentally new set of requirements! We've never had a customer before who had the Bloop module enabled and had a logo bigger than 5k and wasn't AcmeCorp! We should have been aware of this new requirement before the customer went live."
The trap is how quickly people adapt to this kind of thinking, to the point where normal engineering starts to feel weird to them. I once quite seriously suggested creating a database table to record which customers a certain feature was broken for and had it shot down because people thought the byzantine special-case tests it would have replaced, which had no other purpose, constituted valuable business logic. The ideas and conditions we had invented to track the limitations of our code had started to feel like real business distinctions that they couldn't imagine living without.
Suffice it to say that eventually we slowed down to the point where declaring a feature freeze didn't feel like a drastic change to anyone, including our customers, and embarked on a substantial rewrite. It didn't end well. I've encountered another example that was a lot more sane (people knew they were doing the wrong thing all along and didn't actually start to believe in the reality of the distinctions they wrote into code) but it suffered from the same maintainability problems.
A) Having users, with high expectations
B) Not having users
Problem A is a way better problem to have. Of course, no business would intentionally try to cultivate a user base of picky, high maintenance pain-in-the-necks. Nor would it be anyone's long term goal to be hacking on user requested features. But if those things bring users, easy trade. It's hard to think of any problem that would be more important than the problem of not having users.
There's also a difference between holding your customer's hand and building unsustainable expectations. The only expectation you've built by holding their hand through the onboarding process is that you care about your customers and want them to have a great experience. That's exactly the expectation you want your customers to have. Many startups have been incredibly successful at acquiring customers from incumbent businesses with more features and possibly cheaper products, by simply caring more about people.
At the end of the day there are people using your product (presumably). The more those people feel you care about them and their problems, the more likely they are to give you a little space as your business gets off the ground. Maybe they're willing to tolerate a few minutes of downtime, the occasional bug, or missing feature, because they know that they're always going to be treated well by your team.
Cultivating strong customer relationships is a great element in any business, and it's virtually a requirement in modern B2B.
Having a rabid crowd that wants your head on a pike comes to mind. But if that doesn't apply, then your advice is sound.
As much as possible, yes. The app is essentially a point-of-sale system with a bunch of reporting features bolted on; nailing that core POS functionality in a way that kept it easy to build new reporting features on top was always my top priority.
> Were you able to keep up with expectations when you got enough users to sustain the business?
This is the situation I'm in now, actually -- most of my early users are in a nice steady-state, but I have lost a few who weren't happy with the drop in support as I slowed down on their specific, special-snowflake requests. All of them were also early adopters of the affiliate marketing scheme, though, so they've basically signed up their replacements already, and those users are entering into an app that's in a much more steady state, and have expectations set accordingly.
It's not a perfect outcome, and you're 100% right to call out those high expectations as a potential problem -- but as problems go I find that it's better to have demanding users than non-existant ones :)
You have to be flexible with how you classify your product. If you are stuck in "maintenance\small tweaks only" mindset you will constantly find excuses to say "no".
New features will break your model. It is your job to try and figure out if it is worth the cost. I typically use the "common customer" argument. If this would be useful to the "common customer" it gets serious consideration.
On hand holding:
Most people will "get" your product and stop calling you. There will be some who call all the time. You can use these calls to help direct your work eg: "I'm getting 15 calls a week about username\password issues, it is time to rethink the login\password reset process."
I don't know the market/business, but why not? isn't that what Dropbox does at scale?
People accumulating so much credit to the point that they can't spend it is a non issue in that referral (like Dropbox) is meant to be scaling wide, for scaling tall you need a re-sellers system (like say what Amazon or OVH are offering).
It's like the whole "you owe bank money" story. If you owe the back $1,0000 you have a problem, if you owe them 1 million, they have a problem.
In my experience, if you're that startup's largest client, they'll bend over backwards to help you succeed.
Why wouldn't it scale? It is a great way to make virality.
1) Build a landing page describing the problem and your solution, in terms of emotional value benefits
2) Drive paid traffic to the landing page. Get at least 20 signups. Boom, you're now at 20 users. Paid traffic = Pay Per Click ads. Try Facebook, Reddit, Quora, Google AdWords.
3) Build the thing. Write an email to your list describing the process of how you built the thing and how you found their names.
4) Cross post that very same narrative to discussion forums: Facebook, HN, Reddits, Indie Hackers[forum], wherever.
5) Search on google for one of those "web app directories" or "new startup directories". Block off two hours and painstakingly submit your app to every one.
6) Look for podcasts in your niche. Email all of them and invite yourself on as a guest
7) Look for influencers in your niche. Email all of them and ask them if they'd like a complimentary copy of your product (access to your webapp, etc) in exchange for a testimonial. If the influencers are all pay-to-play, find people who are active but on the verge of influencer status.
8) Send to your friends and family.
9) Post an ad for a usability test on Craigslist. You'll learn a ton and maybe get some quality users.
10) Post a Delighted.com or similar Net Promoter Score survey to your user base. You'll find the "holes" in your bucket that are causing you to leak users rather than compound them.
This seems more effective if your primary market is the startup crowd. It could also be distracting if they're not the target demographic and you overvalue their feedback.
This has all been formulated in great strong detail in the book Crossing The Chasm. Maybe if you are implementing a 'commodity' service that is innovative in absolutely no way whatsoever, you can skip the technologists, but there is such a strong community of online entrepreneurs with a great support ecosystem that I recommend everyone take advantage of it. The only problem is that you have to pay to play – not in terms of money, but in terms of contribution (sharing what you know and helping others). In this case definitely, you really reap what you sow in the karma bank.
If I built something cool that I genuinely believed one of my friends would find useful then I would wait for them to seek me out with their problem and just give them perpetual free use with no strings attached and write it off as marketing.
The beta testing strategy others have mentioned also worked for me. But instead of recruiting from beta directories, I asked people in my target market (so, asking for beta testers on Photoshop user forums). I put a long beta signup form/survey on my website, partly to learn about my potential customers, but also to weed out people who wouldn't give detailed feedback.
My best growth hack was giving those beta testers a discount code / link to share with their friends at launch. That encouraged them to talk about my software (and talk about the secret project they'd been helping with!) with their own communities. My beta testers also got a credit in the About box. I wish I could claim it was a carefully constructed marketing strategy, but I'd just thought it was a nice way to thank testers, and it turned out to also gain traction.
I wrote about my experiences running an early beta test, but it's from 2004 so it's highly embarrassing and from a pre-Facebook pre-Reddit era:
2. I then set up keyword alerts for Reddit and Twitter and when somebody mentioned [similar app] I popped in and suggested they try Lanes which, btw, has feature [similar app] has not implemented.
3. I got lucky^. Photos of Lanes began appearing on Tumblr blogs (the #studyblr community) and readers began asking 'what's that website on your laptop'. Queue, lotsa signups.
4. The next 100: I listened to the first 100, intently.
^Of course that stroke of luck would never had transpired had step 1 not helped me figure out how to add value.
The app is https://lanes.io
Of course, I've also found reddit traffic to be fairly worthless. They show up. They don't buy.
Rather you're keeping an eye on the convo so that should somebody's point of frustration intersect with your solution you can let them know and see if they agree.
Edit: nevermind, now I see the option to upgrade to lanes plus
Definitely this one. The app is free out of the box but there's extra features for those who want them - productivity insights, Pocket-like features etc.
For Standard Notes, here's what I did:
1. Comment on privacy related HN posts about a privacy-focused notes app. That would have gotten me 40-50 users.
2. Write articles on encryption/privacy/webdev. Some of them made it to frontpage HN, some didn't. That might have gotten me to 500 users.
3. Repeat. Tirelessly. Painstakingly. Depressingly. Just keep going doing small things every day. Eventually they start to compound.
I'm part of a local business networking group, and we have members with businesses of all shapes and sizes, from "just launched two months ago" to "I hit 20 employees seven years ago". We were chatting about picking up new followers on social media and I mentioned that you have to celebrate the little successes. One member chimed in "yeah, we got 1000 new follows in Instagram in the last week, which was neat" and I thought to myself "I said little successes". I recently hit 700 total, which was nice.
It does start to have a compounding effect, though. People start giving you word-of-mouth, or take you more seriously when they see how many others are using your product, etc.
Do you have anything to say about the difficulties of running an open source shop? Do you worry about competitors taking your code and standing up their own sites?
1) make sure your service is a pain killer not a vitamin. This industry does not believe in vitamins and we didn't have the resources for such a long closing cycle. Our tech can be deployed in minutes, is easily understood and requires very little to no backofdice Support
2) Cold call to get meetings. I can't emphasize enough how powerful a cold call is. People on Wall Street get hundreds of emails a day but they are trained to always answer their phone. Be nice, be genuine, solve a painpoint
3) "ask for the order". Sales cycles can drag on, at some point you have to draw line in the sand and ask for the order. Do it humbly and respectfully and be prepared to hear no. The will almost always say yes
Final thought: we never took VC funding. In the beginning friends and mentors said we should as it would "add to your credibility", anecdotally I believe the opposite has happened. I've sat across from many entrepreneur CEOs who chose us not just because we were good at what we did but out of a desire to pay it forward. It's the unwritten code among founders: you grinded to get where you are and people who had no need to helped along the way, you do the same when the time comes. Point of this story is find these people as early as possible, they will become your champions.
EDIT: Assuming your service is SpiderOak, from my experience/perspective this would be a very hard sell to a bank. They have (albeit inferior) solutions for this and will not trust a third party to do it easily. I wouldnt even know how to go about selling it given you would have to go through the COO and vendor department. We offer a "similar" service in that we host virtual data rooms that contain tons of proprietary / confidential data. The difference is we do it in the context of a transaction (a front-office P&L event) which makes it a much easier sell. It's also not permanent.
Oh and for the sake of completeness: I'm not in any way affiliated with SpiderOak, though I suppose some of my post history mentions SO quite often as I'm a rather heavy user of their services.
Of course comment when relevant, offer something useful and contribute to the discussion. Don't just spam link to your startup.
My personal, non-software example was to identify an untapped opportunity in my field, technical recruiting. My clients had 20 to 100 employees, no internal technical recruiter, had already recruited their core team, has run out of organically generated people to interview, and had raised a Series B or later in funding. In 2010, the only options available to them were contingency recruiters, contract recruiters who wanted 6 to 12 month full time contracts, and inexperienced admin staff (aka not experienced technical recruiters).
After learning that it super competitive to sell traditional recruiting services to my clients, I decided to develop a workflow that allowed me to offer them part-time hourly recruiting with no long term commitment. Typically this started off as 10 to 30 hours a week with no commitment (aka fire me at any time). This model worked great, and in 2 years I scaled from just me billing 30 hours per week with one client to 15 people (part time & full time) billing several hundred hours per week.
Service business are not software businesses, but they do share at least one thing in common; selling a product or service customers need & can't buy in an industry you understand is a heck of a lot easier than trying to make something up from scratch.
Evidently OP did a good job, and made them feel like they were getting high value.
1. This post to a language learning forum: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?T...
2. This post to r/LanguageLearning: https://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearning/comments/1b08ly/re...
If there's a subreddit where your potential audience hangs out that's a good bet. Try to be honest, humble, and non-spammy.
The best advice I have come across to get your initial users : do things that don't scale . Yeah, everyone read that post by PG but a surprisingly small number of people actually apply it to their own projects/startups. Practical example : I am building a community for programmers , so to get some initial feedback I posted to a Python subreddit and got the first 50 users. I got a lot of valuable feedback, but users hardly came back to my site after a couple of days. So I decided to follow up individually with users who had signed up and started a conversation about my site. I explained to each user what the site is about, how to use it and asked for feedback. I also asked them what their first impressions of the site were and how it can be improved. I learnt that people did not even understand what my site was about, and I knew that I need to focus on conveying the essence of the site to new users. (Still working on it) You gain a lot of insight about users by having conversations with individual users. I managed to help 3 people with their Python related problems so far, in the chat room https://www.metalmanac.com/topics/python/chat/
Once you get a small number of users who are passionate about your project, continue talking to individual users and ask them to share it with their friends and offer to guide each user individually, it works very well. This is obviously not scalable beyond a few hundred users, but getting those passionate users initially is critical. I am currently at this stage.
Once you have a group of 100 or so passionate users, you can share it with a wider community of users (eg- PH, HN for tech projects) and continue focusing on having conversations with individual users.
The idea is this :
* provide a community reviewed wiki explaining what X is about and how to go about learning it. The aim is to answer the questions how to learn X programming language/framework/platform and what are the best resources to use.
* provide a Stackoverflow like QA section for users to ask and answer questions.
* provide a forum to submit and discuss learning resources (like HN)
* provide a chatroom to replicate the IRC experience
As you can see this I have completely failed to convey this. So that's what I am working on now : to convey the purpose of the site and improve the UX and UI. Reason for completely failing at this : I focus too much on the tech, the backend, unnecessary optimizations and time wasters like load testing.
The current number of users in the Stackoverflow chat rooms
> with 100 users currently talking in 57 rooms.
The usage of the chat is shockingly low.
I think there's room to provide a better learning experience for developers and providing chat rooms for developers is a low hanging fruit IMO. People here on HN know about IRC and how to use it, but we represent a very small fraction of the population interested in programming, so the idea is to tend to the general population eventually.
But I think your bigger issue is that your site feels completely dead. I mean, it's not hard to find the QA section or chat when you view a topic, but the lack of activity here means there's no real incentive to contribute. I mean, why ask a question if no one else is asking or answering any questions?
Are people actually still this naive? Reading HN users makes me feel like I'm trapped in the 80s where the internet was a magical mystery that nobody really understood. It's about 40 years too late to just assume the average trash website is actually a meaningful statement about something, or a viable product of some sort.
99.9999999% are just junk. The big ones, you already know about.
And that, my friends, is how the mystical nine nines was finally achieved!
Easy fix is just take what's on the About page, strip it down to its bare essence and slap it on the landing page, on top of the search bar but in a way that it stands out (i.e. it should be the first thing users will read).
The exact path to getting the users will differ based on what you're attempting to do. In an awesome HN comment for business advice (a few days ago) I came across this awesome book called Traction; which is like a cookbook for user acquisition. I'm reading the book right now and it should give you a lot of ideas!
1. Searched the Chrome Web Store, Twitter and Google for users who had said lukewarm or negative things about another extension which addresses a similar user problem in a different way.
2. Searched the same places for people who were clearly interested in the topic of focus and email productivity.
I spent a day or so manually emailing several hundred people in this way. This initial push - and the events that it lead to (e.g. people I contacted recommending the extension to others) - got me 100 WAU within a couple of weeks (and lots of helpful feedback).
(I tried some other things which were much less effective. Listing sites, in particular, were largely a waste of time, though my Product Hunt submission came good when the extension was featured a few months later.)
Essentially the "do things that don't scale" advice is just this. It puts your technology at the backseat.
However, a good read on this which tackles all ways of user acquisition/Marketing is 'Traction' from the DuckDuckGo founder. It's not an exciting book but gives an ok overview.
You could also just start with the channel which seems most obvious, set up analytics from day one and iterate over and over. With this approach you should get a good feeling if your acquisition strategy works and if yes you should optimize. Otherwise move on to the next channel.
Edit: When you search for Traction on Amazon.com there's also another one on #1 (good Amazon search hack from another other author btw) which is not the mentioned book (the one I mean is blue-ish)
I see this attitude all the time. Why are people so worried? The fear is this weird chain of reasoning: As soon as you say it tons of people will automatically conclude it is a good idea -> tons of them will be in a position to execute it -> people will flood to the strategy and somehow take away the returns because it is a zero-sum game.
But I find that for every person on HN who automatically concludes something is a good idea, there is another one who disagrees. Second, not everyone is in a position where someone's genius growth hack is even applicable. Third, some of these strategies would still work even if tons of people used them, such as "do things that don't scale." The point is that they are localized.
I guess you can't rule it out, but the chances seem smaller than the number of worriers suggests.
If you find the map straight to a goldmine, why should you share it?
Example: Last month you found a new way to target on FB ads (=> mix of ad creatives, country and interest), with tons of traffic at ultra low CPC. The space is quite popular and you are surprised yourself why no one else found this way. Conversions are sky-high and it seems not to end.
Why should you share this? If you share you will destroy the low CPC within days. If you had ever found a goldmine in the past you might understand. And if yes, please share this goldmine.
You can make this example for every Marketing channel. People never share current tactics, only old stuff which isn't working anymore.
Edit: Why the downvote? I try to explain opportunistic behaviour and I understand and even agree that this behaviour isn't nice or something we would expect. But downvoting seems to be easier than replying properly...
> If you had ever found a goldmine in the past you might understand. And if yes, please share this goldmine.
I did this once on HN, over a year ago. I shared an exact technique that made me a 50%+ return during the year after I posted it. (Okay, maybe that's more like a tiny mini treasure chest, but it was still a money maker.) I'm not sure anyone even read it. Even if you give people a goldmine the majority won't be in a position to take advantage of it. Or perhaps they have better opportunities.
Sharing tactics can help you make contact with other interesting people, who are open to collaboration or cross-promotion and who provide you with opportunities in return. It's basically the Patio11 / Patrick McKenzie strategy.
> If you find the map straight to a goldmine, why should you share it?
It's not that you should share it. It's that the risk of people flooding to your strategy and ruining ROI is low, so if you want to share it for some reason (e.g., contributing to the community, being nice), I don't think you should worry.
Your example is artificial. In attempting to justify a fear that I find overly common, you've provided an imaginary scenario where that fear might be justified. I don't think it addresses the argument well. Plus, even in your example, I think the risks are low. Lots of people have to read your comment, believe you're telling the truth, and most importantly, be set up to quickly use the information to drive traffic to their own site. Chances are their products aren't exactly the same as yours, and the conversion rates might not be so high for them. Many will anticipate this and not even try. Everyone else will just extract the higher level "insight" from the keywords and move on.
I'll share a story. There is a very successful company called Ravean, they sell coats and sleeping bags with heated linings. They've done several million on Kickstarter over the past few years. The founder of Ravean did some interviews and explained his ad strategy. He said initially he tried advertising with keywords targeting camping and outdoor consumers. Eventually, after burning up 7 or 8 grand, he erased all his keywords and targeted crowdfunding enthusiasts with keywords like "Kickstarter", "Indiegogo" and "crowdfunding." He claims his conversion rates jumped way, way up. In the interviews, he says "I should charge for this advice." Now he does charge for it:
So, even though there is a freely accessible interview, online, where this guy gives away his knowledge, he still makes money selling the same advice to other people. There is such a sea of information out on the web that any one thing is very likely to get lost.
The Ravean advertising trick is as close to the scenario you mentioned, and here I am, sharing it with HN. But how many people will really read this comment? How many will be doing crowdfunding campaigns in the near future? How many will immediately jump on the advice? Will it move the CPC needle? I doubt it.
This is why there are so many firms selling marketing tools rather than selling marketing directly.
I was also confused by this statement, but for a different reason. There is, of course, a mixture of a science and an art in promoting one's own product - but in the end, it should catch on if it actually provides value. A "hack" in this context sounds to me like what you'd call some sort of trick to peddle a product that isn't meant to provide value.
1. Launch your product on BetaList
2. Create a blog and write a lot. Don't create trivial content. SEO is important but write because you have interesting things to talk about, not because you have to create "content".
3. Share as much as you can on twitter/Slack/FB groups. But never be spammy.
4. Being actively engaged on Twitter (yes!) by regularily searching for your main 1-3 keywords.
5. Start soon with link building. It's hard but eventually will pay.
6. Word of mouth. Encourage and make it easy for your customers to tell others about your product (no, not by including dumb social sharing buttons!)
What not to-do:
Don't start with Ads prematurely. No matter what the platform is. The don't pay initially and will cost you a lot.
If you're still in the validation stage and want to identify if you do have an idea that people want and can iterate fast, then ads are a surefire way to get people to your site (as long as you're targeting the right people).
Take advantage of every free promotion/producthunt like service you can (although I would not suggest going on product hunt for your beta).
Other than that cold e-mailing, cold calling, and guest blogs also work really well in the beginning.
- talked to friends on IRC about the website (1996-1997)
- e-mailed the scraped shops and asked for permission, some became users too
When it's obvious what the product does and how useful its benefits are, and the target audience is large, getting to 100 users is really easy.
It's also an advantage if there is a compelling and logical reason to visit the website frequently, so it stays fresh in memory and becomes a habit. In my case it had up-to-date prices collected from shops, so visiting often helped people find good deals and let them observe dropping prices until they could afford a purchase.
As a follow up question: Can you share some sites/sources which you would recommend.
1. Posted landing page in a slack chat (first ~10 users)
2. Posted on the indiehackers forum (+30 users)
3. Got mentioned in the indiehackers weekly newsletter (+150)
4. Posted to hacker news (+?)
5. Posted to product hunt (did not go so great)(+?)
6. Started posting weekly metrics to HN - made the frontpage (+1500-2000)
Lots of people seem to think ads don't work here but, I believe it is a matter of targeting and your funnel.
I think the main issues people have when it comes to ads is they poorly execute on...
Targeting - have no idea who will actually want the product and target too broadly with a useless message or, in many cases no message at all.
When people here talk about "doing stuff that doesn't scale", what they are often doing is selling the idea before someone see's the site or product for example. Like a tweet to someone looking for a new notes app - you will normally @ them with a feature or solution right, equally with a forum post - once you know they have the problem. Do the same with your ad & targeting.
Poor sales effort - In an effort to make the page look good, people often try to have as little text as possible. In my experience, the more you say the better because you eventually touch on points the lead cares about. You simply need to make it engaging. This can be done well with a screen capture you record on your computer if you really want to have a page with minimal copy. (But test lots of copy either way)
Price/ product - most people are making stuff people don't care about and won't be interesting enough to part with money for. Might not be nice to read but in many cases, it's true.
I hope this helps.
- Released a multi-week YouTube video series on a related topic of interest, with a plug for my site at the beginning of each video.
- I regularly participate in Facebook groups related to the niche and occasionally plug it there.
- I am babysitting my most active users so that their experience is really good, learning their pain points, and responding quickly to their needs. They are in turn starting to spread the word on their own.
- Talking to friends and family who I think might be interested.
- Personally welcoming everyone who joins to try to make the experience a little more personal.
- Being active in social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), posting interesting and relevant content that would attract the kind of users I am looking for. Following users who I think might be interested. Participating in their content too (i.e. likes, comments, etc.)
But through working with our customers for years, we saw that while we really helped people get their email more organized, we weren't solving the root problem: that anyone can dump anything they want into your inbox in the first place.
We felt called to double down on a killer solution we figured out for that problem first (https://throttlehq.com/).
your buttons also need some left and right padding. my company would love to help put your best face forward..
- Content marketing
By far the best is our meetup group. We host a weekly meetup series where we go through the platform and framework and help people write their first bots. It's nice because it also allows us to see how people are using our platform and where the rough edges are. This has been invaluable in quickly fixing small bugs that are meaningful to new devs. Some stuff we wouldn't have even noticed through analytics. We're working on getting better follow-up engagement. We have about 5-10% come back week after week.
We write entries on our blog and post links to a few places (FB groups, twitter) and it's helped out too with recognition. Though our conversion from people signing up for an account from the blog is about 3%. We try a mix of posts that range from non-developer focused to developer focused. We host on medium and have had success with medium's tags and getting readership from other medium articles and the suggested articles bar on the bottom.
Adwords is almost useless at this point, though neither of us has had any prior experience so it could just be us not using the tools to their full potential.
Finally we've gone to 1 conference, NY Techday a few weeks ago. We handed out ~150 business cards and >250 stickers. I think we may have generated 3-4 leads. It was exciting that a few people recognized us from the blog and posting in FB groups, so that was a good reinforcement to keep posting on the blog.
For our B2C company, AdWords turned out to be a stable revenue driver for us. I had little experience in it (I'm a software engineer) and it took about $3k burned over 60 days to really understand how to build a profitable acquisition model using AdWords. I bought a couple books and worked on a bunch of multi-variant testing. I eventually obtained a sustainable and predictable process of obtaining revenue.
Never use AdWords Express, spend about 160 hours minimum of learning how marketing and PPC works, and use only data to drive decisions. ROI comes 4 months later when first starting out. If you're an engineer, AdWords API is a really useful to combine CRM and user data to discover new keywords and personas.
This is great advice. I hope more startups would follow it. Make valuable open source tools, create free tier services etc - that brings much more exposure to relevant users/customers because they discover you and not the other way around.
Do you have any other feedback on improving LiveForm or SimpleForm? I'd love to hear if you've had any pain points.
The goal was to become a seamless publishing platform, so I built the Android app next (which brought me closer to the broad audience I wanted) and told /r/goodguyapps about it. Every time I went after a new platform -- Chrome OS, iOS, desktop via command-line, web -- I found a community that would want to hear about it and simply had a conversation. I went to listen to people's problems instead of just selling my app, and ended up learning exactly what I should build and what the product could do outside of what I'd originally imagined. Write.as didn't have user accounts for the first year and a half it existed, but somewhere in that process we passed 100 users across various platforms.
Two main ways of marketing:
ProductHunt, which gained exposure among tech savvy people. Some referred parents/grandparents to use.
I then went to senior centers with business cards and flyers. All managers there were excited about the idea and happy to let me post a few flyers and distribute business cards.
be assured this won't turn into a coaching marketplace. My goal is to charge a symbolic yearly fee and keep it as it is. After all, it does one thing and it does it right!
I've also found reddit ads to be quite useful if you take the time to craft relevant ads and quickly nix ones that do not perform.
However, when I failed the issue was getting people to use the site, not to sign up. People will sign up for sites and services almost at a whim, but the percentage who will actually contribute is in the single digits. So I ended up with a 'service' that mostly people ended up reading rather than posting on.
Just getting 100 users? Some active social media accounts, posts on other forums and communities, some good content and just damn faking activity until real people join tends to work well enough there.
Got first 100 by
1) Friends: first asking a few to try; then telling about the idea at parties (also hosted a "launch party" at home, etc. Then at last emailing whole LinkedIn-contactlist. First couple were free, rest more or less discounted but paid.
2) PR. Had a few early newspaper articles when we had initial traction which gave us perhaps 20 customers each.
Also posted the article to our facebook, which I think perhaps got us half of those.
(We also tried a lot of other stuff that didnt work, including a big cold call campaign and paying for leads via ads, but it didnt yield much results as it is very hard to do well)
Bootstrapped Solo founder. Beta launch in June 2016. Full launch in December 2016. Crossed $200k in ARR last week.
I see what posts perform well on FB, then boost them.
I've spent $22,000 on Facebook ads and have acquired 6,000 leads from the spend.
I think you have may have a cool idea with pipecourses but honestly the main page doesn't provide enough info for me to tell. Mostly, I have no idea what a 'pipecourse' is and how it is supposed to work.
(As best I can understand, it's sort of like Medium or Google+ but designed for more granular following. It's not really clear what it means to follow experiences/ideas/etc... instead of people. Obviously it's still people writing things. Do you just follow tags that anyone can post to? Or if you follow a given 'pipecourse' how is that different from just following a blog on RSS?)
An easily discoverable 'What are pipecourses?' page would be really helpful. At the very least provide a little blurb up top explaining what it does and what makes it unique, and/or a few use cases. "Pipecourses is a blogging platform designed to give users more granular, topic-based control over what they post and follow. (plus a 1-sentence example use case)"
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I then also left comments on every blog I could find talking about the problem. A lot of manual leg work that definitely paid off.
2) Personally calling up/emailing up with a few dozen people I thought were a good fit, and then always asking them "Who else do you think would be interested in this?", even if they thought it was a bad concept.
10 meetings -> 1 contracts
To get 100 contracts, just make 10,000 phone calls.
Find your ratio and start from the top.
In the beginning, improving ratio is not as importatnt as increasing your denominator. Just get out there.
PS: in my case it was booking a ride/cab, so not as expensive as you think