But back to my point: there's nothing wrong with trying some Google or Facebook ads. Don't spend too much up front! Google will try to get you to broadly target a bunch of generic words. You should resist that pressure and use their keyword research tool to home in on specific phrases that your potential customers often search for.
Once you have your phrases, just put in $500 and see what happens. If you pick up a handful of customers who pay you $1000 over the next 6 months, then you're golden! Put in $5,000 next time and see if you can turn it into $10,000. Honestly, this kind of thing works for some businesses and people end up dumping as much as they can into ads. Don't ignore this strategy just because it's not as "sincere" or "personal" or something.
[Edit] Fixed author pronoun.
If you want users just find the people who have the problem you're trying to solve.
That being said, I think it's obvious that I totally disagree with the author. You should run ads. Absolutely. If you get a paid customer right away, that in itself is a much stronger indicator than someone signing up for a freemium product. I find this article carefully crafted to to be somewhat controversial, perhaps on purpose so it reaches the front page of HN. Mission accomplished. Congrats!
I even created my profile on the same day and yet it was so well received. Got a lot of paying users as well. Maybe there are some people who try to game the system (just like there are people on HN too) but I wouldn't make them generalization since my experience has been very good on PH.
According to , many founders have taken on "advisers" with curator privileges, giving them a little bit of equity in return for the publicity.
Hacker News is nothing like that. Although your social group can help you promote things here, there's no startup adviser that I can give 0.5% ownership to in return for bypassing the voting queue.
So it wouldn't be too hard depending on the purpose of the Bible (is it a study bible? or a new translation, what is the focus of this translation? etc). It could also be a gift for somebody else. I've gifted a good number of bibles, even ones I absolutely loved.
On the other hand, trying to sell bibles outside a synagogue is probably not going to get you a lot of success.
Thus buying users won't scale at first, but it's OK (even recommended) to do things that won't scale early on. http://paulgraham.com/ds.html
So go ahead and buy ads if it helps you get started, but if the ads aren't making a profit right away, think about how to find a path to growth that does scale.
The best thing is to know your business and choose a strategy that works well for it.
1. That "organic" users are somehow more real than users acquired by paid acquisition.
2. That ads are super duper simple and you just turn them on then bam users are there. Plenty of companies in fact spend quite a lot on ads and get almost nothing.
3. That the channels she mentions are in fact "organic" I want to know, truly, what the super secret learnings are that one gets from gaming google rankings rather than simply buying a Google ad or spamming Facebook groups rather than buying a Facebook ad.
By all means, do customer discovery, but pretending that hanging kitschy neighborhood signs instead of running Google ads is somehow more authentic is just arrogance not really backed up by anything other than feelings. Plenty of profitable and sustainable businesses run on ads. Other companies ads aren't right for. Just try stuff and see what works.
It's easy to think about founder-effort as being nominally zero cost, but there is always a cost of lost opportunity. Choosing what to do is important. If you have cash that you can spend that will make one of the things on your TODO list disappear, that's a pretty sweet thing.
It's always going to be a judgement call as to what to spend time vs money on. In my (again naive) way of thinking, you should probably take a hard look at yourself (and any other partners you have) and decide what your "value-add" is. If you could make a unicorn simply by spending money, then everyone would do it. It's the people who make the difference and so you need to be realistic about where you are going to make that difference. Prioritise the areas where you are needed (and are able to make a difference) and spend money on the areas where it matters less.
I don’t know enough to dispute that or not, but I certainly don’t think it’s about the short term money.
Side note: I've seen articles from Kapwing on here recently. It seems they're following formulas to get on HN. It reminds me of TripleByte, and in the past, Mattermark. Please don't take the bait.
Marketing people: You didn't see this comment. Move along.
What in particular do you dislike in such a model? I get that a pestering to share is bad and dislike it myself, but this idea is far from it.
I get that at this point, one app isn't making it much worse, just like farting into a dumpster fire isn't making things significantly worse either. But intent matters. You could say that it's a naively idealistic stance, but then again, the problems of social media weren't caused by a conspiracy of few evil actors - they're caused by hundreds of thousands of small sleazy actors doing their small seedy things.
Just hit 10k users! https://getpolarized.io/
I would agree with 60% of what the author is trying to say.
First, devils advocate.
If your app is actually making money it's totally reasonable to buy ads to grow.
If you spend $100 on ads and make $500 in revenue that's probably a pretty solid deal (assuming your costs are reasonable).
In that case - go for it.
Additionally, there are a lot of channels that you can work with which might need cash to get you bootstrapped.
For example, if you find a really great blog or mailing list it might make sense to just throw down $500 for an ad to the author to mention your product (and disclose of course).
The reason why is that these niche communities can be VERY VERY valuable.
They don't scale but getting your first 10k years is really helpful.
The other things mentioned in the article take a LOT of time. Befriending influencers? Yeah. That can take a while!
but I think the spirit is right. If you're lazy and only depend on ads - you're in a world of pain. Most of what you have to do is understand how the ecosystem around your company works.
That just takes a ton of time and the only way to do that is to have legs on the ground feeling it out.
Which sites have traffic? What are some growth loops you can use?
A LOT of startups have found some REALLY cool and interesting growth 'hacks' that you wouldn't really think of unless you're in the weeds for months at a time.
Startups like Duolingo, Dropbox, etc don't just happen. They take time and effort and continual iteration.
Totally reasonable even if you're not making money (which is pretty much every VC-funded company).
Paid channels like Facebook & Google have incredibly diverse audiences with any number of sub-populations you can target, and there's nothing special about organic traffic that inherently makes it unbiased and special.
> In contrast, the customer acquisition cost is zero for organic channels.
It just seems free because you can't measure the effects of other channels on direct and branded search (unless you're not doing any paid) or your accountant got creative and put the social media, PR, influencer, and affiliate spend in "Brand Marketing" so it doesn't count towards your customer acquisition cost under "Paid Marketing". You're spending money one way or another regardless of where you're putting it in the books.
> Instead, embrace the hustle and find ways to sell, distribute, and persuade without cash
Your time is money, and is probably worth more than the ad spend you're trying to get out of. Burning cash on salary while you try to hunt down "free" customers can be misleadingly expensive.
Free traffic is great, and I'd like to get as much of it as possible, but it's very hard to build a business on something you have little direct influence over.
Is this true? Or is it one of those truisms where there are exceptions but you shouldn't assume you'll be one of them.
I think what the author was trying to convey is that new companies have trouble coming with a paid acquisition strategy with a low cost/positve return over investment.
My tip for most SaaS out there: If your "keyword + excel/pdf/template" is an easy target, then think about creating a free sub-product with a decent landing-page for it.
My recommendation would be to modify your product in such a way that it has an organic marketing angle, I think that can make a real difference.
It’s nice to avoid spending on marketing, but here it seems like they just made the product free — which means they incurred platform costs (AWS or whatever) in lieu of marketing spend. Not really a victory.
> advertising distances you from the problem
Except when it helps you learn about your target markets by seeing what keywords perform better than others. It’s definitelu important to talk to customers, as the author advocates, but you can also learn about your customers by seeing what advertising channels/focuses work better than others.
I tried the hanging up fliers bit 6 years ago. I also tried to build thought leadership and similar nonsense. For my little company, we are just now getting high rankings in Google for relevant keywords, but that took literally years of relentless blogging on highly focused quality content directed specifically at our potential customers. As far as product hunt? I can guarantee you not a single customer of mine has ever heard about Product Hunt let alone used it to find solutions to their problems. My business deals with mental health practitioners and they sure as hell aren’t looking for our solution on product hunt. The author mentions startup directories. That’s about as dumb as expecting a Tech Crunch article to get you customers. Our customers don’t read Tech Crunch. Most potential customers of products don’t read it either. We were even featured in a Wired Magazine feature in 2012 and that didn’t get us customers either because our customers don’t read Wired or, if they do, it isn’t much. We literally got more leads from a Readers Digest mention than from Wired. We were in a Forbes article about top health startups and years later, we still get leads from that. But counting on that as a customer acquisition channel? That’d be crazy. As far as getting friendly with bloggers — that could help except all the bloggers that matter are already friendly with the competition as well. And, in the mental health practitioner space, there aren’t a great many bloggers that actually have an audience. You know what does work? Content marketing and paid search. Paid ads on industry organization websites work very well too. Professional conferences work to some extent as well. But paid search (not just on Google, but sites like Capterra) works extremely well, especially if you are clever with the long tail.
If you are making some kind of trendy toy for the technorati or a non-specific audience of “the general public,” then perhaps some of her tactics might work, but for reaching actual people in your niche that are willing to pay, content marketing, paid search and paid ads in industry-relevant places work far better than some high school student council election style promotion. I intend to be harsh because in the 9 years I’ve been running this business, almost everything she says is wrong (at least in my anecdotal case.) Paid ads absolutely work, but like anything else, you have to be smart and disciplined. Paid ads can just as easily be a money pit, but if you know anything at all about your customers and your product is worth something, you should be able to find success with initial customers using paid advertising (and not just online.) If I were to raise another funding round, I’d devote almost all of it to content marketing and paid ads because they absolutely work. It costs us about $200 to acquire a customer with an LTV of $750. There is a direct correlation for us with ad spend and customer acquisition. It’s just mathematics at this point. Figuring out the product-market fit and knowing your customer extremely well — those are the hard parts. Once you figure that out, the rest is just about executing and measuring.
I’m not doing VC backed and don’t care about exponential growth. I’m just delivering apps that meet existing demand in the marketplace.
I must say I have actually launched today on Product Hunt and that's bringing in a big chunk of visitors already. But still have to see if they'll convert to paying users at some point.
WOAH, a top-tier VC AND they did something you don't consider to be a best practice!? HERESY! Flagrantly discrediting the meritocracy you think might be necessary to get in the presence of - let alone the PORTFOLIO of - a top tier VC!
Also, that company is still right. Yes, this is an assumption nowadays. Congratulations on getting some funding after doing it your way.