The first 50 days of a startup is bound to eventful, but ours was a roller-coaster ride! Happy coincidences, disappointing downers, the thrill of the first sign up and a lot of taking dismay ‘in its stride’… we have seen it all. But scoring 1000 customers in 50 days is quite the cherry on top!
First 1000 customers is a milestone worth celebrating. To mark this benchmark, I am sharing our go-to-market and user acquisition strategies in this blog post.
This is an honest account of how we reached here, what we would do differently the next time, and takeaways from each tactic we implemented in the last 50 days.
1. Build a Strong Product
This can’t be emphasized enough. Our product is the heart of all our marketing strategies. I can assure you that if SurveySparrow weren’t half as good as it is, no amount of aggressive marketing would have saved it. We left no stone unturned to ensure that the team has built a truly beautiful product. We rolled out the private beta and incorporated the feedback to get ready a finer, better product by the launch date.
What we could have done differently: We were a little too exuberant in promoting our launch news across channels that we risked expulsion from HackerNews community. They suspected that we were falsely promoting when we upvoted too enthusiastically and we ended up apologizing for it. I learned that self-promotion isn’t enough and often, not worth the risk.
Takeaway: You can’t build a loyal customer base if your product is not worth their loyalty. Earn it!
2. Make a Head-turning Launch
Everyone out there is competing to grab maximum eyeballs but the launch is often the earliest milestone that can make it. Press is your best friend at these times. Getting media coverage is imperative to get the word out and build an excitement about your product among potential customers.
We realized the potential mileage the press coverage could get us and I send out personalized pitches to the media relevant in our case. We requested introductions, went on calls, created a stellar media kit, and engaged with a lot of writers. This brilliant piece in Tech in Asia alone drove a ton of traffic to our site. While the TechinAsia article was fabulous, we had no such luck with TechCrunch, VentureBeat, The Next Web, and Mashable though it could’ve done wonders for our visibility.
What we could have done differently: Start early. Building connections are important. If I could have another go, I would identify the writers who are more likely to cover our news, build a relationship and maintain that credibility before pitching (rather than cramming all these in two weeks).
Takeaway: PR is an ongoing process. Connections and follow up is important round the clock. Continue to engage your press relations and remember to treat them as real people and not robots. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.
3. Promo Codes and Giveaways
When you are new and seek to make a difference, you’ll need all the goodwill you can find. Offering promo codes and giveaways are a smooth tactic to drive more conversions.
Our launch day offer of a flat 30% discount, and Cyber Monday giveaway for 100 Premium Lifetime Accounts drove handsome traffic to the website. However, the Premium Accounts for a lifetime at just $49, offered exclusively to ‘The Lifetime Tech Deal Fans‘ FB group worked like a charm.
What we could have done differently: We found a lot of customers asking if the CyberMonday contest was still on, once the deal expired. They wished they knew about the contest sooner. If we could have another shot, we will make sure the word got out. Next time, we will make sure that FB groups and listing sites are leveraged more effectively.
Takeaway: Offers and discounts maketh a happier customer. And happy customers are more likely to spread your word, write a glowing review, and remain loyal throughout.
4. Content Marketing
Actively blogging and sharing valuable content can go a long way in attracting and engaging dedicated followers. Our startup story is the most successful piece of content I’ve created yet. It was widely read and even drove 10,000+ visits in a single day when shared in HN.
What we could have done differently: Be consistent with creating and sharing more such stories. Also, actively produce quirky videos which are often the most shared content.
Takeaway: People treasure content that adds value to them. Honest stories and sharing the lessons we learned will appeal to a steadfast audience.
5. Outstanding Customer Support
I can’t stress this enough. You cannot get away with offering mere subpar support. Our Customer Success team has been working hard with 24*7 support and rewarded with very happy customer accounts.
What we could have done differently: We fumbled a little too much with the help desk articles before reaching an agreement and publishing it. Help articles shouldn’t be to show off your superior knowledge of the product.
Takeaway: Listen to your customers. Their insights will tell you where the product lacks in and what to work on next. Retain customers because they matter the most.
6. Affiliate Marketing
We hit the nail with Affiliate Marketing/Performance Marketing. I wasn’t even aware that Affiliate Marketers can share our product in FB groups with a simple post and still drive an insane amount of conversions. But that was before we worked out the exclusive deal with the ‘Lifetime Tech Deal Fans’. Whoever knew that affiliate marketing doesn’t always have to be a 2000+ word long reviews?
The ROI is about 1300% with affiliate marketing. How absolutely cool is that? We were only required to do some homework, assist our affiliates and watch as customers came pouring in.
What we could have done differently: Start working on this earlier. Our CyberMonday contest had way better chances if it were promoted with the help of affiliates.
Takeaway: Getting people with a faithful audience to put in a good word can do wonders. Once again, it is about sharing goodwill.
7. Reviews & Listing
90% of customers admit that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. And it pays to politely request your satisfied customers to post their review online. We were delighted with the raving reviews on G2 Crowd, FinancesOnline, and Capterra and we are sure that it will help convert more customers!
Gaining visibility is at the heart of every promotional strategy we plan. Building your profile in the various listing sites such as CrunchBase, HackerNoon, Betalist, and ProductHunt go a long way in this regard. While creating a profile is rather easy, getting noticed can be trickier. For instance, our launch news shared in ProductHunt enjoyed only a lukewarm response. However, my blog post shared in Hacker News (How my third email reminder from HR motivated me to launch my startup) did amazingly well and led to 7000+ visits in a day!
What we could have done differently: The posts shared on such third-party sites should carry only a few, well-chosen words. See if your posts are capable of adding value to the audience. If not, find one that will.
Take away: It takes a fair amount of attempts to get it right.
Is it way too early to say this is what we found ‘on hindsight’? Because these are the mistakes we made, lucky breaks we got, hard work that paid off, and the lessons we learned. And while we are over the moon with our growing customer list, there is still so much more to do. More oversights, surprises, and takeaways until we reach the next milestone.
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