It is usually useful to try to see the whole picture. In the field of Internet startups thinking about development without planning market fit, might not be a great idea.
Let’s put it this way: you have an amazing idea and gathered enough capital to make it work; sure, go lean and start to build it step by step. Either if you start developing with your own team or do staff augmentation, it is important to envision and start executing a marketing plan as soon as possible. Why? Because product is 50% & market is the other half (simple way to reduce the business canvas).
In this post, I will share some ideas and resources that any one or two-man startup might find useful for user acquisition from the inbound world.
To keep in mind: not all of the tools described next will apply to your startup. It is extremely useful to understand as much as you can of your target market - best case scenario you’re part of it - and from this definition decide which strategies correlate best.
This strategy is one of the trendiest ones in the Internet marketing field and probably you’ve heard a lot about it. Briefly, it consists in sharing different types of content with the intention to attract a defined audience (learn more about content marketing here). In my opinion, the reason behind the success of this strategy is as simple as you receive what you give. However, in this world, probably you have to give quite a lot before you start receiving as much as you gave. The good one is that later it can grow exponentially, so please let’s not hesitate!
Create content about what you do, the industry you’re in, upcoming features or cool related ideas in different formats: written posts, infographics, videos, podcasts. Try to always keep in mind these three concepts:
- Engagement: bring some useful or interesting content to your targeted audience.
- Steadiness: a punctual effort is not enough, although it might be tedious, bring content in a constant basis; otherwise, rethink about even starting it.
- Amplification: when the piece of content is done you’ve only achieved half of the work. It is extremely important to know the platforms in which to spread your content and reach influencers in your field.
- Medium: a publishing platform with a massive and engaged set of readers. I can start to tell you the benefits of sharing your content on Medium but this article describes them better. From my experience, to replicate the content from your blog in Medium is good way to start since Medium will not help you build your SEO.
- Buzzsumo: my personal favorite. Discover trends, get inspired by related content & track your blog’s results from this easy to use platform. This tool is specially useful when you’re creating & sharing your own content.
- ClearVoice: for companies, this tool presents itself as the whole ecosystem for content marketing. From recruiting freelancers up to building influencer teams. An all in one solution.
- Reddit: there are a lot of subreddits in which your target audience is actively reading. Research a bit, find interesting subs and share your valuable content on them. Be careful, the Reddit community is very sensitive with company’s content, so engage with very related content.
- Outbrain: an amplification tool that lets you promote your content on sites such as CNN, ESPN and People. Remember, always promote thinking where your audience is.
- Twitter ads: although it can be consider an Ad platform, this tool is very useful to promote your content with a very customizable audience.
An alternative is to start working on targeted Internet ads. A mental barrier to break in ads is that since you’ll have to invest economic resources, which could be perfectly used for product development, it might not make much sense initially. Although I agree up to a certain extent, I can say that there is good value especially in search and retargeting ads.
- Search Ads: target a specific need which your product directly addresses & you’ll have good results with not much investment per click. Try to be very (very) targeted in the keywords used and build a landing page to address each specific need. Focus in direct conversion.
- Retargeting: try it out. There are a lot of creative ways to use it but basically I can recommend you two strategies in the early days: re-engage with content & attract with compelling offers.
- Adwords: the Google owned ads platform works excellent for search ads and it’s probably a nice way to start since is very easy to implement. Take some time when deciding your keywords & make your ads as related as possible to the keywords chosen.
- Facebook Ads: in my expertise this is very useful to create retargeting lists and later use them to share relevant content in order to re-engage with past website visitors. It is important to notice that Facebook offers a wide range of ad products beyond its own platform: Instagram & Atlas are two cool resources to check out.
- Unbounce: to build a very specific landing page in order to empower conversions is key for a successful digital advertising campaign. This tool lets you build effective landing pages and optimize them (from real analytics) in a very easy way. Built for marketers with no IT knowledge but useful for fast execution.
- Mixpanel + Segment: there is no good campaign without understanding what the user does once he lands on your page. This is why, apart from the classical Google Analytics tracking, we did a post explaining the benefits of integrating Mixpanel + Segment to your web and how to do it.
From our experience, referral traffic is the best investment in order to validate your product / service and probably the most difficult to achieve if you’re not a media person. Considering you might not be able to hire a PR agency, try all your efforts to get noticed by related_to_your_product forums. Send emails to publishers, share your product on Facebook / LinkedIn groups & post your product on CrunchBase & Angel + promote it in Product Hunt, BetaList or even Reddit (r/startups). Of Course, if you’re able to get noticed by TechCrunch, VentureBeat or NYT go for it 😉
Another alternative to get good referral is from guest blog posts. Try to reach different startups or blogs offering some good quality content in exchange for a link to your web page. This will offer you a new set of readers that you would probably not be able to reach from your own blog. Even better, it also helps you build your SEO (+1).
Ultimately, a very interesting way of obtaining good referral traffic is by answering questions on Quora. Let’s say you find questions which clearly address to the solution you’re creating; this is a great opportunity for you to validate your knowledge. Post a clear answer and at last bring your URL (in a delicate way) for them to read more about the solution you are be providing. Same as in Reddit, be extremely careful in not to only focus on promoting your solution. Bring interesting insights and then offer the link to your content for people who want to read more about it.
You’ll not be reinventing the wheel in this field: build a community around your product / service by sharing attractive content. Digging deeper, dealing with social media (SM) in a serious way might be (or not) a source of good leads, but surely it will validate your startup by sending a message of steadiness and focus.
Important: the image of a company which only sends one tweet or has not a clear message to share is totally self-defeating; be sure to have a clear communication policy.
However, how do you get likes / followers? How can you transform likes into leads? What’s the best way to start? Here you have some tools to answer these questions:
- Buffer: a free(mium) tool which lets you schedule posts on social media through all of your active platforms. This very easy to use tool will save you a lot of time as you forget about SM once posts are scheduled for the rest of the week.
- Hootsuite: offers a free plan to manage all your SM accounts in one place among other premium functionalities. Either Buffer or Hootsuite are very popular platforms and have similar functionalities for starters. At first the main difference lies on the interface.
- ManageFlitter: a tool for Twitter which lets you find relevant people to connect with in order to start building a community upon your product / service. Easy to use with very good results.
- Buzzsumo: yes, this tool was already mentioned in content but it is also very useful in order to discover relevant content to share with your communities. Find these pieces of content through relevant keyword searching.
All in all, these are some cool resources and ideas in order to start building a product and measuring its market fit. Market fit will not only be your potential revenue stream but also a great source for product development (improvements, new features and even pivoting) in the first months.
This post aims for you to start thinking about market along with product development in order to be one step closer to be successful in a competitive landscape. Nothing is guaranteed but probably having a clear picture about both and define the resources to devote on them, is a good path to follow.
Bonus 1 – some other important concepts to expand your marketing horizons are: Product / Market fit, user onboarding, NPS and growth hacking.
Bonus 2 – stay tuned with new trends and learn about marketing or growth hacking concepts in GrowthHackers.com.