Startups success really depends on the initial user base, how quickly they can earn them. User acquisition is perhaps the toughest part of building a successful startup. It could be frustrating and could drag on for ages but it could also be a pleasant experience if you are lucky. It can actually make or break a startup. Building an initial user stream takes a lot of work, resources and persistent determination.
I was involved with a number of startups over the past one year and majority of what I have done is Customer acquisition, product management & marketing. Over that time I have been exposed to a lot of campaigns built to generate traffic, then revenue for early stage startups, and while a lot seem promising on paper, it rarely turns out to be the case when implemented.
1. Kick-Ass UI : Most websites I see struggling to keep users struggle either because of poor UI or strategy. You must have an appealing appearance. When you convey your message to people, make it catchy and enough to spark interest and curiosity. This is where user-testing comes into place. I like handpicking 20 random people (15 in my target market and 5 outside of it), and asking them to try out the product and give me feedback. I ask them to tell me if they found the experience easy, fulfilling, if they would refer their friends, if they would come back.
2. Implement SEO and leverage Social Media: The importance of these 3 things can’t be taken for granted. First of all, you want to have content and you want to have as many backlinks as possible. Whether you like it or not, search engines are still responsible for most of the traffic big startups get and SEO can improve your ranking and visibility. With Blogging and Social media, it is about sharing relevant information about not only your brand, but also the industry your startup is in. Expose the public to what your brand is about, what you are trying to achieve with your startup even before you start aggressively looking to gain traffic.
3. Bring in an initial stream of traffic: There are varying views about how you can do this, but in my career so far, I have tried to stick to the cheapest methods available. For the funded startups, it’s easier to simply purchase adwords and make a very targeted campaign to bring in relevant traffic. I particularly like the idea of launching at a big tech event conducted by NASSCOM etc. You can also invite tech bloggers to use your product and write about it.
The good thing is that at this point, you have optimized your product/website enough to the point where it doesn’t just see traffic go in and out, but it actually holds and converts a good fraction of it.
4. Ask for feedback and engage traffic: This is pretty straightforward. Users want to feel like they are part of a big thing and no better way of making them feel among like interacting daily on social networks, seeking feedback and doing the best you can to make the startup user-friendly.
5. Import contacts : Allow them import contacts from their e-mails, send them newsletters, even put a button on a strategic part of the site that lets them send a recommendation letter to a friend right from your website.
The goal is to market and go viral while using your users as evangelists. Do you have any more tips? feel free to share below in the comments section.
-Guest Post by Bhushan Patil, ex Chief Product Officer of Zapak, held senior product management role at Yahoo, Andale, Talisma.