Simple Growth Hacks for Entrepreneurs: 0-3 Months
In the weeks leading up to the official launch of your product, there are a few things that are inevitable. Time is money and stress is palpable. It constantly feels like no amount of work is ever enough. Will the product ever be 100% ready? The grey hairs on your head are multiplying faster than your runway is disappearing.
But who said entrepreneurship was for the faint of heart?
There will never be a perfect time to start a company. And there will never be a perfect way to launch a company. Or a perfect way to market a company. Or a perfect way to secure media coverage.
Don’t sweat it. There’s no crystal ball to predict your fate, but we do have some simple growth hacks (from us and some of our friends, too) based on years of practical experience. These are the tips and tricks you’ll need to survive your startup launch.
1. Play the long game.
Content marketing is not a short-term solution. As Neil Patel once said, “They’re not willing to put in the time and energy to get the traffic. They’re looking for a quick hit, a quick fix. There’s no such thing. It’s just a lot of man hours and work that people don’t want to do.” You have to play the long game if you want to be successful. Start by choosing 3-4 high value, high competition core keywords and 6-8 low / medium competition secondary keywords. Target them consistently (and organically) over 3-4 months and you’ll see results... I promise.
2. Thought leadership is 110% underrated.
Whoever said that you shouldn’t care what other people think of you was definitely not an inbound marketer. In reality? Your reputation is everything. Putting in the time to build credibility and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry will pay off - big time. Publish high quality content on high quality third-party sites consistently (read: at least once a month), especially when you’re getting started. You’ll get rejected. Not everyone will want your content. Keep trying, keep emailing, keep making influential friends.
3. Focus on the foundation.
Content marketing is a hot topic right now (and it has been for a couple of years). Everyone’s talking about it and those who haven’t tried it, are eager to jump in. So eager, in fact, that they skip over the basics. Don’t be that guy! Make sure your blog is optimized for search engines (read the Moz blog) and conversions (read the Unbounce blog). Make sure your editorial schedule is solid (read Copyblogger). The basics are important, so don’t try to run before you learn to walk (you’ll fall and it’s the Internet, so someone will laugh).
4. Borrow credibility.
If you’re just starting out and you don’t have a reputation, I feel your pain. You’re struggling. Getting your foot in the door is hard when you’re not a recognized subject matter expert (yet) and you don’t have a thriving blog (yet). The absolute best way to build credibility in the early days? Borrow someone else’s. Just as you should guest post on third-party sites to build thought leadership, you should have thought leaders guest post on your blog to build credibility. If just one influencer writes for your blog, the benefits go far beyond the influx of traffic. Suddenly, you have some clout (and securing other guest bloggers will be easier). All you need is one “yes”.
1. Research is everything.
If we’re being honest, social media isn’t helpful in the early days unless you already have a significant following. Chances are, you don’t. Instead, lean on social media as a research tool. Facebook Graph Search and Twitter advanced search are powerful (and underrated) tools. Use social media to research your audience, to identify journalists and the stories they’re working on, etc. There is so much personal information and data online that marketers simply don’t take advantage of because they don’t want to put in the work.
2. Influencers are the only people who matter.
Again, we have to be honest with ourselves here. If you don’t already have a thriving community, you’re probably not going to build one in under three months. Yes, crazier things have happened, but it’s not the norm. In the early days, influencers are the only people who matter to your brand. Influence the influencer. It’s not just a cliche phrase. Don’t waste time trying to build a community without their help. Build influencer Twitter lists (privately), add them as streams on HootSuite and engage as often as possible. Get on their radar before / during launch for the biggest social media impact.
3. You can’t do everything. Choose wisely.
You’re an entrepreneur (or you’re a marketer who is working for one) and you want to do as much as possible right now. It’s in your DNA. But it’s dangerous, especially when it comes to social media. You have very limited resources, especially in the midst of a launch. So, pick 2-3 platforms and stick with them (again, play the long game). And please, please, please choose the right platforms for your audience. Don’t stick to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn because those are the most popular. Find out who your audience is and where they are connecting.
4. Put your money where your mouth is.
Social media is not free. Social media is a lot of man hours and, well, advertising doesn’t hurt. I challenge you to find a popular Facebook page that hasn’t done any paid post promotion or run any ads. In the beginning, organic social media growth is slow unless you have a big team and a willingness to invest a lot of time into social. In a lot of cases, advertising is a better, more cost-effective way to build a base community and social awareness (get Facebook advertising advice from Jon Loomer). As long as you know your audience (research, research, research), you’ll have no problem using advertising to source followers who can easily evolve into brand advocates.
1. Validation is clutch.
The first type of data you should be concerned about as an entrepreneur is customer-centric data. In the beginning, you need to focus on data that will validate your idea and business model. KISSmetrics will give you more insight into “who” than Google Analytics will, and it’s definitely worth the investment. Look at how visitors browse your site, look at how they move through the purchase process, look at how they move through the onboarding process. If you don’t have data to valid your idea, don’t even bother looking at other data points.
2. Choose 3 core metrics and 5 secondary metrics.
Metrics are kind of like keywords, which we talked about above. You want to focus on core metrics, but support them with secondary metrics as well. Your three core metrics should be tied directly to long-term business objectives. Then, your five secondary keywords should be tied to your core metrics. What additional metrics would give you a fuller look at how your core metrics are doing? Be focused and be specific. Spend the time upfront to ensure you’re measuring and analyzing the right data.
3. Set aggressive, attainable goals.
Now that you’ve chosen your metrics, it’s time to set some goals. The idea is that you want to be constantly struggling to obtain your goals, but you also want to know that they’re possible. Don’t set conservative goals that you’ll easily knock out every month. Similarly, don’t get goals that are so aggressive you’ll never be able to achieve them. In one scenario, you’ve got a false sense of confidence / growth and in the other, you’ve got a dejected team. Don’t go to the extremes: find the sweet spot.
4. Survey, chat, survey, chat.
If there’s one thing we’ve all learned from Sean Ellis, it’s that talking to your customers pays off. I mean, it really pays off. Use tools like Qualaroo to gather insight from your visitors or use a live chat tool (like Zopim) to have a 1-on-1 conversation with them. Any successful early stage entrepreneur will tell you that spending time talking to your customers and understanding their wants / needs is literally invaluable.
1. Make friends with everyone in media.
Make friends before you need them. As you gear up for your big launch, the time to make friends with journalists is weeks, preferably months, before you actually pitch them. Start by following them on Twitter and commenting on their content. You never know when you will want to pitch someone, so start getting to know the journalists who cover your industry now. You’ll be happy you did.
2. Identify early wins for your customers.
Look at your first customers... perhaps these are your beta users. How has your solution fuelled their success? When launching, the only thing better than your value prop is how your product is already helping others succeed. Identify one or two strong customer success stories to include in your big picture launch story. Journalists love numbers, so gather a few to highlight their growth alongside yours. By celebrating their milestones, you’re working toward yours.
3. Craft a story, not a media release.
Here’s the thing... launches are dead. But this doesn’t mean you can’t announce and celebrate your news. You just need to know how to pitch it. To avoid hearing crickets when you pitch the news of your debut, tell a story. Focus less on “we’re launching” and more on “here’s how we’re changing the landscape”. And don’t forget to use plain English. No one wants a press release full of technical jargon.
4. Score some early praise.
You don’t have to wait for launch to get some press. Identify “must watch” roundup posts and beta lists, and score some early media mentions. Start by contributing to niche blogs in your industry or weighing in on content with unique insights.
5. Build a kick ass work back schedule.
Make the biggest splash by planning your attack, long before it even happens, with a detailed work back schedule outlining: goals, deadlines, and action items for your team. As entrepreneur and venture capitalist John Bradberry explained, “I find that often the biggest and most healthy businesses look very different from what the founders first envisioned. They responded to what the market was telling them and it was something they could execute on.” Take a page from the Boy Scouts and be prepared for whatever the startup ecosystem sends your way.
There is no better advice than this: trust your gut and believe in yourself, your product, and your team. Sounds cheesy, right? I know, but I wouldn’t say it unless it were true. And hey, when your gut and a little trust isn’t enough, I hope these simple growth hacks will see you through.
Did we miss any simple growth hacks that you know work really well during a launch? Share them in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Judy