Acquiring users is a complicated equation. And in this attention economy, it is particularly difficult to find your own place. Yet, your execution on this point is what will determine the future of your startup. Here are 5 essential points to guide you on your perilous adventure of obtaining them .
#1. Hunt your first users by hand.
Do things that don’t scale. This sentence known worldwide by Paul Graham summarizes on its own the state in which your startup will find itself and the state of mind that you must adopt at the start. Building a quality product is sadly not enough to make them come on their own. You must go and grab them by the hand, resend emails when they don’t reply, question them when they leave… you must have a way forward, define interactive strategies. And do not hesitate counting on them, even if they do not scale on the long run. Obtaining the first set of users is vital, difficult and does not come by chance. As the saying goes: build it but they may not come.
#2. Understanding the two ways to obtain growth.
Two distinct ways of getting users exist to obtain growth. The first one consists of growing on the back of someone else. Especially by making the most of the growth and visibility that you can get from an external network (something I like to call an OPN: other people networks) with an aim to redirect a precise segment of users towards your product. The famous cases like Zynga with Facebook, Airbnb with Craigslist or YouTube with Myspace are renowned examples.
The second strategy on the other hand is to increase the number of users (or your revenues) by working on your existing structure and through the referral of your power users. Here it consists of putting into place a referral program, to retarget a precise list to be able to upsell or even to restrict the access of certain functionalities in exchange of a tweet or a share on Facebook. Many ideas can be found to incite or obtain referrals’ from your community. It is also an excellent way to further exploit the yield of one user and why you should have a quality customer support.
#3. Focus on one acquisition channel until saturation.
In the aim of obtaining some customers, you will surely need to experiment a large number of channels (Facebook, emailing, content marketing…). What will happen is simple: you will discover very quickly from comparing them that one will account for more than 50% of your growth. And in this situation, the reasoning to follow is the following: focus yourself and optimise this channel until it saturates. It’s always easier to have an impact and to grow with something that already works instead of trying something unknown. Your time is precious and limited. All these demands need a lot of energy to make one of these work, don’t bother wasting your time by wanting to succeed everywhere (you won’t).
#4. Paying to get users is not forbidden.
We still hear too often that growth hacking is a state of mind which consists of obtaining users without spending a dime. But that’s not the point. The questions that you should ask yourself are:
- How do I acquire a user for a lower cost than his or her lifetime value? (profitability)
- How do I obtain my first quality users to be able to collect the first data about my product? (high tempo iteration phase)
It is always possible to build advertising campaigns which are efficient on Facebook (even with a small budget). If you have a particular idea on which users to target and a very personal message to send them, it could be a way of acquiring your first set of users for a decent price. It is essential to put yourself in the best place possible for this. To iterate efficiently around your product, it demands a certain number of active users on a daily basis. Do not forget about your strategic advertising: It is one way of acquiring your first early-adopters to test your first features, but also an efficient way of testing and finding out what works to make them convert on your landing page.
#5. Growth is a chain of multiple successful experiences.
At the last growth hacking Meetup, I brought up the importance of the backlog. This small spreadsheet shows the different objectives that you and your team count on carrying out. It is crucial that everyone in the team knows about this document and can have easy access to it.
Amongst the backlog, apart from the fact that most of your experiments will be failures, and some will be total game changers, most will have just a slight impact. Bit by bit, you will realize if you succeed, the influence that your first users will have had on your journey. If you are a regular player of Risk (the board game), you might understand the importance little victories have on the game. That’s the same thing with these experiments. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
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