Gabriel and Justin spent four years writing this book for which they also interviewed 40 successful entrepreneurs.
The book talks about tactics which every company should consider (especially start-ups) and figure out which of these work for them:
- Viral marketing (encouraging users to recommend your product or service to others)
- PR or public relations
- Unconventional PR (do something to get the attention of the media)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Paid social and visual ads (Facebook, YouTube etc.)
- Outdoor ads (TV, printed ads, posters, flyers etc.)
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Content marketing (for example, blog posts)
- Email marketing
- Engineering (micro pages, widgets, free tools)
- Collaboration with target blogs
- Business strategy (collaborating with companies, e.g. Apple and Nike created Nike+ footwear)
- Telephone sales
- Affiliate programs (in exchange for recommendations you give the bidder a certain percentage from the purchase)
- Platforms (Facebook, AppStore, Android etc.)
- Sponsoring events
- Presentations at fairs
- Public appearances
- Building community
Which tactic to choose?
Find a way to test each one, look at which tactics the competition is using, test them and find out how the tactics work in different time periods – what works today might not work in the future or vice versa; a good example of this are banners on websites which used to be a great source for gaining customers but aren’t in use as much anymore.
While testing the tactics ask yourself these questions:
– How much does it cost to get users through this channel?
– How many customers are reachable through this channel?
– What are the conversions and how much time do you need to reach them?
Descriptions of all tactics are listed below.
It encourages users to recommend your product or service to others.
Possibilities of viral marketing:
- Collaboration – it’s useful on its own but much more so if more people use it (an example is Google Drive).
- With the help of communication – Hotmail used »get free email« or Apple which sings messages with »sent from my iPhone«.
- Recommendations to friends – Dropbox gives users more storage if they bring friends who sign up. AirBnB, Paypal and Uber also give you credit if you recommend them to a friend.
- Plug-ins and widgets – YouTube embedded videos on any website.
The most common in viral marketing is recommending through email and social media. Very important in viral marketing is: how do your users communicate right now? Consider gifts for publishing – emphasize the gift to buyers in exchange for posting about your product or service on one of the social networks. Also, competitions are a good possibility for reaching virality, for example, Shopify organizes a competition where you build your business (Build a Business by Shopify).
SEM (Search Engine Marketing) or paid ads in search engines. On Google Adwords alone advertisers spend 100 million dollars a day. The basis of SEM is finding high quality keywords, gathering ads into ad groups. Test different ads and landing pages in each group separately.
Start SEM with analysis of keywords, where you use the tools Google Keyword planer, Keyword Spy, SEMrush and SpyFu to help you. Generally, the more accurate or longer (long-tail) keywords are much cheaper than more general ones. You should definitely use URL builder tool that creates links with which you will see where the highest conversions are and not only clicks on your ads. You can test keywords, ads, user demographic, landing pages, price per click etc. For A/B testing (comparison of two different versions) of your landing pages, you can use, for example, Optimizely and VWO. Another important factor is quality assessment which enables better visibility and cheaper prices per click. The biggest influence has CTR (ratio between displays and clicks). On average, CTR is 2 % – if you are under 1.5 % that means a bad assessment for Google search. Other factors influence quality assessment as well, e.g. how much time users spend on your website etc.
Paid social and visual ads, for example, on Facebook, YouTube etc.
For example, you can use advertising with banners or text. The biggest networks are Google’s Display Network, AOL platforms, Exponential, Conversant and Adblade. You can also use BuySell Ads, where you can buy directly from website publishers. Another possibility is website arrangement to advertise with them – a tactic used by Noah Kagan at Mint, where he contacted bloggers and negotiated advertising prices. Tools like MixRank and Adbeat show you competition’s ads and where they are located. Alexa and Quantcast show you who visits the site with competition’s ads. Websites which are frequently visited for advertisement are, for example: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Foursquare, Tumblr, reddit, YouTube, BuzzFeed, Scribd, SlideShare and Pinterest.
The authors advise that you focus on smaller blogs, forums for posting in the beginning and focus on celebrity marketing later on. Try to connect with celebrities who will recommend your products or services and contribute to you getting published in a bigger media. Get a journalist’s attention with special events – launching of a new product, getting significant financing, reaching a certain milestone in numbers or launching a special report in your field. Follow influencers in your field and check which blogs they write and visit. Publish your story on websites for communication, for example, Digg, reddit, Hacker News etc. Share your post on social media and notify influencers in your field about it and try to convince them to share your posts with their audience.
Unconventional public relations
A good example of this is Richard Branson, who once wore a spacesuit at Virgin Galactica opening, another time he dressed up as a woman or drove a tank in a street etc.
Outdoor ads are posters, magazines, television, direct mail etc. When using these ads, the most important is user demographic (e.g. older people buy magazines).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This is a process of ranking improvement in web search engines with the aim to get a high number of users to your website. I recommend Moz guide to SEO. In optimization, the most important thing is to find searched keywords. Then you test them by buying Google ads for a keyword where you want to be seen in the search engines. If Google ads you paid for pay off (e.g. have good conversion) then the optimization for this keyword was a good choice. Use tools and these websites: Google Keyword planner, Google Trends and Alexa. Open Site Explorer tool will show you the number of links that your competition has for a certain keyword.
Unbounce started with its blog a year before they actually had their product. They connected with their potential users by answering questions on targeted forums such Quora. You should also consider infographics (visual presentation of information) and free e-books which will help you build your user email list. One of the best methods to build numbers of users is to publish an article on a different website with your name (guest posting).
Coupon website Groupon uses email marketing as a primary marketing channel for communicating with their clients. Another marketing technique is autoresponders (electronic messages prepared in advance which are automatically sent at certain times). Email messages can be used in all life cycles, for example, in gaining and keeping existing buyers. A good example is Dropbox, where they will send you an automatic notice to upload, if you haven’t uploaded to their server in a while. With these automatic messages, they have increased the possibility for renewed use of their services. When it comes to emails and other texts, I recommend you look at Copy Hackers, where you can find many useful tips. Also use email retargeting which means that a visitor of your website already added a product to the shopping cart but hasn’t finalised the purchase – an automatic email is sent to them two or three days later for the same product they didn’t finish purchasing. With emails, I suggest you test different variations, for example, different titles, photos, time of sending etc. In email marketing, time of sending is very important, because you want to achieve a high level of open rates (it tells you how many people actually open and read your mail) and most experts recommend sending between 9 and 12 am.
Engineering, e.g. free tools
HubSpot is a company that deals with marketing automatization – they have reached thousands of users in different countries . The key reason for their success is the Marketing Grader free tool. Another reason was MOZ, which deals with website optimization and has a few free tools, for example, Open Site Explorer.
With this tactic, Noah Kagan gained twenty thousand users before launching Mint. You can find blogs in your field by going to Google search and typing in ‘top blogs in ‘your field’’ or ‘best ‘field’ blog’. You can also use Twitter, where you can use the tools Followerwonk and Klout. On YouTube, you can search for the most viewed videos for your keyword. Social Mention shows which websites have the most mentions of the desired keyword. You can share your link in communities like reddit, Inbound.org, Digg, Hacker News etc. Dropbox gained 10,000 new users by sharing a video on Hacker News.
Business collaborations between companies – Business Development (BD)
Both sides are focusing on increasing mutual interest between companies with the aim to reach new users for both companies. Google partnered up with Netscape in the beginning and later with Yahoo. A good example of collaboration are Apple and Nike, which resulted in Nike+ footwear that communicates with your iPod or iPhone which you can use for measuring your run or listening to music. Licences also belong into this area, for example, Starbucks lent their trademark to a company producing ice cream.
Todd Vollmer, who has many experience with sales, suggests you answer the five question below when you communicate with companies over the phone:
– In what way do companies buy solutions like yours?
– Does a company really need your solution?
– Who decides on the purchase?
– Does the company have the funds to buy your solution?
– How much time do they need to decide?
Think about a strategy for a sales funnel, a way of how you will turn visitors of your website and store into buyers. It is very important to assess in which phase your clients are and what is their preparedness to buy. HubSpot, which sells tools for over 10 thousand dollars, uses this information to know how much time to spend on a client and rank their customers into groups A, B and C. Group A represents those who are expected to buy in three months, B in three to twelve and C, customers who will not decide to buy in one year. Group A gets the most attention from the sellers. The success of a sales funnel can be improved by free trial period, answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ), recommendations from your buyers, webinars, simplified use of your product or service, lower price in the beginning of use etc.
It is an agreement between companies or individuals with the intent of a predetermined goal, for example, selling or gaining customer contacts – a blogger recommends your product and in return for every sale, you give them a certain percent from the product sold. Insurance companies and law firms pay high commissions if you help them get good and qualified customers. Companies like Amazon, Zappos, eBay, Orbitz, and Netflix use affiliate programs for increasing their income. Affiliate programs are one of the best tactics for online stores, information products and membership-based websites. The biggest affiliate network for digital products is Clickbank, where commissions get up to 75 percent. The author of the book recommends companies to offer their products through CJ affiliate, Pepperjam, ShareASale or more specific networks who target similar products to yours. When you join an affiliate network it is important that you contact creators of content, for example, bloggers, publishers, people with influence on social media and those who have email lists with clients suitable for your products or service. Start building a relationship with them, help them or write a guest post for their blog, give them your product for free or some other gift.
These are existing websites, app providers and networks with a large number of users which will help you grow, like App Store, Facebook, Snapchat etc. You can also find various plug-ins and add-ons, e.g. Adblock Plus, which blocks ads on websites. A good example is YouTube which grew on account of the platform MySpace, which was in 2000 the most visited social network in the world. Sharing videos and uploading them in that time wasn’t user friendly and MySpace didn’t make it possible so YouTube took advantage of this, and enabled users to create their own platforms in a few minutes. Also, Evernote was one of the first apps who offered its app to Android and they were featured on their platform for six weeks, while today the competition on this Android platform is exceptional.
Before you decide to appear at a fair visit it as a guest a year before. If you decide to attend a fair, it is very important to use it for meetings with the press, bloggers, competition, business partners etc.
This includes sponsoring or hosting an event, from small scale meetings to big conferences. Twilio focuses on sponsoring hackathons (event where a group of people search for a common solution), conferences and different meetings. The author Eric Reis organised his own conference to which he invited investors and successful entrepreneurs, and spread word on lean business methods. The author Seth Godin also used meetings for launching his book Linchpin in many cities in the country and met tens of thousands of people. I recommend you use meetup.com, where you can organize a meeting or join in an existing one.
Appearing as a public speaker
With this tactic you can at first give free speeches to small groups or to your clients and business partners. When you start a speech, the audience usually asks, if they don’t know you already, who you are and what added value will you share with them, and it makes sense to tell them at the beginning. You will win the audience over with a good story because stories spark interest in audiences.
Chris McCann started Startup Digest with sending emails to twenty friends. Then Chris continued with talks at events. Today the community has over one hundred thousand users. As I have mentioned before, the founder of reddit Alexis Ohanian thanked everyone for writing, and sent them gifts, like t-shirts and stickers in the beginning of building her community.