Getting creative about reaching your target audience can go a long way for your company.
If you’re a first-time entrepreneur, you’ve probably thought a lot about your product. But have you thought about how to get your product out to people? Getting the word out about your company and attracting customers is just as important having an awesome product.
Growing our customer base is something we work at every day with our own startup, . We help startups and businesses manage team progress with daily status reports. Through a lot of trial and error, we’ve grown our customer base, befriended our customers and learned one very important lesson: you never know what will work, so why not experiment?
Here are 3 things we didn’t think would work, but did:
1. Keep it simple
Start with the simplest idea. Then simplify it.
iDoneThis began with an idea that was so simple it was stupid. Think I’m joking? On Dec. 17, 2010, Rodrigo (our CTO) sent Walter (our CEO) an email entitled “Stupid Idea.” In the email, Rodrigo described an email-based system that asked you, daily, “What did you get done today?” and then kept track of your replies. Out of this email, iDoneThis was born.
Everything built slowly from there. Friends and family were incredulous that iDoneThis could become anything serious because of how simple it was. But we talked to our users who told us that they loved the service because it was so easy to use.
Keeping it simple can be a competitive advantage for your product. Simplicity appeals to a broader base of users. Simple services have a variety of use-cases that overlap with “legitimate” businesses and have an inherent advantage over those services merely for being simple.
2. Don’t Wait for Them to Come, Go to Them
Find out where your target users hang out, what they read, who they listen to and what influences them. Then seek out the channels that influence your user base and go to them.
When iDoneThis first started, we made the mistake of believing “if we build it, they will come.” They never came. So we took matters into our own hands and started talking about ourselves to influential communities.
We posted to . We posted on . We left comments talking about ourselves on a article. We tailored everything we wrote to the specific audience, making sure that the story we told about our business was relevant to them.
More importantly, we didn’t give up when one channel was closed to us. We originally tried to pitch iDoneThis to Lifehacker, but to no avail. Instead, we sent a custom-written story about our product to a smaller site, . Our on How-to-Geek drew enough attention that it was picked up by Lifehacker the next day.
Each post brought us visitors to our site, visitors who became customers and continue to be customers today. So do your research. Figure out where to tell your business’s story to influence readers to become potential customers.
Which brings me to my next point…
3. Write your own story
Writing your own story means taking control of your startup’s narrative and giving your business and your team an identity and voice through that narrative. It means tailoring the story for different audiences and controlling the distribution of your stories, so that each hits the right note with the right readers.
In the past, we offered nuggets of news about our business to journalists as exclusives and we were written about on influential tech news sites. It made sense to go to the press and blogs with our news because they (1) have distribution and (2) are expert in crafting a story.
Then one day, we wrote our own story. e posted it to our own blog. The was simple but very personal: we wrote about the work we did behind the scenes at our company and the efforts we made to get people talking about iDoneThis.
The result? We hit an all-time one-day high for traffic and added 1,000+ customers, more than double the customers that resulted from our press piece.
Writing your own story and being transparent about your business efforts gives you a competitive advantage. When you write your own story, you build a relationship with the readers themselves. They follow you on Twitter and “like” you on Facebook, creating subscriptions, essentially. Through these channels, you can reach them again and again.
What Does This Mean for You?
These three tactics unexpectedly and directly increased our customer base. The lesson here is to get creative when spreading the word about your startup. Try a different tactic you’re not sure will succeed. People just might surprise you and come running.
Ginni Chen is Chief Happiness Officer at , a startup that helps other startups and businesses manage progress through daily status reports.