Since I opened the doors to Bam Creative some 14 years ago (wow, 2002 was a long time ago!), I’ve been working with newly established (read: startup) and existing businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Each one of them comes with their own challenges and lessons, however since we launched our latest ‘side project’, the SaaS employee survey startup 6Q, last March, I’ve been acutely interested in startup growth.
So much so, that we’ve been studying what has worked and what could be improved, both from 6Q, and also by looking at other local start-ups. We’ve just released our research (more about this below) and I’d like to walk through a few lessons I’ve learned with 6Q.
Lessons from 6Q
I have enough advice here for many articles, however here are ten important takeaways for early stage startups, from pre-launch to growth stage.
Start building an audience now, even if you haven’t got a launch date this year.
Don’t wait until a month before launch to start building up your social media following, or writing great long-form blog posts. This takes time, and leaving it until a month before restricts your chance of immediate success.
Our most valuable post, Everything you need to know about employee pulse surveys attracts new sign ups every week, but we didn’t publish it until months after launch – we’d have better run rates had it been written a lot earlier.
Get as many people testing as soon as you can.
We had a dozen companies in our pre-launch test, however we only got to adding a larger amount (over 100 organisations) a week before launch. We were frantic with fixing things during that week, when we should have been far more organized.
Don’t get hunted until you’re ready.
Product Hunt is hands down awesome. If you get hunted the day you launch, you could attract thousands of potential customers on your first day. Our issue was that we got hunted before we launched, and with no email sign up to boot. We lost at least 4,500 opportunities in the first 12 hours to get registered interest. Many startups now have a pop up saying something to the effect of ‘Please don’t hunt us!’ – I wish we’d done something similar.
Build a target list.
These are people such as journalists that have covered similar startups, people who are social media influencers in your target audience and even vocal customers of any perceived competitors. Don’t just keep them in a spread sheet either; make contact and start building a relationship before asking them for help in promoting your launch.
Prepare for a big launch, but expect a soft result.
Sure, have a content distribution network ready, and scale up multiple servers, but don’t pin your hopes on being on the homepage of Techcrunch on launch day. Be prepared for a potential fizzle; it’s emotionally draining, but doesn’t mean you are onto a bad idea.
Tell the entire universe.
That list I suggested you create earlier? Use it! On launch day, make contact with each and every one of your targets, but not by a mass email; make each one a unique email or call. You can pre-write these days ahead, so all you have to do is hit send on the day (or a few days before, if you can trust them).
Talk benefits not features.
This isn’t a new lesson for me, however it continually amazes me how many startups focus their copy on the features, rather than the benefits. For example, a feature of 6Q is multi-lingual surveys. The benefit is ‘Survey your team in their local language’- see the distinction?
Don’t stop telling people about your product.
Follow up regularly with anyone who has shown previous interest, with any new feature announcements, or even just a festive greeting. Regularly scour your address book for people you may not have told yet. Use LinkedIn to reach out to your contacts (you’ve got plenty, since you started building an audience at the beginning, right?).
Test every growth hack you think of.
Find yourself wondering if promoting a blog post using Outbrain will attract leads? Set aside a little budget and test the waters. Want to know if phoning each free trial sign up will help convert? Set aside a half day and give it a test. As long as you are measuring everything (Google Analytics is your friend) you should have great data to back up every crazy hypothesis.
Focus on sellable features.
When looking over your product roadmap, ask yourself what is cool to build, and what is something that will help people buy your product; nine times out of 10, these will be different. Focus on building features that help sell your product, not features that are just cool to have. These can be built once you’ve got a sizable customer base.
Research into WA startups
At Bam Creative, we’re always looking into what others are doing, and sizing these activities up for our own clients and projects. We’ve done this across a wide range of industries before, and have shared the results on a per project basis, however this year we’re going to start releasing what we learn for the benefit of all.
Our first in a series of ‘Industry Insights’ is now ready for downloading; it is 17 pages of data taken from 50 Western Australian startups, from early stage through to ASX listed. This report is freely available; the only catch is you need to give us your first name and email address. We’ll sign you up to our monthly digital marketing email, which I trust you’ll find useful, however if you don’t, you can always hit unsubscribe from any of them.
Head on over to our research page for more info, and to download a copy yourself.