Acquisition strategies for startups: the whole picture
Well, I have to say that every time I see someone on LinkedIn positioning himself as a Growth Hacker, I have a smile on my face. Talking lately with a lot of entrepreneurs, in fact, it seems that hiring a Growth Hacker is the key element if you’re working to establish a successful and sustainable startup.
I imagine what people may think: “Amazing, this person will solve all of my problems, driving tons of users, with the cheapest CPC ever, my project will be very successful and I’ll become famous“.
Ok, maybe the last bit is too far, especially if you’re an early stage entrepreneur.
But, I bet there are a lot of people with the same feeling.
We’re used to reading startups stories with incredible growth strategies, creative ideas, getting fantastic results in a relatively short amount of time. But, are those stories giving the whole picture?
I’ve been involved in a few amazing projects, where, even if the acquisition campaigns and the engine of growth start working and you’re getting results, sometimes you need to be careful. It can stop very quickly and your growth can be unsustainable.
Pre-acquisition strategies homework
So, before even planning your user acquisition strategy, here a few steps to consider, plan and implement:
1)Include a referral or in-product growth strategies
Even if we’re living the digital revolution, the majority of products are still been sold thanks to the word of mouth. Of course, there are different ways to encourage people to share information with their friends or family but, first of all, they have to love your product and they have to think it will improve other people’s life. Secondly, if you really want to drive growth, you need to set a quantifiable reward: people will struggle to understand how much is a 20% discount on your product if you haven’t released it yet. Meaning: you won’t get very good results in terms of acquisition.
If your product SUCKS, please, please, please improve it before spending a shit amount on paid, PR or earned media.
Another point I think it’s very important is planning an in-product growth strategy. Is there a way you can add a feature to your product to push your users using it as much as possible? Try to understand the intrinsic motivation users will have while using your product and try to design it in order to create the habit, without them realizing it. At the end, it’s what Zuckerberg has done and still doing with his product.
[If you want to learn more, you should read Hooked by Nir Eyal, I think it’s brilliant!]
2)Is there a way your product can advertise itself?
Do you remember why Steve Jobs decided to put the Apple logo visible to other people on laptops and mobile phones? It’s a way products can advertise themselves, leveraging visibility and curiosity. Simply by using a product, a customer advertises your product to people around them.
Pretty straight forward isn’t it? Start working on it, you’ll realise it’s more complicated than what you think.
3)Use the ACCORD framework to analyze your product and your potential market. But, be honest.
So, the first thing you should do as the entrepreneur is list as many things as you possibly can that are the relevant advantages of this product or service that you’re bringing to market over the status quo. The greater your relative advantage is, the greater the potential to realise demand.
I don’t think I’ll have to explain the Compatibility and Complexity. I also already explained Observability in the previous paragraph. The Risk point: can I adopt your product or service without functional risk, without being socially embarrassed and without a financial risk? And the last one: can the product be consumed or used in a relatively low-cost or small unit?
If in the analysis you thick all the 7 boxes, you have an idea on how quick your demand will spread. But be honest, we all know your product is amazing, but you have to sell it, not just convince people around.
4) Have a budget
With tons of new products and services being released every day you simply can’t bootstrap.
Product Hunt, Techcrunch are still tools very important to raise awareness, but they’re not enough anymore. You need to build a proper plan, experimenting until you find the right channel for your audience.
Customer acquisition is too much important for a lot of people in the company to give it a try, you need to build a plan, try all the channels, find the right one and repeat it. And, if part of this plan can be executed without a proper budget when you maximize all your efforts towards your best channel, you’ll need a bit of money to get results and scale it.
5) Focus on the niche and then expand it
Talking with entrepreneurs, too many times I hear: “I want to expand across Europe” even before having launched the product or service in the UK. What’s the difference between dreams and plans?
I also want to become rich, but unless I have a proper plan and feedback from my customers telling me I’m on the right way, well, this is not a SMART goal.
This is a great story for a PR consultant, but when you’re creating a customer acquisition strategy, the goals you should define or have in mind should be numbers, and, especially at the beginning you should focus on one market, understand your customers’ needs, deliver the product and THEN expand it.
That’s it, for the moment.
I’ll be talking about Growth Strategies at the Web Marketing Festival in Italy, on the 8th of July.
If you want to share a “piadina” & some web marketing thoughts, let me know!