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Rocket GTM 🚀 - 8 killer channels to acquire new customers
8 channels you can leverage to acquire new customers
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🌐 The Distribution Challenge
You may have built a great product, but if no one finds then what's the point. This is the 'distribution challenge'. Connecting customers to your amazing product is one of the hardest things to do.
You must create demand and then capture demand.
Below are 8 channels you can use to get started and acquire customers.
I've used a few of these methods first hand in both distributing my own content, as well as working at Spendesk. If you want more inspiration then feel free to check out the book 'Traction' by Gabriel Weinberg (CEO @ DuckDuckGo) where he discusses these in much more depth.
1. Targeting blogs & forums
Blogs and online forums are a fantastic place to build initial traction and create demand because you can tap into pre-existing audiences. There are thousands of blogs that exist with significant website traffic to piggy back off of.
Being promoted in someone else's blog, or present in an online forum can also help with SEO as it provides a source of backlinks to your website that boosts rankings.
The downside of blogs is that it can be difficult to scale this channel because certain blogs have limited traffic size. You'll need to find more blog with larger traffic sources, like TechCrunch, which become increasingly difficult to get featured in.
Tips on how to find blogs:
Google 'top blogs for x"
Youtube your keywords - look for influencers & industry experts making content to partner with them
Twitter search for hashtags or topics can be great to find popular blogs
Use Social Mention to type keywords and see sites that mention them a lot
Aim for smaller blogs with loyal and highly specific audiences - you'll have more success than large saturated blogs
How Mint used blogs to grow from 0-100k users in six months:
Noah Keagan the ex- Head of Marketing at Mint used blogs to get initial traction and 100k users.
He first broke down his target segments and listed out all the blogs they read (tech, personal finance, moms etc). He then reached out to the websites to either guest post or have them write an article about Mint.
He made a spreadsheet of all the different sources and tracked the traffic, CTR (click through rate), conversion %, total users, and confirmed users. In the first 6 months he acquired 100,000 users.
Note: the active tracking enabled Noah to know which sources were scalable and predictable. He could now double down on what works and ignore what doesn't.
If you'd like to read the detailed marketing plan that Noah executed you can check it out here
Dropbox also used public forums to get their first users. They published a video demo (below) of their product on popular forum Hacker News and got thousands of signups.
Quora, CodeAcademy, and Gumroad also used similar techniques on Hacker News to gain initial traction, and so could you.
Here is one of my favorite websites 'Marketing Examples' explaining how they grew from 0-20,000 newsletter subscribers in one year using content distribution strategy across internet forums and leveraging existing audiences. It's a must read!
By Harry Dry
Publicity from media outlets like TV, newspapers and magazines.
A very common publicity tool used for startups is sharing a fundraising news in TechCrunch.
Many founders don't know where to start when it comes to PR, but one tip is to use the 'trickle up' strategy.
Start with sharing in smaller publications where larger publications then search in to find juicy topics they can push to their audiences. This is particularly useful if you don't have a large event like a fundraising to talk about.
Publicity helps with fundraising, hiring, and partnerships due to familiarity and brand impacts. You can also pay to be featured in media publications which is a quick and easy way to get social proof
The downside to publicity is, after the initial burst of traction it can be hard to keep momentum and traction tails off. It can be costly and time consuming to do well.
Aim for smaller online publications & blogs because they get scoured by larger publications for ideas and are easier to get into
Press love milestones: fundraising, new products, partnerships, industry reports or insights
Bundle small announcements into one big announcement
Be controversial, being in the middle appeals to no one
Build relationships with journalists on LinkedIn & twitter. Follow, comment, meet for coffee
Use sites like Help A Reporter Out to find requests for stories & sources
Avoid PR agencies as they're costly and often journalists blacklist them
3. Unconventional PR
Unconventional PR, publicity stunts, and guerilla marketing are powerful.
Publicity stunts get the attention of the world, and journalists will report on them free of charge or effort.
Marc Benioff was the master of unconventional PR, you can read this awesome article to get some inspiration from Salesforce's success "Salesforce.com: 14 no-prisoner tactics"
Some great publicity stunt that got other people talking about them for free are:
Richard Branson wearing a spacesuit to announce launch of Virgin Galactic
Elon Musk's epic 'broken window' fail
Freshworks blimp at the annual DreamForce conference
Freshworks is a CRM competitor to Salesforce (the original king of PR stunts). At Dreamforce, Salesforce's annual conference bringing 100,000 customers to San Francisco, Freshworks made a loud splash when they put up a blimp saying '#Failsforce'.
Publicity stuns have the potential to get huge traffic and everyone asking to write about you. When people write about you and you get thousands of social shares it can massively boost backlinks to your website and thus Domain Authority and SEO rankings.
The downsides are it can require a lot of creativity, time, and skill to execute well. There is a high risk that they can flop and even create negative backlash.
Do something that will make people talk about you
Do something that's highly sharable to help it go viral
4. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine Marketing (also known as paid search) is one of the most widely used distribution channels there is. Online marketers spend more than $100M every single day on Google Ads 👀
You will see paid ads when typing in search queries into Google.
Youtube is another popular search engine which also displays paid ads linked to the keywords searched.
Paid search is a great way to capture demand quickly because people are typing in the keywords with intent. They're searching because they want to find.
So what keywords should you pay to put ads on?
Well, did you know that 70% of search traffic is from long tail keywords? Instead of searching for 'cars' people are more likely to search for 'best cars in 2021 for over-landing'.
The mistake many people make is targeting short keywords. They're attracted by the large monthly search volumes.
But these 'fat tail' keywords come with high competition and therefore high prices (cost per click).
A much better strategy is to compete for long tail keywords which are cheaper, but when aggregated can contribute significantly to traffic.
Paid ads used as research:
By using paid search on targeted keywords you can research what demand is out there and get insights into the right product features to build.
Take Ancestry for example:
“Are we trying to build a product experience where you can find hundreds and hundreds of your ancestors, or are we trying to build a product experience where you can go as far back as possible, like trace your family tree all the way back to the 1200s? Or are people more motivated by finding out they’re related to a celebrity or some historical figure, and therefore should we focus more on those family" Weinberg, Gabriel; Mares, Justin. Traction (pp. 67-68)..
One of the quickest ways to capture demand
It's a cheap way to test keyword demand, CTR, and conversions on a small budget
SEM can be highly scalable if you're able to get CAC lower than LTV and there is enough monthly search volume to feed your growth
Paid search can be leveraged as a powerful research tool to understand demand from specific segments and the positioning & copy that converts
In certain niches Google Ads can be expensive because of high competition driving up prices. This is particularly the case in Silicon Valley where tech startups are raising hundreds of millions in venture capital and can plough this into paid distribution channels
"The basic SEM process is to find high-potential keywords, group them into ad groups, and then test different ad copy and landing pages within each ad group. As data flows in, you remove underperforming ads and landing pages and make tweaks to better-performing ads and landing pages to keep improving results." - Weinberg, Gabriel; Mares, Justin. Traction (p. 68).
Research keywords with tools like Ahrefs, SemRush or Moz
Aim for long-tail keywords
Use search engine ads to test positioning and messaging and potential demand for certain product features
Use tools like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer to run A/B tests on landing pages.
Focus on quality Click-Through-Rates as Google promotes higher converting ads more (the average CTR is 2%)
5. Social Ads Display
Social Ads are another form of paid ads which can be found on banners within websites, or integrated into social networking platforms like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter.
The effectiveness and conversion rates of banner ads on traditional websites have significantly decreased over time as consumers pattern recognition helps to ignore them.
In December 2016 there were over 600 million devices running adblock software globally, The average CTR of a banner ad is 0.05%, which is much lower than Google Ads CTR of around 2%.
Due to low CTR's, banner ads are not so much used for capturing demand, but rather creating demand through consistent awareness.
When banner ads are used to retarget customers that have engaged with your content, website, or brand it can give the impression that your brand is far more present than it really is, again boosting brand loyalty and brand awareness.
When used well social ads can be great ways to promote content, eBooks, webinars or other 'demand creation' media formats.
I see most of the ads I'm retargeted by on Instagram stories, and must admit I click on many of the relevant ads showing content I'm interested, but rarely would i click with a high intent to buy something.
Sponsored posts or sponsored stories are relatively new and are great for promoting awareness generating content like blogs, ebooks, pdfs, webinars, courses, and events.
Reddit has more than 5 billion monthly page views and 175 million unique monthly users. That is INSANE traffic you can piggy back off of.
Reddit also has communities which are naturally interested in certain topics so you can get hyper personalized. The content blends in well with the feeds and lends itself to engagement.
Use social ads to drive brand awareness and demand creation. For example: promoting blog content, videos, eBooks, webinars, and events but not so good for capturing intent directly
Social ads don't perform well for capturing intent
Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter are powerful networks for retargeting customers with social ads as they have detailed demographic information to narrow down your audience
Promote Twitter ads around compelling events to increase engagement in a timely and relevant conversation
There are ad networks that aggregate ad inventory such as: Google Display Ad network, Advertising.com, Tribal Fusion, Conversant, and Adblade (Google Display Ads network covers 80% of online audience alone!)
Analyze competitor ads with tools like MixRank and Adbeat to show competitors ads and where they are running
Promote successful organic content in paid for optimal results. When you have good organic blogs & videos that do well, give them a boost with paid social for added awareness
6. Offline Ads
Offline Ads feel old school.
They can be billboards, TV ads, radio ads, magazines, newspapers, direct mail etc.
Offline ads can be harder to target a specific crowd, often used for consumer products than B2B products.
San Francisco is one place where offline ads is popular, mainly because of the concentrated nature of the city's demographics being tech workers in startups, which many startups succeed in selling to.
Brex for example paid $300,000 for a 'sh*t ton' of billboards during a three month period. Instead of focusing on pure dollar-in-dollar-out ROI they saw the opportunity to create brand awareness, help with recruiting, and support an already aggressively scaling growth trajectory. The results then helped directly in their acquisition thanks to social proof.
"The thing with billboards is that you need to buy a lot of them to work, marketing is about repetition... San Francisco had a lot of our target audience so it was great" - paraphrased
Creates awareness and helps create demand
Ca be used in publicity stunts, and unique creative ways
Billboard ads often get left up if there are no new ads to be place, therefore getting more exposure at no extra cost.
Its difficult to convert attention into immediate action
You need to have a high concentration of your audience in one area for them to have an impact
Buy in bulk - it gets cheaper
Publications accept almost any price when selling empty inventory near print deadlines
Use 'remnant ad agencies' who sell discounted ad space for last minute slots they can't sell - you can get up to 90% off if you're not bothered about time or location
7. Search Engine Optimization SEO
Similar to paid search (SEM), except free and organic (SEO).
We all use Google to search for things. Search Engine Optimization determines what gets ranked on the first page, and this is where you want to be. SEO is a game of ranking content linked to keywords with high intent.
Google receive an enormous amount of monthly traffic from people searching and if you're at the top of the search results you can channel that traffic to your website.
SEO is free, which is a huge upside. But it can take a while, often 6 months plus to get any meaningful results.
The beauty of SEO is that it's highly scalable. When you scale, the CAC goes down. Unlike paid search (SEM) where the traffic stops as soon as you turn off the ads, SEO will perform into the long term. This performance compounds over time so it's super powerful.
CTRs per ranking - you must be on page one and near the top to succed
Position 1 – 43.32%
Position 2 – 37.36%
Position 3 –29.90%
Position 4 – 19.38%
Position 5 –10.95%
Position 6 – 10%
Position 7 – 5.28%
Position 8 – 4.13%
Position 9 – 4.13%
Position 10 – 3.11%
Key things to know for ranking in SEO:
Backlinks matter - the more websites that link back to, or reference, your page
Keywords - if you carefully select keywords that have good search volume and low competition you can do very well in SEO
Long tail keywords make up 70% of google search and have less competition, but require you to rank for more words to get enough volume
Fat tail keywords like 'car' have more individual volume, but are super competitive and almost impossible to rank for
Check out Moz's Beginners Guide to SEO for more learnings
SEO may not be a good fit for you if you need quick results or you are trying to rank for a word no one is searching. For example, with category creation being all the craze atm (check out the book Play bigger for more on that) it makes no sense to try and rank for the new category name because no one is searching for it.
In the example of category creation, or perhaps building you own personal brand with a name no one's heard of, you need to create demand first. Only when there is significant search volume for your name or category does it make sense to start ranking for that keyword.
Other tips to help with SEO
Publicity - yes, another acquisition channel can help SEO. When you get covered by media outlets they will link back to your website giving you more domain authority
Product - some products can be created in a way where users will link back to their website. Example, linkedin, quora, amazon, but also in website add-ins can create SEO bumps
Data, reports, and insights - if you produce content that lends itself to being referenced you'll get lots of back links. Some good examples of these are G2 Crowd, Profitwell, or Gong.
8. Content Marketing
This is the world of creating your own high quality content that people actually to see.
You can create content to educate or entertain (or both!)
Take Moz's website below, with high quality educational content teaching their audience about SEO, which is highly related to their product.
Good content can help you:
rank in SEO because people reference it thus giving backlinks
build brand awareness and customer loyalty
create an aspirational brand for your customers
leverage word of mouth
capture emails to retain interest through email marketing & newsletters
get invited to speak at conferences and other events as an industry leader and further get publicity
Distribution - don't forget that once you create good content you still need to distribute it. SEO is great if you're ranking, otherwise you can look at the methods in part 1) above for some strategies.
Give content marketing 6 months to get traction
Do things that don't scale early on to get viewership - like reaching out one-by-one to influencers
Create quality content that people would pay to get access
🙌 Wait there are 10 more!
Engineering as marketing
Would you like to learn more about these 10 channels? Just hit 'reply' to this email and let me know!