Did the chicken come first or the egg?
If you the founder of a startup, you will know that it is extremely difficult to get the first 1000 users. The growth is easier when you have to get the numbers from 100000 to 101000. Even though it is the same 1000 user increment.
Most of the startups die at number 1001.
They went through the grind, created awesome product, created online advertisements, spend money on marketing but the grind of getting the first 1000 users would let them down and mind you it is not a small effort.
This is a common problem for all the startups. Dropbox, reddit and quora all went through this. They are billion dollar companies now. So how did they do it.
How did they went from the limping frog to the galloping horse.
Lets take dropbox first. Dropbox was spending 300 dollars to acquire one customer who would spend 99 dollars. That is when idea stuck the founder. Why not create a video explaining the benefits of dropbox. He created a video and posted in on Digg (yes, back then it was Digg all over the place). The video got upvoted to the front page and dropbox had 75000 in waitlist overnight. That is how they solved the chicken and egg problem. He also did another nice trick. Invite your friend and for every signup you get extra space. This too drove a lot of people to refer their friends and get that extra space.
How do you solve this if you have a forum / discussion platform?
Reddit solved the chicken and egg problem by creating content on their own. The founders had to spend months creating content before users started posting their content. Initially there were no subreddit. Subbreddits were introduced once traffic grew.
The founders of Quora asked questions and answered it themselves.
You could drive lots of traffic to your website, but if the website is empty, nobody gives a flying fuck. All these websites wanted people to know they were popular than they actually were. This is the first lesson in marketing for startups. To get traction, you need to create it.
Tinder did a nice trick in their early days. They threw a huge party near University of Southern California, and for people to come they had to install the app. You can imagine the word of mouth publicity they got from this.
Airbnb. It is a different ball game altogether when you have to create real listing from real owners. Fake profiles and own content are not enough. Airbnb got email address from craiglist and emailed them. Below is the email they sent out. Of course they deny this.
I am emailing you because you have one of the nicest listings in Craigslist in the Tahoe area, and I want to recommend you feature it to one of the largest vacation rental marketplaces on the web, Airbnb. The site already has 3,000,000 page views a month! Check it out here: http://www.airbnb.com
People started listing their properties fast in the new gen service. After all these efforts and getting the listing Airbnb found that they were having very less transactions. They realized that majority of the pictures in the website were terrible. The founders got a good camera and personally clicked the photos of many listed houses. Rest as they say is history.
- Creating amazing products is just the beginning, you got to communicate the value clearly.
- Look for places where your target market is concentrated and market aggressively.
- Sometimes you need to look beyond the codes to find out why there are no sales.
- Make the customer/visitor believe your website is more popular than it actually is. No one likes an empty website.
Think of unconventional ways to reach out to your audience.
[About the author : Charles is a startup consultant. That is a job title I just made up. If you have a startup and want me to critically analyze your product or offering, send an email at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Image credit: shutterstock]