The Tried and True Strategies We Used to Grow our Startup
Most of the advice and success stories for startups feels very vague, vapid, and inactionable: “know your customers”, “be persistent”, “sleepless nights”, etc…
We get it. Building a startup is hard work, there will be ups and downs, and people play a big role. Of course, that all checks out to be true. But the little details and tricks you learn along the way do as well and sometimes, one experiment can be the catalyst for big progress. While we were growing our third startup, Beamer, we learned so many new strategies through relentless experimentation we wished someone would write about rather than reminding us to be persistent one more time.
Without a “startup blueprint”, it’s a ticking time bomb of doing the right things in the right time. We want to give you a few of those actionable things that worked for us here; one of them might ignite a big journey for you and your team as well.
Here are a few tried and true strategies we used to grow our startup:
Create a customer management system.
With a SaaS startup like ours, success is potentially (and hopefully) exponential. If you’re not prepared, success at rapid expansion could be what ends up ruining you. Your customer service is going to be key when introducing any sort or new product or service. The product may be intuitive to you but to your customers, that’s likely not the case. Your customer support system should be a combination of both live support and self support. For example, we use Intercom for live chat support on the site and in our app directly. We also created a help center where customer could check tons of helpful articles, FAQs, and guides. This combination has helped our customer base adopt the product quickly and intuitively.
Experiment with growth hacking ways to get your product in front of the right audience.
As a startup, it’s pretty much implied your marketing budget is not in the range of a larger company. To compete for the attention of your target audience, you have to get creative. Your focus should be reaching your audience in authentic and organic ways that produce high engagement. We tried out a number of things. Outside of our regularly posting blogs, one or two a week, we put a big focus on sharing and collaborations to get in front of the right audience. We have made a big effort to do guest posting and collaborations with other brands adjacent to us to expand our audience and build important backlinks. We regularly share content on Medium and Quora, where our content gets well indexed and sent out to an already qualified audience.
One really interesting trick we tried that we had great success with was a flash sale on AppSumo. AppSumo is a community of tech enthusiasts and developers who get your product sent to them with a great limited time offer. It’s like Groupon for software, more or less. We put in a deal for a lifetime license for our product for $49, the cost of a month fee. Pretty good deal! The catch was that they had to have the Beamer watermark on their newsfeed. The result was that we have 5,000 people purchase Beamer and use it on their sites or clients’ sites with our watermark. The organic growth from this was fantastic!
Learn how to test sentiment towards new ideas and listen to customer feedback.
Sometimes, as we’re sure you know, as the creators and designers of your product, you think there’s just absolutely no way anyone could not love what we want to add. But us, the creators, are not the paying users and we’ve often found that what we think people want and what people actually want are not always 100% aligned. The less time and money you can spend on experimentation to find out what adds value to your product for users, the better. We’ve found that we can actually create a blueprint for how to improve our product and improve sales by finding creative and easy ways to collect user feedback. It’s one thing to reach out and ask for surveys (which is great!), but it’s another to seek insights intuitively and make it easy to collect data from all your users. There are a few tools we use to do this easily. We user Hotjar site heatmaps to determine how our website and landing pages are performing at really capturing potential users attention and guiding them through the sale and onboarding process.
When we’re thinking of creating something new or when we release content, resources, etc., we use Beamer to capture user reactions and comments. Beamer is a newsfeed that sits within both our site and our product that we can share updates for anything on. We create really visual, engaging updates for new content, new features, updates, etc. We can add videos, photos, GIFs, and CTAs. Our users can leave their reactions and comments like a social feed only visible to us. Beamer also collects data on the interactions with updates in a data dashboard we can use to determine our users’ sentiments. We can also send out push notifications to get more interaction and feedback from our users. It’s a powerful tool for not only engaging users and determining how much they like our direction!
Create a consistent, focused, and constantly improving content plan.
First and foremost, we set up a long term SEO-focused content plan that we would use both for short term strategies and our longer term strategy of having a bulk of super relevant and SEO-friendly content to boost our organic traffic in the long run. We did a ton of keyword research with tools like SEMruch, SpyFu, and UberSuggest. We created a six-month content calendar with topics based on our keywords and the trending topics we say for our target audience. As we started to write and post, we would measure success and work on improving our posts with backlinks and sharing techniques, as mentioned above. Over time, we’ve used Quora, Medium, and Google Trends to stay on top of what the top trending topics are for our target audience. Over time, this build up of content has brought us over 80% organic traffic and great quality leads.
Be “empathetic” in your interface and onboarding.
It’s funny to use this word “empathetic” but it really does work. We’ve had to really put ourselves in our users’ shoes and understand what their biggest struggles are, both with our product and in their work, and determine how we can become the solution. Customers first coming to your site or app likely do not know this is the solution to their problem. You have to tell them in very clear terms and demonstrate how this will help them very clearly. At every step through our site and onboarding process, we’re as clear as possible as to the direct value to the user. Our onboarding process teaches users right away how they can start using the product and we guide them through it. The more comfortable users are with the interface right away and how quickly they learn to work your product into their processes, the more value they will perceive long term. We may understand how cool our product is but we have to remember to explain it every step of the way for new users.
Another key factor has been actually using Beamer to keep users up to date with new features and updates. When we introduce something new, we know it’s going to be confusing, so we use Beamer to display the update with videos and GIFs to show how to use a new feature rather than send and email and hope they understand. This has been hugely influential in getting and keeping users onboard.
Learn about your customers’ jobs and help them do them.
When you create a new solution that has a wide range of potential uses, you have to recognize that your customer may not understand how to apply it to their work. One strategy we’ve used that has been great for both converting new users and keeping old ones is creating guides and resources for how to help users do their job better. We created guides for each of our target customers on how to use Beamer to improve their work specifically. It helps make our product relevant to our target audience without having to cross our fingers they understand how to apply Beamer to their work. We also make a big effort to create content that generally helps out our target customers without specifically being about Beamer. We write about and curate guests posts for our target customer groups from our experience and others to just generally help them. It positions our brand as a solution and gets our content authentically shared with other new potential customers. There is no better way to win trust and exposure than through simply being helpful!
We’ve been consistent with these strategies while also finding ways to tweak them and improve them over time so that we grow organically and sustainably! Some things will bring boosts of overnight success and others will bring rewards over the long run. In consistent growth, both are important. Give Beamer a try if you want to engage your users and keep them onboard as you grow!