Entrepreneurs, marketers and developers all work hard to create products they are naturally very passionate about, but from my experience meeting people all over the world in business, there is one problem in particular that has synergy between these types of people. Early stage validation.
Validation is something I believe many people fail to do. It’s a sad fact that many businesses are failing not because they are badly planned or a recipe for failure, but rather they don’t build a foundation that will enable them to succeed.
I genuinely believe whilst there has never been an easier time to start a business, there’s never been a more difficult time to grow one.
Based on those thoughts, through this article I wanted to highlight the techniques I have used to validate concepts I have been involved with over my career. These techniques are generally thought of as ‘growth hacking’.
I hope you find these useful and eventually implement some of the techniques in your own endeavours.
Let me first start by talking about growth hacking – what is it?
‘Growth hacking’ is a relatively new term, although the practice itself has been used by the best internet marketers and project managers in the business. It basically means taking a non-traditional and more creative way to generate growth, using various means such as social networking.
One of the best places I have found to recruit people to help validate my ideas are from social networks.
For those who have never read any of my previous posts, this piece about hacking should give you a good example of aggressive networking. All of the following methods are activities I have personally carried out to gain initial traction – enough traction to secure funding at least.
Anyway, let’s start with Twitter.
- Follow people who are Indie developers. I use TweetAdder to search through profile keywords and then save them out to a CSV.
- Follow people who tweet about launching an app. Again, use TweetAdder to search for specific tweets and keywords.
- After your initial ‘follow spree’, be sure to tweet/direct message people who reciprocate and follow back by asking them to message you.
- Either create a script (like we did) or cross reference your followers vs who you’re following. Create a tweet directly for people not following you back which asks them to get in touch.
- Favouriting tweets is also a great way to gain targeted followers – I have experimented with a few different services but have found followgen.com to be the most effective.
- After a week, anyone who is not following should be deleted. They’re worthless to you.
- Create and automate retweets and tweets from 25 fake accounts that are related in technology
- Search for followers who have shown an interest in tech/mobile or are following a list which suggests they have their own apps. Compile the list and download it into excel. Again you can do this using TweetAdder.
- Create a tweet which points back to a post that @nashy has done – turn off all other automation.
- Upload the follower excel document to a bot which automatically follows these accounts. I created a custom script in Python which helped me do this.
- All the accounts that you follow will either reciprocate or follow @nashy.
Those are just two ways I have worked hard to create a buzz, building up a following and generate interest around some initial products.
Now let’s talk through Facebook.
- Join closed groups on Facebook. These groups are the type of groups that corporations don’t bother with, I have no idea why – they’re invaluable.
- In my case, I am trying to recruit and communicate with developers so I went through the group and picked out direct links from iTunes.
- I then downloaded and reviewed their application.
- Download and use Drop.lr to screenshot the review.
- Either email, post or message the person with a link to the review.
- In that message, ask to have a chat. Don’t ever try and close on the first transaction. Help the person you are reaching out to.
- Provide insightful posts and feedback on relevant posts.
- Offer free advice around a subject you appear to have knowledge in
Remember, if you spend time adding value to other people, they will come back through your social circles to your product.
- Get the names of the closed groups you have joined
- Download ‘Social Lead Freak’ and harvest the IDs
- Go into Facebook Power Editor and upload them
- Specifically target people with an advert pointing to your product. In this case, it’s pointing to Tapdaq.
A metrics-driven approach can be beneficial to developers and marketers alike. By utilising tools such as KISSMetrics, SurveyMonkey, Mixpanel, WuFoo, SailThru and others, you can get that all-important insight into what’s working for you and where. The one problem with this is, metrics can’t tell you what to do, only how well your actions are working. It’s the same with most data; it’s only numbers. Therefore, every hour you spend staring at dashboards and graphs, spend double that time coming up with new ideas and ways to get better results.
- Once you get to a certain level and trust with people you have recruited, ask them if they have any other friends that they can send your way.
- Incentive schemes – if they invite people, they will actually benefit when the game/platform launches.
YouTube drives a huge amount of traffic to not only social sites but also mobile websites. Reach out to YouTube reviewers who can help grow interest and recognition for your app. If you manage to capture the attention of the right Youtubers, especially ones with large followings who like to chat about mobile apps and tech, you can reap the rewards, such as more reviews, traffic and downloads for your app.
Write answers on Quora to relevant questions. In my case, relevant questions were App Store marketing and promotion.
You can then take the content from all the answers and pay an editor to create a small eBook. Link back to your own sites and then back to your product.
Other Social Network Accounts
Create accounts on other sites and also relevant social networks. Again, using my product as an example, social networks such as TouchArcade and MacRumours were my targets; these are great platforms to push to people who are trying to launch an app.
Without a doubt, the most important aspect of any business starting to scale quickly is growth and also communication. My target was to get access to 1,000 developers who had applications that may be interested in being a BETA user.
I created a recruitment document which covered absolutely everything;
- Full Name
- Company Name
- How did I reach out to them
- Communication Notes
- Like us on Facebook
- Follow us on Twitter
- Signed up to our newsletter
- Communication Notes
Literally everything about them. If they’re not connected to Twitter, but they’re on Facebook – I’ll send them a personal email asking them to follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date.
When they’re signed up to all three channels – they turn green, because they’re a HOT lead.
Take a look at some of the screenshots of the document;
Hire an assistant
After reading all of the above, you’re probably thinking; “holy %^!@” that’s a lot of work. You’re right. It’s a huge amount of work, especially when you’re trying to build a product. No way could I have built the network I have without the help of an assistant. I was lucky enough to recruit Joel, who has helped me keep the document in line, and keep my communication consistent.
Don’t do this alone
This leads me to the last part of this post, which I’ve hoped you have found useful.
I’ve been active online for 10 years now, and it’s taken me nine years to realise you need other people around you to share your vision. I’ve grown up, and if there’s anything I’d really want you guys to take from this post – partner with people. Whilst one of you builds, the other can recruit.
To join the discussion that this post has generated, visit here; https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6107448