Getting initial traction for your startup


One of the toughest things to crack for any startup is the initial traction. This is where most new entrepreneurs lose out.

The first thing you need to do early on is to forget about viral growth. In most cases this never happens and preparing strategies for this is just a waste of time.

Here is some golden advice from Chamath Palihapitiya on what you should do:

  1. Try to get as many people through the front door (user acquisition)
  2. Get people to the ‘Aha!’ moment as soon as possible
  3. Deliver core product value proposition as often as possible

Initially, you have to get as many people through the first door so that it helps you run experiments. These experiments will help you learn about the product improvements you need to do in order to improve at the second and third point.

Iterating on the product and getting initial customers should both go hand in hand while preparing to gain initial traction for your startup.

Here are seven points you should to take into account in order to ensure that you are able get initial traction for your startup:

  1. Build a Great Product- There is no alternative to building a great product. Ten years earlier, you could have made it with an average product. The reasons why it won’t work today are:
  2. a) Customers have too many choices
  3. b) There are just too many new startups coming up. You have to stand out in the crowd
  4. c) It has become increasingly difficult to retain customers
  5. d) Customers are becoming increasingly sophisticated

So an average or good product does not make the cut anymore. You have to come out with a great product. In one of his blog posts, Paul Buchheit says that you have to find three features that are critical to your product early on. And you have to make sure you deliver the best when it comes to these features.

Following this advice will ensure that you end up with a great product. Here is a list of resources you should study on how to go from a MVP to product market fit

  1. The Facebook page myth - I see a lot of startups coming out and starting Facebook pages as the core of their customer acquisition strategies. After the newsfeed update, Facebook as a marketing channel has almost become dead.

The reach further decreases when the people who liked your page do not engage with the content. This is the case for majority of early-stage startups because production of viral content is an investment in itself.

Try to analyse both early on - different acquisition channels and your customer’s needs. Go after forums, influencers, LinkedIn groups, Pinterest, content marketing and guest blogging. I mean, experiment with everything.

By setting up the right analytics you can evaluate the channels that are providing the best returns and then start betting upon the successful ones.

Figuring out the successful marketing channel will also help you figure out the persona of your ideal customer.

  1. The perfect launch myth - You will find this advice in every article. And the reason is that despite all the advice out there, people still get stuck with long launch cycles. It is never going to happen that the first time people see your product they will say: “This is what was missing in my life.”

So don’t try to build the perfect product and prepare for the perfect launch. It is not going to happen. Launch in trenches and throughout the time stay connected with your customers. Keep on getting feedback and iterating on the product.

  1. Do things that do not scale - This is one of the best advice that comes from Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. It’s better to fail at a small scale and figure out the missing things than fail at a large scale and lose a lot of users. Be prepared to take the long rough road.

Here are some ‘Do things that do not scale strategies’ you can try your hand at:

a) Cold-emailing and cold-calling potential clients

b) Finding Influencers in your niche through tools like Buzzsumo and connecting with them

c) If it is a social startup, you might even have to seed the community yourself with content and fake accounts - just like Reddit did

d) Personally talking to each and every customer

To get to the first 100 or 200 users this method works best.

  1. Customer Satisfaction- Customer satisfaction works best to create product evangelists. If people know you are building a great product and you are there when they face a problem, their likelihood to recommend it to peer groups increases manifold.
  2. Analytics- Test everything. For first-time founders, it is inevitable to have some ego about how they want to shape the product. The solution is to focus on data: if something drives your conversions and retention, keep it. Otherwise kill it.

Conducting A/B tests might not be possible early on because it’s difficult to analyse what’s right and what’s wrong with a small set of users. But still use Google Analytics or Mixpanel to figure out what is working and what‘s not.

  1. Figuring out the AHA moment – Aha! moment is the point in users’ lifecycle when they realise the value of a product and showcase a higher likelihood of becoming active users.

For example, for Facebook this was to get the users to 10 friends in seven days. They knew that if they were able to do so, their likelihood of retaining the users will increase multifold.

So figure the Aha! moment for your own startup. And try to improve the onboarding of product so that more people reach that moment as quickly as possible.

To learn more about gaining initial traction you can go through the articles I studied to increase my insight and knowledge

If you think I have missed some critical strategies, feel free to include them in the comments. Also feel free to add other excellent growth resources to the comments.



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