Last time I mentioned 4 things I wish we had done differently with NinjaOutreach.
Reading that article makes it easy to think that the beginning was just filled with mistakes.
But that's not true - in fact there are a lot of things we did right that many startups get wrong.
And in some cases these mistakes aren't remedied for years.
Here's a few areas where NinjaOutreach was on the ball:
Even an experienced blogger needs time to build up the traffic to a website.
There's just a grace period that you have to go through - a period where you write a lot of articles, structure the design and opt-ins, get indexed, and eventually get traffic and conversions.
And for many businesses starting a blog is something they do as an afterthought.
In fact even Neil Patel, one of the greatest content marketers of our time, admitted that it took two years longer than expected to start a blog for Crazy Egg (and he still doesn't have one for Hello Bar).
When we started NinjaOutreach back in June we got on the blogging train almost immediately.
Here's a look at our traffic overtime:
Although this isn't a huge amount of traffic, and it's certainly not all from blogging, it's a foundation that we can build on and it's consistent organic traffic delivered to our website everyday.
And just about everyday this results in free trial signups.
In fact the majority of our trial sign ups (95%+) are completely no touch, that is they have no direction interaction with me or my partners before signing up.
Over the next six months the blog is going to step it up with some killer, comprehensive articles/tutorials.
Combined with outreach, we'll see how our content marketing muscle fairs when flexed.
It seems obvious to spend time using the competitors before building a product.
I would say that we took this to an extreme.
Not only did we use many of the products in our niche, but we also made a comprehensive list of all of the features and metrics they offered and at what price points.
The result was a 165 row table that looks like this:
As a result we were able to prioritize the different features and metrics, as well as understand what would make a good MVP for a prospecting and outreach tool.
Although I do wish we had simplified things by just focusing on prospecting, I don't regret the time spent on competitive research.
It also has allowed us to be very sharp in customer conversation, when people ask about the differences between us and the other guys.
Mapping out the competition in terms of features is only half the battle.
It doesn't answer questions like:
- What do customers WISH they could do?
- What features do they like in the competitor tools? Dislike? Use most often?
- How would they alter the functionality or design of the current feature sets of each tool.
For these questions (and many others), you need to speak with customer in a process commonly referred to as customer development.
We were very direct about getting people on the phone in any way possible, usually through a mix of LinkedIn messaging and direct email.
As a result my partner and I had over a dozen calls with our target market and many more email conversations. In fact I would have done more, but it can be difficult getting people on the phone.
These calls helped us get the context for the features we already knew existed. It also helped us secure future beta testers.
Although development is still lagging behind our knowledge, I am confident that we know a lot about our target market and what they're looking for.
Our team is creative with lead generation.
Perhaps one of the most creative things we did was to organize a $15k in prizes giveaway featuring Ninja Outreach.
But that's just one of a long list of efforts.
Here's a few tactics we've tried since we started:
- Direct Emailing
- Direct Tweeting
- Poaching off CraigsList
- Marketing on Quora
- Content Marketing
- Running a $15k in prizes giveaway
- Phone calls
- LinkedIn Messaging
- Paid advertising (Google Adsense, Facebook, Retargeting via Adroll)
The above is why we were able to get over 400 people express interest in being part of the beta.
It is also why we were able to sign up almost 150 account in February (our first full month).
Now all we need to do it make them stick, by continuing to build a better product.
I consider this a good problem to have, because it validates that the need is there - we just have to go out and fill it.
When things aren't going quite as planned it's easy to get bogged down by all of the missed opportunities.
But that doesn't give credit to all of the positives your business has likely made.
Consider that many people don't even get to the point that you're at.
Paul Graham said "Startups rarely die in mid keystroke. So keep typing!"
Here's to keep on typing!