Once a month, I spend a few hours talking to fellow startup founders about all things marketing. Often, they’ve built incredible products that solve a real need — but finding users is still a challenge. Somehow, people seem unable to discover them.
The truth is that a stellar product is not enough to attract users. Companies that really wish to impact people at scale need to focus on marketing. An excellent go-to-market strategy will drive adoption, decrease user acquisition costs and even create word of mouth.
While the go-to-market specifics will be different for each company and product, there are some elements all successful go-to-market strategies have in common. Let’s explore them.
Start Marketing Before You Have a Product
First and foremost, you need to start building your marketing engine before your product is ready. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a large marketing budget to do this. What you need to optimize for at this stage is authenticity and thought leadership.
You probably started your company because you personally experienced a problem that led you to think of a solution that wasn’t obvious to everyone else. Chances are, your potential customers are experiencing the same pain point you did. Sharing your story and the insights you gained throughout your experience with the problem will likely resonate with them.
This will help you establish yourself as the go-to authority in your space and make potential customers associate your company with the problem you’re solving. When you’re ready to launch, you will already be seen as an expert in the space — making your solution much more trusted and desirable.
Engage With Relevant Communities
Now that we’ve established that you need to market before your launch, it’s time to select the channels you will use to share your story. This does require a bit of experimentation, but if you’ve experienced the pain point your users are facing, you likely know where they like to hang out.
For example, as a former creator, I knew that both founders and creators — our target users at EllisX — spend a considerable amount of time on Twitter and LinkedIn. That’s why we chose to focus on these two channels when we started out.
The communities you will need to engage with will vary depending on the type of product you’re building. Needless to say, different platforms attract different types of users, and you need to optimize for the ones that are popular with your target audience. For instance, if you’re building developer tools, you likely need to be active on StackOverflow and Reddit. Similarly, if you’re building a lifestyle brand, you should probably focus on Instagram and TikTok.
You need to integrate yourself into the communities your users are already part of, making it easier for them to find you. This is true beyond social platforms, which brings us to the next point.
Meet Your Users Where They Are
While a good portion of your users will be active in relevant online communities, the majority of them may not be. That’s why it’s important to spread your reach beyond the social platforms that are most popular among your audience.
Find out where they get their information, what newsletters or magazines they read, what podcasts they listen to, what events they attend. This will enable you to establish relationships with the creators your potential users already trust and reach users via their preferred channels by:
- Sponsoring a newsletter
- Writing a guest post in a publication they read
- Getting a guest spot on their favorite podcast(s).
Not sure what these channels are? Ask some of your early users — they will be happy to tell you.
Launch on Product Hunt
If you’re building a tech product, you’d be remiss if you didn’t launch on Product Hunt. A platform designed to help tech enthusiasts discover cool, new products, Product Hunt has become a must for any startup that wants to validate its concept and get in front of new users.
No matter if you’re building a B2B or a B2C product, you need to include a Product Hunt launch in your go-to-market strategy. Ideally, you want to do this before your product is ready, so you can start building a waitlist and get a head start on your customer acquisition.
If executed well, a Product Hunt launch can significantly accelerate your marketing efforts and generate positive word of mouth. The process of launching is fairly simple and straight-forward, but there are definitely some best launch practices you should follow.
Ask for Referrals
Nothing says “customer love” better than existing users telling their friends about your product. Whether you’ve launched or are still building your waitlist, asking for referrals is a natural way of creating virality around your product.
If you have a waitlist, people will naturally want to get access as early as possible. Allowing them to move up by referring friends is an easy way to help them get to the front of the line, while ensuring that more people find out about what you’re building. This can be as easy as creating a message that asks people to refer friends after they submit their details, or sending them a confirmation email with this information.
If you already have a product, you need to ensure a stellar user experience. Make sure that people are achieving their goals with your product, and make sure you stay close to your users. Occasional feedback calls are a great way to gauge how likely existing users are to share your solution with other people. Ideally, this will start happening organically, simply because your users are getting value from using your product.
Organic growth doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a considerable amount of time and effort before it starts paying off. But when it finally kicks in, it’s like magic. If you implement these six tactics, that magic will dazzle your audience much faster.