Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Next Step for Founders/Engineers: How to Get Traction

I had a great time talking with the hackers at The Next Step for Founders/Engineers: How to Get Traction (thanks Optimizely for hosting!).  As I was taking notes I was struck by how the different varied based on stage of the business.  So, here’s a breakdown of the nights top gems (IMHO) by stage of company it is relevant to:

Pre-product – you have an intuition about a product or idea you want confirm

  • ID your customer – don’t waste time talking with or using feedback from people who won't buy – they are not relevant.
  • Use a list – email your personal and professional contacts directly to get your initial users
    • My favorite tools for managing customer conversations are Boomerang, Excel, and Contastic (of course)
  • Go narrow and personal (direct emails/in person conversations) and only go broad (twitter/ads/content marketing) when you've scaled to hundreds of users.

Pre-Revenue – you have some users and are now looking for ways to find people who will pay

  • Move to micro communities of under 100 people (i.e. Linkedin groups, FB, Techendo)
  • Add a buy button for a couple days to see if people will click it.  This demonstrates clear willingness to pay.
  • In the early stages the founder is more valuable than the product.  The product will be weak - people are betting on you to make it better.

Post-Revenue – you’re off to the races with product market fit and are looking for ways to grow

  • Reference customers.  For Optimizely having the Starbucks logo was a key demonstrate of credibility. 
  • Use twitter to meet and research people.  Find common interests to connect over.
  • **cameo from Pete Koomen (Founder Optimizely) – force people to unsubscribe by emailing you ask them. They got invested enough to be annoyed.  Find out why.
After the talk I got quite a few questions about sales.  Here’s what early stage founders need to know:
  1. Use a list (keep it in Excel, Paper, Google Docs).  Just make it simple and and continually keep it up to date with you you talked to, what they said, and what the next step is.
  2. For (Every sales call) {close a sale, get a feature request, or disqualify;  If (disqualified or sold) {ask for a an intro to a new prospect;}}
  3. Stay in touch.  Jupiter research estimates 50% of qualified leads aren't ready to buy.  Just keep asking and a large proportion will convert (Contastic was made for this).

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