Lets assume you have big dreams and ideas, you have been in stealth mode working on your idea for a while, your product is now almost ready for the real world: now what?
Now is the hustle time to get it out in front of real people besides your mom.
But how? You are inexperienced, you don’t really have much real world marketing background other than distributing annoying green peace flyers on the streets wearing colorful tshirt and smiling at strangers accumulating unnecessary wrinkles that you will eventually regret, and you are almost broke.
Well, constraints on resources and experiences may not be a bad thing, in fact, they could be resource themselves (as @37signals guys inked in their book rework)
It forces you to think beyond your traditional thought trajectory.
It forces you to hustle.
How to hustle for your baby startup?
Remember: you should have three goals
1. Find actual passionate users for your product and get them use and talk about your product.
2. Find bloggers/PR/Magazines/Local online newspapers to talk about your product
3. Find the way to potential investors with the killers weapon of getting funding: hockey stick like user adoption, buzz words. These two will always get you where you want: either proven revenue model, or investment.
I would prioritize above three goals in these orders when it comes to managing my time and resource actually doing them. To achieve goal 1, think hard on what we promise to our users in our mission statement (you do have one, do you?). In addition to drop your apps in the app store, what real hustle you MUST do to know HOW your users are actually using it. The best way is to work toward getting to know our users. Offline event and meetups led and sponsored by your startup can really suffice to get it started. @Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian said repeatedly: we want to create a valuable product for our users, why don’t we begin by making marketing it a valuable and fun experience for them? The payoff for such seemingly unscalable “events” is the power users: we take care of them by holding hands and get what they want, they will take care of us by spreading the words passionately. You don’t have to trust me, but you have to trust Alexis who successfully did so for @reddit, @hipmunk, @breadpig. When you work hard to get to know real people in the real world, you are actually hustling like a business man, before you know it.
Now, move on the goal 2, find bloggers/writers/influencers to talk about our products. There is no theory here. I am going to tell you to truly use Google alerts: a wonderful free tool that help you monitor who writes what when. Its much easier than scouting thousands of tweets yourself to determine who to tweet to. Often times, Google alerts point you to the top articles,blogs, news, forums etc, you then immediately know who are the writers that matter to you. The vast resource Google alerts open to you is just huge. You will know what you don’t know you don’t. A few tricks of using Google alerts include going to http://www.google.com/alerts, enter ONLY one keyword at a time. When you enter multiple combinations of keywords that are unlikely for people to type in together, you won’t receive enough results. Think about what keywords you want to enter: usually you would want the keywords for your potential market, potential competitors, potential partners: for me, they are like “fitness goal”, “health startup” “skimble” “gain fitness” “fitocracy” “healthRally” “rockhealth” etc., one keyword for each alert. Once you identify the target bloggers, columnist, write them a simple email saying something like “We are working on xxxx with some interesting content and user participation on xxxx, I thought you would be interested in having a look”. According to @reddit, Content syndicators love, guess what, interesting content. Keep reminding them once in a while if you don’t get responses. Don’t be annoying though.
Now let’s look at hustles of getting investors: don’t wait your finishing up step 1 and 2 before starting to look, start early by looking at investors to your possible competitors, partners, see where they work, strike a conversation. And has no fear. You can and should tweet at big name bloggers, influencers, investors, entrepreneurs, even movie stars, doing that enough times you will get “hustle” cred as long as you stay respectful, funny, and creating some kind of value in the process, including complimenting, complaining interestingly, offering tips, volunteering etc. When you have certain user adoption data and even PR coverage, you will feel so much more confident talking to potential investors, remember always know your potential investors as real people, not institute, they have feelings, likes and dislikes, your are asking them taking a chance on you, so you must make this process worth their time and make it a fun process.
Oh, of course, in the facebook era (Clara Shih’s book @thefacebookera), make sure your product makes it easy for people to keep coming back to your site or app by closing the viral loop, making it easy to post your users’ activities on your site to facebook, and other social networks, and always support facebook sign in: as Clara shih puts it clearly in her book: when a user signs in on your site using facebook login, they sign in with additional 150 friends!. Think about that! @gogobot and @storify have done a great job designing a their social viral loop beautifully. Take a look at them
And of course, I would love you to sign up for an invite to my startup fitwow.com, I’d like to think it as the happiest place on the web to share and reach your fitness goals”
Following is some additional info about “hustle”.
Founders institute has a great article and video showcasing serial entrepreneur Peter Pham (@Peterpham) discussing startup business development and marketing, its a short video but has lot of content: watch it a few times, don’t be overwhelmed. Ben Parr (@benparr) from mashable recently tweeted (I am not sure if by using #fb it would be auto-posted on his facebook wall or he did it twice) “when u hustle, good things tend to happen”. Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian (@kn0thing) discussed hustle (good) vs. hustler (bad) in his sought after class “how to make products people love” (see my brief here) he gave at NYC’s general assembly (@ga) and @skillshare.