Having a big user portfolio is the ultimate goal of many startups, considering their business model needs a user base that can be converted into paying customers.
This is one of the most difficult and expensive challenges you may face on your road to expansion. User acquisition, and conversion of those users to clients, must be one of the highest priorities of your company, especially if you offer digital services.
There are no shortcuts or tricks here, but most companies that have concentrated on a few marketing channels and on product development have been successful in increasing their user base over the years. Together with product development, it is paramount that you are visible and effective in demonstrating the value of your product to the public.
In this article I lay out a few pointers for startups to consider to increase their user base, based on the most successful companies’ tactics in user acquisition.
- Search Engine Optimization
Although many specialists say that Search Engine Optimization – or SEO – has its days numbered, it is still one of the activities that will bring the most return on a startup’s marketing budget. Having a high SEO ranking on your website is worth more than having many social network channels, and can put your company ahead of the competition.
- Online visibility, or SEO II
Your persistence on enhancing your SEO ranking will pay back in the medium and long term. Reserve one employee or hire an experienced freelancer to manage your SEO campaigns. Monitor, give suggestions, step in to track key words, put them into your website texts, and optimize your SEO with tools like Search Metrics. However the best content available, even with the best SEO on the planet, will not have the same impact if do not share it. So use your creativity and share it through Linkedin, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and Pinterest – but focus on two platforms that give you the best return on exposure after the first campaigns, as each industry will have different results on different platforms. Make an effort to be visible on social media channels at least once a week, and to reoptimize SEO every 10 to 15 days.
- Share value added content
While going viral may be the number one suggestion from many digital marketing consultants, most startups will not benefit from it. Spamming to get viral is not something most of your prospects will appreciate unless they get some advantage from it. The famous case of Paypal giving credit for recruiting friends is one of the few successful models, but they had a lot of cash to burn – which is not the case for most startups or apps out there.
If you focus on sharing value added content instead, it may take longer, but you will grow organically and your audience – soon to be converted users and customers – will follow you. So if you are a fintech, share content on how to manage finances as a business owner, or share something that has to do with your niche solution. Prospects and future users are hungry for good and free advice, and that can create loyalty.
- Have your product or platform active at least on the most popular devices
It is very important that you make any interaction that a visitor or registered user might have with your service, product or platform as integrated as possible with other platforms. For example, if your service suggests products from different vendors and gets a commission once your visitor buys from one of the vendors, make sure this interaction diverting them to that online shop is integrated and measurable by your system so the user makes the least possible effort and does not get a chance to rethink the purchase action.
This includes being available on Android, iOS, Windows, website, tablets, mobile phones, notebooks, desktops, etc.
- Be present on niche platforms
When you’re planning along with your digital marketer, make sure to prioritise niche websites or platforms that represent growth opportunities that are not so present on major channels like Facebook, Google and Instagram. Concentrate on orienting your approach to platforms and channels in line with your industry, rather than being one of many companies competing in the saturated space of a major platform. For example, there are many groups and newsletters that inform subscribers about a specific subject every week or fortnight. They have often sponsored spaces that can be bought at low prices, and you can start building legitimacy by being associated with a trusted voice in that industry.
- Reach out to influencers
More than ever, with the democratization of video and digital equipment, editing and special effects software, many people are taking up the challenge of talking about subjects they care about and bringing them to the attention of a major audience.
These influencers, if identified in an early stage, can be instrumental for your user base expansion, as they will promote your brand and product and still keep their legitimacy as experts.
Support them on their way to a broader audience – sponsoring them is one of the best returns on investment you may ever have in marketing. As a good side effect of this strategy is that you will have someone telling you where they think your product could appeal more to their audience, and this is usually good advice for your product development team.
- Cross-sell services with companies that have complementary interests to yours
One of the most effective ways of building legitimacy and your user base is to partner and cross-sell your services to an already large user base of a more established business with complementary interests to which your startup can add value.
For example, a new web-shop selling vintage football teams jerseys can partner with an established sports portal and pay a commission for every jersey sold, and increase its visibility by contributing articles about team uniforms every month on that portal.
- Become a cross functional platform
Technologies like URX make it easier for apps to integrate with other ones and to pass users from one app to another. For example, if your user finds a garden product they want to buy in your gardening portal, they should be able to buy the products using Instacart. Or when a customer finds a new restaurant in Google Maps, they should be able to make a reservation using a platform like OpenTable or BookaTable.