My facial expression to this question is usually one of disbelief, because IMO, we have yet to figure out a good marketing story. I am sure we eventually will, but today it is a work in progress at best.
On Christmas Eve, I was nestled up by the virtual fire trying to figure out how to improve our keyword strategy when it really hit me. For a startup (especially early stage), almost all marketing is a complete waste. There is really only one form of marketing that matters, Word of Mouth (i.e., what do your customers tell others about you!).
On a recent mailing list discussion, another company was getting indirectly called out for sub-optimal support and the CEO/founder responded with this gem:
“We’ve been growing kind of crazily of late, so we’re adjusting. I used to be the one answering emails every single day, but in order to grow and evolve our business, that has had to change.”
The first thing that came to mind was a dead man walking:
A start up needs to cherish, nurture, and love each and everyone one of their customers. Even if you believe you are growing like crazy, you really don’t have many customers. These early customers will likely make or break you in the long term. If they go out into the world and say you suck, you will not be able to turn that ship around.
Our focus on support has allowed us to gain valuable insights into what we are doing well and what needs to be better. However, and much more importantly, it has made a lasting impression on hundreds of customers.
This is what has fueled our growth and has led to a vast majority of our customers.
On this same Christmas Eve, a new customer sent this email to 17 highly qualified people:
“I thought I’d let you know about a great viral launch page service called KickoffLabs. For a few bucks a month you can test 5 different landing pages with all the viral tools you might need to drive users and test your product ideas.”
Any idea what it would cost to actually reach 17 people like this? In our case, it cost nothing. All we had to do is actually care and give a damn about every customer.
— Sweet Minerals (@SweetMinerals) December 27, 2011
I won’t kid you and tell you this is easy. It takes a very focused effort and there are no short cuts. You need to be on your game, put yourself out there, and invest quite a bit of time. However, the momentum it generates is priceless. When your customers have confidence in you they open up. They tell others about you. When customers feel well supported they not only want to help you, but they actually want to see you succeed.