One fine day, we were all confident to release our beta product for the public. Oh my, how I had waited for months for this day and our team made sure everything worked perfectly. We were so engrossed developing and ‘perfecting’ our product that we did not think about how we would market it and how would people get to know about us. There are hundreds of services that are released each day, and it is one of the toughest tasks to make your customer aware of your offerings. We learned this late and had to act fast. It is really frustrating to see no one using your platform which you built for months.
The homework. From day one we knew that we were targeting a very niche market and reaching out to them would be a problem. From childhood, we use Google searches and we trust them, hence we thought this medium to be a good way to reach people who would benefit from our product. We invested a lot of time on SEO, learning it from scratch, talking to a lot of experts and focusing on developing new content. SEO does not yield instant results, but down the line, we were proud of our work in this field. And another benefit of this was that I learned the other interesting tools from Google Business; from Keyword planner to Google Analytics which we used intensively later on.
Our first money. Networking was a key for us, and I loved doing that. One good insight which I got from a few was in the art to bootstrap and to think of alternate ways to earn money while your cofounder is busy building the product. We were good in web development and Jodhpur being a good tourist spot, we knew that hotels would be a good target. After approaching tens of hotels and even meeting a few, we finally cracked a good deal to build websites for their group of hotels; the IIT tag helped us for the first time. This was my first successful sales pitch, yeah!! Apart from that, events and bplan competitions helped us get the initial money for the servers and save for marketing.
“Growth Hacking is more of a mindset than a toolkit”
The gig. A good, quality outreach for a low investment is what we needed, in fact, this is what each and every startup dream of. Achyut came up with this superb idea of sending entrepreneurs in Bangalore (choosing the location wasn’t difficult) a breakfast with a greeting card from Startify. This had two major objectives, firstly we wanted good entrepreneurs to come on board and help the startups registered on Startify and secondly, a tweet from the entrepreneurs about Startify would give us the targeted outreach we required. This is a feel good thing for them and we hoped they would tweet about it, or at least reply to our tweets. With a budget of a few thousand for this experiment, we started our hunt for a food delivery startup who we could partner with. This would be a good marketing gig for them too, so we were expecting heavy discounts. Brekkie was the perfect match and was happy to experiment something as weird as this. The next task was to shortlist 50-60 startups to send this breakfast to. This being our first paid marketing attempt, we were as excited as Brekkie was to deliver those packets after a lot of discussion on how everything would turn up. Till date, this has been the most impactful and efficient marketing we have done.
Scaling up. Social media marketing, Google Adsense, and the small marketing gigs were all productive up to a certain level. But, we had to devise a better strategy to have a better conversion rate. We had a few paying customers, and our brand awareness was decent in the startup ecosystem but that wasn’t what made us satisfied; we wanted to reach out to more budding entrepreneurs and help them. For marketing, we needed some manpower, a few creative people who could spread the word on social media, do some research to give insights about companies whom we could partner with and people who could develop content for us. We hired a bunch of interns from Delhi University and developed an 8-week program for them. The 15+ interns gave us the much-needed boost, and it was a successful campaign with a few ups and downs. This was the first time I realized how difficult hiring is, but at the same time how exciting it is to interview people who are willing to work for us.
Handshakes. One of the interns had suggested sponsoring business plan competitions and it did turn out to be a great suggestion. Being college students ourselves and being part of the organizing team of the annual fests, we had stopped believing in event sponsorship. But, business plan competition participants were our customers and it made sense to reach out to them. We were lucky to be able to partner with Asia’s largest B-Plan competition, Eureka, IIT Bombay because of which we were flooded with partnership proposals from all around the country. We did not have the resources for monetary sponsorship so we used to give our premium plan for free to the bplan competition winners; this was a win-win for both. Moreover, Eureka still uses our platform to conduct the Asia’s largest B-Plan competition. Apart from colleges, we partnered with various event managers, companies, and even conducted events with BYST, CII under Govt. of Assam.
The feeling to build something from the scratch and to see people make use of that is priceless and addictive! It forces us to go beyond our creative limits and think of ways to get shit done!