The first step is pivotal, you MUST use REAL people who are representations of the varying demographics you’re going after for the cut, these are the kinds of gals and guys who are most likely to make up your early adopting, power users.
There’s a lot of concepts flying around, estimated ‘Lifetime value’ (LTV) of customers offset against ‘cost per customer’ (CPC), the cost to acquire a customer via marketing practises, psychographics, advertising, design, analytics and so on is the most prolific. That’s well described here. Many of the other concepts are rather fuzzy, discussing the use of Google’s keyword optimiser tool to discover high volume search markets to underpin your online agenda, targeting ‘influencers’ via packages like Klout, Kred and Peer Index, whereby arbitrary scores and topical influences are set against your online, social presences. Going after bloggers is still prevalent and rightly so in some instances, ‘Sephora’ achieve this very well in democratising their social voice.
However, the trouble before beginning ‘growth hacks’ for any startup (or established company) is defining whom your target customer group is, where they are, what they do and how they communicate amongst peer groups.
This is likely to have waves of fluctuations circling through it, if you look at the generation age gaps inserted below, you can see age gaps are closing between generations and there is a strong diffusion into each others domain. This seems to be happening on an even more granular level between gen Y and gen Z and is acutely influenced by increased dissemination of mobile products, mobile phones and tablets and how they influence behaviours.
It’s impossible to propagate decisions people may or may not make and that’s the fantasy part, however using intuition and expertise, we can estimate with real individuals and begin to build the narrative around their daily lifestyle and likely customer journey. In fact your headline ‘growth hacking’ profiler may never touch your product but we’re hedging bets on somebody very similar to them becoming your biggest advocate.
Meet our headline growth hacking profiler, Miss ‘X’, we’ll call her Rachel Gellar for the sake of this example and she’s a target customer for your awesome product launching soon.
So what immediate information are we dissecting here?
That kind of information is always vital and not always available but can usually be accessed via social logins, email signup, or where profiles are created. Note, if you’re requiring users to signup via a social login like Facebook, do not get greedy with the information you ask from them, such as what ‘likes’ their friends have. It’s likely to reduce signup, it’s estimated that for every add-on you request permission to, you lose 10%.
OK, so lets look closer.
Twitter followers, 1003
Check-ins and their pattern are also useful when looking to profile and characterise a ‘perfect customer/user’.
Now you’re in a position to piece together a story on how you can reach Rachel Gellar, you can begin to formulate where she’s likely to be and how many people she’ll speaking to on a daily basis through her personal and working life, will she influence not just her peers but her business colleagues?
Look at the granular data and search between the cracks, are her friends in the same social pool of status and wealth, does your product have market fit for the individuals she may influence with less disposable income? Such as her employees or interns. Are the majority of her close contacts local? Does she have an International reach with ties and connections to other city hubs, will the message spread quickly, will demand build up in a sole cluster (such as London), or will it become contagious with demand springing up very quickly in other hubs. How much of that demand is likely to be concocted by somebody like Rachel Gellar?
Creating a story not a number
Many startups fail dismally on establishing an image for themselves, an allure if you like, we’re egotistical creatures by nature and take conforming or polarised positions up readily among peer groups to fit in or differentiate our personalities, that filters into purchasing decisions and impacts on whether your startup drives revenue (or not).
So ‘hacking’ a personality and character together for our headline ‘growth hacking’ profiler is essential to the process.
You might be sat thinking, this is simple, utilise Facebook’s open graph so that Rachel Gellar can reach Y and Z in her friends, they in turn reach A, B and C in their friends and we can drive some form of exponential, viral activity alongside Twitter reach. That’s not the immediate idea, nor is it even easily accomplished or likely to occur on a colossal scale.
The process of hacking together a ‘real’ target customer is to bring grounding and identity to your startup or new product launch, to have a genuine understanding of your target market, what they respond to, how social they want to be, how influential they may be and whether or not they are likely to buy into your product or service.
Klout, Kred and Peer Index.
Now, while you may think it’s key to go after ‘social influencers’, this may well be a fallacy, if you’re looking to run a launch campaign via Klout and co, you’re better going after high volume and low influence. Build in cost-per-acquisition (CPA), this is not search marketing, there’s no need to pay up front for zero return, cost-per-acquisition is a commission based model for whatever revenue the campaign drives.
Keep in mind many variables, just because some guy has no friends or clout online doesn’t mean he isn’t the captain of the golf team or head of his daughters teacher/parent committee, whereby he exerts huge influence and reach. While this may not apply to apps or games in the mobile arena where online activity is essential, for many customer focussed products a lot of the discussion still takes place offline.
I won’t elaborate on this here, see my more in-depth post on ‘Dark Social’ and how you should be acutely optimising and tweaking a tailored approach to capitalise properly on it and generate systemic, social growth and interaction through it.
You can no longer take a broad, whimsical approach to targeting your first users or beginning your growth strategy, it has to become so focussed and so granular that you know exactly what you should be doing, who you should be targeting and how to reach them from day one.
Ben Silbermann explained in his talk at startup school that in the first few months, Pinterest held physical, open meet ups for the power users (who were primarily ‘moms’) to discuss exactly what they enjoyed most about the product and how to take it forward, that’s a very serious step toward grinding out the granular components that can propel growth.
If you can’t regularly meet your first users in person, make it easier for them, put together a google hangout or something and schedule weekly or monthly chats, not only are you reaching out and speaking directly but you’re indirectly building an emotional attachment between your users and your brand.
That kind of attention goes far and beyond the obligatory surveys that are thrown about so easily via surveymonkey, before launching you need to speak to real people and gather a plethora of opinions, you don’t need to listen to them all and you certainly shouldn’t attempt to turn the product into everything for everyone but you need real people to guide your growth, not just what you think or estimate on data to be the product apparent customer groups would use.
Some will argue this is what the beta is for but I’m not totally convinced on the beta test, as you can read here.