Growth hacking your startup with Dan Martell

Week 2 of Blackbox Connect. Off to a blazing start today with Dan Martell, on Social Marketing for Startups.

Dan Martell

Dan was founder of Flowtown, acquired last year by Demandforce. He’s currently working on another startup, while advising and investing in others. He calls himself a growth hacker.

I like that title. It explains what pretty much every startup with lean marketing budget is trying to do.

His weapon of choice? Social media. Results kinda speak for themselves: ~22K Twitter followers; 17K Facebook fans; 15K email subscribers in the very early days.

He shared some killer insights into what worked at Flowtown. I managed to capture a few. 

1. Target speakers, not just influencers

It’s common wisdom to target the influencers in your space. Flowtown went a step further and specifically targeted the speakers. They took a cool approach to build relationships early. What worked for them:

  • Hired an intern, to build a mega list of all marketing conferences for the next year
  • Identified all the speakers at each conference, with contact details
  • Then, created some unique content and gave it away, with no branding or link back to their business

They made contact with ~350 speakers, many of whom used the content in their slides. And you know what? They started proactively referencing what Flowtown was doing. 

2. Ask for help in distribution

They needed to build some inbound links prior to a product launch. They had a list of 15,000 email subscribers. All the ingredients for a good hack:

  • They sent an email to all 15K users, asking them to write about the product
  • In return, they’d send t-shirts, or offer short consulting phone calls
  • ‘Bonus points’ offered for linking to them with one of 3 keywords

The result? 200 blog posts, with juicy inbound links. Throw in a little controversy for good measure, and that feels like a pretty nice campaign.

3. Content is king. But only if shareable

For every single blog post, we’d ask how shareable it was on a scale of 1 to 10. Anything less than 8 we just scrapped.

As a cofounder, Dan reckons he spent at least half his time focused on the blog. Interesting. The only objective was publishing content that people would share. So they asked the question above.

The biggest factor when answering that question is the title of a post. Was it twitter friendly? Would you want share it yourself? They’d split test different titles to measure the levels of engagement, then build that learning into subsequent posts.

In Dan’s perspective, the simple question of ‘how shareable is it’ can make a step change in the level of engagement you receive.

4. Raving fans: Make it personal

Everyone wants referrals. It’s the honey-pot of social marketing. Here’s a really interesting perspective on what influences people to refer your service. 2 simple factors:

  1. They know someone at your company
  2. They care about them

This is a fascinating angle. He’s not suggesting people need to know you personally. They just need to know your name. And it doesn’t need to be a founder or CEO. _Just someone at the company._ 

The implications are pretty interesting. As a founder, put your name out there. On blog posts, personal emails to users and clients, follow up phone calls. In short: Be visible. Social media makes this possible. And cheap.

To optimise referrals, ask a simple question: Is there anyone that you care about that might benefit from our product.

5. Random tips and hacks

  • Twitter marketing:  For every ‘self-focused’ piece of content, share 12 that add genuine value to your audience.

  • Converting users:  Ask users how they would describe your product. Then use that wording in the copy of your landing pages. It will convert.

  • Email marketing:  The ‘optimal’ timing of emails to convert users that signup for a free product: 0 days; +3 days; +7; +10; +30; +60.

Many of these ‘hacks’ are starting to become simply best practice. But ‘back in the day’ (ie 2008-9), it must have been leading edge. Either way, it was an awesome session packed with practical tips for startups on a budget. 

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