Lead Generation,

Startups: User Acquisition through Email Campaigns, Direct Contact and Networking

Ina Karadzhova

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Email campaigns aren’t dead. Just like those simple organisms which have survived since the dawn of time, email campaigns still have a role to play in the Internet’s ecosystem. Like ferns and earthworms?
Then you’ll love email campaigns. In fact, they’re a top channel for B2B user acquisition. When done right, email campaigns bring a good amount of traffic and new user subscriptions to startups of all sizes.

Basically there are 2 tactics for email generation — through user subscription, which needs to start way before product launch, or via collecting targeted emails and cold-emailing them. As with all sales-related jobs, you need to be persistent and not give up in order to see good ROI for your efforts.

Below you will find some real-life examples from sucessfull startup’s founders.

Outbound Emails

Chuck Solomon, Client Success Director at LineHire – a platform for on-demand sourcing help from professional recruiters

“We have run paid ads on social media channels including: Facebook and LinkedIn and unpaid on Twitter. Each of these channels has been successful. However, the most successful has been outbound emails and telephone calls to our target market. We went from zero to 260 user in 4 weeks!”

Be Personal with Digital Connections

Campbell Mcdonald, CEO of Pathful, which provides comprehensive performance intelligence to content marketers. Founded in 2013.

“In the early days, our most successful traction channel for user acquisition was reaching out to our immediate network with a simple description of how Pathful works and what our tools offer content marketers.By leveraging the connections we already had and spending the time upfront being personalized in our approach, our success rate in closing new customers was much higher than if we had instead trying to start by capturing mass awareness. Nearly every conversation we had in those formative days would either turn into a valuable lead or at the very least provide critical early stage consumer insights.”

Reach Out to LinkedIn Contacts

Alex Mason, CEO of CloseFox

“We have a sales productivity solution, so were targeting sales and marketing professionals to get initial feedback on our prototype.
1. I downloaded all of my contacts from LinkedIn (I had almost 1500)
2. We created targeted lists based on the individual’s title or description.
3. We created email templates based on the individual’s category.
4. Each template had a different target value proposition for the target recipient.
5. Each template had a clear ask for feedback or a referral.
6. We used the customized templates to email all of my contacts in their personal inboxes.
7. We attached a link to our online product demo so that individuals could see the functionality of the app.
8. We received feedback from over 100 professionals.
9. The emails lead to countless more emails, phone calls, and meetings.
10. It took a total of a week to send out all of the emails and 4 months later we are still having conversations with some of those contacts.
11. All of the feedback had an enormous impact on the current product user base.”

Leverage Your Personal Network

Ned Gannon, CEO of eBrevia Inc. – a venture-backed legal tech startup that uses machine learning from Columbia University to improve contract review for corporate legal professionals.

“Entrepreneurs often start businesses because they’re frustrated with the way things are done in their current industry. As a result, they find themselves serving customers in fields where they have a background. I think often entrepreneurs take this for granted. Your personal network is a great resource, and best of all, it’s free. Especially in the B2B startup world, I think viewing connections as a traction channel is a successful approach that often goes overlooked. Both myself and one of my co-founders are former corporate attorneys, and our extensive personal networks in the legal field have without a doubt played a very influential role in our user acquisition, particularly when we were just getting started. Even after raising a couple million in financing and expanding our marketing budget, we’ve found that our networks still play a helpful role.”

Try Conversations on Craigslist Instead of AdWords

Jay Clouse, COO of Tixers

“Our company is a ticket marketplace that started in the secondary market. Because it is very expensive to compete on AdWords with some of the behemoths in the space, our initial marketing plan to acquire users focused on Craigslist and team-specific forum websites. It takes a lot of time and conversations, but the conversion has been good for us and we’ve formed some of our strongest customer relationships and advocates through these channels.”

Word-of-Mouth: Get Started with Family and Friends

Rob Rebholz, Co-founder and Managing Director of SpaceWays, a Chicago self-storage startup founded in 2014

“At the very beginning, we used personal networks to spread the word about our new service and to encourage personal contacts to give us a try. All of our team at the time reached out to friends and family, and they in turn reached out to their own friends and family, to increase awareness. We acquired our first few customers this way, and, to this day, still get orders from this word-of-mouth marketing.”

Launch Your Product at a Conference

Diane Hamilton, Managing Partner at Binary Formations, a desktop and mobile app development company which created the Chore-inator app.

“We introduced a new mobile app which we intentionally officially launched at the Apple technology industry conference Macworld/iWorld last March. We went all out on the event and it paid off with one of 11 Best of Show awards by Macworld. This has helped us the most with user acquisition. I can share more details if interested. I highly recommend picking a very relevant industry event such as a conference to officially launch a product and make sure to take advantage of all opportunities during the event.”

Give Personalized Attention to All Your Site Visitors

Steven Rushing,Co-Founder of Patent Monk

“At Patent Monk we’ve acquired all our first users through word of mouth. How? By building a product that’s so good they have to share it with others. Plus, we’ve made a tremendous effort to contact each and every person who’s signed up and make sure we’ve solved their pain problem that led to using our website. This includes touching base almost daily with tutorials, building new features they request, and providing 24/7 support to any and all issues. It’s a ton of work, but it’s taking off in the patent world without us spending a dime on marketing.”

Why Do Emails & Networking Work?

The basic answer is this: a personal approach always gets you better results. Be genuine with your first contact, and you’ll turn those leads into your first users. Email and networking are a natural avenue for a personalized connection.

We hope these real-life user acquisition strategies will help inspire your own business founding efforts.

Just keep in mind that email marketing and direct contact aren’t everything. They might be the miracle your business needs, or you might need something a tad different to success. You can also explore social media, SEO, and content marketing success stories in our free e-book, “Customer Acquisition for Startups: 35 Real Life Strategies” to get the full list of possibilites.

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