We talk to a lot of startups during the course of a work week and invariably every one of them asks three questions that are both the bane and raison d’etre of a startup’s existence. How to get the first 100 users? How to pitch tech journalists? And how to get the startup noticed and covered by blogs?
Here are some tried and true tips to achieve these three goals and additional resources that we have found helpful.
How to get the first 100 users?
It’s fairly easy to get early adopters if you’re Seth Godin or Robert Scoble, but it can be a daunting task for others. Start by seeding your website followership by first identifying 10-15 highly networked in your space, then approaching them early in the process to ask for their support in identifying the main challenges of the industry and ways your product can solve for them. Stay in regular touch with them, keep them engaged, be grateful. Then invite them to ask other experts and contributors in their network to join your website. This direct referral system helps you get meaningful feedback early while building your base with the most influential people who can get word out and help you grow. The most important metric for you at this point will be engagement per member. A good way to keep these early members engaged and happy is to have meaningful one-on-one conversations – email or otherwise – with them. Support them in their own life’s work. Comment on their blogs without stalking them. If their engagement drops off, find out why.
How to pitch to tech journalists?
Now that you have your first 100 members, you can feel more confident promoting it with big tech journalists. In this great article on VentureBeat, Ciara Byrne talks about how tech journalists are like restaurant critics. Writing about magical technologies every day sometimes results in a jaded palate. How to work around jaded palates? Don’t send a generic press release or a write-up full of wizardly tech terms, buzz words or long winded explanations. Instead, put together an easy to read, interesting article with sound bites that the journalist can cut and paste, if so inclined. Even point the journalist to your website’s blog for more information. Be fully transparent about big shortcomings because the journalist will find out…and then be upset with you when they do. Support the article with great pictures and videos to help the journalist along. Above all, do your research – know what sites cover your industry, and what writers specifically cover similar products. For example, Ms. Byrnes covers Euro startups and is a cyclist by hobby – she would be a great journalistic match for a French startup that covers bicycle designs, starting two months before the French startup actually needs to pitch.
Cultivate these journalists if you can. Not in a I’m-going-to-stalk-you way but perhaps a softer approach like retweeting their tweets occasionally, bringing helpful articles to their attention and most importantly, following their blog regularly and posting thoughtful comments. Above all, be respectful of their time – they get a lot of pitches and are almost always crunched for time.
For additional tips, we’ve found this post by Mark Hendrickson to be very helpful.
How to get your startup noticed and covered by blogs?
Got 100+ engaged users – check. Working on getting covered by influential tech journalist(s) – check. In PR 101, it’s now time to get oodles of attention from a lot of smaller, but no less influential blogs. Yes, we’re talking about mummy Blogs or blogs written by individuals who are in the industry but are not necessarily writers by profession. Using the right tools to identify the right blogs is the easy part, the really really hard part is actually getting noticed by these blogs. Big caveat here, approach these bloggers only if they are key to your social strategy and not as a catch-all option; and be respectful of their time and influence. Read up on each blog. If the About section specifically asks visitors not to email/post pitches – don’t email or post pitches to them. Preferably follow the blog over a period of time; if you haven’t, be honest about it. Understand and acknowledge that the blogger is entitled to write anything they see fit about the product or information you’ve shared with them – good or bad. Finally, don’t harass the blogger with multiple emails. If they haven’t responded, it’s likely they’re not interested but just haven’t had the time to write back.
If you’ve followed these and other practical tips, you are now busy worrying about keeping engagement up for your hundreds of website members – that’s a good problem to have. For all the other startups, keep at it and good luck!
Originally published on Seedwalker