Startup Remarkable Startup Marketing & Growth @howardvk Sat, 08 Nov 2014 20:34:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 2 Secret Ingredients to your Marketing Plan Sat, 08 Nov 2014 19:59:30 +0000 This week I spoke to a super passionate crowd of people at Web Summit in Dublin about Growth Marketing. It was a highlight of the conference for me.

When my talk finished a queue of eager entrepreneurs formed to come chat. Some to say thanks, some to add to a topic I had been covering, and most to ask questions about a marketing issue specific about their startup.

One question that comes up time and time again, whether at Web Summit or at any event when I meet startup founders, goes something like this:

-       Which is better, digital or traditional marketing?

-       I hear [insert new ad format that has just been covered on TechCunch and Wired] sounds awesome, should I try it?

-       Which is better for marketing, Facebook or Linkedin?

-       I’m about to do some marketing and going to start Facebook ads, what’s the best way to get good results?

Sound familiar? If you haven’t asked these questions your self, you’ve probably been at a meetup where someone has.

However people asking these questions, are usually thinking about things in the wrong order. In this post I’ll discuss the two most important questions you need to ask yourself, and have answers to, before you should even consider any of the above questions.

These are the 2 secret ingredients to a successful marketing plan.

And the good news is, when you ask yourself these two questions – the answers to the other questions generally take care of themselves.

Why this is important

Whether you’re a founder, or Head of Marketing/ startup CMO, growing your business is really hard, so making sure you have the right foundations in place is super important. Having these foundations is the core of having a marketing strategy.

What are not the two most important elements of your marketing strategy:

-       Value prop

-       A good product

-       USP

-       Key metrics to track

Yes, these are all super important but I’m assuming you already have these nailed and have product/market fit….therefore outside the scope of this post.

The 2 secret ingredients of your startup’s marketing plan:

These will sound super obvious but not having thought of these is the no.1 most common mistake I see startups make.

1)   What’s your Target Market?

Who is the target market your startup is addressing?

Most common answer I hear to this question? Everyone!

Wrong answer!

Let’s think about it: Is your target market my 84 year old Aunt who lives in the West of Ireland and doesn’t access the internet?

Is your target marketing my 5 year old nephew who started school this year?

If the answer to the above is no, then already your target market is by definition not everybody.

I would challenge you to keep your target market as hyper targeted as possible i.e. a specific sex, location and age range of around 5 years, profession etc

Why so targeted? Well let’s consider if your target age range is 18 – 35 year olds. Sounds reasonable right?

Well let’s think about this more: Do 18 year olds and 35 year olds buy, read and watch the same things? I’d argue that there’s quite a considerable difference in behaviour in people of these ages.

Also, give it a go bidding for a 35 year old and an 18 year old on Facebook ads. You’ll see a big difference in price per click.

Your marketing strategy will succeed if it’s the right message for the right people in the right place for the right price. The more hyper targeted you are, the higher the likelihood of you doing this successfully.  

Growing a startup is hard enough, don’t make it harder by targeting your marketing messages at the wrong people and then wonder why you’re not getting the results you’re expecting.

2) What are you trying to achieve?

Again, this is almost slap-forehead obvious, but most startups I speak to don’t do it.

The second essential element of your startup marketing plan is your OBJECTIVE

What are you trying to achieve?

Is it 5,000,000 users in 3 months? Is it 100 users in 3 months. One is not a better objective than the other per se, it all depends on your business and your situation.

This is super important as knowing what you need to achieve will change the way you even think about what marketing tactics/channels you should consider.

If you goal is 5,000,000 users, you have to think about things radically different than if it’s 250 users.

There’s a much cited acronym called SMART objectives, which you should follow when setting your objectives.

Example of a Bad objective (not using SMART): We want to grow really fast and be a successful startup

Good objective: We want to gain 250 paying users in the first 6 months

The challenge in goal setting is to make your objective a great challenge while also only borderline achievable. Make it too easy, and you won’t push yourself, make it too far out of reach and there’s a risk you’ll lose heart and give up. Make it uber ambitious and just out of reach

How to take action:

 Right now – list out your target market, and your objectives

These are the two more important elements of your startup marketing plan before you get started. Get them down and then you can begin building on what channels to use and get those users flowing in :)

Your turn:

Any other essential ingredients of a startup marketing plan you’d like to share? Please share them in the comments below

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David vs. Goliath – Startups pitching to the big guys Sat, 05 Apr 2014 14:56:54 +0000 This article was originally published on Tech City News

How to get your idea in front of big brands

You have a great product and initial investment, but getting your idea in front of a major global brand is one of the biggest challenges a startup can face.

So how do entrepreneurs break through the barriers of their startup status to work with a major business?

Our own journey has been incredibly exciting and along the way we’ve been fortunate enough to work with household names including Heinz, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser and the BBC. There is undoubtedly great potential for startups to collaborate with powerhouses such as these brands to deliver new and innovative technology. Working with iconic household names has multiple advantages as your team is exposed to best practices and benefits from the opportunity to learn from industry experts.

There is also a ripple effect as brand deals often result in an introduction to their agencies, presenting another opportunity to build relationships and cross-sell your product to other businesses. Moreover, once you secure that first global brand it adds huge credibility to your offering, making it easier to reach out to their counterparts.

For startups looking to pitch to large brands, here are some tips on how to go about it:=

1. The sales cycle

The sales cycle can take longer than expected, so don’t be disheartened if things don’t move as quickly as you would like. To aid the process, always be transparent about progress from your side, update project timelines regularly, and be honest about delivery times to manage expectations.

2. Go in at the top

Understand the best person to target by identifying key decision makers in the organisation and research the key influencers within their support network.

We invest time in mapping out a contact strategy and leveraging our networks to ensure we lobby the most relevant senior person. In the long run, this is an approach that saves time, and can easily be done through LinkedIn. Networking at industry events is another no-brainer for meeting well-connected people, who in turn can make further introductions.

3. Clear proposition

Remember that senior decision makers are busy, so their time is precious. Communicate the benefits of your proposition to their brand and target market in a clear and concise manner.

We use the well-known acronym ‘WIIFM’ – what’s in it for me – to put us in the client’s shoes. The pitch tends to focus less on the product and the technology behind it, and more on the benefits to the brand and their consumers. Highlight metrics, statistics and KPIs, which will make it easy for them to see the potential return on investment. This may require you to initially invest in research to determine the effectiveness of your product or offering, but this transparency is imperative to building your story – and storytelling is fundamental to any good sales pitch.

In addition there are some great accelerators, such as The Bakery London, dedicated to connecting high growth technology companies with some of the world’s largest brands.

Finally, be sure to maximise endorsements using PR and marketing where available. The more noise and buzz you can generate around your offering, the easier it is to get the attention of global companies.

In summary, it is hard work and requires investing time and effort to get in at the top with the key decision makers. This said, a clear proposition, knowing who to approach and building your story will all help to secure investment from your target clients.

 Your turn: Have you had success pitching your startup to big brands? Share your tips in the comments below

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How to achieve positive ROI from a Conference (& be the best hustler in the room) Sat, 29 Jun 2013 19:12:36 +0000 I sit on a high speed train, hugging the side of Lake Geneva Switzerland – as I make my way on back to the airport from The Festival of Media Global Conference where I spent the last few days.

It’s been a productive few days. Our company won the Hot Company of The Year award, but most importantly – I successfully connected with almost every influential person in the conference that was relevant to my business.

They know about our startup and I have their contact details with a clear action to follow up with them when I return home. I’m confident some business deals will come as a result of this. However this was not down to chance – I fully knew that I would meet every person I wanted to before I even arrived to the conference.

But last night I realized that not everyone receives, or expects these results for attending conferences.

Last night after the awards ceremony, I was speaking to one of the other startup founders who we were competing with for Hot Company of the Year award – let’s call him Joel. He told me:

‘Conferences are largely a waste of time anyway, the real business only gets done late at night at the bar when people are getting drunk. This gives you a chance to connect with people at a human level – and if you connect with someone – then this can result in business. The daytime part of the conference is largely a waste of time – and my other startup founder friends feel the same.’

I had to tell him straight: I couldn’t disagree more. I continued:

‘When I decide to go to a conference – I expect nothing less than a 10x return on the investment/cost of the conference (flights, tickets, expenses etc etc). Coming from a User Acquisition marketing background – I see conferences as a marketing channel, and like any marketing channel you have to see a positive ROI if you’re going to do it.’

Joel looked at me skeptically.

So I explained to him exactly what I do that pretty much guarantees that I meet every person at the conference who I wish to meet, resulting in follow up meetings when I return after the conferences – and inevitably to some real business. It’s all about the hustle.

Joel had never heard of such an approach, and although I initially thought everyone woul do what I do – last night it became clear that 99% of people do not.

Joel’s response was to offer me a job.

What I’m about to share with you – will put you into the top 1% of hustlers at the conference (I’ve asked high profile people how many reachouts do they usually get before a conference – and they answered 2 -3). This will put you in control of meeting every person you want to at any conference.

Note: The process I’m about it share with you isn’t rocket science, but does require some balls & hard work. If you’re too shy to reach out to people you don’t know, don’t like rejection, or consider conference as a bit of a jolly – I recommend you get someone in your team who does have balls/hustle to go to the conference with or instead of you for the sake of your business.

For example – I was at a conference a few months ago that I was told I was the subject of the conversation in the speakers room – someone had mentioned ‘this startup guy is trying to meet me’, an the other speakers confirmed that I had also contacted them. When I met the guy in question – he didn’t mind at all. He said he actually respected me more for it.

Ready? Ok let’s go…..

As a marketer – you should analyze all marketing expenses to see if it achieved a positive return on investment (ROI). You should see conferences as a marketing channel like any other. Unless you believe you can achieve a positive ROI (earn more money from business resulting from attending the conference than it cost you to attend). A positive ROI should be a minimum.

When deciding to go to a conference – I expect to earn a 10x return on investment. SO if it costs us $2,000 to attend a conference (very realistic if you’re travelling out of your continent), unless we believe we can earn a minimum of $20,000 from it, we won’t do it.

But what if you want to go to a conference to ‘learn’ or ‘get inspired’? My rule:

If you’re going to the conference ‘to learn stuff’ or ‘it’s where everyone else is going’, then by all means go – but you should pay for it out of your own pocket (note – this is for commercial based conferences, I see other value in tech conferences for developers, which I’m not speaking about here)

Your startup should only pay for you to go to a conference if you believe you will earn a 10x ROI from going to the conference.

But how do you know if you’ve achieved a 10x ROI?

Well you apply the same principles as you would with any marketing campaign – you track the results.

The way that conferences differ than most marketing channels is that the results are almost never instantaneous. Most of the connections and relationships you form at conferences can talk some time (up to 6 months) to come to fruition – and sometimes from unlikely sources.

Take my trip to Dublin Web Summit last year for example. All in, with flights and conference ticket it cost us about $750 (£500). It wasn’t obvious at the time what the direct result was, however 6 months later I look back, and we raised a total of $25,000 from people I met at the conference (it could have been 3 times this but we had to turn down a lot of money that was offered to us).

We’re also developing a key new product with another company I met at the same conference – which may result in revenue many many times the above.

In short: that’s not bad ROI.

So how do I achieve these results? I do the following process everytime:

1) I research well in advance of the conference of all the people who I most want to meet (potential clients, commercial partners etc etc)

How do I know who is attending the conference? Easy – you know in the following ways:

Speaker list: Typically most of the more influential people attending conferences will be speaking at the event. Most conferences publish the full speaker list on their website. Now you know

Delegate list: Some (not all) conferences will share the full delegate list with you. This is not typically standard, or published on the website. Email the organisers to request this (has worked for me – you don’t ask you don’t get), OR if they’re using Eventbrite etc – very commonly the list of attendees is listed on the registration page

Conference App/Social Network: Most conferences have it’s own app or social network these days. These usually have a list of attendees in the app somewhere – which allows you to search/connect/contact them

Twitter Hashtags: People attending conferences usually begin sending some tweets with the conference hashtag in the days prior, and during, the conference

2) After spending some time researching the attendees 

I make a shortlist of the people I want to meet. This is pretty self explanatory – simply depends on your business goals

3) I find the contact details of the people I want to meet.

To maximize the potenitial of them responding to me, and hence positive results, I want to find the following contact details (in order of priority)

A – Email address. I will share how I find out the emails addresses of anyone I want to (and you can too), in my next blog post. This gets me approx. 70% of contact details for people I want to connect with. If I cannot find their email address, then look for…..

B – Linkedin: I pay for a premium account – this allows me to contact people via sending ‘inmails’ (note these are good, but not as good as having the actual email address – hence why we try emails first)

C- Twitter: A third option. I’ve had limited success with this

4) You send them an email message in advance of the conference

(4 days in advance is the ‘perfect’ time) requesting a meetup.

These people will likely be influential and will have never heard from you as you’re a startup founder. However the great thing about conferences is that people go to these events to meet new people and see new ideas. And no matter how busy they normally are – when they’re a conference, they have to be there – and this inevitably means there’ll be time when they’re waiting around for stuff.

Most people are up for ‘giving back’ a little and will respect that you’ve been hungry enough to reach out.

The message you email them needs to do the following things:
A) Be non salesy (no one wants a pitch)
B) Be short (2 lines)
C) Peak their interest – like mentioned above, people want to see cool new stuff at conferences . You want intrigue them wnough so they see you as potentially cool new stuff

Here’s an example of a message I might send in advance:

Subject: [Insert Conference name]

Hi [insert name]

I’m [your role – to show you’re a biz owner, not a sales dude], we [very high overview o what you do]. We [benefit of what you do to the person you’re emailing].

We [something 3rd party validation that you guys could be the next big thing, and will peak the person’s intrigue]

Would you have [insert short time period, I like 10 mins], to meet at [insert conference name]. Know you’re super busy, so no problem if you don’t have time.

Howard xx (kisses optional ;)

Hi X

I’m a massive fan of Facebook and been a user from the start ☺, I’m co-founder of Future Ad Labs – a startup that has developed a very new type of ad format. We make websites incremental new revenue while also improving user experience for users.

We were awarded Hot Compny of the Year at The Festival of Media 2013, and have Global brands already signed up for our launch.

Would you have 10 mins in Montreux next week to get your feedback on our new product – hugely value your opinion, and we’d have a lot to learn from you.


5) When they respond (approx. 60% – 80% will)…..

you respond with a specific time and place to meet. Give them 3 options on times.

e.g. ‘That would be great, thanks. Would you be free to meet at 10am, 11am or 12pm on Tues morning by the Facebook stand? My number’s XXXXXX

6) Then you meet! I’ll cover how to get the most out of a short meeting in another post – but you need to be able to peak someone’s interest in 2 minutes, any time above that is a bonus.

7) Follow up  

This happens after the conference and is as important as the above steps. I’ll cover this in another post

So to summarize:

1) If you want to be in the top 1% of hustlers at a conference – it’s mostly dependant on the work ou do in advance of the conference
2) You need to know the people you want to meet
3) Your only goal of the first email is to peek their interest to get a 10 minute meeting
4) The only goal of the meeting is to peak their interest enough to get a longer meeting outside the conference and/or an intro to a relevant person in their team
5) Follow up after the conference

Does this all sound like a lot of hard work? Well it is! But if you want it bad (and I’m assuming you do) – this is what you need to do.

The good news is because it’s hard work – 99% of the other people at the conference won’t have done this. Allowing you & your company to reap the rewards ☺

I get a ‘thrill’ out of reaching out to and connecting with people that I have no right to be speaking to or meeting with. Try it, it’s fun.

If you do the above, not only will you experience a different level of results from your conferences with a strong ROI – but you’ll be in the top 1% of networkers in the room.

I’ll do follow ups to this post with examples how I find anyone’s email address, how to work the room on the day of the conference, and how to follow up effectively.

Your turn: How do you get the most out of your conference visits? Share them in the comments below:

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A Year in Review – and my Goals for 2013 Sun, 20 Jan 2013 13:46:27 +0000 I’ve been an avid goal setter for years – and I believe it’s one of the most important things that a successful person can do. In this post I’ll share my goals for the year ahead – and review how I did on my goals for last year.

Why do I bother?

Well there’s a few reasons:

  1. It’s fun: Call me  geek, but there’s few things that get me excited more than planning the awesome things you’re going to achieve in the next year
  2. It’s selfish: I know that by posting my goals up here – it will make me publically accountable for doing them – hence increasing my likelihood of doing them
  3. Inspiration: Hopefully some of these goals will inspire you to set similar goals (if you have goals, would love you to share them in the comments below)

It was just over a year ago I sat here making goals and plans for 2012. I knew it was going to be a big year for me, and as an avid goal setter – I set goals that would make 2012 a year I achieved more than any other.

Well, how did I do?  Reviewing my goals:

 Goal 1: Post 2 Blog Posts a Week and have 10k blog subscribers

 Result: FAIL!

I did post 2 articles a week for a while, and one of my articles got onto the front of Hacker News – resulting in this site crashing due to too much inbound traffic. An interesting experience.

But I’ve just been too goddamn busy with my new startup to post twice a week, which leads me niely onto the next goal I set…..

Goal 2: Be running my own Startup


In September last year I quit my job as Head of Marketing for a very cool Social Gaming startup, to co-found my own startup. I write this as co-founder of a very exciting startup that has just gone through a startup accelerator, has raised some investment and is about to close it’s first significant funding round. It’s been all consuming, but great so far :)

Goal 3: Debt free and £100k in net worth

Result: Fail!

So I smashed through most of my college debt this year – but haven’t quite cleared it yet. So defo carrying this forward to 2013!

Goal 4: Do more with less

Result: Success, almost

Ok on refection this was a bit of a fluffy goal. I wanted to make better use of my time with clearer focus and be more thoughtful to people around me.

Main thing I learnt is that I believe can only be really great at one thing at a time. Which takes focus. Hence why we’re doing great with the startup – but things like this blog has suffered a little.

Goal 5: Become a Fish

Result: Fail.

I wanted to learn to swim well – I totally flunked this and I still swim like a brick. Carrying forward to 2013!

Goal 6: Coding

Result: Fail!

Completed a few courses on Codeacademy, but didn’t continue. I’d like to learn this sometime – but I just don’t see this as a priority right now. Will come back to this sometime.

Goal 7: Speak at a Conference

 Result: Success

Spoke at quite a few event, and was the lead organizer and speaker at Startup Weekend in Newcastle, which was a great success & I’ve started teaching for the first time in General Assembly, which is cool.

 Overall – 2012

I really learnt that, to do achieve something hard –you need to give it your full 150% focus. So although I didn’t achieve some things on my list (blogging, swimming etc) – I achieved the most important one: my startup.

2013 will have fewer – more focused goals.

So forward to 2013 – My Goals!

Goal 1: Future Ad Labs

As you know, last year I quit my job and co-founded a new startup. We’re launching in early 2013 and making the successful and profitable is my no.1 goal for the next year.

Hard work ahead, but it’s going to lots of fun :)

I have a few more goals listed below – but this getting this rocket off the ground will have 150% of my focus

Goal 2: Swim 50 lengths

Last year I failed in my attempt to learn how to swim well (I’m a sinker at the mo ;) – this is the year. I run marathons, cycle hundreds of miles & play almost every other sport but I suck at swimming! This must be changed! And will do so by swimming 50 lengths of front crawl by the end of the year.

Goals 3: Debt Free

Yes – Still paying off my college loans, I managed to pay back over £20k last year which I think is pretty impressive. I’m so damn close to having these all paid off, and when I do I’ll feel like the richest guy in town J

That’s it – 3 goals, a lot fewer goals than last year when I had 7 – but super focused. Looking forward to what the year will bring!

Your Turn: What are your goals for 2013? Share them in the comments below!

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How to Grow a Fast Growth Startup Tue, 16 Oct 2012 16:08:19 +0000 In this video interview, I’m joined Dan Martell, founder of Clarity

Dan has launched a number of successful startups in the past decade including Spheric (acquired ’08), Flowtown (acquired ’11) an now Clarity (which has recently hit its 10,000th call milestone) – one of the most powerful products out there for helping new startup founders and business people. I’ve written about Clarity in the past here & here  and we it’s awesome to have Dan back on StartupRemarkable for the second time.

In this interview you will learn how Dan successfully launched his latest startup Clarity, and:

What are the key ingredients to launching a startup that will rock
- How to create momentum for your startup’s launch that constantly builds to create a compelling story
How do you get your first users, a super tip how to hustle to get your friends signing up & what Dan rates as his no.1 user acquisition strategy
-  What Dan’s secret to getting so much stuff done is
-  Why advisors are so important (and how get the best advice from them)
 Check it out here:

Dans Links
Dan’s Blog
The first interview Dan did on StartupRemarkable 1 year ago (where he speaks about Cohort metrics)
The awesome dashboard blog post Dan mentions
My blog posts about Clarity

Your Turn: What did you learn from this interview? Share it in the comments below

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How to Get Investment for your Startup Thu, 11 Oct 2012 14:45:17 +0000 In this video interview, I’m joined by Startup Investor Julian Carter

Julian is MD and Co-Founder of EC1 Capital – an investment firm that specialises in investing in early stage web and mobile startups. Julian’s fund typically invests $80,000 – $320,000 (£50K – £200K) and Julian is on the look out for great startups to invest in.

In this interview you will learn what Julian looks for in a Startup. And:

  • What will get you in the door of an investor
  • Why investors won’t read your business plan (and what you should do instead)
  • How to project your future revenues realistically
  • How to get a warm lead into an investor
  • How important I.P. is to getting investment
  • The key elements of a fundable startup
  • Examples of companies Julian has invested in, and why

Check out the Interview Now:

Julians’s Links:

EC1 Capital

EC1 Capital Blog (lots of useful articles)

The Retronaut (one of Julian’s investments he mentions in the interview)

EC1 Twitter

Your turn – Have you ever tried to get investment? How did you find it? Put your answers in the comments below

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Ignite it! Entering a Startup Accelerator Sat, 15 Sep 2012 13:36:43 +0000 ignite 100

It’s not every day you get to cross a Life Goal off your to do list.

That’s exactly what Andy (my business co-founder, awesome developer dude & lover of Muller fruit corners), and I are doing.  We have entered a startup  into a startup accelerator.

Entering a startup in a startup accelerator has ben on my Life Goal list for the past 2 years now, and last week we quit our jobs and entered Ignite 100 – a startup accelerator program in Newcastle in the North-East of England, with our new company Future Ad Labs.

Exciting times.

You What?

Those of you that have been following this blog know that I’ve had this one my ‘to do list’ for a while, but it’s happened so fast I just haven’t has  chance to write about it yet. Like everything – When stuff happens, it happens fast.

Andy and myself (and 11 others, who aren’t with us anymore) formed a team at Startup Weekend London in July, armed with an idea we all believed in. We all worked our asses off that weekend – an awesome group of guys. I knew the deadline for the Ignite 100 startup accelerator was 8am Monday morning (Andy worked till 6am working on the prototypes #legend), we got the application in, got accepted, quit our jobs and 1 month later here we are in Newcastle, starting the Ignite 100 program with 10 other startup teams.

Rock on!

Those of you not familiar with startup accelerators – a quick recap: imagine a program where a cohort of startups come together, get seed funding (we get up to £100k in Ignite 100),  tons of mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs & access to an awesome network. The program lasts 13 weeks and culminates at Demo Day where we pitch to investors for potential further investment, should we need it. Here’s some info about what people learn at startup accelerators.

For us, it gave us the little bit of validation, money and time, to think – ‘this is worth quitting our jobs for’.

The Risks

As with everything, a startup accelerator doesn’t come without risks. And there are some biggies for us.

  • Quitting my job: I wrote previously about how I got a dream job. It was the prefect job, walking away from it wasn’t easy
  • Stock: when quitting this job I had to leave stock options on the table. Stock options I fully believe will be worth big bucks when my last company company gets bought out in a few years
  • No guarantees: The startup accelerator comes with no guarantee of success – indeed if we don’t hit our milestones we don’t get our full funding at the end of the program (£90k GBP at stake)
  • Drop in salary: Both Andy and myself have taken a pay cut to do this. It means tightening our belts in the short term

Obviously by being here, we didn’t let these things stop us :)

We felt that worst case scenario, even if we did go bust in a few months, we’d have ‘gone for it’ and learnt sh!t loads – and that’s not so bad a scenario at all.

Aiming High

So what will we be aiming for over the next 13 weeks of the Ignite 100 startup accelerator?

Over the next 13 weeks Andy & myself have set ourselves some really aggressive targets. Our aim on Demo Day is nothing less than knocking it out of the park. These include

  • Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • Go to market and get on board some real, big name clients
  • Formalize our business plan, advisory board and investment plan
  • Knock our Demo Day presentation out of the park & get the investment we need to take things to the next level

I’ll be introducing you to what our business is, how we plan to bring it market and all we’re learning along the way over the coming weeks

Wish us luck :)

 You Turn: You entered, or ever thought of entering into a startup accelerator before? Share your experiences in the comments below

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Mobile Marketing Mastery: How to Get to the Top of the App Charts Mon, 27 Aug 2012 17:31:40 +0000 In this video interview, I’m joined by Entrepreneur, Mobile Marketing expert and founder of Mobile Dev HQ – Ian Sefferman

I came across Ian when reading an amazing post he did explaining the fundamentals of mobile app marketing, and I knew he would be the perfect person to discuss the subject of mobile marketing in more detail

In this interview you will learn:
- How to launch your Mobile App in a way to increase the likelihood of success
– How to discover the audience for your Mobile App
– Learn the fundamentals of Mobile Search Engine Optimisation
– A mostly unknown place where the Apple App Store gets its Keywords from (which you should use when marketing your mobile app)
– Why you should launch your Mobile App in a test territory before launching global
- How to use paid mobile marketing usccessfully to get in the top 25 of the Apple App Store
- How many mobile app downloads you need to get into the top of the Apple App Store charts

Check out the Interview here: (p.s. apologies for the echo in parts of the interview, I hope you agree that the awesomeness of the tips shared by Ian far outway the odd echo)

Ian’s Links

His post on Quick Sprout 

Mobile Dev HQ (Ian’s company)

Ian on Twitter

Your turn: Do you have any Mobile Marketing Tips you’d like to share? Post them in the comments below:

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How to Hit 4 million Users in 6 months – A Startup Case Study Wed, 25 Jul 2012 10:33:13 +0000 Grow Your Startup











How to grow your startup from zero users to  million users, in just 6 months?

That’s the question I’m regularly asked at startup events when they hear about the success we’ve had with I Am Playr (the social game I work with), which we launched 8 months ago.

So I thought I’d use this post to answer that question

This is the story of how we grew I Am Playr, the first game for our social gaming startup to over 4 million users in just over 6 months. I’ve picked out the 6 most impactful things that got us there:

Before I get started, some caveats:

4 million users is really a vanity metric. Yes, it’s true – we’ve had four million users play our game – but that’s actually easy to do (if you have deep pockets), what’s harder is to keep those users engaged and coming back day after day (and month after month). That’s why the standard industry standard metric is Monthly Active User (MAU) – we have 1.3 million of these now playing on ave 48 minutes a day, which is still pretty damn good. More on vanity and non-vanity metrics here

• These user numbers may sound huge to you, and to a certain degree they are large, but we are still a tiny player in the social gaming industry. Companies like Zynga alone have over 292 million monthly active users (and Drawsomething famously added 50 million users in 50 days) – so although we’re proud of what we’ve achieved, we’re very aware we’ve a long way, and a few more zeros, before Mark Zuckenberg is posting about us on his Facebook wall

• I write this from the perspective of Marketing Manager for I Am Playr – so most of what I’ll I write about will be marketing focused, however – the growth could not have been achieved if the game production team did not develop (and continue to develop) such a genuinely amazing game

• Throughout this article I use the word ‘game’ – but you could really change this for ‘your startup’ in most of the cases

Ready? Ok let’s go

Here are the 6 factors that helped our startup reach 4 million users in 6 months

1) Viral Marketing

Before I started working with I Am Playr, viral marketing was one of those buzz words that I often heard talked about but rarely saw in action. However, like all good social games (and social startups) – we now have lots of viral marketing mechanics to help us grow our users.

Technical note: Before I start telling you about vital marketing, I first want to tell you what viral marketing is not: Word of Mouth. Yes Word of Mouth can spread like a virus, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of how Hushpuppies did that very thing in his book The Tipping Point, but that’s not a viral mechanic per se.

Virality (measured as ‘k’ factor) is defined as a action by a user which directly brings in another user to the game. This should be trackable path of clicks to prove where each viral user came from.

We have a number of these viral mechanics in I Am Playr – ranging from sharing achievements on your Facebook timeline to rewarding you for having more players in the game with you. An example of this is here.

A few months after launch we introduced a viral mechanic that rewarded users for inviting friends to the game. It looked like this:

playr invite










Here was the impact:

Viral Marketing Growth








Takeaway – Study viral marketing and implement every proven mechanic there is (there are lots)

2) Facebook Marketing (paid)

Having a budget to give your startup an initial boost of users can be vital. Much like a rocket trying to leave the earth’s atmosphere – it can give you the user base you need for other, self perpetuating marketing channels (such as viral marketing, media partnerships etc) to kick in.

But what do you do with it?

When I started working in Marketing about 10 years ago – we would spend tens of thousands of dollars on above the line advertising that we would never really know if it worked or not.

How times have changed.

If you’re a web business you have to be great at pay per click advertising (biggest of these are Facebook ads, Google PPC or Bing PPC) simply because you can guarantee huge number of users. You want to be able to buy them in the most cost effective manner possible – ideally users that spend more money with you than you spent to acquire them. This is called positive return on investment.

Most direct response digial advertising is based on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis – well you should take more note of the Cost per Acquisition (CPA), which is far more important. This tells you how much it costs to acquire a real user (i.e. they register with you in some way) – vs someone who clicks an ad and hits the ‘back button’ before you can say ‘not interested’

The most effective form of online advertising will vary, depending what you product is and where it is found on the web. For us, Facebook ads work the best, for two reasons:

First: Users play our game on Facebook – so when they click on our Facebook ads, they are already signed in – which reduces friction in the user conversion funnel. Compare this against if someone sees a Google PPC ad, clicks it and see’s the ‘sign into Facebook’ page = massive drop off in users

Second: Facebook ads allow us to target users using both their demographics and psycho-graphic profiles. This gives us the opportunity to target users who are most likely to spend money in our game (we track user type behaviour once they get into our game).

An example of this is, that we know that – a 28 year old Norwegian Male (demographic) who supports Barcelona and likes to play social games (psychographic) will be very likely to spend high amounts of revenue in our game.

Trouble is – so do all the other smart Facebook marketers out there – which is why it gets competitive :)

More on some ways to get the most from your Facebook ads – see here

Takeaway: Have a marketing budget to give you a base level of users to make things interesting. Then get really good a PPC based online marketing

3) Localisation

Might sound like I’m stating the obvious when I say that the web is global. But I don’t think you can truly appreciate how global it is, until you’re dealing with millions of users from around the world that do not speak your language.

I Am Playr is now played in over 200 countries – and it goes without saying that it’s more fun to play a game (or use any product) that is in your native language. So when we saw that we had hundreds of thousands of users in countries such as Turkey, Brazil and Argentina – we had to follow suit.

So we localised the game into three languages (Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish) – and the results surprised even us.

Not only did we see a huge increase in users from these regions, but revenues from these areas increased massively! Learning: For people to take out to take out their credit card – it needs to be in a language they’re familiar with.

Sounds so bloody obvious typing this, but we never realised how much of an impact this could have.

Takeaway: Look where your users are from your data – move quickly to localise in countries that show early adoption

4) Open Graph

Being connected to Facebook, either by being built directly on Facebook, or off-canvas via Facebook connect has it’s perks

By perks I mean tens of thousands of free users every day

How does this happen? This wonderful thing call Open Graph – as you play games (or interact with apps that request a Facebook permission called publish_actions), certain things users do can get automatically shared to their feed.

You know when you see what your friends are listening to on Spotify? That’s Open Graph.

Anyone that clicks on any of these messages are brought directly to your app (and they do, in their thousands).

Best thing is – once you ask for the right permissions when users installs your app, and you have Open Graph set up – it runs automatically in the background.

As Open Graph is still pretty new (Facebook just full launched it a few months ago) – it’s still a bit Wild West like & there are still opportunities for massive growth for companies who are doing this right.

open graph growthIf you asked me what 1 way could lead to rapid growth in viral installs? I’d say Open Graph.

Takeaway: If you’re linked to Facebook in any way – implement Open Graph now.

5) Cross-promotion

There is a healthy eco-system of games on the web – games companies know that most users play a number of different games over the course of an average week. Hence the word – Casual Games, as you can pop in and out of them quickly (of course the games try to get you hooked once you’re ‘in’)

Enter the cross-promo or click sharing

Click sharing networks such as Appplifer or MauDau work by games placing their cross promo bars somewhere on their game. Every time a user clicks on an ad on the bar, the game owner receives a ‘click credit’ and they receive a reciprocal click from a user somewhere on the game network.

Make sense?

And don’t be fooled into thinking not many people click these bars – we recently received over 30,000 clicks in 3 days from one of these bars. They’re clicks & users that we didn’t pay a penny for.

Of course having too much of this kind of thing can negatively impact your game’s retention rate (sending too man users away from your game) – but if done in moderation – they’re usually a powerful way of getting new users. And better to get a reward (a reciprocal click) for someone clicking an ad, than none – which happens if someone clicks a Facebook ads when playing your game.

Makes me think – what other industries would this model work for?





Takeaway: Implement a cross-promo bar – track number installs you get and monitor if retention rate drops

6) Discovery

Just like on Google – people search for stuff on Facebook/App Store etc, however these sites are not search engines – so they’re search algorithms are more basic than the Google’s of the world

Meaning you have to spell it out for them.

Meaning SEO 101 – know the keywords relevant for your game and use them often everywhere you can (without it sounding unnatural) – think name, tagline, supporting description, meta data (if you can add it)

Go to Facebook and type in ‘Play Now’ into the search bar – how do you think the top result got its 130,000 Monthly Active Users?

Being smart here and thinking ahead when you’re naming your product can pay dividends.

Takeaway – Do Keyword Research, know your keywords and implement them strategically

Your Turn: Know any other marketing techniques that have worked really well for you? Share them in the comments below

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How to Prototype a Successful Startup, with Amir Khella Tue, 10 Jul 2012 21:11:58 +0000 In this video interview, I’m joined by Entrepreneur, startup advisor and user experience designer Amir Khella

Amir has designed and helped launch more than a dozen startups (including Ustream, Docverse and many others). His own latest project Keynotopia was launched in 3 hours with a $47.50 budget and had it’s first paying customer in 10 minutes – it now has over 25,000 paying customers and is used by entrepreneurs around the world.

In this interview you will learn how Amir did this. And:

- How Amir launched a produce in 3 hours with a budget of $47.50 which got its first paying customer in the first 10 minutes!
– How Amir got tons of free traffic to his initial concept
– Why UX design is so important to a successful startup project
– What the process Amir follows is when he is prototyping an idea
– Why you should always make more than one prototype
– How to decide what startup idea you should work on

 Amir Links mentioned in this interview:

Amir Khella Blog


 Amir’s Course on Udemy that I took to prototype my app

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