Episode 122 | Four B 2 B Marketing Strategies for Startups

Show Notes


[00:00] Mike:This is Startups for the Rest of Us episode 122

[00:02] Music

[00:10] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

[00:19] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:20] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How you doing this week, Rob?

[00:24] Rob: I am doing great on my new MacBook Air. Good grief this thing is nice. It’s just an amazing piece of hardware. And I had messed around with it in the Apple Store for, well, for years frankly. It was when it first came out, I want to go down and see it and I used it and you know, it feels so slick in the store. And I kept thinking, “Yeah, but if I get it at home and really start working on it, it’s just not going to… it’s not goingto continue to feel like.” And sure enough, I’ve pretty much been on it nonstop since yesterday. And now, when I go back to any of my other computers that aren’t made out of the awesome aluminum and you know, don’t just have this…this gorgeous screen, everything else feels like a plastic toy now.

[01:01] Mike:  Uh huh. Yeah, I found the exact same experience and going from – actually I have a Lenovo and then I went to the MacBook Air and then every once in a while I go back and take a look at the other stuff and it’s just…it’s just a world of difference between them.

[01:16] Rob: Yeah and the thing that convinced me to really give it a shot is that I love my iPhone and my iPad so much and I use them all the time and I love the experience on them. I love the UI. I love the UX. I mean it’s just such a cool ecosystem and I bought…I bought in to it, you know, I mean I have a tons of apps. I wouldn’t switch to Android now purely because I just have so many apps and I just, you know, I have such an investment now in the ecosystem. And so I realize like why, what other reasons that I’m sticking with Windows because I use Macs all through college so, during the 90’s and then it was like 1999 when I switched to Windows and there were bunch of reasons for doing that. But I’ve used Windows now, you know, since then so for about 13 years.

[01:55] But there isn’t much actually keeping me using Windows anymore and when I looked at the Windows 8 UI I realized the learning curve of moving to that, I just realized why not go through a, you know, maybe a different learning curve and move over to what I think especially with the gestures and with all of the stuff they built in Mac OS or move over to what I think is actually a better OS. And I don’t know if it’s a better OS. Do you think it is? Do you use it enough to know?

[02:19] Mike: I don’t know. I alternate back and forth between them. I think that the kernel itself seems like it can handle certain things better than on the Windows side. So, like for multitasking, it seems like the OS X kernel handles some of that stuff a lot better but the vast majority of the stuff that I do is still in Windows. So, I still have a lot of stuff running in there. I don’t know. I mean I like the gestures as well but personally, I kind of like switching back and forth between the operating system because there are certain things I do in Windows and I have find that I’m much more productive there than I am on the OS X side and then same thing with OS X or certain things I do over there which I feel like I do a lot better over there.

[02:57] Rob: Yeah, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to switch 90 to 95% over to OS X and so there will definitely be a learning curve that already has been but I – although I have to have Windows up to do some .NET development, I’m doing so little of that anymore that I’m pretty much going wholesale over to the Mac side. And I got to be honest, the gestures have been pretty amazing. I’ve been really impressed with it. I have a question. Is it cheating to map the command functionality to your control key because that’s what I’ve done because the – you know, my keyboard shortcut hand has been doing this for 13 years having control everything instead of this command key. So, remap it but I’m wondering like, hah, am I really making a wholesale change if I do that?

[03:35] Mike: Like I said I switched back and forth between the two almost all the time because I run them side by side through VMware Fusion and one of the things that I kind of realized that – I used to be a very big proponent of just leave everything with the default settings, that way you don’t have to worry about it if vendor screws up an upgrade or if you move from one machine to another. But the fact of the matter is that like over the years, I’ve come to the realization that, you know, I don’t generally use other people’s computers  and I like my machine to conform to me versus me conforming to the machine. So, I just remapped a bunch of things to make things easier for me. So, I did remap some of the keys. I don’t think I remap the command key.

[04:14] Rob: What’s going on with you this week?

[04:16] Mike: So, I’ve been doing a lot of work with AdRoll lately. Their interface looks really topnotch but one of the things that really bugs me about using the AdRoll is the fact that when you’re doing things, it takes forever for some things to show up.

[04:28] Rob: So, what is – there is a delay between when your ads are running?

[04:32] Mike: I assume that there would be for that but like if you – when you first start out with AdRoll, there’s a few things that – or to me like when I first signed up, it has absolutely nothing about like what their media requirements are. So, image sizes or anything like that. You basically have to create an account and then you get in, then you go through the process of creating a campaign and they’re like, “Oh, you need images. There are these sizes.” Like, “Thanks. That would have been nice to know before my two-week trial started so that I could go to my designer and have that stuff ready.”

[04:58] So, it took me about a week to kind of get through that process and then once I got through that process, then they said, “Oh, well, you got to install the smart pixel.” So, I go to install the smart pixel and it doesn’t work and I try all these different things, still doesn’t work. I get on the phone with support and they’re like, “Oh, well, your JavaScript is indented. It’s nocopied exactly the way we sent it to you.” One, that seems ridiculous. I mean as a programmer that just seems absolutely ludicrous that my JavaScript is indented differently than you indented and that’s why it’s not working. But aside from that, I asked them how long it would take for things to show up and they’re like, “Oh, yeah it would take about a day for us to see that you’ve got this pixel installed.” I’m just like it’s just frustrating as all hack.

[05:37] Rob: Right because you want to get rolling on it quick?

[05:39] Mike: Well, yeah because I’ve got – you know, I’ve got, you know, deadlines that I’m trying to meet. I’ve got certain timelines that I’m trying to do things in and it’s just – it takes forever to get some of the stuff done and then they try to say that for them to recognize like different visitors, they batch it up and it could be in 16 hours or so before they recognize at any given visitors come in and they force you to have a minimum number of visitors before they’ll start running  any of your campaigns.

[06:01] Rob: Right.

[06:02] Mike: So —

[06:02] Rob: Yup, so it does take a while. You know, you should ask them to extend your trial.

[06:05] Mike: Yeah.

[06:06] Rob: Yeah, I mean you need more than 14 days because you’re — it sounds like you’re already eight days in to it and you don’t even have ads running. So —

[06:11] Mike: Right, right.

[06:11] Rob: …I would – I’d probably ask for…for 14 days from the start of the ads. I think when I did – for I don’t use AdRoll anymore but when I did, that’s what we did because I went through a similar thing whereas like a week before I was up and then they started my trial then.

[06:23] Mike: Got it.

[06:24] Rob: Hey, I wanted to bring up another Micropreneur Academy member who has a lot of success. His name is Patrick Thompson. He’s a lifetime member. He’s attended both of the MicroConf these last couple of years and he’s coming to this one as well but he has a whole suite, a portfolio of mobile apps. And he started off with QuickReader and he also has an app called MegaReader. You can check him up by going to quickreader.net and he has links to all of his apps there. He has multiple languages and all kinds of stuff quicker that teaches you how to speed read. It’s a pretty cool app. I’ve used it and then MegaReader is more just like an e-book reader that you can get access to a bunch of free public domain content.

[07:01] The thing I like about what Patrick did, he’s had great success and he’s, you know, been living off his apps for a few years now and he’s just starting to do some talks in his local area up in Portland kind of his experience and things he’s learned but he made this great viral video. He hired some guys to do it and it didn’t actually generate that many sales for him but we’ll link it up in the show notes. It’s pretty funny. It’s just kind of like a humorous commercial of someone using his…his QuickReader app. So, wanted to congratulate Patrick on, you know, all of his success.

[07:31] Mike: Speaking of MicroConf, I realized that we haven’t really thanked any of this year’s sponsors for MicroConf on the podcast yet or even mentioning anything about them. So, this year we have Ruben Gamez from Bidsketch as being a sponsor this year again. We also have Red Gate, FoxyCartBalsamiq and SoftwarePromotions and then Microsoft and Constant Contact are both coming in with big sponsorships this year. So, just want to definitely say big round of thanks to those guys for helping out. And we also have a WePay, Koombea and Dashable who are signed on as sponsors. So, we’ll be talking a little bit more about those guys in the coming podcast. We’ll definitely link to those guys in the show notes. But if you’re interested in any of the services that they have to offer, definitely check them out. We’ve been trying to concentrate on sponsors who would be able to kind of contribute to the community itself and have things that will help people with their businesses and launch them —

[08:22] Rob: Our sponsors are such a critical part of MicroConf both of the first two years. We wouldn’t been able to pull it off without the sponsor money. You know, we rely a lot on our sponsors and so we definitely want to give a big thanks to those guys.

[08:33] Music

[08:37] Mike: Today we’re going to be talking about some B2B startup marketing strategies. And this podcast idea came from Adam Clinckett who lives in Brisbane, Australia. He’s also a Micropreneur Academy member who runs a website called BookingTimes which is a SaaS-based practice management software for health, dental and medical providers. And he wanted to know some more ways that he could get in front of small business customers. So, his product is I’ll say just about launch – he’s more or less doing beta testing, early access but he’s really looking for ways that he can start scaling up some of his marketing efforts and getting in front of more small business customers that are specifically in search of the type of problems that he’s having.

[09:16] Rob: It’s a big question, right? We actually get this question or at least I get e-mail fairly regularly of, “Hey, I’m about to launch. How do I market my app?” And it’s like, wow, that is a huge, huge question. Literally, you could write books on it, right? There had been literally books written on this but specifically what’s nice about Adam’s question is he had a few things that he threw out that he was asking for more information about and knowing specifically what his app is, actually, you know, kind of corrals the conversation so that we can spend 20, 25 minutes on here and actually get…get some realistic information out.

[09:50] I want to start by saying we could come out with a hundred different approaches from marketing, right? We could just – we could threw out AdWords and SEO and info graphics and all the stuff but you can’t just go on those directions at once. You have to find approaches that work since most of the approaches you try are not going to work. And I think that’s important to realize is that most of the stuff you try is not going to work but a few anomalies that you pull out and that you’re able to capitalize on and scale up, that’s what’s going to be the flywheel that grows your business.

[10:17] And so the two steps in doing this to find the approaches that work are number one, to put together a big list of ideas. And most people don’t do this. They skip the step. I’ve taken the time with both of my last couple of apps to put together a Google doc which is the big bulleted list in different categories and such. In HitTail, it’s 14 pages and for Drip, it’s 10 pages. And this is just single space bulleted list of all these thoughts, these ideas, these – they come both from me as well as podcast I’m listening to and audio books and overtime, I’ve gathered this huge corpus of essentially marketing ideas. And you obviously have to pair this down and you prioritize them, use your best judgment. I mean you basically take your best guess at which one you think is going to have the most impact. Start at the top and then start implementing them.

[11:00] And that’s why you have to track everything, right, because you’re just – you’re kind of throwing darts. You have educated guesses but you basically…you basically taking a guess of what’s going to work. And so step two is to track everything, see what’s converting, see what’s repeatable and shut it down if it’s not.

[11:15] Mike: And I think those are great points to follow and you said people aren’t putting together these lists. So, when they get to the point where they’re working through a set of early access customers and they’re really identifying and zeroing in on the issues that people are having, they turn around and they say, “Okay. What’s next?” And they don’t necessarily have a good idea of where to go and this list that you put together can definitely help point you in the right direction because then you can use it to prioritize that list and say, “Okay, I want to try this next and if that doesn’t work, maybe do some tweaks with it, readjust and then continue working through that list.”

[11:47] Rob: So, we’ve broken down this marketing strategy in to four different categories.

[11:52] Mike: The first one is inbound marketing and there’s a few different things that fall in to this category. There’s concept marketing, there’s blogs, you can use info graphics, head term SEO on marketing pages, forums, all these different things that you can try. And for content marketing, you can either use a blog or an e-mail list, specifically what you do depends a lot on what your primary goals are. So, if you’re trying to drive traffic to your site, you’re going to do one thing. If you’re trying to educate the users, you’re going to do something slightly different. So, you really need to try and determine what your primary focus is before you start going and implementing some of these things.

[12:28] So, for example, if you wanted to drive traffic to your site, an e-mail campaign is probably not the best way to do it.You’re probably going to want to lean more towards using blogs or info graphics. And if you don’t know where your business is at, if you’re not tracking ay of the metrics associated with this, it’s going to make it hard for you to measure how well you’re doing with any of these things.

[12:48] Rob: Yeah, with the inbound marketing, there are some really great resources. The HubSpot provides a ton of fairly detailed reports. You can also find a lot of people doing inbound marketing at inbound.org which is a joint venture between SEOmoz and HubSpot. The thing to keep in mind when you’re doing inbound marketing is this is a lot of what most startup focus on or even just most online products. This is a lot of aside from paid acquisition, this is kind of the main thing that people doing internet marketing focus on. And it’s easy to get caught up in the flavor of the week. That can work in certain niches or “Hey, there’s a Facebook page marketing strategy that does this and that,” but the thing to keep in mind is that the fundamentals that had worked for years, they’re going to continue to work and that is things like blogs, info graphics and choosing head terms of SEO and going after them with your…your main pages.

[13:38] I think in terms of blogs, it’s kind of overhyped or just over talked about. A lot of people when they start their, you know, start their marketing side, they launch a blog and they don’t even really know what to put on there. And you got to think this through because you can’t just sit there and write about your app or write about how to use it or write about anything because no one cares about that. What you have to do is educate them. If to educate them on a topic that somehow relates to your app. So, if you look at the blog of KISSmetrics which is a blog.kissmetrics.com, they do a fantastic job of actually creating that’s content marketing at its best, right? It’s actually creating articles that people want to read and that they are drawn two or three in social media and they share it through Twitter and Facebook. Buffer did a similar job. If you go to bufferapp.com I think it’s slash blog.

[14:23] One of the founders, you know, just blogged per about a year. He also did a lot of guest posts as well but that is one way to use a blog as a true social media content marketing thing and you could also add info graphics guides, tutorials, pocket guides, et cetera to that and it just draws in traffic. But it draws in waves of traffic. It’s not – doesn’t tend to be a super long flywheel.

[14:41] The other way to think about it is to think about a blog as a long tail SEO tool and that’s where a tool like HitTail comes in as that you would – you pick certain keywords and you just have someone cranking out articles. And so, as an example with the HitTail blog, I have a writer who is writing – I think she writes four articles a month. Right now, about to kick her up to eight articles a month. And she logs in to HitTail and looks at the terms that are suggested for our site and then she turns each of those in to an article. And so, these are not big blockbuster top 10 ways to do this, you know, awesome articles like you see on KISSmetrics. They’re really – they are smaller articles and they’re building a snowball of traffic overtime. It’s long tail SEO and its traffic that has – doesn’t have a lot of competition and it’s very consistent but it is not huge burst of traffic. So, there’s really, you know, two pretty different ways to approach blogging and that type of inbound marketing.

[15:32] Mike: Something else we haven’t really talked about is some of the mainstream media. So, press releases, newspaper articles and getting listed on news websites like CNN or you know, various blogs out there. And one of the issues with getting involved with those or getting links back from those places is that it’s very – you get a lot of traffic. It comes in huge waves. You’ll get a lot of traffic very quickly but then it will taper off just as quickly because as a new site, things are important [0:16:00] on the day that they’re released and they are heavily promoted, maybe they get to the front page of that website and then they fall off and they end up in obscurity where nobody ever goes to look at them. And you will still get some of the backlinks from that stuff but it won’t be nearly as much as you would from as Rob mentioned some of the other types of blog and strategies that you want to look at.

[16:21] Rob: Yeah, the traffic also doesn’t convert that well. Mainstream media may send you a lot of traffic but you’re going to just get a tiny, tiny amount of those people who are actually interested in your app. And when I have that quote in the New York Times, I got more trials that week from a mention on a WordPress blog. It was a popular WordPress blog but obviously, the readership of that WordPress blog is a lot less than the New York Times but it’s just so much more targeted. So, it would – given that it’s really, really hard to get in to mainstream media and to get mentioned in a large publication like that, for now, unless you really know how to do it, I would say forget it because it’s so much easier to target the smaller niche blogs and podcasts and the pitch is easy.

[17:06] If you pitch a podcast, they’re almost always looking for content, they’re looking for people with interesting stories and as long as you can come up with an interesting story, you say, “Hey, let’s chat. Here’s the story. I’m not going to plug my app. I’m a developer. I, you know, I’d love to share my knowledge and educate and blah, blah, blah.” And I mean you just get a good pitch down. When I did kind of – the podcast towards HitTail about 15 months ago, I e-mailed 12 podcasts and I got 11 yeses and I went on all of them. And that was in early stage inbound marketing approach that I used.

[17:32] In terms of blogs, going out and pitching guest posts to blogs, you have to do it right but it can absolutely work well. This was a technique used by Buffer. I’ve actually used this as well with a couple of my apps. It is very time-consuming and in fact, all of these inbound marketing strategies are fairly time-consuming but they’re free, right? Unless you’re hiring the writing out and at a certain point, you will need to because you just won’t have enough time to do it but these are the strategies that can drive a lot of traffic and that don’t  require a huge amount of money to get started on. So, these are definitely the early stage kind of foundational things that if you’re a bootstrap startup and you don’t have a ton of money invest that I would recommend that you…you start looking at.

[18:10] Mike: I think the last one that we also haven’t talked about is forums and [Laughter] forums are one of those things that have really fallen by the wayside in terms of I’ll say mainstream developers that I talked to and associated with. Most people don’t think to go look on forums but it’s just mindboggling the number of people who still go to forums and still use forums. There’s all these niche websites where they will have their own forums for different things.

[18:35] And LinkedIn I think is probably becoming one of the places where a lot of people are – at least in the professional community are gravitating towards because they have all these different forums and communities where you can subscribe to different groups and as a member of that group, you can post in their “private forums.” And then they send out e-mail to everybody who’s in the group saying, “These are some of the new topics that have come up,” which draws people back in to the website and obviously that benefits LinkedIn. But if you’re talking about things that are relevant to that community, then you can use that to help drive traffic to your website. And it’s not just limited to LinkedIn. You can definitely use the strategy on other websites where they’re discussing particular problems that are associated with that niche.

[19:16] Rob: One of the best ways at least long term when you’re first getting started and you’re just trying to get every user to come to your site to check out your app, it’s cool to just hang around at some forums. It totally doesn’t scale but you hang around. You get known. You don’t want to be the spammer guy who comes in with a commercial everytime or you actually want to be in some way involved in these forums. It doesn’t scale long term but it’s something that you can think about. Long term, set up Google alerts and look for some key phrases on the internet. Google will find these forum threads and you can pop in and at least check it…check them out and if they’re asking something specifically about your product name, you can always step in and say, “Hey, I’m the owner and here’s the answer to your question. Here are my thoughts, whatever.”

[19:51] I still do this with HitTail, by the way. It gets mentioned on forums and I pop in and say I’m the owner and people have never had a problem with it because you’re not – you’ve already been mentioned so it’s not like you’re coming in [0:20:00] to pitch your app. And then if they have – if they’re talking about something else related to your apps. So, you know, with HitTail might be long tail SEO or long tail keywords or something, you have to use your judgment of whether or not you can pop in and just offer suggestions or thoughts and then include your link in the signature or you can just mention that, “By the way, I’m the owner of this tool. So, I take my name with a grain of salt.” When I do this, I’m very careful not to – to try not to come off as being like a sleazebag guy because you see the people on the forums who do that and it’s irritating but this is definitely a way to take the pulse of people because these are actually people discussing your app or your topic.

[20:35] Aside from one-on-one conversations and e-mails, this is a really good way not only to, you know, to get people interested in your product but also to figure out their pain points and to figure out the issues that they’re having perhaps with competitive tools.

[20:49] Music

[20:52] Mike: So, the next approach that we’ve came up with is outbound marketing and with outbound, you’re really talking about reaching out to people through the phone, you’re using direct mail, e-mail, outreach to people. One of the things that I’ve found is that e-mail is a proverbial gold mine and there’s a lot of different reasons for this. And the first one is that it’s almost free to send these e-mails. Obviously, if you’re sending them through your own ISP because you’re sending direct one-to-one communications, there’s obviously no issues with that. But even when you start sending out, you know, hundreds or thousands of e-mails is very, very cost-effective to send these e-mails out to people.

[21:26] And using things like MailChimp or AWeber or Constant Contact, you can get in front of people who want to hear that information especially if you built up a mailing list because these are people who signed up for that mailing list and they have essentially said that they want to hear from you about this topic that you put together for them. So, for whatever reasons that you put in front of them to convince them to sign up for the e-mail list, those are the reasons that you continue sending e-mails to this list and promoting whatever material it is that you want to send to them. So, whether it’s security information or in the case of Adam if you’re sending information about how as a small business they can deal with specific problems that are in that industry, so if there’s new legislation that’s coming out or if there are new tools that they might want to be aware of, these are all great things to share with them. And as long as you’re sharing information as opposed to giving them a sales pitch every week, it’s going to go over really well.

[22:18] Rob: I think there’s two ways to look at e-mail outreach. The one that you said is building up your mailing list, right. People come to the website and then you build the list and you educate and offer insight and you help them out and then overtime you just kind of become a trusted advisor and they might check out your app. The other way that I’ve seen donepretty well is – I’ve actually had it done to me by several companies and I become their customers is the CEO or the founder or someone e-mails with a short e-mail. It’s out of the blue and unsolicited and – but it’s a compelling pitch and it’s like, “Hey, here’s what we do for companies like HitTail or you know, like Drip.”

[22:52] And these have been from a variety of different startups that are basically catering to other startups. And so I get the e-mail. It’s a plain text e-mail. It’s not so marketing e-mail because if it was a marketing e-mail, I’d mark it as spam right, because you can’t do unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail to just a list but these people are actually seeking people out and this has worked well. As long as it have a compelling value pitch and it’s not something that they’re just – it’s not a bulk e-mail. It’s not a copy and paste thing. They mentioned me by name. They mentioned something specific about my app. They mentioned how their app can help and it’s just maybe two to three sentences and not all of them are kind of well for sure but I at least investigated when someone reaches out that way.

[23:27] And this is similar to the phone or direct e-mail. Obviously, those are more time-intensive or expensive approaches. All three of those can work and I think if you’re considering this approach, you really need to read the book Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes and he talks about putting together your dream 100 which is the top 100 clients that you would like to have and then, you know, you can use these approaches in tandem, in a sequence contact the same dream 100 multiple times work to get them to try out your app. In addition, you have to have a high enough lifetime value to make this worthwhile. You can’t  sell a product for 9 bucks a month or a one-time $20 fee and do these approaches. They’re just too time-consuming and too manual. So, you really need to have a higher and other subscription app or a high upfront price point or to justify the time and or expense of these outbound approaches.

[24:16] Mike: And in terms of direct e-mail outreach like you had just mentioned, you can try to templatized that approach where you create an e-mail template and then you have a couple of sentences where you’re going to essentially insert personal details about that person. So, maybe there’s one or two sentences in there say, “Hey, I heard you on such and such podcast,” or “I heard you on Mixergy and you were talking about this. And I’d just want to let you know this is what we do.” And those are ways that you can cut down on the amount of time and effort that it takes to build those but as Rob said you really do have to make sure that you are being personable, you’re relating to them directly and you’re letting them know that it isn’t just them part of this massive mailing list that you bought from some place.

[24:59] Rob: So, the third marketing category we have is paid acquisition. And paid acquisition is something that scales really well but it’s really hard to get right and it’s hard to find a channel that you can actually scale up. The typical approach to getting started with paid acquisition is to try a number of different ad networks, number of different headlines. Hopefully, you already have an idea of your customer demographics or where they would be or what they would be searching on. And the interesting thing to think about is that most ad networks are not going to work for B2B because they’re catering towards consumers. So, ad networks like AdBrite and Chitika and Advertise.com. There’s a bunch of them that I specifically tried out about a year ago. They’re just – they junk traffic if you’re trying to sell B2B stuff.

[25:43] So, the ad networks that I know of that probably have the most volume are Google AdWords and now, Bing Ads since they have the inventory of all the Yahoo searches. They actually have a reasonable amount of volume. LinkedIn Ads, Facebook Ads and BuySellAds. I’m sure there are others out there but those are the ones that can provide  enough people that if they actually do work that they can scale up. You can also buy clicks through StumbleUpon but those do tend to be people that are kind of wasting time rather than wanting to buy stuff. So, I’d use that as more of a viral market approach rather than a paid acquisition strategy for a B2B app.

[26:15] And the thing to think about when you’re doing these paid ads is you really have to go on with a small budget do a trial and see if the cost to acquire a customer is less than your lifetime value and it should be a lot less. A typical rule is it should be a third or less of your lifetime value. And if you can make that work and scale this up, you have found an amazing flywheel and really have. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. People think when they’re starting these apps that they can just buytraffic and it’s going to convert and it’s actually quite hard to do that. And even if you find a source that will convert, it tends to be really hard to scale it up because as you try to expand your ad span, the quality of your traffic goes down and so then you start having to pay higher and higher amounts to acquire customers. That’s really the high level overview of this. There’s obviously a lot of details to this topic that certainly are more in-depth course is wanted.

[27:06] Music

[27:09] Mike: And the fourth marketing strategy is to leverage partnerships and what’s referred to is OPN which is Other People’s Networks.

[27:16] Rob: OPN is from Dan Martell. I want to give him credit MicroConf 2012 his talk. He talked about OPN and how you can, you know, build your startup through using other people’s networks.

[27:26] Mike: So, with partnerships, what you’re really looking for is either joint ventures or integration marketing or affiliate programs. Any of these things can be mechanisms to help scale your business up and obviously, you need to know what your sales pitch is going to be and what resonates with your customers because that’s what other people are going to want to know. They’re going to want to know what sort of market you have, what sort of audience, what do they respond to, how is there an overlap between your users and their users. Those are all important things and one of the things you have to be really careful of is it you are not going and [0:28:00] approaching people who’s networks are I’ll say worlds of magnitude larger than yours.

[28:06] So, if you have a network of users that is a hundred or 200 people, you don’t want to approach somebody who’s got a network of hundred thousand people and ask them to do a joint venture because it’s probably not going to work very well especially if you’re saying, “Hey, you can promote something to your users and I’ll promote something to my users.” That…that just not going to work really well because one of theirs questions is going to be “How many users do you have?” And when they find out that there’s this giant disparity between them, it’s going to reflect very poorly on you.

[28:33] So, what you really want to do is you want to find out if there are ways that you can sell your product through them and essentially give them a cut. It’s a slightly different way of doing a joint venture but you have to know what those numbers look like before you start going and approaching people because you want to know what’s going to be in it for them.

[28:51] Rob: Yeah, I’ve had some joint venture e-mails that have gone really well and I’ve had others that have just beentrain wrecks but luckily, you do enough of this and it kind of evens out. The key is to really know your audience and know that you’re going to have overlap with the potential partner’s audience. That’s the bottom line. The nice part is once you get an e-mail or two and you’ve send them out and they worked, then approaching new joint venture partners and saying, “Hey, e-mail your audience and I’ll e-mail mine. We won’t do any affiliate stuff. It’s just kind of one for one, our list are similar size.” That actually doesn’t take that much time.

[29:22] And I was surprised I was doing this last year for HitTail and I e-mailed nine potential partners. They are like SEO rank trackers just affiliated tools, right, people who would use that – would use these tools but also probably use HitTail and I got nine responses within about three days of people who were like, “Yeah, absolutely, let’s do that.” And I was overwhelmed and I’ve only done two of those because, well, because I want to space them out. I was surprised at the…at that response and I dothink this is, you know, an underutilized approach.

[29:49] And then the second part of partnerships you touched on was integration marketing that I have also mentioned in the past and that’s things like HitTail, we integrated with Basecamp. We have a HubSpot integration we’ll be launching here next week or so. Well, we have a WordPress plug-in. And not only you’re trying to get the partner to tweet out, potentially blog about you and get you some traffic but you also want to be on their integration’s page because those pages do get a nice chunk of traffic both from search engines and from, you know, the people who are actually using the app. I’ve seen integrationmarketing worked quite well and we’re going to, you know, continue to invest in that with both HitTail and Drip.

[30:24] Mike: So, those are the four B2B startup marketing strategies that we came up with. The first one is inbound marketing. The second one is outbound. Third is paid acquisition and then fourth is partnership. And sort of a bonus, we also thought about how to improve word of mouth. And one of the things that I’m not really convinced of is that you can effectively do this as small business as a scalable level to make it worth it because how many times do you have to hear about a product before you decided to look in to it or seriously look in to it. If you look at some of the research behind how many times when someone hear something before they start investigating it, what you’ll find is it’s like half a dozen to a dozen times.

[31:02] And the unfortunate part of that is it means that you need to get in front of them half a dozen to a dozen times before they even start considering you as an option or decide, “Hah, I’ve seen that before. Maybe I should look in to it.” And as a small business, you can’t do that effectively when you are so small. Companies like Microsoft and Dropbox can do that because they will get in front of people dozens and dozens of times and it’s very easy for them to do it because they’ve got billions and billions of dollars to spend on marketing. You don’t as a small business. So, you’re going to run in to problems trying to leverage word of mouth to get in front of more people.

[31:36] Rob: Yeah, I agree with what you said. I also think that, you know, building a great product is probably the best way. Solving…solving a problem really well is a good way to get people to talk about you but as you said when you only have 50 or a hundred customers which when you’re getting started that’s what you have, people aren’t going to be talking about you. You don’t have the scale. I think another aspect to this that can be helpful to get people talk…to talk about you is to try to be everywhere. That means beyond blogs and be running ads and pipe in on forums and be on podcasts and be in the conferences. As long as you’re within that small enough niche, you’re not trying to target the entire world, you can pretty quickly cover the landscape of a lot of places where people frequent.

[32:15] If you look at the web design niche I mean if you…if you guest posted on five web design blogs to very specific ones, within a month and were also on a couple of web design podcasts, you would cover a huge amount of territory and people would start to feel like, “Wow, this guy really is everywhere.” So, that’s another way to get people kind of thinking you’re at top of mind and if they feel like you’re more legitimate. I mean you are. You are actually out there especially if the stuff you’re sharing is interesting and educational, it can really get people more excited or more interested and willing to talk about your app.

[32:44] The idea that you’re going to just have your existing customers go out and promote your app, it’s not – I mean yeah, it can get you a few extra customers and you can use a product like Ambassador. If you go to getambassador.com it’s actually what I used on a couple of my apps, that’s actually a great way to do it. They give you some forms and some other ways for your customers to share your product with, you know, other people and actually to get a cut off the price if that’s what you want or just out of the goodness of their heart. I mean however you want to set it up is fine but – so there are definitely tools out there to do it. I haven’t seen this done to scale to really starting, you know, getting aside from viral loop applications which are typical B2C apps, I have to see an example of one before I believe that word of mouth can really be use in and be a repeatable process to grow a B2B app.

[33:30] Mike: That’s right and I think that in terms of focusing on improving word of mouth for your application, I think that there’s a lot of other much lower hanging fruit that it’s probably warranted to go after than to concentrate on “How do I improve word of mouth for my application when I’m just starting out?”

[33:47] Music

[33:50] Rob: If you have a question or comment, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or e-mail us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control”  by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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6 Responses to “Episode 122 | Four B 2 B Marketing Strategies for Startups”

  1. Wow. This was an amazing and actionable episode. I’m going to have to listen to this again, except this time with a notepad.

    Grats on the new macbook Rob. Check out TotalSpaces when the swipe animation gets old.

  2. Hi
    Thx for podcast.
    I’d recommend to take a look application Alfred for Mac .
    I really like it. They have free version which enough for most of users.

  3. Great show as always! But if you guys are going to be Mac users now, you have to start pronouncing OS X as “OS Ten” ;-).

  4. @Benjamin – I love that TotalSpaces was developed by Antonin Hildebrand of BinaryAge – an Academy Lifetime member from way back. Thanks for the recommendation!

    @Rob – Really?! All these tech podcasts I listen to and I’ve always heard it OSX? I am going to research this… 🙂

  5. Hi guys,

    That was great and really detailed.

    Really appreciate the time and depth you went into.

    Thanks very much 🙂


  6. Great episode, I just went back and re-listened.

    Rob, I remember you mentioned your “great google doc of ideas” when you acquired hittail and I note it mentioned again in this episode and a similar doc for drip.

    You’re a pro and I bet the ideas in both google docs are brilliant and exhaustive. You could turn them into a PDF case study marketing idea ebooks. I’d buy them! Please consider the notion. Get a VA on the case.