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What is the best traditional sales strategy for a growth engineering startup?

My question is related to "traditional" sales. My team and I are about to launch a very cool, very powerful growth engineering product called Airplane. The purpose of the service is to help companies both small and large grow their social followings using fancy algorithms. Forgive any kinks in the current site: as I said, we haven't launched yet, although the service is working beautifully. The trick is finding our customers.

With modern, social-savvy customers, this is super easy, and we're able to dogfood our own service as a way of locating them (which we've done to great effect in recent weeks). However, traditional business owners without much experience with social are often excellent customers as well. Though they've never heard the term "growth hacking," they love the idea of an automated layer of intelligence helping them connect to customers while they're asleep. Unfortunately,these business owners are by definition less likely to be on social media.

What other channels would the FD community recommend for reaching non-savvy customers who need social media growth services?

Thanks in advance.

24 Replies

Brett Fox
3
0
Brett Fox Advisor
Respected, Results-Oriented CEO, Entrepreneur, Author, and Coach
Ben,

I would read the book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares (Link: http://tractionbook.com)

It is BY FAR the best book on how a startup can gain initial traction. The book goes through a detailed framework for deciding on which channels are right for you.

I think you will find Traction invaluable.

Good luck.
Alistair Davidson
0
0
Eclicktick Consulting
You might want to take a look at the book, Traction by Weinberg and Mares. It identifies 19 different approaches. Alistair Alistair Davidson Eclicktick Consulting 100 N. Whisman Road, Suite 2213 Mountain View, CA 94043 Business number: +[removed to protect privacy] Mobile: +[removed to protect privacy] Skype: alistairdavidson or +[removed to protect privacy] E-mail: [removed to protect privacy] Blog: alistairdavidson.blogspot.com Twitter: @alistairdavidso Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/alistairdavidsoneclicktick Amazon.com author page: amazon.com/author/alistairdavidson Latest books: Innovation Zeitgeist, Digital Virtues and Memes Contributing Editor, Strategy & Leadership magazine http://www.strategyandleadership.com Certifications: Certified Scrum Master, Scrum Product Owner, Ensighten Certified Professional Manage
Michael Haupt
1
0
Michael Haupt Entrepreneur
Strategist, speaker, mentor, advisor | Creator of The 2100 Pendulum - a simple model to explain today & predict tomorrow
Ben,
There are great answers here already so just want to add 3 further points, because I love the idea:

1. There was one phrase which jumped out at me in your question: "these people are by definition less likely to be on social media". I'm not sure they would be your ideal client. Your best customer will be someone who doesn't need convincing that social media is necessary - rather you would want to signup those who are already active on social media, have followed all the "guru" advice and haven't yet seen any positive ROI for their efforts. These accounts are easy to find: go through a list of followers on any popular VC profile and look at their stats: number of followers vs number of tweets, for example. It's easy to spot accounts that are doing what everyone has told them to do but are not getting anywhere. These are the ones that need your help, more than those who need convincing about social media.

2. To add to the feedback from Todd, I would look at your lead capture process. Rather than call it "create an account" you need a small interim step that someone who isn't quite convinced to take. Try using a social sign up with - for example, Twitter - and use wording that suggests you will (automagically) analyze their profile and suggest whether a Slow, Normal or Fast track would best suit them. Something like that.

3. Finally, to answer your specific question, it might be worth pressing the flesh at pitch fests. While this probably won't be as scalable as you'd like, you do have a captive audience of the exact people you need - founders desperate for rapid growth and traction. Perhaps do a quick demo to each person you meet. The real value will be in not so much signing up new clients, but getting immediate feedback - priceless.

Love the idea, and I look forward to seeing how it takes off - pun intended ;)
Bob Caspe
1
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Bob Caspe Advisor
CEO, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Global Education Programs at International Entrepreneurship Ctr
In another thread I mentioned that it is the cost of "customer acquisition" that in fact kills most startups. Therefore, you are asking THE critical question that is "how should you go to market?"

It's likely that you do not have enough money to sustain a sales and marketing campaign that is likely necessary to launch your product so the future is dim.

However, I do have one suggestion. If you can find a Partner, who already does business with the intended clients, is well funded, and has a good brand reputation, and if you can convince that partner to sell your product for part of the profit, then there is hope. The key, however, is not how much additional profit your product brings to the partner, but rather, how your product enables the partner to sell more of their own product. The reason for this is rational, but a bit more involved than I want to develop in this thread.

Good luck.
Rob Gropper
3
0
Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
I don't mean to sound flippant, but shouldn't you simply use your own product? I have not been to your website but from your brief description above it seems that your product is intended to help small companies like your own to grow. "We have a ton of experience in the field, we've grown companies successfully in the past, and we're good at what we do.". There is no better way to truly understand the challenges that your customers or prospects face than eating your own dog food. No better proof statement than to show your prospects how you are able to grow your small company using your own tools. The challenge you described above is by far the greatest challenge for most startups - how to cost-effectively: find prospects, educate them, and convert them into paying customers. This is typically part of the product/ market fit process. How did you find customers or prospects when you were doing your product market fit evaluations?
Neil Licht - HereWeAre
0
0
Want To find-close Business Online without competition Before They Google Search? We solve this problem 1(508)-481-8567
Ben, The first thing you must do is speak ordinary people language. Frankly, I have no idea what all that stuff means. If I don't and I am very computer savvy and exceedingly market creation/find hot prospects and connect with-convert to customer target audience/sales savvy, then I fear many of us ordinary business owners and business types ( your target audiences)wonteither

- thus no sales.
Peter Johnston
1
0
Peter Johnston Advisor
Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.
Hi Ben,

Love the idea, and the front page looked good too (I can't get back to it, now I've logged in).

I don't know the economics behind this - how much manual work, for example is involved, but I would try to create a free tier - perhaps the one account. If you have a free product, people love to recommend it. You would get coverage from the big marketing blogs who love the free tools idea. Even if you only did this for six months, it would make a big difference.

But I'm beginning to worry. I share Rob's thinking.

You claim to be an expert in all this, with "a ton of experience in the field". So what do you need us for - your algorithms should be telling you exactly what works and what doesn't. Surely the product is setting itself up as the expert on exactly what you are asking us about. Or is this just advertising?
Ben Belser
1
0
Ben Belser Entrepreneur
Connecting the dots.
Some great feedback here. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness that a few of you have invested in combing through the site, pointing out bugs and messaging issues, etc. Many of these are on our radar (again, the site hasn't officially launched), but it never hurts to get confirmation.

To Rob Gropper, Peter Johnston:

Thanks to both of you for the much-needed kick in the pants. To be clear, I was all too aware of the irony of asking for sales advice on a lead-gen product when I posted this question. Trust me when I say that we're dogfooding to the moon right now: in fact, we've already signed up a bunch of clients who don't seem to care one bit about the "beta" status, and most of these we've found using our own service. They'd use the product if the homepage were written on a paper napkin: the service is that good.

However, I think the apparent irony is a little too easy to point out, and it doesn't capture the complexity of the sales issue. Our target audience really is broad, and it includes a large swath of companies that aren't social media savvy. In fact, some of the most receptive people in my discussions have been owners of traditional businesses who don't understand social, don't have time to hire a social media person, and want a "set it and forget it" tool that will intelligently do the work for them.

These people are generally not on social media, even though they love the idea of the tool, so we have to get a little more traditional in our approach to finding them. That was the crux of my sales question and the thing we still need help with.

So, to clarify: we do not need help finding the "modern" breed of social-savvy customers. What we're curious about is how to optimize on the traditional sales side to sign up customers who never knew they needed this service (Z) because they never knew X or Y existed. Probably should have made the question more specific, but I wanted to capture general advice as well.









Rob Gropper
2
0
Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
Ben; there are many different ways to slice this. happy to chat offline. One approach (of many): shrink the size of the pond you are fishing in - as a startup you don't have the resources to 'boil the ocean'. take a look at some of the customers you already have and see if they represent a vertical (or 2 or 3 or 10) large enough to be worth while, but not too big. Competitors hate to be out smarted. Get 1 then 2 then 3 companies (big enough to be worth while, but not too big such that the sales cycle drags out too long) in this vertical. learn their industry and learn how companies in this industry currently sell (prospect, educate, close). You can then begin to educate the rest of the industry about the benefits of social (media, selling,...) and specifically your product/service and the fact that they need to do it because their competitors are. New customers gain a competitive advantage, late adopters need to get on board so they don't get left behind. Add new verticals, rinse and repeat.
Peter Johnston
0
2
Peter Johnston Advisor
Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.
You're in danger of making a Meatball Sundae here (see Seth Godin's book if you don't know what I mean).

Sales is a 19th century spin-off from the industrial revolution and the era of mass production when cranking up production and then going out to find customers was suddenly the only business model in town. The model of the pushy, foot-in-the-door, don't take no for an answer, always be closing seller has been universally rejected by customers and even legislated against, yet for some odd US-centric reason, it is still held in high regard by companies as the model they should follow.

Social is part of a different business model - one of building a tribe. Here people get together to make an emotional connection and build a group around shared interests, aspirations and worldview. Products which fit that worldview are shared and promoted and people buy because of that recommendation from people they respect.

For a far-sighted company the latter model works far better. They connect much more deeply with purchasers and have loyalty, less pricing pressure and a two-way relationship which points them towards evolutions of existing products and niches for new ones.

Connecting old-model "pile em high and sell em cheap" hard sell companies to the new model may show short term results but long term will implode. Hard sell over social is rejected and companies can do long term damage to their reputation, traction and brand. And by swamping tribes with low-value product recommendations, the whole value of the community is undermined.

The backward companies are backward for a reason. Leave them alone to slide down their Bell curve ski-slope into oblivion, taking their outdated "customers as targets" methodologies with them. Far better to promote the new values and take the early adopters - rapidly turning into an early majority - with you. This is a fast growing group who will be prepared to pay a premium for the right service which helps them scale. Here you can demonstrate real value in business growth.

Your biggest failure would be to confuse business models and try to appeal to everyone. You will spend a lot of time persuading people who really don't get it, who will abuse what you offer and who will use the wrong metrics to decide value.
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