For some time now, I’ve been jotting down quick notes and ideas on getting attention for startups. This started out as a personal record, but now I’m publishing it in hopes that it might be of some use to others. Every time I’ve come across an interesting idea, I’ve added it to this list.
1. Gather the email addresses of people who are interested using a landing page. Noah Kagan built a waiting list of 20,000+ people when launching Mint. By discussing the service with bloggers long before launching it, he was able to accumulate this huge list.
2. Blog about your industry. By writing about more than just your startup, you are doing two things at once: showing why people should pay attention to what you’re working on, and bringing in traffic that might convert into users. I hadn’t heard of Product Hunt until stumbling upon Ryan Hoover’s blog.
3. Pitch writers on startup news websites. Techcrunch and Mashable are the big players, but it might be hard to get featured there right away. You could try aiming lower in the press pyramid and pitch personal tech blogs, people who write about the industry you’re in or mid-tier tech blogs. Getting featured on these websites is easier, and it gets your name out there. When a writer at one of the bigger websites Googles you, he sees that people are already talking about you.
4. Guest blog. Sometimes you might not be able to get a blogger to write a full length article about you, but you might still get them to agree to post an article written by you. The key here is to be interesting to their audience. This brings us back to our second point- the main focus of your article doesn’t have to be your startup. Using Ryan as an example again,
5. Attend or organize events within your local area. Conventions focused at entrepreneurs are a great choice for networking, but you’re not just limited to that. Tinder got many of its first users by throwing parties on campus. To enter, you had to have downloaded their app.
6. Contribute to existing communities and share your product with them. Hackernews and Reddit’s /r/entrepreneur are good places to get started. If you have insights that might help other users there, even better. Answering questions related to your product on Quora is also a great way to get your name out there.
7. See if you can get your local newspaper to write about you. “Local entrepreneur is looking to solve this problem.”
8. Use your competition’s mistakes. When Google Reader announced that it would be shutting down, the RSS readers that announced their intention to help users migrate their data were getting featured in every “Google Reader alternatives” article that was in the news during the following weeks. Feedly saw 500,000 new signups in the 48 hours after the announcement. Within a month later, they were up to 3 million new users. Being one of the first to contact media about being an alternative option for Reader made them huge.
9. Have a media kit on your website. Dropbox has a great example of what you should include. This won’t help you attract attention by itself, but it does provide a service to people wanting to write about you.
10. Advertise on Facebook and Google Adsense. Make sure that the cost of acquiring a user is less than how much you earn from them signing up. Groupon saw a lot of success with this tactic.
11. Make a video to explain your service. Dropbox found that normal advertisements weren’t cost effective, so instead they posted a short video demo on Digg. This resulted in 75,000 wait-list signups.
12. Offer your first users incentives for sharing your service. Dropbox offered free space for every social media share, and PayPal paid users to get others to sign up.
13. Use another platform to gain an initial audience. Airbnb contacted people posting listings on Craigslist, asking them to also post on Airbnb. PayPal bought items on eBay and insisted on paying with their service.
14. Search for reviews about your competition and ask the writer if they’d like to discuss your service as well. You might want to mention what you do better than the competitor they reviewed previously.
15. Advertise on reddit. Duck Duck Go CEO Gabriel Weinberg’s article on this provides some valuable insight.
16. Create controversy. The recent Yo app was downloaded over 2 million times, mainly because everyone was talking about how it doesn’t do anything remotely useful. A $1 million investment helped stir up even more coverage and discussion. This won’t work for everybody, but it’s interesting when it does.
17. Use Twitter searches to monitor for people discussing the problems your startup solves. A file hosting application would probably want to respond to people complaining about forgetting their USB stick home.