Case Study: 13 Pre-Launch Traffic Strategies for Startups (Part 1 of 3)

This article is a guest post by Dan Norris, founder of Informly.

Part 1 (of 3) – Introduction and Onsite Content
Experienced entrepreneurs will tell you that no traffic is free. Even if you aren’t paying money for something you are paying in time (which is worth something) and once you try to scale it, you will have to part with cash.

But sometimes they forget what it’s like when you get started. The reality for most bootstrapped web startups is that you have time – but you don’t have money. And even if you did, it’s often very hard to make paid traffic like Google AdWords work.

To get the momentum going we have to rely more often than not on a bunch of free strategies.

My web app, Informly is a simple live dashboard that reports on your business performance showing charts from a number of services (MailChimp, Analytics etc). I’ll be launching it in a few weeks and over the last few months I’ve been working on a bunch of traffic strategies designed to build interest, develop an audience and launch with a decent pre-launch mailing list.

Over the course of 3 articles I’ll present 13 free traffic strategies that I am using to drive traffic to my site pre-launch. I’ll also include specific information on visits, opt ins, conversion rates etc where possible and what worked and what didn’t.

In this part (part 1) I’ll be addressing onsite content which is by far the most important part of my traffic strategy.

Continue reading →

Tell Everyone Your Startup Idea

Idea

This artice is a guest post from Joel Gascoigne. Joel is is the founder of Buffer, a smarter way to share great articles with friends and followers. He Tweets at @joelgascoigne and writes regularly on his blog about startups, life, learning and happiness.

I was speaking at an event last week about the lessons I’ve learned along my startup journey, mostly focused on my recent experience of founding and growing Buffer. The first lesson I talked about was how being open with your ideas, and vocal about sharing progress can put you in a much greater position over time because you gradually grow a following and audience to use as a launchpad for future ideas.

After I finished my talk, someone in the audience asked a fantastic question, a concern they had which I think many aspiring startup founders have too: when being open and vocal about your idea in the early stages, isn’t there a danger someone will take the idea and run with it, and kill your startup in the process?

I want to share my personal experience of competition and talk about three specific reasons I now believe keeping your idea quiet could actually be hindering progress to success in a large way.

Continue reading →

ISVcon is Almost Here, the Terror of Starting Something New, Talking to Customers, and more…

ISVcon in Reno July 13-15 – Let’s hang in Reno in a couple weeks! Probably my last speaking gig of the season.

Find Joy in the Terror of Starting Something New – The terror of firsts is alive and well. We’re all scared of doing something for the first time. You have to get over it and do it anyway.

Talking to Customers: What a Concept – Cool post by Startup Success’s Pat Foley on how to start talking to customers before you build your product.

Fix the U.S. Patent System – via @spolsky, “The EFF’s new position on software patents is very good; if these rules were adopted, it will eliminate patent trolls.”

From programming to business: Lesson 0 – Some good takeaways: don’t ignore sales and marketing, business is about people, and you can’t be good at everything.

There and Back Again: How a Seemingly Well-Planned Server Move Crashed, Burned, and Rose from the Ashes


Photo by hisperati

About 8 months ago I acquired a small startup called HitTail. You can read more about the acquisition here.

When the deal closed, the app was in bad shape. Within 3 weeks I had to move the entire operation, including a large database, to new servers. This required my first all-nighter in a while. Here is an excerpt of an email I sent to a friend the morning of September 16, 2011 at 6:47 am:

Subject: My First All Nighter in Years

Wow, am I tired. Worst part is my kids are going to be up in the next half hour. This is going to hurt :-)

But HitTail is on a new server and it seems to be running really well. Feels great to have it within my control. There are still a couple pieces left on the old server, but they are less important and I’ll have them moved within a week.

I’ll write again in a few hours with the whole story. It’s insane how many things went wrong.

What follows is the tale of that long night…

Continue reading →

Creating Awesome User Documentation, You Suck at Email, and More…

Create Awesome User Documentation – Launched by a Micropreneur Academy member and winner of a local startup competition, GuideKit helps you create better documentation with less effort…whether you’re building API documentation, user guides, or in-depth tutorials.

You Suck at Email – Great slide presentation on how to properly send and manage email. Actionable tips beyond the “inbox zero” stuff you typically hear.

The 100 Blogs You Need In Your Life (if you want to leave your job) – Sweetness…and this very blog made the list (#69).

Startup 101: Look Before You Leap – New article series by Patrick Foley of the Startup Success podcast.

Compare Venture Capital Firms – A new comparison engine from Find the Best.

Are you a PHP, Linux or WordPress Minor Deity? Apply here. – WPEngine is hiring (disclosure: I’m an investor). If I wasn’t so busy with HitTail I would apply, but I’d never make the cut.

Special thanks to Michael at LattePerDay for his new purchase page designs for my book website.

The Inside Story of a Small Startup Acquisition (Part 3)


Photo by psiaki

This is final installment of a 3-part series covering my acquisition of HitTail. I’d originally planned on a 2 part series, but when parts 1 and 2 went to the top of Hacker News I received so many questions that I decided to add this prologue to answer them.

Every question below has been asked via email, comment or Twitter over the past four weeks.

Continue reading →

The Inside Story of a Small Startup Acquisition (Part 2)


Photo by psiaki

Why I Bought My Next Startup (Instead of Building It)
This is part 2 in a series covering my acquisition of HitTailpart 1 went to the top of Hacker News last week and I have a slew of questions from that discussion that I will answer next week.

But first I want to address the most common question I hear when I tell someone I acquired a startup:

Why did you buy instead of building?

If you’re a developer you’re probably scratching your head wondering how I could pass up the chance to do the awesome green field development. A new project with no legacy baggage…this is the stuff we live for!

But I did indeed opt to plunk down my hard earned cash instead of hunkering down for 6 months in my dev cave, and what follows are my reasons for doing so.

Continue reading →

The Inside Story of a Small Startup Acquisition (Part 1)


Photo by psiaki

Based on the title of this post you might be thinking I have mad stacks of money in the bank.

That I’ve had a few “exits” and instead of hunkering down and writing code for 6 months I opted to talk to a few of my buddies at the yacht club and purchase a primed and growing social network for somewhere in the mid-seven figures.

Indeed, I did buy my latest startup, but the deal was done from a spare bedroom of my suburban home in Fresno, California for less than most people pay for a new car. And the funds came from revenue generated by my portfolio of web applications and websites that I’ve built over the past several years.

This acquisition is a long story, but if you have a few minutes let me tell you the best parts.

Continue reading →

Announcing MicroConf 2012: The Conference for Self-Funded Startups and Single Founders

MicroConf 2012

I can’t believe it’s this time of year again. MicroConf is in the air. If you’re starting, or thinking about starting, a self-funded startup this is the place to be in April.

My co-host and I are crafting a line-up of speakers that will be speaking to your specific needs as a bootstrapper, rather than someone with a bazillion dollars of funding in the bank. Honestly, MicroConf is unlike any conference you’ve ever attended.

First things first, here are the things we’ve nailed down so far:

MicroConf 2012: The Conference for Self-Funded Startups and Single Founders

Speakers Include

128 pre-release tickets will be available next week (until we sell out).

Who Should Attend?
Anyone launching a startup with no outside funding who wants to hang out with and learn from 128 of today’s leading founders and entrepreneurs. We are intentionally keeping the conference small based on feedback from last year.

Wait…you didn’t hear about last year’s MicroConf?! You must check out this blog post or this podcast episode. Then sign up for the early bird notification list.

Sounds Awesome, What Should I Do Next?
We’re limiting total attendance to 128 and expect to sell out quickly. If this is up your alley, here are the next two things you’ll want to do:

  1. Sign up to be notified about discounted pre-release tickets here
  2. Tweet it!

It’s going to be a blast! Hope you can make it.

What’s a Better Way to Research a Market: Surveys or Experiments?


Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives

I received the following question from a reader a few weeks back:

I’m considering creating a mobile app and I want to know quick/effective ways to validate some of my assumptions. Is it more effective to put out small experiments that test your assumptions, or are surveys of the possible users a better approach?

My answer: it depends on what you’re trying to test.

Continue reading →