In February, communication consultant Karen Laos signed a new client from her bathtub.
Laos had eaten espresso-laced tiramisu "too close to bedtime" and so was relaxing in a bath at two in the morning during a mini retreat in Napa, California. She decided to pop into the invite-only audio chat app Clubhouse. After about 15 minutes in a chat room, someone in the audience messaged her on Instagram. Ten minutes of back-and-forth later, Laos had landed a new client. "That was the fastest turnover I ever had," she says.
Increasingly, Clubhouse is where entrepreneurs go to talk to one another -- and grow their businesses. Besides connecting with clients from the bathtub (or wherever you happen to be), you can network with other business owners, get up to speed on marketing strategies and other skills, connect with investors, bond with your team, and utilize new monetization tools.
Before you do anything else, think about how you present your profile. You need a detailed bio, says Chad Otar, founder and CEO LendingValley, who says he has secured 500 clients from the app for his fintech business loan firm. Potential investors and business partners are going to decide whether or not to get in touch with you outside of the app based on your bio, so it needs to have information that suits every group, he says.
Beyond including basic contact information like email and phone number, Laos notes that you need to connect your Clubhouse profile to your Instagram or Twitter account. Potential new clients almost always direct message her on Instagram, she says.
Once you're set up, here are some of the most effective ways to use Clubhouse to grow your business.
1. Use it for networking.
Entrepreneurs are lonely right now, says Amanda Holdsworth, CEO and founder of Milford, Michigan-based marketing firm Holdsworth Communications. Enter Clubhouse. "I think a lot of people are Zoom-ed or Google Meet-ed out," Holdsworth says. "[Clubhouse] is kind of a neat way to connect with people." However, be aware: Clubhouse is a varied place. "It's like the comment section come to life," says managing partner at RareBreed Ventures Mac Conwell. "You never know what someone is going to say." Users have noted everything from blatant sexism and racism to hackers taking over their accounts and being unkind to people.
Still, founders report the app is a good place to form genuine connections -- and ones that help their business. The best way to drum up new clientele and relationships is by attending and speaking in rooms that are relevant to your industry, says Clayton Durant, CEO of Rumson, New Jersey-based entertainment consulting firm CAD Management. From those tactics, he estimates he's pulled in $20,000 in revenue for his firm and grown his personal and company social-media followings by about 75 percent.
To attract paying customers, you have to speak up in rooms and genuinely try to help people to demonstrate your expertise, Laos advises. "Be brief, be bright, be gone," she says.
2. Brush up on your skills.
Encourage your employees to use the app to educate themselves, says Daniel Robbins, CEO of IBH Media, a public relations company. He says that after spending time in Clubhouse rooms featuring marketing and branding experts, one of his employees dramatically improved her email copywriting. "Yesterday, she sent me her first revised final email," he says. "I was blown away." Now, for everything digital marketing-related, he sends his team to the app.
Draya Blanco, CEO and founder of mask company Maskarade Mask, says she discovered Reels, Instagram's short-form video platform, from a fellow founder on Clubhouse. So she made a Reel of herself using her product. "I had 1,000 plays in less than 30 minutes," she says, and $1,000 in sales in the five days after posting the video. "They're giving out golden information, if you just listen."
3. Find investors.
Plenty of startup investors spend time on Clubhouse too, offering insider advice on how to navigate the fundraising process. Katherine Lynn, co-founder of Women's Founder Club and founder and CEO of job application tracking platform NextSteps, says Clubhouse rooms on pitching helped her shift her strategy from reaching out to venture firms to instead targeting angel investors for her pre-seed round. She's had three or four meetings with investors she met on the platform, one of whom plans to invest.
The trick is to avoid getting lost in investors' in-boxes after you leave Clubhouse. Arjun Rai, founder and CEO of New York-based marketing company Hellowoofy.com, is raising money through Clubhouse partially by directing people to his company's crowdfunding campaign. He estimates more than half of the $170,129 he raised came through speaking in Clubhouse, he says. To get investors to follow up, Rai says, he DMs high-profile funders and speakers on Instagram before they appear on stage in a room on the app. He thinks the hand wave emoji in a direct message breaks the ice quickly. Later, he'll ask people to book appointments with him through the scheduling app Calendly to turn connections on Clubhouse into meetings.
4. Meet with your team.
How do you stay creative while working remotely? One solution for Abhi Mathur, founder and CEO of New York City-based audio technology firm Acoustic Meta Materials, is having his lab team meet on the app. Employees can chat with each other in a Clubhouse room as they work with their hands, as opposed to being tethered to a laptop for a Zoom call. "They can kind of feel like they're building stuff side-by-side," he says. Mathur credits this newfound method of collaboration for helping the team create an ultra-tiny version of a larger speaker system -- something they had originally planned to ask a partner company to do.
The app is perhaps not the best place for highly sensitive discussions, however: Hackers stole audio from meetings in late February and streamed it onto other sites. After the incident, Clubhouse told Bloomberg News that it planned to install new "safeguards" to keep it from happening again, but critics say the app is rife with other security and privacy issues.
5. Charge your audience.
Clubhouse just rolled out a monetization feature called Payments this week which allows speakers (also known as creators) to receive tips. To start, the feature is limited to a small group of beta testers but the company said in a news release Monday that availability will expand in "waves." If audio content is part of your own business strategy, now's the time to think about how you might monetize your expertise on Clubhouse.