Ask experienced founders and they'll all tell you the same thing--building a phenomenal product is only half the battle. You can't make it without having something great to offer customers, but you also can't make it without customers. Marketing is just as important as your product or service.
So how do you avoid the so-called Field of Dreams delusion ("Build it and they will come") when you're marketing and ensure that interest in your product is as strong as your product itself?
You could rely on word of mouth, content marketing, or scoring great media coverage for your business, but all these option have risks, ranging from anemic growth to tons of wasted time and effort. According to successful blogger Justin Jackson, there are a few potentially better alternatives.
"Focusing your marketing on your own small following is like hooking your business to a small steam engine," he wrote in a post recently. "If you've built a high-quality product, you need to hook it up to the fastest engine possible: an engine that's able to connect you to the right markets." What are these tricks you can use to score yourself tons of customers? Jackson offers three (many more details available are in the complete post):
1. Hitch yourself to a high-speed train
You might have a dinky following, but surely you know of some businesses that have already managed to attract massive amounts of attention. Hook up with them, Jackson suggests, offering the example of Baremetrics' partnership with Buffer.
"Buffer had built a huge audience through their content marketing efforts (they have over 1 million users, and 240,000 followers on Twitter)," Jackson explains.
"[Baremetrics founder Josh Pigford] offered Buffer something they needed: a new content marketing opportunity. Using Josh's app, Buffer was able to make their revenue metrics public: buffer.baremetrics.io. This provided great PR (and growth) for both parties." The result for Baremetrics? A 27 percent increase in customers in a week.
To emulate this success, "look for the personalities (or brands) that have already built an audience" and "offer a partnership that benefits both parties," suggests Jackson.
2. Piggyback on someone else's audience
If your social media following or customer list isn't impressing anyone, try to make yourself useful to the customers of a company with a massive audience, suggests Jackson. That's what allowed Instagram to triumph over Hipstamic. They offered Twitter users image sharing, which allowed Instagram to exploit the massive gold mine that is Twitter's customer base (a lopsided deal Twitter got wise to and eventually shut down).
Want to do something similar? "Find platforms (especially those with some sort of social graph) that you could build integrations with," advises Jackson.
3. Surf a trend
If you can see which way the wind is blowing in your industry, don't just sit there enjoying the breeze--put up a sail! This was another technique used by Baremetrics, Jackson says. "Stripe bubbled up in the developer community, and eventually turned into a tsunami: It became the tool of choice for integrating payments into your web application," he writes. "Focusing specifically on Stripe allowed Josh to connect with the thousands of developers who were excited about that ecosystem."
But be warned: This technique is all about timing. Being the third company to try and hitch a ride on a cresting trend rarely works. Nor do you get much lift if there isn't yet enough momentum behind the new development. So stay alert. "Always be researching your niche," Jackson stresses.