Recently I was asked via email for my methods marketing my online business. I’ve tried a lot of things to promote Feedback Army. Here is a quick list of the methods I’ve tried and how well they worked for me.
I’ve had a lot of success with cold emailing. To find prospects, I visit buysellads.com and search for tags related to usability testing and startups to look for blogs that might take interest in Feedback Army. I then visit the blog, view the about page, and see what the blogger has written about usability testing. Once I have this information, I contact the blog owner modifying the first sentence or two of a template email to say something about their site. I also include a coupon for the blog owner to try Feedback Army. I usually see a response from 3/10 emails, which isn’t too bad.
When cold emailing, ask for an opinion or feedback. Do not ask for a review. If the blogger wants to, they’ll review your site. If they give you feedback that makes your business better, that’s helpful too.
I usually target small sites, but even popular bloggers have helped me out in unexpected ways. I once contacted Andrew Lock, the producer of the excellent Help My Business Sucks show. He never wrote about Feedback Army but he did mention it at a conference and this led to new customers.
If you plan to use this tactic, I recommend you read Startup Marketing Advice from Balsamiq Studio. Peldi’s advice help put me on the right path here.
Start a Blog
Now that people are aware of Feedback Army, I’m trying to market it through my blog (hey, you’re here). You’ll notice that I post about once a week. My goal is to be consistent and open in my blogging. I find posts where I’m most vulnerable (read: open and honest) generate the most attention. I seed relevant posts on Hacker News. It’s hit or miss but when it hits, it’s worth it. A hit blog posts also leads to a sales spike for the current day and the day after. Sometimes it also leads to other blogs writing about Feedback Army.
Advertising and Analytics
I’ve tried ads on buysellads.com. It took little effort on my part and it made me feel like I was doing something to market my business. However the party ended once I installed google analytics and started tracking “goals”. I noticed my ads weren’t converting to sales. After A|B testing variations of my ads, I decided to abandon buysellads.com and Google AdWords.
Before you buy any advertising, I recommend that you install Google analytics and set it up to track whatever you consider a conversion or goal. It’s easy to do and will help you decide if you’re seeing an ROI from your advertising.
When exploring advertising opportunities, make sure you set a time limit, a budget, and a have a means to measure the effectiveness of the ad.
I’ve also tried cold calling. To do this I decided on a target (small web development shops). I chose these smaller businesses as I felt I would be able to build rapport with them easily. I used google to put together a list of names and numbers. I also wrote a script to guide me through the beginning of the conversation. Before my first call I practiced this script with my cell phone held up to my ear until I felt confident and automatic saying it.
When cold calling, it’s important to know what your goal is so you can steer the conversation there. My goal was to get an email address so I could send a Feedback Army coupon worth ten responses. The callee wins and I win because I’m able to track how many coupons were redeemed and how many sales came from it.
The people I spoke with were pretty cool and the conversations weren’t awkward like I initially feared. Despite the favorable chit chats, the conversion rate from this experiment was terrible. For a startup with a low-cost product like Feedback Army, I do not recommend cold calling.
I tried setting up an affiliate sales program for my mechanical turk worker base. The idea was to give each worker a URL that they could refer people to. My software would pay a bonus to the worker when someone they referred bought feedback. I was very excited when I put this program in place. Unfortunately it ran into a few difficulties:
1) The profit margin on Feedback Army was too low to support an effective affiliate marketing program. I had several complaints that I wasn’t offering enough of a reward.
2) I believe recruiting the workers on Mechanical Turk was a mismatch as the workers didn’t entirely understand the program.
If you’re thinking of going this route, I recommend designing your price packages to accommodate this beforehand.
Search Engine Optimization
I’ve tried some white-hat SEO stuff. I still only get 10% of my traffic from search engines and it’s not a big money-maker for me. Someone once said if people aren’t searching for your business by name then it’s more important to focus on the product. Make sure some people are happy with what you’re doing before you focus on SEO. No organic growth is a bad sign.
That said, you should check your basics to make sure you’re not doing anything that will hurt you. If your business can accommodate it, look into finding a way users can share what they bought or build out the content on your page. For example, I’m planning to create a badge to let clients share their Feedback Army results on their sites. I don’t know how well it will do, but as you can see from this post–marketing is about trying a lot of things.
Make sure you visit meetup.com and look for events in your area. I have tiny cards I printed via moo.com that I hand out to the folks I meet. In the past I haven’t seen a lot of conversions through this approach (although I’m not very aggressive about going to events to solely market feedback army)–but it is a good way to get your idea in front of people and get instant feedback. This is easy to do and if you’re an extrovert (like me), it’s a lot of fun. If you live in an area with a startup community, look for events where you can pitch your business to a crowd. This is also a great way to get exposure.
Feedback Army’s sales continue to grow each month. To keep this up, I focus on the most important marketing tactic of all: delivering a good product and providing good customer service. When my software detects an error or a customer uses my contact form, it goes straight to my cellphone. This way I’m able to address issues quickly. Good customer service has led to these customers coming back. I believe this is responsible for the growth of Feedback Army.
The world of marketing is filled with options. As you can see, it’s also a lot of work. Don’t let yourself get lulled into believing there is one magical thing that will build your business for you. An off-shore team offering to “increase your SERPs” for $30 is not going to make your business. Once you get going your efforts will pay off. Remember that you may have to try a few things and don’t expect every campaign to succeed. Ultimately, your business will be made by delivering a good service and acting like a responsible netizen. Don’t forget that.