The Ultimate Checklist to Launch and Sustainably Grow Your Startup

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It’s easy to fall in the build trap — cranking out new features rather than solving the true customer needs. 

Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have are enough customers.

Gabriel Weinberg

In this post, I’ll share some actionable tips that I learnt along the way of launching and growing my startups.

1. Define your North Star Metric

The NSM gives direction to your company’s long-term growth vs. short-term growth.

Here are some examples of North Star Metric for well known companies:

  • Facebook: Monthly active users
  • Spotify: Time spent listening
  • Airbnb: Booked nights
  • Whatsapp: Messages send
  • Uber: Rides per week
  • Slack: Daily active users

2. Find your Superconsumers

Although small in numbers, superconsumers can have an outsized impact on your company’s growth and bottom line.

Representing a small percentage of your total consumers, superconsumers can drive between 30% to 70% of revenue, and they’re usually willing to spend considerably more than your average consumer. And because they’re so engaged and passionate, they can offer invaluable advice to company operators looking to improve their products, change their business models, and attract new customers.

Focus on marginal consumers for growth and superconsumers to build amazing products.

A great read on Superconsumers.

3. Mobile acquisition tips

  • Don’t stop at installs. Improve engagement as user engagement is used in app store rankings.
  • Pause ad campaigns on holidays, major events (e.g., iPhone launch) because Cost Per Install (CPI) goes high.
  • Use paid channel to grow organic installs. The team at TUNE analyzed the relationship between paid and organic installs for thousands of apps over the course of 245 days. They found an extremely strong relationship (with 95% confidence), for every paid install an app receives, it can expect to also acquire an additional 1.5 organic installs.
  • Putting a keyword in your app title helps you rank higher for that term. Try strategically using your title to rank better for important keywords.
  • Don’t Overlook Autocomplete — If you are having trouble ranking for competitive keywords, consider targeting terms that show up in autocomplete when typing in the more difficult word
  • Get your App rated. The number of ratings and the quality of those ratings have a large impact on your search rankings. 

4. Get your App rated

  • Choose your moment carefully.
  • Customers who give 5 star ratings are the ones who understand the value of your app.
  • Always have a contact us or give feedback button in an easily accessible location in your app

5. Understand and prioritize channels using the following metrics

  • What is the customer acquisition cost in that channel
  • What is the number of potential customers (e.g., traffic, unique visitors, number of subscribers)
  • What is the typical conversion rate in that channel
  • How long does it take to convert

6. Viral marketing product strategies

  • Network products. If your users only get value by inviting others, your product is inherently viral, e.g., Skype, Whatsapp, Snapchat.
  • Communication products(iPhone, Hotmail), examples of proven strategies here: Email sig. sent from my iPhone, Get a free email account with Hotmail
  • Collaboration products, e.g., Google docs: useful alone but far valuable when used for collaboration
  • Create a referral loop. Users are incentivized to tell others about your product in exchange of some value. Dropbox: more free storage when the user invites their friends, Uber/Airbnb: users get account credits.
  • Embedded buttons and widgets. Youtube: on each page, youtube provides a snippet to embed the video on any website, Facebook, Pinterest have share buttons

7. Landing page optimizations

  • Location of your call to actions matters. Size, color and contrast of action buttons matters. Keep it simple, clear, and concise, e.g., “Join Now”, “Try Prime for Free”.
  • Page speed. Slower page speed yields to fewer page views, loss in conversion, and lower search engine rankings.
  • A/B test different headlines and site copy
  • Add testimonials to help convert undecided users
  • Add signs of social proof, e.g., pictures of happy users, case studies, press mentions
  • Optimize the number of form fields
  • Allow users to test the product before signing up
  • Ease of signup, i.e., add Facebook, Twitter, Google sign in 

8. Public Relations (PR) strategies

  • Follow influencers in your industry and reach out to the blogs they often link to
  • Target smaller sites and generate buzz. Major publishers look at bloggers to pick stories from
  • Figure out reporters covering your industry / market
  • Checkout HARO, may get a mention in reporter piece and helps you build credibility
  • Offer comments / insights on reporter story
  • Interact with reporters on twitter and build rapport

9. Unconventional PR strategies

  • Customer Appreciation: sending cookies, Starbuck gift card, hand-written notes converts customers to evangelists. e.g., Hipmunk sent luggage tags to first few 100 customers
  • Contests and Giveaways: Shopify — Build a business competition, Dropbox — Dropquest, an online scavenger to win 1GB free storage
  • Customer Support: make users happy, they will share the word, Zappos coined it
  • Building viral videos that stick: “Will it blend” — Blendtec, iPhone blending received more than 10M views. Dollar shave club, “Our blades are F**king Great”
  • Publicity Stunts: Richard Branson dressing like women and driving a tank through streets to make Virgin new product launch a national headline
  • Wepay at Paypal’s developer conference puts a 600 pound of ice at the entrance “Paypal freezes your accounts: Unfreeze your money”
  • DuckDuckGo brought a billboard in Google’s backyard highlighting its privacy focus. It got them a national story
  • Create a big splash at a huge conference, checkout Charify Green bull at SXSW 2010

10. SEO

Choose the strategy on your ability to rank on the first page. Two common strategies: fat-head and long-tail.

Fat-head SEO Strategy: Rank common search terms relevant to your business, e.g. a toy company “wooden toys”

Long-tail SEO strategy: Rank more specific terms with lower search volumes, e.g. “wood puzzles for 3 years old”

11. Content Marketing

  • Grow your blog, reach out to influential people on twitter, youtube, instagram and do guest posting on their platform to build your own community
  • Find where your target audience is hanging out, join them, and add value to the community
  • Focus on building community first, content later
  • Find blogs your customers read. Search “top blogs for x” or “best x blogs”. On Youtube, doing a simple search for your product keywords shows the most popular videos in your industry

12. Side project marketing

Give something valuable away in order to sell something related.

Build and publish a free useful tool, e.g., Hubspot grader. WordPress speed testing tool.

Crew launched Unsplash in three hours and it became the top referral source to their website. 

I launched this in less than a day, which brought me many freelance clients and over 2 million website visitors.

Some side projects take less time and effort to launch than it takes to write a blog post, and make a bigger impact on the business results.

I hope you and your team find these simple yet powerful strategies to bring focus, growth and enjoyment in your companies.

☞ To hear more from me in the future, follow me on Twitter, & Medium

☞ If you liked this post, share this piece with others or share your thoughts with me in the comments

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