The dot com era proved that just building it isn't enough. The chicken and the egg issue exists -you need customers to get customers... and attempting to launch a web site, is that issue on steroids. So, how to get traction?
Here are Ten FREE Traction building Ideas we are trying:
1) Email Your Friends: Find everyone you know that relates to your target market and introduce them to your website via email... as you know them, leverage every piece of emotional capital you have with them to encourage them to take a look at your new site and join.
2) Ask Your Friends to Refer Others: If you send an email to people who are your target market, clearly articulate why it is valuable to 'THEM' (not just you) to join your site... and then ask and make it easy for them to refer people they know. Here's an example of an email I wrote that asks for a referral -
"Please forward to anyone that may be interested... entrepreneurs, advisors, people with Blogs, press contacts etc! Even forwarding to four or five contacts will make a big difference for us!
Happy New Year and thanks!
I've just discovered a new web service bringing potential business advisors together with entrepreneurs and early stage businesses. For Advisors - It's a great way to discover new deal flow and get involved in a hot new company. For Entrepreneurs - a great way to take your business to the next level in 2007!
The site is called Advisor Garage - http://www.AdvisorGarage.com and was recently featured in Business Week!
Please sign up and forward this email to great advisors and entrepreneurs. ++
After three or four weeks of steps 1 & 2 we found that we had begun to get a few people onboard... So now what?
3) Write a Press Release and get it OUT there... I can almost hear a few folks swallowing and already considering looking for the next blog... it really isn't that tough and it isn't expensive. In fact, its FREE! Don't believe me? Consider signing up to PR Leap (http://www.prleap.com/learn_more). Not only do they have some good articles which explain for dummies (like me!) how to write a press release but they also offer a free submission service to multiple channels such as Google News, Google Search, Yahoo! Search, Topix.net, Technorati, MSN, Ask News, Moreover, NewsNow and others. According to their website - PR Leap is the best way to send your news release(s) to all major search engines, newswires, and websites. And basic accounts are free!
So what happened with us? Well we signed up, created a one page press release (took about 30 minutes), submitted it and it was approved earlier today. It will appear tomorrow. If you are interested, the link to the press release is: http://www.prleap.com/pr/61185/
The basic plan (read... Free) comes with stats, so I'll let you know in a few days if the press release was actually read by anyone and if it was picked up by any sites, bloggers, press etc. Let's see how good PR Leap and our press release writing skills are!
4) A Personalized Toolbar: A great startup called Conduit (http://www.Conduit.com) offers people the opportunity to create their own, personalized toolbar for FREE. Conduit has a wizard embedded within their website which takes you through the setup process step-by-step. It took about twenty minutes and once you're done, they create a link to your toolbar download site which you can then share through an email signature or through a click through download on your new networking site. There are a number of cool ways to tailor the toolbar... your branded search, create links to particular pages on your own site, add weather, a radio and so on to make sure its a value download for your customers.
5) Design Your Site with the Customer In Mind and Make Inviting Others Easy If, like us, your marketing budget is measured by the quarters rattling around in your pocket, then do your site a favor and design it so the 'Invite Others' button is never far away. No matter what page the users happen to be on. Bold it, make it big, underline it if you have to but referrals from happy customers are always easier to get than attracting new customers.
6) Friends & Contacts Revisisted: Do any of your friends know anyone in the press or people who have blogs ? Well you won't know until you ask... ASK!
7) Join Linked In (http://www.linkedin.com) If you haven't already, consider joining linked in. Yes, its another networking site, and you could consider them the compeitition (In your dreams!)... but after joining you can search through the directory and find people that may either a) be interested in joining your site or b) encouraging others to do so. If you aren't a member already, take a look
8) Groups & Forums: Are there Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com) or Google Groups (http://groups.google.com) or other online forums that include the types of people you want to attract to your new networking site? If so, join them but beware... most groups want members to contribute to the discussions and no groups appreciate spam. So find the best forums for your target customers, join and spend some time getting to know what subjects are being discussed. Give it a week or two then jump in and add some value... and make sure that your post includes your email and perhaps the web address. If it is valuable, then members may check out your new site...
One last thing, if there aren't any good groups with your target customers... consider creating your own... and make it it feeds your new networking site. Here's one I started and yes... I know it only has a few members... but its more links in the internet for your website which appears in your google or Alexa results: http://groups.google.com/group/Harvard_Entrepreneurs_Startups?lnk=oa&hl=en
9) Write to your Existing Members: Do you have a few members? If so, email them occassionally (Not every day!) and remind them of the value of your site... perhaps highlight a particularly useful tool or feature of your website. Maybe reach out to some of the individual members and ask them if you can write about them joining the site, a person feature if you will. At the bottom of each of these emails... give them a few sentences (above for example) to send on to others they know. Stress how much you would appreciate their help and how important they are to you and your young business.
10) Drum roll... .badda badda badda... .Create a Blog! Here's hoping that a blog is the tenth and most valuable means of getting the message out there about a new networking site. (Wordpress.com is FREE)