Or — “How to Get Real Traffic and Real Customers in Just 1 Hour a Day!”
Wow, it’s been a while!
I know, I know!
In fact, it’s been months since the last installation of The Epic Guide.
All I can say is that I certainly hope that you’re all happy with yourselves.
It’s because of all of you super fans of The Epic Guide that I’ve had to basically go into hiding all summer long to focus on writing this damned book — while still running and growing Tamboo on top of it.
In the process of being around-the-clock heads down, I’ve grown out a mean Thor-inspired hair style and aesthetic (not to mention a growing case of agoraphobia) that I think would make even Howard Hughes himself envious and proud.
One thing of note that was actually pretty super fun is that I had a chat with the super awesome Courtland Allen on the kick-ass IndieHackers podcast. If you’re not familiar with Indie Hackers or Courtland Allen, you need to check them both out (and follow them!).
But enough about me!
Let’s have some more “fun” and pick up where we left off in Part 4 of The Epic Guide. (If this is your first foray with The Epic Guide, you may want to start with Part 1 and work your way back here — after all, it’s an ongoing epic…)
Stop pretending that whatever you’re doing is somehow going to “make you money”.
If you haven’t been making mini "fuck you money" off of your MVP yet, it might be time to step back and think about what it is that you have been doing. Because one thing’s for certain — if you keep doing whatever it is you are doing — you’re just going to get more of the same “results”.
Let me see if I can guess what’s been going on here.
You’re probably in one of two camps at this point:
- You’ve done absolutely nothing of any real or substantial value when it comes to marketing or selling your startup. Maybe you tried “marketing” your startup on Reddit once or twice, sure. But since then? Not so much. And cold emails? Maybe you thought of sending that one that one time, but you kinda just never hit send and fucked around reading up on blockchain and cryptocurrencies instead (which gave you this great idea for a brand new startup, by the way!)
- You’ve been going “transparent” with your startup and writing blog posts about all of the geeky things you’ve been wasting your time on.People seem to love your posts about how you’re still at $0 MRR and how “hard it is” to actually build a startup. You’ve been getting some pretty good “traction” on Twitter and Hacker Noon with your content, but you’re not really reaching anyone in your target market (or on the off chance that you are, they’re not forking over their credit card, so it’s more or less the same). But hey! You’re “building an audience”, right?!
What’s downright dangerous about finding yourself bunked up in either of these two camps is that — even though it feels like you’re doing something — you’re just busying yourself with bullshit.
If there’s one thing you take away from this, make sure it’s this:
If you aren’t reaching and resonating with actual people in your actual target market, you’re just “playing startup”.
To a place where the beer flows like wine.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret here.
You want to know the real reason you’re not getting anywhere?
It’s because your goals are all wrong.
No, that John Denver was not full of shit. You’ve just been looking in the wrong places.
You see, if you’re like most first-time founders, you’ve probably set some (“reasonably” sounding) goals for yourself like this:
- Get 100 visitors a day to my website.
- Add 10 new people to my newsletter weekly.
- Get 1 new trial signup a day.
(and so on)
The problem with these “goals” — and the reason that you’re getting your ass kicked — is that they are not, in fact, goals.
You cannot get 100 visitors a day to your website.
You cannot get 10 new people to sign up to your newsletter a day.
You cannot get 1 new trial signup a day.
Because those are not goals.
Those are events that are based on what other people choose to do.
And you have zero control over them.
So for you “set a goal” of getting 100 visitors a day — you might as well “set a goal” of winning the lottery (or finding a briefcase full of money).
The first step on your way out of this is to realize that you can only set goals for things you have direct control over.
So let’s fix this up a bit. Let’s say that we have goals like the following:
- Find 10 potential customers a day and send cold emails to each of them.
- Write at least 1 piece of content a day and promote it in at least 3 places.
- Promote my startup in at least 5 different places a day.
- Create and run a new ad for 1 week every week.
- Find at least 4 people talking about or asking questions about topics related to my startup a day and write them a detailed, personal answer.
These we can control, can’t we?
You can control whether or not you choose to screw around watching the price of Ethereum bounce around or instead find yourself 10 people who might be interested in your product that you could then send 10 emails to.
You can control whether or not you decide to slack off on Slack all day or instead find yourself 4 people asking questions about something related to your startup and write them some useful and helpful responses.
Now sure, you still have no control over the outcomes of those activities. Just because you send 10 cold emails does not mean you’ll get 10 happy customers — or even a single response. Just because you wrote an article does not mean you’ll get 100 visitors — or even one.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that rather than get hung up on things you have no control over and to expect any kind of “goals” you’ve set around such things to “magically happen” — that you’re instead focusing your energy and your efforts on things you can shape and influence — and you’re holding yourself accountable for doing actual, real work.
It’s time to do work, son.
Okay, so let’s say you’re bought into this whole “measure activities instead of goals” business.
How exactly do we make money with that approach?
First thing’s first, you’re going to have to do some work (I hear you Millennials hate that word, so sorry if I just shocked some of you off of your parents’ couch while you were reading this).
When you start out doing this, it’s going to take some time to get the hang and feel of it all. Expect to put in some hours until things start to “click”.
But once they click?
You could probably do most of this in an hour or less a day.
Okay, so let’s get to it.
For this to work for you, you have to know what you want to get out of it.
You have to know if you want to build traffic to your website to drive trials or opt-ins or if you want to close some cash-in-hand sales.
These things are your expected outcomes.
You expect that if you do these activities right, that you will have (at least some of) these outcomes as a result.
Now, you don’t set goals on your outcomes at this stage (that comes later).
At this stage, you just need to identify the thing you want at the end of the day.
From there, you work your way backwards to determine what kind of activities you should be doing to realize those outcomes.
If you want to close some sales, you’re going to be focused on hand-to-hand sales combat activities, typically starting from scratch in the “lead generation” and “prospecting” stages, doing things such as:
- Using search engines and social networks to find businesses — and the individuals in them — who seem to be “a good fit” for what you offer and adding them to your CRM
- Building opt-in offers and lead magnets to capture leads
- Doing cold outreach (aka cold emailing or cold calling)
- Performing educational outreach (webinars, etc.)
- Generating referrals through partnerships and networking
Your expected outcomes at this stage with these activities would be:
- Get responses from people you’ve contacted
- Set appointments/meetings to talk with the people who responded
If you want to build traffic traffic or get trial signups, you’re going to be focused on marketing activities, such as:
- Using search engines and social networks to find websites, forums, Slack groups, and even other social networks where people who would use your product go for information or entertainment
- Promoting your startup on relevant websites your target market visits through educational (and entertaining!) content marketing, guest posts, recommendations, participating in forums, and even taking out ads
- Finding “related” products or services that your target market uses that you can “tie in” your offering to through techniques such as integration marketing
- Getting your product listed on relevant “lists” — such as “The top 10 best tools for X” as well as on relevant directories — such as Capterra and Product Hunt.
- Creating (and promoting!) relevant content that you can use to get backlinks and list for specific keywords to improve your site’s SEO for those keywords
- Taking out relevant ads on Google or anywhere else your target market is likely to search for what you have to offer
- Taking out relevant ads on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else your target market is likely to be and be interested in what you have to offer
- Answering questions on Q&A sites such as Quora, Product Hunt Ask, and (especially!) on “niche” forums specific to your target market.
- Finding relevant publications (old-school industry-specific ones or even just simply Medium ones) and submitting relevant content to them that educates and informs their readers about a topic they give a shit about (and which you’re perfectly situated to help them with!)
- Sponsoring relevant newsletters that your target market subscribes to
- Doing interviews on relevant podcasts that your target market listens to about topics that your target market would find useful, interesting, and helpful
- Engaging in relevant social media channels where your target market participates and consumes information and where you can naturallypromote your articles, content, interviews, posts, answers, etc. to an audience that would actually want to see and read those things
Your expected outcome at this stage of the game with these activities would simply be traffic — but not just any traffic as you’ll soon see. (You can worry about optimizing for conversions after you actually have traffic you can optimize.)
And these are just ideas to get you started.
There is so much more that you can do.
But start somewhere you must!
So now you need to pick 2–3 things that you will do daily for a month (to start; once you get better at this, add more to your plate as you wish 😜).
[Ideally you’ll want to pick activities that you think (read: wild ass guess) will have the biggest potential payoff. It shouldn’t be completely random.]
Let’s say that your list looks like this:
- Find 5 businesses a day that are a fit for my offering and send each of them an email to qualify their interest in getting/solving (this specific benefit/pain point).
- Find 3 people asking questions on a forum or Q&A site specifically related to my product offering and give them the best answer they have ever seen to their question.
- Write 1 piece of “quick” content that talks about one very specific topic my target market is interested in in under 30 minutes and promote it in at least 3 different places (relevant Facebook Groups, Reddit, Medium, “link” sites, forums, Slack groups, Twitter, etc.)
Do you think you could find the time to do that in 1 to 2 hours a day, every day?
Well, if you never try, then you’re right — you’ll never do it.
Up and to the right (very slowly)
With everything you do — ask yourself — “How many outcomes can I reasonably expect this to get me?”
(A little secret? No one knows.)
So you just guess.
And you write it down.
For example, if you write a piece of content, you might think you can get 10–50 people to read it if you post it to a specific link sharing site your target market frequents.
Great. Let’s write that down and build a spreadsheet (we’re all nerds here, right?).
On the far left, you write down the “category” of the activity — such as “Content Marketing”.
Then, a cell over, you write down the specific activity you’re planning on doing — “Write a blog post about how to simply purchase ordering (plugging Startup Awesome).”
Then, a cell over from that, write down the specific place you’re going to promote that thing (if applicable). (When dealing with promoting the same piece of content in different places, create rows for each place and separate estimates for each place.)
One more cell over, write down what type of outcome you’re expecting — in this case “Traffic”.
Then, one cell from that, write down how many expected outcomes you might get (your wild ass guess).
Use one “sheet” per month and record your daily activities for each month religiously.
Then, as you actually execute on those activities (aka, that nasty word you hate — “work”), write down how many outcomes you actually got in a cell at the end of each row.
So something like this:
Category | Activity | Place Promoted | Type of Outcome | Expected Result | Actual Result
Using something like Google Sheets (free!), it’s pretty simple to get sums and totals from this information based on “Category”, “Place Promoted”, or “Type of Outcome” so you can see what’s working (and what’s not).
[Pro tip: Look for patterns.]
You’ll start to “get a feel” for how much you should actually expect from different kinds of activities and promotional placements. This is critical, as it helps you to dial in your (sometimes ridiculous) expectations. Once you’re better “calibrated”, you’ll be able to make better judgment calls about where you should put your efforts and how much you should expect from them.
Do this for a month.
Don’t expect everything you do to work well — or even work at all.
But keep at it.
And at the end of the month, pick the winners.
If you have certain Categories that are really paying off, double down on them.
If you have certain Categories that aren’t moving the needle, dump them and replace them with something else.
The same thing with Placements — use what works and ditch the rest.
The next month, carry forward the winners and mix in the replacements.
Lather, rinse, and repeat until finished.
It’s slog, but the little numbers add up (especially when you start “dialing in” your “what works compass”).
To get the sales and the marketing impressions you need to build your startup, you need to either knock it out of the park in one fell swoop (you probably have a better chance of being struck by lightning) or gradually building up hundreds and thousands of cold outreaches and marketing impressions over time.
In our example above, if you did that exact routine every day, after just one month, you will have sent 150 cold emails, have written 90 targeted answers (and plugs for your startup!), and have written 30 content pieces that you promoted in 90 different places.
And that’s just in one month.
Imagine if you do this every month.
It’s cause and effect.
If you don’t do, you don’t get.
But what if I don’t know how to sell good or market good (or do other stuff good too)?!
So here we are.
You don’t know how to sell or market good?
I don’t want to hear your excuses! Your sales and marketing must be at least… three times bigger than this!
(Okay, okay, I’ll back up.)
Here’s the thing that I’ll tell you that the startup gurus won’t: There is no “right” or “wrong” answer when it comes to sales and marketing — the only thing that matters is what works.
And one more thing I’ll admit that they won’t: I can’t help you sell or market to your customer base — because I don’t know who they are.
There is no “standard” way to do this (even if there are “well understood” patterns and practices).
Because the truth is that all the “templates” and “case studies” in the world aren’t going to help you if you don’t understand your customer.
That’s because everything you do — in sales or in marketing — must be based on, about, and specifically tailored for your buyer.
It’s about them — not about you, stupid.
In order to craft truly effective sales or marketing strategies or tactics, you must first know your buyer.
You must know where they “congregate”.
You must know how they talk.
You must know what they’re interested in.
You must know what they give a shit about.
You must know what kind of content they like to consume — and share with their peers.
You must know who they look up to, respect, and trust.
You must know how they like to be “engaged”.
You must know what they’re trying to accomplish.
And you must know how they like to buy.
Then — and only then — can you hope to be able to “craft a message” that resonates with them.
Your goal — in any copy that you use — must be to establish rapport and to (subliminally) communicate with them that “I get you and I get what you’re trying to do and all the shit that you’ve been going through trying to get that done.”
You do that by talking like they talk.
You do that by referencing things that only an “insider” would “get”.
You do that by reaching them where they’re open to suggestion and influence— the places where they’re asking questions or trying to learn.
Then — and only then — can you offer a suggestion that they will register and consider.
How do you “learn” how to do this effectively?
You practice empathy.
You practice “putting yourself in their shoes.”
You practice “feeling” how they feel about what they’re trying to accomplish.
You practice “feeling” how they “feel” when they see and read your cold email/content marketing/social media posts, etc.
Basically, you project your mind into theirs until you “get them”.
You do this by immersing yourself in their world until you “get a feel” for “how they think” by reading their comments, posts, frustrations, and insights.
Until you somehow vicariously “become one of them”.
And then you just give them what they want.
Be an idiot (when it’s smart to be one)
Chances are, if you’re like most developers, you’re going to get bored with this.
After all, it’s basically saying the same thing over and over again.
In a hundred different places.
But that’s what you have to do.
I do it, and so should you.
Never assume people “get” or “understand” what you can do for them.
Spell it the fuck out.
And yes. You’re going to be repeating yourself. A lot.
Get used to it.
Every article, every post, every answer — they’re all meant to reach new people who never heard of you before.
So you have to tell them who you are and what you do.
Now, there’s a few things going on here that I think I should point out, as I think they’ll help you “grok” how to sell and market “better”:
- Use some form or varient of an AIDA construct with whatever you write.
- Use visuals where you can and where it makes sense. Humans are inherently visual and their attention will go where they pretty pictures are. Make sure you have pretty pictures to show.
- Show proof. Don’t just tell — show.
- Use a conversational tone as if you were talking to a friend — don’t be overly “professional”. Professionalism is for amateurs.
- Be yourself, but be unique — don’t “blend in”. You must have a different “voice” than everyone else. You must “stand out” in some way. Don’t be a robot.
- Be clear about what you’re saying — explain it like they’re 5 (without being patronizing). Don’t assume they know as much as you do, and don’t make it intimidating to follow along. Also, don’t assume they’re total morons at the same time.
- Don’t be pushy — just be suggestive. Craft your CTAs using “recommendations” and “suggestions”. Don’t tell them what to do — simply suggest how they can take what you’ve said to the next logical step.
- Don’t be skimpy —whatever you say must be something they care about and must be better than everything else they’ve been reading. You must one-up everyone else in some way — always.
- Don’t ever forget — IT’S ABOUT THEM. Answer their question. Give them the information they came for. And only after you’ve done that, go in for the soft “ask”.
One more secret: You don’t want “traffic”.
Are you crazy?!
Don’t get me wrong — traffic is important.
Without it, you’re not going to go very far.
But you can have a lot of bad traffic and it’s not going to get you anywhere.
Pop quiz: Would you rather have 1,000 visitors at a 1% conversion rate or 100 visitors at a 10% conversion rate?
On the surface, they’re same thing: You get 10 conversions at the end of both.
But the second one (100 visitors at 10%) is easier to grow.
To get to 20 customers, it’s the difference between having to get 2,000 visitors as opposed to just 200.
And that’s the dirty little secret — you need targeted traffic.
You don’t want just any traffic —after all, visitors != conversions.
You want traffic from people who give a shit about what you’re offering.
Not people who are just “curious” because they saw your latest startup blog post.
You want people who you resonated with — who think “you get me!” and are genuinely interested in your offering.
So how do you do that?
You find ways to send warm traffic to your homepage (or if you’re super slick, to a custom built landing page specific for the type of traffic you’re sending it).
Basically, you don’t try to sell on your marketing site. You try to close.
And you can only do that if you’ve already had a conversation with the people going there.
Whatever article, blog post, forum discussion, podcast interview, or Q&A answer you put out there needs to warm up your prospect for your offer.
You need to “hook them” with that “external” content — and then — and only then — do you encourage them to go to your marketing site to take the next logical step.
This is warm traffic.
They are primed. They are ready. Because you’ve done the work to get them to that state — and that’s why they’re more likely to take whatever action it is you want them to take.
A lot better than just “spraying and praying” with whatever traffic you can get your hands on, right?
And with that final thought for you to ponder on, I’m going bring this installment of The Epic Guide to a close.
In the next Part, we’re going to go in depth about why your website sucks and why it’s costing you customers (enjoy!).
I almost forgot!
If you love The Epic Guide and want even more down-and-dirty, no-frills, battle-tested startup warfare strategy and tactics, be sure to check out The Epic Guide: The Book!
Or, if you want to hear my voice inside of your head (I’m not judging!) in what could only be comporable to Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Pulp Fictionreading you startup bedtime stories, sign up for my upcoming podcast (aptly titled) SaaS In Gear!
And of course, if you’ve been working hard on building your startup or online business but need a little “help” to understand what your website visitors are really doing, don’t hesitate to give Tamboo a try on your website. You’ll get all the secret tools marketers like me use to increase conversions and create even more potent sales pages — including funnels, visitor recordings, and heatmaps.
And last but not least!