Over 19 founders used various active word-of-mouth strategies to get customers. Today I'll be talking about 3 of them, which you can also take and apply to your own product.
This is what Blender Market ($232k/mo), a marketplace for artists to sell 3D models, did. Blender Market focused on attracting sellers with an audience as their early adopters:
Most of these early sellers were freelancers and prominent artists in the community.
Our pitch was help them generate some passive side income and let us handle the infrastructure.
This approach paid off because those artists themselves had an audience that wanted to learn and buy from them:
The advantage of attracting sellers that already had an audience was that they multiplied our initial customer reach dramatically by sharing their products.
How to use this strategy: You don't have to be a marketplace to use this strategy. Just ask yourself: Is there a segment of my users that has an audience which happens to be my audience as well?
You have a product that targets bloggers. A part of those those people write to other bloggers (on things like increasing their audience, having a better blog, etc.) Can you get in touch with the bloggers and get them to promote you to your audience?
You have a product that connects teachers and students. Should you focus first on teachers or students? Using this approach, teachers would be the right answer because the teacher's audience (students) are also your audience.
You have a product that targets developers. Some of those developers may be influential in their industry with many other developers following them on Twitter.
Of course, the other part is getting your users to spread the word about you. With marketplaces like Blender Market, the value is implicit (we'll help you monetize your followers). But with a SaaS for bloggers, for example, you may need to include some other incentive (like getting access to a higher tier, or an exclusive, private feature).
This is a pretty common strategy, called "land and expand", used by companies that sell enterprise-level SaaS.
What I found is you can use this no matter who you're selling to. Take Dependabot ($14k/mo, acquired by Github), which is a tool to keep your software dependencies up-to-date. They found that having a personal, open-source free tier helped them with getting their foot in the door of companies:
We've kept personal and open-source accounts free, and we'll always continue doing this since those users are great advertisements for us and unlikely to use the service if asked to pay.
Our costs are relatively low so that model works well, and we've already had reports of people using Dependabot on their own projects, enjoying it, and then encouraging their employer to do the same.
Thankbox ($6k/mo) is a tool to help you send group gift cards online. They found a lot of office teams were using their product, and once a person signed up, they recommended Thankbox to their team:
In those first few months I also noticed the network effects kicking in. That buddy of mine at Ubisoft who bought the first Thankbox? Since he introduced it in his team I've had over 20 different sales just from their company alone. Or I'd noticed someone would get a Thankbox when they left their company, and then suggest it as the group card tool to use in their new place of work.
How to use this strategy: There are a lot of things you can try here:
Like what you've seen so far? Subscribe and get user acquisition posts like this one every week:
This is what Anchor Hosting ($20k/mo), a Wordpress hosting provider, did. Instead of focusing on targeting the end user (small businesses), they focused on targeting people who influence them:
Anchor Hosting has grown through word of mouth. Nearly all new hosting customers come through existing relationships with web designers, web developers, and agencies. I've found that most people host their WordPress website with whichever web host was recommended by the one who built them their website. Because of this, I haven’t spent any time or energy on marketing or advertising to customers, but have instead focused on attracting the web designers, web developers, and agencies who will organically refer customers my way.
How to use this strategy: Analyze the process your audience goes through before they buy your product/service. Are there any people/companies involved in that process?
Hope you found this useful! If you'd like to receive more posts like these, hit the red Subscribe button at the top of this page.