AMAs November 18, 2019

Hi, I'm Frank Heijdenrijk - founder of Early User Growth, marketing expert and IKEA once stole my idea. Ask me anything!

Frank Heijdenrijk @FrankHeijdenrijk

Hello IH! My name is Frank Heijdenrijk (bonus points if you can pronounce my last name), and I run Early User Growth - a free course for early-stage startups and IndieHackers focused on growing to 10, 100, 1,000 and 10,000 users.

Recently, during the first batch, over 1,700 startups followed the course on early user growth. I helped them learn the necessary basics to grow their product and company.

I'm also a consultant for startups, helping them to put growth at the core of their product.

Some accomplishments from the past, so you can understand what kind of questions I can help you answer:

  • Getting 35K visits from a #1 ProductHunt Launch with Early User Growth's side project
  • Growing a startup to 7,500 users through Instagram and Content marketing in 3 months (Ikea later ended up copying this exact strategy)
  • Getting 15,000 users for a client's real estate startup through constant website optimization and FB ads
  • Growing a newsletter to 4,200 users through Reddit and Quora without spending a single dollar
  • Getting websites to #1 in Google for main keywords through great content
  • Helping clients validate new business models for less than $100
  • Starting an alcohol subscription product with just a landing page + Google Ads
  • Growing Facebook pages to millions of users in a span of a few weeks - Facebook ended up rewriting their Facebook Pages algorithm because of this strategy
  • Growing a brand into a viral Instagram hashtag that is still actively being used even though the company shut down 2 years ago (20k photos, and around 10M impressions)

As you can see, I am experienced with a lot of different platforms, so if you're struggling with anything related to marketing or early user growth, I'm happy to answer your questions.

Ask your questions before Thursday, November 21st at 6PM CEST, and I will help you get past whatever is stopping you from growing right now.

  1. 5

    Hi Frank, what area of marketing do you think is both most overrated and most underrated for Indie Hackers?

    1. 6

      Alright, so this is a question that is slightly hard to answer. And that's simply because the performance of an area of marketing is really based on your type of product. But, seeing as most IndieHackers are building tech/online products, I'm going to narrow the answer down as much as possible.

      Highly underrated and definitely not used enough: retargeting ads
      Seriously, people are already visiting your website. You already have their attention. Then they leave, and never hear from you again. Such a shame. That's where retargeting ads come in. You can set up retargeting ads based on: 1) visitor hitting the homepage, 2) visitor not signing up. Those are the only 2 requirements. Create ads with Canva quickly, and launch them on Facebook. Write a bit of text, convince people to come back to your sign up page/landing page. Clicks are dirt cheap and because they already visited the site, they're more likely to convert. Make sure you insert a small javascript snippet that only loads the FB retargeting pixel after a few seconds, so you'll avoid showing ads to people leaving your site right away. Script for that is here: https://gist.github.com/acoyfellow/ed8d4bb18e57c0542792

      Also underrated: free traction channels:

      • Communities on Reddit, Facebook and LinkedIn (groups) - there are thousands of people in these communities, and a decent percentage will see your content. Leverage that. It doesn't cost you any money, it's 100% free. Just figure out how to get the right angle, and you'll get hundreds of visitors every time you share stuff there.

      • Viral loops. Once people sign up, you have them. After they used your product and like it, they can be your ambassador. Leverage your product or some free resource so they will share it with their friends. Like I say in another comment in this thread, 1 in 6 people that signed up for Early User Growth shares it on Twitter. 1 in 20 shares it with friends by email. That's because I created that system, I incentivize them to share stuff, and if they believe it's worth it, they'll share it.

      • Doing an actual good ProductHunt launch. A lot of people just 'launch', they post it, and leave it. ProductHunt is a channel on itself that needs promotion. Send traffic there on the day you launch, get people involved - most of all: prepare your launch. There's no guarantee for success, but if you're successful, you will get a lot out of it. Pretty sure I spent a total of around 20 hours on mine, totally worth it.

      • Partnerships. Whatever you're starting, find someone to partner up with that's in the same niche. Not a competitor, but someone who you have on your side while you're both working towards growth. Tell each other what you're doing, what you've done, share best practices, mentor each other. Start with 1 partner, try to grow a small mastermind of open people sharing everything from A to Z of what's working. This is incredibly underrated, yet should always be in your marketing arsenal.

      Overrated in my opinion, especially during the early stage growth:

      • Getting featured on TechCrunch - it takes a lot of time, a PR strategy is not something you just randomly get. Sure, some products get featured there, but that's usually after they launched on ProductHunt, because they're from a famous person, or they already have traction. Focus on what's right ahead of you.

      • And based on that, also just randomly being featured somewhere. If your target audience isn't hanging out there, there's no real reason to get featured anywhere. It's cool that Forbes writes about you but if your target audience doesn't read Forbes, there's no use to be on Forbes.

      • To add to that: if you have a paid product with free trials, focus on the marketing channels that get those paid users. It's great to get 10,000 free users from Facebook each month but if nobody buys your product then you're better off just cutting it out. It's better to get 20 users from Twitter and have 10 people buy your product than have 10,000 users from Facebook and have 0 buyers. Follow the money - you're building a business, and businesses need money to succeed.

      1. 1

        I put off reading this for a few days because it was so long haha! Finally got round to and serious value in here.

        • Never knew about the fb retargetting script
        • Completely agree with leveraging groups. Pretty much how I've grown
        • Loops fundamental. Just look at IH email digest now. Pulls you back to the site
        • And "following the money" is something I need to do much more of.

        Cheers man. Very very thorough reply.

  2. 2

    Hi Frank, awesome! I run ContactBubble (https://www.contactbubble.com) and we currently have around 100 users (max 10 active users). How do you suggest we move to 1000 users?

    1. 2

      Hey,

      Well done on the 100 users.

      Here's what I would advise: take a good dive into your data. Where are your active users coming from? What channels are getting you a lot of new users? What is the reason people end up not being active?

      Then use that data to get your best-performing channels. Look at what you did to leverage those channels and turn that data into a spreadsheet. Take a look at the spreadsheet and its channels and figure out how you can leverage those exact same channels. How you can get double the results from those channels? Preferably, you even want to look at how you can leverage it by a factor of 10. That might mean posting more on specific sites, sending emails more often to customers, or using the same material you're using right now and spreading it on more websites.

      Also send out emails to people that don't end up being active users. Figure out what makes people drop out of the product. Then use this information to create a better product. Marketing is a basic element for each company, but creating a fantastic product is often the best kind of marketing because people will spread the word for you.

      Let me know if you have any questions, happy to help.

      Frank

      1. 1

        Thanks for your elaborate response! This definitely helps :)

  3. 1

    Hi Frank, thanks for the AMA. I'm currently building Lunch Money (https://lunchmoney.app). My skills are mainly in engineering / design so marketing is totally new to me. I experienced a surge of sign ups from posting on HN but things have since trickled down. I can't post on PH until mid-January (long story) so I'm trying to find other ways to fuel growth until then. I've been trying content marketing– basically writing great content and hosting it on my personal blog with links to Lunch Money since I decided to focus on building a personal brand versus a product blog. I feel like I just started trying this marketing thing and I'm already out of ideas, or maybe I'm just impatient with how long this all takes. Any tips or guidance?

    1. 1

      Since HN worked well, I'd start with doing three things:

      1. What are other communities similar to HN that you can leverage?
      2. Are there HN communities on FB and Linkedin that you can use?
      3. How can you leverage HN again?

      What are you doing after you publish content? For every 30 minutes you write content, you should spend another 90 to 120 minutes promoting it. Summarize it and post it on Twitter, rewrite it a bit and post it on Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Leverage free platforms as much as possible. Your users are out there, they're already paying for your product, right now you just need to understand where they're hanging out online.

      Go to Reddit, Facebook and LinkedIn. Enter your keyword in the search bar and search for related communities. Then post your content there every time you publish something. Get people involved in the conversation, provide value, and link to your own product every now and then.

      Another thing you could do is create a resource helping people budget, share it around on the internet, build an email list through that, and send them weekly updates with your latest content, a link to LunchMoney, and try if you can make that work.

      In the end, there's no golden road to success. I'm always very transparent to any startup I work with or advise. The journey is different for each one of them. But there are some models that will help you get more out of it. I always advise to pick 5 marketing channels at any given time, try to optimize it continually for around a month, look at the top 2-3 performers, and cut out the least performing channels. Then pick 2-3 new channels to replace the low performers, and continue optimizing the 5 channels. It takes time, dedication, and persistence, but it will be worth it in the end.

      Frank

      1. 1

        Hi Frank, thanks for the thoughtful reply. I spend time cross-posting and have found that LinkedIn has the best fan-out. I'll be more deliberate about finding other communities and tracking the views/conversions I can get from those.

        A follow-up question if you have time– I have noticed my conversion rates have gone down on my landing page. I recently adjusted two variables: 1. I raised pricing from $6/month or $60/year to $8/month or $80/year and I decreased the trial period from 45 days to 14 days. The trial period reduction was more for myself, to shorten the overall conversion period so I could know quicker what works and what doesn't. But now I'm not sure which one of the two (or maybe both) changes are driving people away. I added a 25% off code but no one has used it yet. Would you suggest I lower the price to get higher conversion or keep my pricing and improve the product/landing page to convince people this is worth it? Compared to some other paid budgeting products out there, the price point is still in the average range.

        1. 1

          Both are significant changes, and I would recommend that you either only make 1 significant change at a time or use a tool like Google Optimize to track how a specific change affects sign up rates. The problem with making both changes is that, when you track the data, you don’t really know what’s creating that drop off. So I’d redo one of the changes and track the data from there.

  4. 1

    Similar to @harrydry question.

    What do you think most overrated and most underrated marketing strategies for early stage SaaS companies with lowish monthly pricing $10-$30 a month?

    1. 1

      Hey, I answered this question in a comment to Harry

  5. 1

    Hi Frank, I would be curious to know more about your project, Early User Growth.

    What have been your most successful acquisition channels so far and how do you plan to monetize it?

    1. 1

      Successful acquisition channels for each stage:

      • First 10 users -> approaching people personally on Twitter through DMs, customer conversations, asking people if they knew others that might be interested
      • First 100 users -> Milestone posts on IndieHackers (huge boost), Twitter
      • First 1,000 users -> Side project with ProductHunt launch, viral loops
      • 2,000 users -> ProductHunt, IndieHacker, Going viral on Twitter, Media coverage (all related to the side project) and viral loops as well

      Monetizing it:

      1. I already do consultancy for early-stage startups, so this is right up my alley
      2. Premium content
      3. At some point I might do sponsorships, not sure yet. List is getting bigger by the day, and I'm sure there are lots of things that connect with this audience
      1. 1

        Thanks for your answer! By viral loops do you mean an incentive to refer friends? How did you build it exactly? It's something I've never tried but would like to!

        1. 1

          It's all built without code. I'm using two:

          1. Added a mailto: link to the email with [email protected] as BCC. If you send that email, I get an email in my [email protected] inbox. Then I manually send the bonus resource to them
          2. Added a share to download page. If you tweet, and enter your username, I can manually check if people tweeted. If they did, I can check their email address and share the resource.
  6. 1

    Hi Frank, I'm currently working on StartupLadder (https://thestartupladder.com/) a jobs board to help recent college grads find nontechnical entry-level roles at startups & tech companies. I'm currently trying to grow the email newsletter subscriber list so that I can start approaching companies for paid job features/sponsorships with enough value. I've been adding and messaging college seniors and recent grads on Linkedin which is working but hard to scale. Do you have any other ideas as to how I can get in front of more people looking for entry-level jobs?

    1. 1

      Hey,

      Site is looking great.

      Alright, so you have a great target audience. Because every single college graduate actually knows multiple other graduates. They just graduated and obviously graduated along with their friends, peers, so hundreds of others.

      If I were in your position, I would look for a way to get your own users to spread the word for you. All of these graduates are looking for a job, it's hard to find a job quickly, so it means your users know many people that would be interested in your platform.

      I'm a fan of creating viral loops. They take just a few hours to create and will significantly increase your results.

      Let's say I sign up for your product today. Once I leave my email address on your site, I get directed to a welcome page. On the welcome page, I can download a resource called "How to properly prepare for your job interview to have a higher chance of getting hired". But, I will only get that resource if I share a post promoting The Startup Ladder on LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter first. So it's a free resource, but I need to share the site before I can access it. This will allow you to get a lot more visibility.

      I used the same strategy for Early User Growth, and 1 in 6 people tweet about EUG because they want the free resource.

      Here's how it looks:
      alt text

      Another way to do this is by adding a call-to-action to your welcome email and regular emails. Add a line saying "Invite your friends and get resource X. Click here to forward it)
      You then add a mailto: link to it, and add a [email protected] BCC to it. This takes a bit of tweaking but once you set it up it is all automatic.

      Here's how it looks for EUG:
      alt text

      Over 95 people sent it to 1-2 people they know. Meaning I get new sign-ups automatically through it.

      Both of these strategies take 0 technical skills (I've built it all myself and I honestly have no idea how to write any code outside of HTML and CSS)

      Outside of that, I would also look for free traffic channels. Join communities on Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. that are focused on graduates. Post new jobs there, don't make it too promotional or they'll kick you. As long as you provide value, people will enjoy your stuff and like it/share it. Make it look genuine and spread the word. Do this consistently, even when stuff doesn't work at first, just keep pushing and see what sticks.

      Once you have budget, I'd slowly turn to FB ads, but I think creating a viral loop is something that will be worth a lot for TSL. Because once you figure that out properly and hit 1:5 or 1:10 rates, you have a system in place that will work today but also months in the future.

      Let me know if you have any questions, just reply to this and I'm happy to help.

      Frank

      1. 1

        Hi Frank, thank you so much for your insight! I never really thought about asking subscribers to refer their friends - I guess in part because I still have some sort of fear/am hesitant to ask my subscribers to do something that might be a slight inconvenience to them and/or sound too sales-y. I do realize creating viral loops is something I eventually have to do though so will look into it!

        Thank you again for your feedback!

        1. 1

          It’s not an inconvenience if they’re getting something out of it. You’re providing a free service, it’s obvious people want to interact with it, and adding bonuses will help you get more people on the bandwagon. Don’t fear it, you’re running a business.

          You’re providing a service that people obviously want. It’s your job to create it in such a way that they’ll love using it, as you’re the one that is gathering all their feedback and behavior to create the thing they’re looking for because it’s currently missing in their lives.

          That’s not something to be fearful about, it’s something that strengthens you; you have thousands of people that’ll help ensure that you’re creating the best product out there, so take them with you on the journey to create that best product.

  7. 1

    Hi Frank,

    How exactly can companies use Quora to grow?

    1. 2

      I like to imagine Quora being like SEO, but instead of just ranking for certain keywords, you also get the benefit of Quora sending tons of free traffic to your posts.

      You can find questions on Quora related to your own target audience, based on keywords they might use.

      Quora is all about quality. If people like your answer, they will upvote it. This results in Quora's algorithm to see the answer as high quality, meaning that more people will get the answer in their daily digest email that Quora sends. Which means more traffic -> more upvotes -> more mentions -> more traffic, etc.

      Every answer that you write can be used to get more visibility for your company. You can write an outro on every answer linking back to your website or free resources. Though the click rate on Quora isn't very high, the conversion rate on your website usually is extremely high. I've hit 30-40% conversion rates on pages I link to.

      I recently wrote a 2,500-word piece on IndieHackers about how you can use Quora, and I think it outlines how you can use it as a company as well. You can find more information here: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/how-to-get-1-500-000-views-3-400-sign-ups-on-quora-066107e3f8

      Feel free to leave a comment on this answer if you have any questions.

      Frank

  8. 1

    Hi Frank! What was your strategy in converting leads or visitors that checked out Early User Growth? I'm interested in figuring out how to market or promote my product to folks that are interested in hearing more.

    1. 1

      Hi Irma,

      Thanks for the question.

      For EUG, I specifically focused on freemium first. Meaning that everything was 100% free.

      I started by creating a landing page that was short and sweet -> https://earlyusergrowth.com - Still hitting around 14% conversion rate on that page. The main reason that I hit that conversion rate is because most people that visit that page already know what they're going to get.

      Which leads to the next part; I had to make sure that the traffic that was visiting the homepage would be the right traffic. My main traffic sources were 1) IndieHackers, 2) Twitter, and 3) Facebook groups for startups.

      So, in your case, you should look for communities related to your product. Search specific keywords on Facebook, and join the groups. Post related content, don't make it too spammy, and see how people are reacting to it. Because I was talking about a free product that solves what a lot of people in the startup world are struggling with, lots of people liked the product.

      I also created a side project called "Startup First Users", which contained over 30 stories about how companies like Intercom, GitHub and Amazon got their very first users. I personally like stories like that, so I thought others would enjoy that as well.

      Startup First Users was posted to ProductHunt and hit the #1 spot that day. ProductHunt is a great traffic source because a lot of my potential sign-ups hang out there. Through ProductHunt it was covered on media sites, shared on Twitter hundreds of times (same for FB and LinkedIN) and featured on multiple blogs. Which all led to more visitors as well.

      I hit about 4% conversion rate on that side project, and with 35,000 visitors, that resulted in another 1,400 sign-ups. I used pop-ups and in-content opt-in boxes to convince people to sign up for the free course. Because I again knew that a lot of visitors would be early stage startups, I tried to push them towards the sign-up as much as possible without making it too annoying to check out the stories about the startups.

      In your case, for Remote Newbie, I would do the following:

      • Look for digital nomad communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
      • Post about what you're doing, how others are using your product
      • Create a valuable piece of content to promote on ProductHunt (FYI's products do really well on ProductHunt, and they're all focused on remote workers.) It took me around 3 months before I came up with Startup First Users, so this will take some time
      • Once you launch on ProductHunt, it's all about leveraging the momentum that you've created.
      • I also created viral loops within my sign up process. If you sign up for Early User Growth, you go to a second 'welcome' page. If you tweet about having joined EUG, I'll send you a free bonus chapter.
      • Once I launched the free course, I added a 'get a friend to join' viral loop as well. You could get another bonus chapter by forwarding the course to one of your friends.

      In the end, it took me around 10 months before I got 1,000 sign-ups (it took 8 months to get 160) and I hit 2,000 a while ago. It's all about momentum. All these things definitely helped to spread the product, and it just takes a lot of work to get there. But in the end, it will definitely be worth it.

      Feel free to comment on this if you have any questions

      Frank

      1. 1

        Thanks so much, Frank! For some reason never got the notif :( This was incredibly helpful and I will be enacting a ton of actions you've listed to help Remote Newbie grow.

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