Hey guys, after the SaaS TikTok interview, many of you asked me to cover more novel/interesting acquisition channels.
This one is interesting, with a tool that uses Reddit in a pretty novel way. Here's the interview with Nikola (the founder):
Hey! My name is Nikola, and I'm the co-founder and CEO of Howitzer, the first Reddit outreach tool, made for entrepeneurs, startups and growth hackers.
Howitzer is the first direct outreach tool for Reddit, that allows you to find and target your ideal customers on Reddit and direct message them, at scale.
It works on two basic principles:
Find and target your leads on Reddit (by specifying keywords, subreddits, time frame, positive/negative sentiment and more)
Personalized direct outreach (by utilizing Reddit Chat and Direct Messages automation)
With average response rate of 40-45%, Howitzer has far more superior response rates compared to email outreach (3%) and LinkedIn outreach (10%).
So far, we've reached $5k/MRR before raising a seed investment of $500k this month. As a result, we've doubled down on the product development, just started with growth and started expanding our team.
Short: I couldn't find a way to successfully advertise my previous product on Reddit.
Long: Before Howitzer, I was part of the team that created Beermoney - a mobile application that aggregates the most famous microtasking platforms out there (Amazong Mechanical Turk, Microworkers, RapidWorkers, etc.).
The Beermoney's target group "lived" in 2-3 subreddits, and talked about their main pain points on daily basis.
Being part of those subreddits and actively reading their pains, desires for improvments in their work, questions for alternatives and product recommendations - the natural thing was to launch our MVP there, in those subreddits.
The first thing we tried were the official Reddit Ads.
That's the moment when we failed.
Besides the fact that the Reddit Ads weren't supported in all parts of the world, we didn't generate any conversions and we were spending money.
The second approach was to try to advertise our product through posting and commenting.
Most of the posts were instantly deleted, and most of the accounts got banned from that subreddit, because of the "No Self Promotion" policies.
I spent days and days reading about Reddit marketing tips & tricks and organic strategies, but couldn't find anything that actually worked without spending months on it.
That's the moment when I decided to go a bit "guerilla" on this.
I wrote a script that scraped all the users who were asking about "mobile application", "working on multiple platforms" on the relevant subreddits, and sent them an automated email where I personalized the username, subreddit name and the mentioned keyword.
In less than 2 weeks, we got over 2000 downloads on Google Play Store.
Few of our local friends from the startup community asked for this script, and used it for idea validation and growing their startups, and were extremely satisfied of it.
That's the point when we realized we have something here.
If it solved our own problem, and the problem of fellow entrepreneurs - it would definitely solve the problems of someone out there too.
We ditched the idea, gathered a team of 3, and pursued to turning that script into a real SaaS.
That's how Howitzer was born.
Everything started in the summer of 2020, with a simple script.
At the beginning I validated the idea with some local friends from the startup ecosystem, then launched a "fake" landing page where I was promoting "nearly ready product" and started posting it on Indie Hackers, and some Facebook groups.
We got decent traction, collected some emails, and then started building it into a full product.
The first commit was made on October 29, 2020.
Since then, we worked half time until the end of March, when we released a scrappy MVP in public.
The traction was beyond our expectations. We grew to $2000 MRR in the first month (with $0 spent on marketing), and left our 9-5 jobs to fully focus on it.
Our tech stack is mostly Angular / ASP .NET Core / PostgreSQL, and bunch of other microservices written in Node and Python.
The best showcase for a marketing tool is using your own marketing tool to grow your own marketing tool.
That's what we did.
After we launched, we used Howitzer to grow it to $1500 MRR. You can read more about it here.
After this, we got approached by a tech journalist that did an interview for Howitzer, and published it on StartupsCrushing.
It got us some initial PR, landed us a meeting with Alexis Ohanian (the co-founder of Reddit) which went really well, and landed us few interested investors (one of them led our pre-seed/seed round).
In aspect of customer acquisition, we are doing it 100% organic.
We did a small LTD launch in a closed community, gained some feedback, knowledge and 200 users out of it.
Howitzer is mostly famous in the Growth Hacking and Crypto communities, and growing mostly through word-of-mouth.
We are just kick-starting with the growth right now, so I can give more details about this in the next interview.
Grow, grow and grow!
From product aspect, we are building Howitzer 2.0 version, which is an improved version of the current one.
We added built-in inbox (so you won't have to go to Reddit to answer messages), we implemeted Reddit Chat Automation (another communication channel inside of Reddit), and the most important - we made Howitzer 100% plug & play.
We aim to build Howitzer into full, simple to use, growth hacking tool for Reddit, that allows you to execute the most successful marketing strategies, validate your ideas and grow your business using Reddit.
From technical aspect, I don't really believe we'll have many problems without Reddit cutting down some of their own services, as we are using their official API for some of our own services.
We are a team of highly skilled engineers, and believe me - we have been thinking and working on this from the beginning of the service.
Regarding the ToS - Howitzer is not an official feature of Reddit, so we don't really take any responsibility regarding the practices and policies of Reddit, the same as all of the marketing automation tools out there (take Expandi or Dux Soup for example).
However, we are trying to stay on the good side. We aim to build Howitzer into a serious marketing tool and also protect Reddit from spammers and malicious users, so that's why we are in the process of building and automated 'Spam Checker', so we can verify accounts that send spammy messages.
At the moment, Howitzer is compliant with the Reddit API's guidelines and limits.
The Reddit API has an endpoint for direct messages, but we are utilizing the chat in a completely different fashion.
Would have started with content writing and growth much earlier.
Having strong customer support, and treating your customers in an exceptional way is the best way of doing business.
It costs you some time and may seem like a loss, but treating each customer as you would like to be treated can be extremely beneficial on the long run.
I can say that it's one of the main factors that build your brand, and sometimes is make it or break it for your business.
I tend to become a friend with as much of our like-minded customers as I can, and truly help them grow their businesses.
You can find more details on our website.
And can read about our case studies and successful stories on our blog.
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