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How this social listening tool found its first 1,000 users

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Indie Hacker: Michal Sadowski
Founder of: Brand24
No. of customers: 3,600
2018 Revenue: $2.4M
Year founded: 2011

Michal Sadowski is the founder of Brand24, a SaaS application that allows you to know what people say about your company and product online. Their average user pays $100 a month and Brand24 uses it themselves to find conversations about social listening on Quora, Instagram, and Twitter. This strategy nets them over 1,000 sign-ups a month.

Founding of Brand24

Michal: The first year the business was making no money whatsoever. This was a very difficult time for me and my partner. We both had met at the University of Technology in Wroclaw and quit our jobs to bootstrapp Brand24 for a year until we launched a Beta version.

We made 3,000 cold reach outs to invite people to the Beta. A thousand of them decided to join. After three months, once we started to charge for the product, we got 40 clients (4% conversion to paid). Three months later, we had the first hundred clients, and we started to become profitable, and could start paying ourselves very low salaries.

Prospecting new customers

Michał: Writing 3,000 personalized emails was a lot of work, and I did all of the reach outs myself because we had no sales team back then. We literally spent three months sending outreach messages. In each email, we tried to show some initial results for their brands. Brand24 tracks brands online, so whenever somebody talks about your company anywhere on the web, we notify you and analyze that information.

We would essentially monitor brands who we'd want to reach out to, and would say, "Hey, ____, I thought that this result might be interesting for you. Somebody's talking here about your company. If you would like to see more results like this, we would be honored to have you as our exclusive Beta user, no strings attached.”

We were after feedback rather than money. And I think that this was one of the reasons that we managed to get a quality engagement. We never asked people for money. We asked them to engage with our product.

In 2011, the popular channel was email, but today we get more and more offers via LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram. Back in the day, we also tried to reach folks through Instagram and were very successful with getting attention from high end PR managers at top brands by going after them via Facebook or LinkedIn. Our goal in each reach out was to gauge their thoughts on the product itself. Our motto at the time was "Feedback over money."

Content Marketing

Michal: Our biggest source of the traffic to this day is content marketing. It is super scalable, and its why we were getting 2000 signups a month up to 2014. Google is still far by far the best source of traffic out there, but YouTube is also the second largest search engine, so you might want to create a video content if that's your thing. We also do a lot of YouTube content as well, which is a meaningful source of traffic for us. Just start building your authority within a specific industry, whether it's a blog or YouTube or TikTok, so whenever people are looking for solutions related to your industry, they are likely to find some of your channels.

Mistakes Using Google Ads

Michal: Once we had some customers, we started to spend hundreds of dollars a month on Google Ads. That then expanded to thousands of dollars a month and it's now at the point of tens of thousands of dollars a month.

These days I see many businesses launch their product with a full Google Ads campaign, but with Google ads you have very little feedback. This is why this personal communication at the beginning of the project is so vital. You get to hear feedback, you get to hear your potential clients, and, typically, what you think they need is something different than what they actually need. So, there are some discrepancies between these two, and to bridge this gap, you have to have very real time feedback from a client. With Google Ads, you rarely get context, and, even if you do, typically, it takes much longer than just having a conversation with your client.

Potential of TikTok

MIchal: The ads on TikTok are super cheap. There's not a lot of advertisers and there's loads of people to advertise to, so I feel like it's pretty underrated and maybe mislabeled by many people. We don't use it for Brand24, but we see a lot of our customers doing so and for a lot of our customers, this is the major source of conversations with their clients.

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