lunes, 19 de febrero de 2007

8 Simple Steps to Build Traffic For Your Internet Startup

Les dejo un nuevo post, sobre cómo hacerse conocido con poca plata, en internet, por supuesto.

Over the past few years, I have consulted to a few dozen pretty popular startups and passed on many others. The overwhelming reason why I did not take on the majority as clients is a rather unfortunate truth in nearly every startup’s business plan…there is no audience building strategy.

There IS an audience building hope. There IS a traffic acquisition line item in the business model. But, to most startups, there ISN’T a real plan in place. If you build, they won’t necessarily come. Just because you think you’re money, doesn’t mean you’re not going to have to go through pure hell for the next 12 months trying to create an audience.

So, here’s 8 simple thoughts to help you, the faceless member of the average Silicon Valley startup’s management team, create a lasting audience to leverage off of.

1. Defense wins championships. If you have read this site long enough, you will know that I relate just about everything to sports or military history. A sound defensive strategy is key to both. You want to be Bill Belichick instead of Marty Schottenheimer. You may be able to hang 120 points on your opponent each night, but if you can’t play defense and protect your home court, you are going to be watching Dwyane Wade commercials all summer. If you can’t maintain boots on the turf you just defeated the enemy on, you will consistently have to fight for the same turf, hill, or Baghdad street corner.

So, as you take your Internet Startup live, do everything you can to develop defensible traffic. Just about every other item on here will speak to defensible traffic tactics because, if you stop making that your priority, you’ll turn into Friendster.

2. Domain names. Quit being cheap and buy the best domain name you can right from the beginning. It will make all the difference in the world. Just because you and your Bay Area buddies think that adding two O’s to everything is the Chicken Dinner Winner Move, the rest of the web that is profitable understands that everyone else they know will try to spell a word they already know. Do not name your company after junior high schooler SMS practices. I’m looking right at you, Lijit. Adding “-ster” is nearly as retarded. To anyone who thinks it isn’t, it looks like is available for you.

For bonus points, pick a domain that has been around since the mid-90’s with nice backlinks and your keyword in the name.

3. Hire Internet People. Preferably people that have experience in the “Competitive Internet.” Every single employee at your business needs to inherently understand the Internet at the expert level. I cannot stress this enough. Your employees are going to be your biggest evangelists in the early days and when you need it the most. If they end up sounding like Sen. Ted Stevens, you will lose street cred…and it is a small, small world.

3a. Stanford MBA’s. Very few of these guys are actually innovative. Hold off on these “must have” hires until you actually have enough processes for them to out-metric the rest of the world on. Don’t tell your Board Members that I said that, though, because they are probably all rocking Stanford degrees.

4. Understand the Cost of Traffic. This is especially important for media and E-commerce sites. You should do everything in the early days to create a large traffic data sample. You need to know what it costs to generate specific types of organic search, paid search, email, offline, direct navigation, social media, etc., traffic. It’s impossible to create an intelligent monetization or brand strategy until you know what is coming down the funnel. Then you let the math dictate how you fill the funnel. As much as I love Search, sometimes renting an email list or running a TV spot yields a better converting audience cheaper. Math will prevent you from drowning in your own Kool Aid.

5. Build links. Links are the social capital of the internet. Everytime you do something, try to get a link for it. If you can’t do this, hire somebody. If you are a media company, you need to aim for at least 4 good links for every single piece of content you publish. If you can’t get 4, you just wasted your time. In summary, more links = more search engine traffic = more targeted customers at the lowest cost of traffic (see #4).

6. Engage your Community….hard. Before you even announce yourself, you need to identify the key influencers, mavens, and evangelists in your community. You should make them feel pretty. A majority of these “dominos” will have to fall for you or you’ll be toast. This is not limited to only engaging them online. Just don’t become a stalker or a troll. If you have no social skills, this is going to be painful and you may want to hire a PR firm to craft these relationships for you. If you have no social skills, swallow your pride and outsource this in the beginning. If you overestimate your community engagement skills, you will end up looking like one of the degenerates on American Idol who has the meltdown next to Ryan Seacrest after getting lit up by the judges. On the other hand, this could get you hired by Jimmy Kimmel.

6a. Stay in your shoes. Absolutely DO NOT try to get on Techcrunch until you are ready to have the entire free world looking up your skirt. Same probably goes for Guy Kawasaki, Valleywag, ReadWriteWeb, or Mashable. If your only marketing pitch so far is that your blog search has a UI with rounded corners, stay in your shoes.

7. Engage Social Media. This is more of an extension to #6, but I’d consider the players in #6 to be the mainstream press and the influential blogosphere. The Social Media, on the other hand,…these are likely going to end up being your end users. You need to explain to them why you should exist and then listen to what they say in response. Don’t get mad when nearly every single comment on Digg calls you a dumbass, your product crap, or your life up to this point a strong case for retroactive abortions. It’s what they do. Unless you are Steve Jobs. Listen to the constructive comments and weigh them 100x more heavily than that overpriced focus group you hired. Once you have validated a reason to exist in their minds, this is an extremely viral route to creating mindshare. Mindshare is as defensible as it gets.

8. Push, Pull, Prod, and Poke Marketing. At the end of the day, you only want to have expended energy once for each lifetime visitor. If you have to go through all this BS next time you want this customer to come back to your site, your cost of traffic math is going to suck worse than MC Hammer’s accountant. If you are a media property, capture that user as a registration via RSS subscription or email. If you are an E-commerce site, capture that Account registration and co-registration. If you are a Made-for-Adsense site, try to get bookmarked. Do whatever you can to create the ability to market to or compel that user to come back again for free.

So, there you go. Focus on those eight things and you will be a step ahead of most of the Valley and you won’t have to try to raise that Series B on promises or good looks.

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