Targeting Blogs-Traction Channel #11

Targeting blogs your customers read is one of the most effective ways to get your first wave of customers. However, this traction channel can be difficult to scale in phase II and III due to the limited number of relevant high-traffic blogs.  Not all traction channels are infinitely scalable. In fact, using tactics that don’t scale is one of the best ways to get your first users. Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator, put it like this: “The need to do something unscalably laborious to get started is so nearly universal that it might be a good idea to stop thinking of startup ideas as scalars. Instead we should try thinking of them as pairs of what you’re going to build, plus the unscalable thing(s) you’re going to do initially to get the company going.” Finding Blogs (Summary from chapter 16 Traction by Weinberg and Mares) It can be difficult to uncover the smaller blogs that cover your niche. Here are several tools you can use to find all the influential bloggers in your space:

  • Search Engines – Simply search for things like “top blogs for x” or “best x blogs.”
  • YouTube – Doing a simple search for your product keywords on YouTube shows you the most popular videos in your industry. These videos are often associated with influencers that have blogs, and you use references to their videos as an icebreaker to start building a relationship with them. This tactic can be applied to other video sharing sites, such as Vimeo and Dailymotion.
  • Delicious allows you to use keywords to find links that others have saved, which can unearth new blogs.
  • Twitter – Using Twitter search is another easy way to find blogs in a niche.   You can also use tools like Followerwonk and Klout to determine the top Twitter accounts in your industry.
  • Social Mention – Social Mention helps you determine the sites that have the most frequent mentions for your keywords..
  • Talk to people – The most effective way to figure out what your target audience is really reading online is by asking directly!
Chris Garret of New Media says, “The best way to find and get to know bloggers is to talk to them or through reading their blogs. You need to get a measure of them, make a connection, find things in common, see how they think. You can do this through:
  • Blog comments
  • Forums
  • Email
  • Twitter
  • Instant Messaging
  • Skype
  • Real-world events Most important, no matter how you meet a person, is to get to know them through conversation. Invite them to talk more. You don’t want to ask for a link or offer a guest post before they even know who you are.”
Value of Targeting Blogs as a Traction Channel:  Case Study-Mint Mint’s story is impressive . They launched their simple money management site in 2007, and – less than two years later – Intuit acquired them for $ 170 million.  Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo and Mint’s director of marketing, drove many of their early marketing efforts. Mint’s phase I goal was to get 100,000 users within six months.  To hit those numbers, Kagan created a quant-based marketing spreadsheet. His spreadsheet listed traction channels Mint planned to mine for potential users.  Then he confirmed the channels Mint would focus on by running tests that seemed promising. Mint’s Targeting Blogs Tactics
  • Testing Blogs (summary from Chapter 16 of Traction by Weinberg and Mares)
    1. Kagan contacted a few that were representative of different customer segments, and got them to write articles about Mint. This method is a version of the Bullseye Framework we presented in the introduction.
    2. He systematically set out to determine which channel would allow him to accomplish his specific traction goal. This series of tests revealed that targeting blogs was the channel to focus on since they were getting great conversion rates and could reach enough people to attain their goal.
    3. Then he created a long list of blogs to target, and set about contacting those blogs about guest posts, coverage, and placing Mint badges on their sites. Through this focusing process, Noah uncovered tactics that further improved their traction through this channel: VIP access and sponsoring.
  • VIP Access  Mint did something that few startups had done before them to increase awareness and build excitement for their launch:   They asked people on their pre-launch waiting list to recommend Mint to their friends in return for priority product access. As part of the signup process, users could embed an “I want Mint” badge on their personal blogs, Facebook, or other websites. The key to the success of these badges was to make them easy to share and embed.  Mint had 600 blogs display the badge and 50,000 users signed up through them. This tactic also gave Mint an SEO boost from the hundreds of new links pointing to
  • Sponsoring  Each sponsored blog would put a small Mint advertisement on their site for a period of time. They tracked each advertisement to see which blogs were most effective and how many people signed up. Not only did this approach contribute over 10,000 pre-registrations for the product, but it also allowed the Mint team to understand the kind of user most interested in their product.
    • Process Many personal bloggers have strong readerships, but don’t make money from their blog. Kagan offered them a way to show off a cool new service and make some money doing it. Noah simply sent them a message with “Can I send you $ 500?” as the subject and told them a bit about the product and what Mint was trying to do. Most were happy to share a useful product with their audiences and make some money in the process.
  • Created content partnerships with larger sites like The Motley Fool, a personal investing site. With this content partnership (each site contributed content to the other), Mint exposed their valuable, free product to over three million readers who would likely be interested in their service. This post-launch content partnership combined targeting blogs with elements of business development and was a big win for the Mint team.
Link Sharing Communities Sharing links is at the heart of many large communities on the web (e.g. reddit, Hacker News, and Digg). In addition, there are hundreds of niche communities and forums that encourage and reward the sharing of links.
  • Dropbox, the file storage startup, targeted these communities for their initial traction. By sharing a video on Hacker News, Dropbox received over 10,000 signups. Soon, they were trending on Digg (significantly bigger at the time), which drove even more signups.
  • Quora, reddit, Codecademy, and Gumroad saw similar success from initial postings on Hacker News because their products were a good fit for users of that site.
  • The founders behind – a file management tool for developers – also posted a basic demo there, looking for some feedback and early users. Their submission was in the top spot on for nearly three hours, during which they saw: 10,000 + visits in 4 hours, 460 concurrent users 12,000 + people using the demo over the course of the day 500 + developer sign-ups 5,000 + files managed.
Targeting blogs is a great way to get your first wave of users. In a crowded online environment, reaching prospects in an arena where they choose to spend time is a valuable way to get traction. Resources ]]>