Some practical advice on how to get new users for your web based start-up

Launching a new web platform is always a challenge. Generating the initial momentum to get a marketplace up and running can be very difficult. I was recently part of a successful website re-launch so I will outline what worked in this particular case, although, admittedly it may not be the best strategy in all cases.

The website in question had actually launched a year before we started promoting it. During this period, the website languished with very few users and little traffic. The concept was sound but it relied on obtaining a significant number of buyers and sellers to create the momentum necessary to make the website a viable experience. Without these users, the website was a waste of time and energy.

How we did it:

Step 1:

We narrowed down our market to a single city, or actually, a region. We chose the greater Seattle area because it is a very tech savvy city with a number of early adopters. This allowed us to get enough items listed and enough people looking in a geographical area. It also allowed us to focus our search engine optimization so that when users started hearing about our platform and started looking, they were able to find us.

Step 2:

We dedicated 5k to search engine marketing focusing primarily on Bing and Google. This marketing was carefully designed to target potential customers for the site. We tracked each click in detail and recorded the percentage of those clicks that turned into members, and of those that became members how many completed an action. We spread the 5k over 1 month and collected as much data as possible on those users.

Step 3:

Near the end of our search campaign, we did a detailed press release of the launch of the new site. This was something that wasn’t done before with the original launch. With the press release, we focused on reaching out to media in the Seattle area. We targeted publications and writers who cover local start-ups and similar industries. We were able to get a couple of nice write-ups in local online and print publications that lead to further membership growth. Our data indicated that one of the driving factors in these users joining, was the fact there was visible activity on the site from our search engine marketing campaign. It is our belief that had we not created that initial activity, the press campaign alone would’ve been insufficient.

Step 4:

We produced a detailed presentation that demonstrated how every dollar spent on search engine marketing led to $3.40 in sales with over $2.50 in direct profit within the first 60 days. We took this presentation to potential investors. Since we had real data proving that we had created a viable model and momentum, it made investment a no-brainer for the right investor. Most of this investment was turned into marketing dollars and spent on a larger search engine marketing campaign.

Step 5:

We are continuing to use data to fine tune the operations of the website to further increase sales. We have also begun to expand into other markets using a similar strategy of initial marketing, press release, and continued marketing. We are seeing the benefits of search engine optimization and referrals from other users. We have instituted other methods including a referral bonus system and a social sharing point system that have both helped drive further growth.

While this is certainly not the only way to launch a website, this is one significant and pivotal way to do so.

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