Whether you are lone developer building a web app in the basement of your apartment or a small team of young entrepreneurs working on the next big thing, here are some simple tips and advice that should help bring more people to your product.
Tips for Tech Start-ups
1. On the site’s homepage, always explain the purpose of your product in simple English without using words like revolutionary or cutting-edge. Just let people know why they should use your product and what problems does it solve?
2. Write a detailed FAQ page that clearly answers all the common queries that new visitors may have. Where is the data stored? How easy it is export data in case someone decides to delete their account. Are there any restrictions?
3. Always provide details about the people running the show. Link to their LinkedIn profile pages and Twitter accounts as that will make your company look more credible in the eyes of people who don’t know you.
4. There’s no such thing as “free.” Set the expectations right and let people know how you plan to monetize your app in future. It is better to say “we will introduce PRO accounts in the coming weeks” than saying “we haven’t yet thought of a business model.”
5. Don’t add Google AdSense to your website on the first day of launch. I know it is important to monetize your web app but try building a user base first.
6. If you think you have built a great product that will gain lot of traction, open the gates only in batches – you can either create an email-based waiting list or distribute invite codes through other blogs (like 10000 invites for TechCrunch readers).
7. Invitation codes are often provided on a first-come first-served basis but there’s a drawback with that approach. The Tech blogs in U.S. will most likely publish news about your start-up in their own time-zone and thus when the rest of the world wakes up, those codes will be exhausted. Plan for a global distribution.
8. A picture is worth a thousand words. It would help if you can showcase photographs of your office space, the founding team, that whiteboard in the meeting room, and even that of your prominent employees.
9. It goes without saying that you should maintain a frequently-updated blog where people can get updates about the product and your company. The blog posts should have the names and possibly a short-bio of the people who are writing them. The author name should never read as “admin” or “staff.”
10. The first impression matters – your website should look good but don’t use any of the common template designs. Avoid using stock photographs on the homepage. Use Xenu to ensure that there are no orphans or dead pages on your website before you open it to the public. And it will definitely help if your site is also mobile-friendly.
11. You don’t really need a press release to announce your product. A tweet from @Scobleizer will probably bring much more visibility (and users) than any Press Release.
12. Your product is a business and all businesses, whether online or offline, should have contact information. Therefore always mention your email address, phone number and even your postal address on the site. Also try listing yourself in Google Places.
13. People on the Internet are always well-aware and even 10x smarter than you. When you launch a product, they’ll instantly compare it with other similar products that may have been around for a while. Instead of letting them doing the hard work, create a “how we compare” page to convince them why you are better than the competition.
14. If an influential tweeter or well-known blogger has said something good about your product, pull that quote into a separate testimonials page – that will help convince new people into trying your product.
15. Unless your product is enterprise-focused, it is OK to add a bit of humor – use the 404 pages of your site as your creative playground and people won’t mind it at all.
16. People have limited time and they’re very likely to abandon if they have to register to try your product. Instead, use a one-click system like Facebook Connect or Twitter Connect and people would happily register.
17. Engage with your active users and don’t forget to thank them. How? You can use Follow Fridays #FF on Twitter, highlight people on your Facebook page or even carry interviews with them on your blog or your YouTube channel.
18. You do need a knowledgebase like self-help system where users can find answers to common problems as well as a forum where they can ask questions. Get Satisfaction is a good choice here (see more useful web apps).
19. Track mentions of your product on the Internet like a hawk and respond to criticism as well as praise. If you notice a positive tweet about your product, retweet it or thank the tweeter with another tweet. If someone has a problem, point him to the right forum thread where they can find a solution. You can’t keep everyone happy but it is important to maintain your cool – if criticism is valid, respond else it is fine if you ignore it.
20. Create a “For the press” page where you can include downloadable images of your company logo, product screenshots (in different resolutions), pictures of founders and even a 1-sheet PDF describing your product. The idea is to make the job of journalists and bloggers simple in case they wish to write about your product.
21. Create a “known issues” page on your site and be transparent about the important bugs in your product that your team is aware of.
22. When pitching your product to other bloggers, write a short, concise and personalized email but never ever add a line that read “publication x and y have written so many good things about us” – let the influencers try the product on their own.
23. Self-promotion is important (because no one else will do that for you) but don’t overdo. Also, if your pitch to a blog isn’t noticed, move on – please don’t send a “gentle reminder.”
24. This is most important. Create a video demo or a screencast that explains your product in 2-3 minutes and put in on the homepage. Small start-ups cannot afford having Common Craft style videos but make sure the demo is simple, the narration doesn’t include any jargon and, more than the video, the audio quality should be really good (see screencasting toolkit).
25. People tend to love products that don’t too many things but solve one problem really well (look at Dropbox). Don’t worry about adding new features or making your product social, just make sure that it does everything right that it is supposed to do.