@andrewchen

Get the newsletter · 2018 essays (PDF) · Featured · Recent

Early Traction: How to go from zero to 150,000 email subscribers (Guest Post)

[Andrew: Starting up from zero is one of the hardest things you can do with a new product. Especially in the age of SaaS and content marketing, building up to the first 150k users is a key milestone that can prove out product/market fit, generate a revenue stream, and secure investment. This is a guest post by my good friend Noah Kagan (@noahkagan), who is previously from Mint (acquired by Intuit), Facebook, and now Chief Sumo of AppSumo. They are releasing some marketing tools focused on early traction companies, over at SumoMe.com]

Zero to 147,973 email subscribers by Noah Kagan, AppSumo

png;base64dd69a77f398897db

During the first 10 months of 2012 AppSumo grew 147,973 new subscribers from running Giveaways. What started out as an experiment for growing our small audience became one of the key marketing activities that helped grow our customer base.

Growing your audience in the early days is one of the hardest things in any startup. There are a few tactics to get your first customers such as buying ads to landing pages via Facebook or Google, content marketing with a blog, getting covered in press, a Kickstarter campaign that magically takes off or creating a YouTube teaser that goes viral.

The majority of these methods can be costly and / or time consuming. As well, there’s no guarantee that the customers it generates will be profitable or you’ll be able to even get customers at all.

So where is the best place to begin? If you look at all the marketing activities available when starting out, it looks like a pie. No one piece of that pie will get all of the customers you want or be as effective for you as it is for someone else. So you have to attempt multiple methods to eventually reach all of your customers.

At AppSumo.com over the past 4 years we’ve done all of the above. The one method I can consistently recommend for people starting their customer base has been giveaways.

What the heck is a giveaway?

Good question.

A giveaway is giving away some physical, digital item or service to people in exchange for a visitor signing up for your newsletter. At AppSumo we further incentivized those customers with getting additional entries by referring friends via Facebook, Twitter or sharing an incentivized link however they please.

Here’s a recent giveaway we are running for AppSumo. The tool we are using is KingSumo Giveaways that we released to the public a month ago.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 14.09.44

For this Giveaway we generally seed the initial users in hoping it goes viral.

First I’ll tweet or email a few people who I think will be interested.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 14.10.54

Then people will see that and enter the giveaway.

Afterwards they’re incentivized to share:

Screenshot 2014-07-24 14.11.43

The timer encourages urgency so people are incentivized to share sooner.

Then we’ve optimized which buttons to show and where so people will share the giveaway so we can get even more people to join.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 14.13.05

Giveaways vary in performance but let me repeat that they are one of the most cost-effective ways of getting new customers.

Let me show you some exact statistics from AppSumo doing over 25 giveaways in the past 4 years:

  • 528,238 total subscribers
  • $866,265.69 in revenue
  • $442,802.72 in gross profit*.

*This does NOT include unsubscribes / email-removals or the costs of the giveaways.

Here are some stats based on giveaways that had at least 1,000 unique entries.

Overall profit per subscriber across all Giveaways

Screenshot 2014-07-17 11.03.01

The average is $0.83 gross profit per new subscriber

Biggest flop of a giveaway based on gross profit per new subscriber:

Giveaway 2 Macbook Airs

macbook-air-appsumo-2_1_2

  • 48187 total new subscribers
  • $11,550.08 gross profit
  • $0.24 gross profit per new subscriber
  • Cost of laptops: $2400
  • ROI: 4.81X

Best giveaway based on gross profit per new subscriber:

Monthly1k Entrepreneur Getaway

Screenshot 2014-07-09 16.39.31

  • 3846 total new subscribers
  • $26,572.90 gross profit
  • $6.90 gross profit per new subscriber
  • Cost of Giveaway: $2500
  • ROI: 10.62X

1- Buy facebook ad traffic against the company you are sponsoring or towards your target audience. We’ve seen CPAs lower than our regular ad buying.

2- When doing a giveaway try to co-partner with a company so they’ll promote for you and you can promote their product.

3- Giveaway a smaller more related item to your audience versus a broader item like Kindle, Laptops or Netflix subscriptions. For example, iPads got us a ton more emails but profit is what pays the bills and our entrepreneur giveaway was 2.3x more profitable.

4- AB test your messaging for giveaways. The message people share for your giveaway can have a huge impact on the vitality. Try variations to see which gives you the biggest boost.

5- Most giveaways get 25-40% new subscribers for email your list so don’t worry about your overall unsubscribes and promote your giveaway to your email list.

6- Twitter followers increase as people share your Giveaway more. Nice benefit. Here’s an example from my personal account via a Giveaway from last month.

Screenshot 2014-07-17 11.18.26

7- There’s a diminishing marginal return to doing Giveaways so don’t do them weekly. I recommend doing them quarterly.

Overall, Giveaways are a great tactic in your marketing arsenal. Use it and let us know how it works out.

If you haven’t run a giveaway you should. Just for readers of Andrew Chen’s blog for the next 48 hours we are doing 50% off the normal price. After that it goes back to regular. Use code (ANDREWCHEN) at KingSumo Giveaways.

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

Views expressed in “content” (including posts, podcasts, videos) linked on this website or posted in social media and other platforms (collectively, “content distribution outlets”) are my own and are not the views of AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) or its respective affiliates. AH Capital Management is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any special skill or training. The posts are not directed to any investors or potential investors, and do not constitute an offer to sell -- or a solicitation of an offer to buy -- any securities, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment.

The content should not be construed as or relied upon in any manner as investment, legal, tax, or other advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Any charts provided here are for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, I have not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. The content speaks only as of the date indicated.

Under no circumstances should any posts or other information provided on this website -- or on associated content distribution outlets -- be construed as an offer soliciting the purchase or sale of any security or interest in any pooled investment vehicle sponsored, discussed, or mentioned by a16z personnel. Nor should it be construed as an offer to provide investment advisory services; an offer to invest in an a16z-managed pooled investment vehicle will be made separately and only by means of the confidential offering documents of the specific pooled investment vehicles -- which should be read in their entirety, and only to those who, among other requirements, meet certain qualifications under federal securities laws. Such investors, defined as accredited investors and qualified purchasers, are generally deemed capable of evaluating the merits and risks of prospective investments and financial matters. There can be no assurances that a16z’s investment objectives will be achieved or investment strategies will be successful. Any investment in a vehicle managed by a16z involves a high degree of risk including the risk that the entire amount invested is lost. Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by a16z is available at https://a16z.com/investments/. Excluded from this list are investments (and certain publicly traded cryptocurrencies/ digital assets) for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly. Past results of Andreessen Horowitz’s investments, pooled investment vehicles, or investment strategies are not necessarily indicative of future results. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.