Introducing a new feature or product to the market is a challenging task. Automizy is one of the startups that are still on the path but I’m sharing some new experiences: how we collected 100 subscribers in 6 hours to our closed beta – before it was even released, with the help of niche marketing.
I think it can be useful for every company which just started or wants to release a new feature.
What is niche marketing?
But before we start, I want to explain the notion of “niche marketing”. It’s not rocket science at all. Here are 3 similar definitions for the notion of “niche market”:
- “A small market that is not served by competing products.” (Keegan, Moriarty, & Duncan, 1992)
- “A method to meet customer needs through the tailoring of goods and services for small markets.”(Stanton, Etzel, & Walke, 1991)
- “The customers in the niche have a distinct set of needs; they will pay a premium to the firm that best satisfies their needs; the niche is not likely to attract other competitors; the niche gains certain economies through specialization; and the niche has size, profit, and growth potential” (Kotler, 2003).
So to put it in a nutshell, niche marketing is nothing more than identifying small, not competitive markets that have high growth potential and use highly targeted advertisements (not necessarily paid ones).
In practice, it is harder than you would think. But it’s important for especially small and medium-sized businesses because:
- Little competition means lower acquisition cost and much higher lifetime value – which are key metrics especially for SaaS businesses
- In niches, you’ll have stronger relationships with your clients and users – which means competitive advantage if a competitor enters your niche
- Specificity means high valued expertise: you will have a head start in the field, your competitors who will follow you into your market won’t be the experts.
- And for marketers: niche market requires a focusable, budget-friendly approach – you need highly targeted campaigns that mean higher conversion rate, lower cost of acquisition and higher return on investment.
Steps of the niche marketing campaign
Below you can read the whole process from discovering pain points, validating problems, finding the solution to validating the solution with qualitative and quantitative data. It took around 2 months for us but it’s because we are agile – for other companies it may take more time (and it’s not necessarily a problem).
Step 1: Identifying and validating the problem
As I said, identifying a specific pain point is a very difficult task. You need experience, big knowledge about your market and even connections. The first two depend on a lot of things but the connections can be, fortunately, “hacked”, at least from the company’s POV. Let’s see how we started our niche marketing campaign.
Automizy is an email marketing automation tool for SaaS companies mainly. We launched in January, this year.
But we knew that we are late to the party: Hubspot, Infusionsoft, Salesmanago, Intercom, Customer.io and similar solutions are running and providing awesome solutions. It is a crowded market… What can we do then?
Well, we started to talk to our prospects. These were little chats about their difficulties, different challenges. Nothing extraordinary. We listened and tried to understand their perspective…
How did we perform it?
First of all: checking and participating in online communities, like SaaS Invaders, Hacker News, GrowthHackers, Voat, Quora. Those were pretty awesome places for asking questions – and people answered. Not many but after a couple of questions, we could have something.
Secondly: finding prospects on social media and send them a message with the question. We used LinkedIn, Twitter mainly.
Thirdly: sending emails to trial users and leads. We built up a short drip campaign that asked questions about their needs and pain points.
And last but not least: blogging. Maybe it sounds a little bit weird but those people who subscribed to our blog or commented on it were more likely to answer to our questions. We provided value – therefore they shared their valuable information in return. Win-win situation.
Then we started to see a pattern. Somehow more and more companies (well, reps of companies) told us a specific difficulty.
And it was the topic of email testing.
I’m a big supporter of customer development – it can provide valuable information for our niche marketing campaigns. Therefore we wanted to have deep dive conversations with marketers.
In order to achieve this goal, we offered a mentoring program to different companies. Then we scheduled our meetings and had a little chat.
There were companies that didn’t match our criteria: testing wasn’t important for them because they were at the early stage. But those companies that wanted to grow fast and just started the scaling process, had really valuable feedbacks.
Here are 3 examples:
“Most marketers test manually… imagine several iterations automatically populating and optimizing in real-time. Exciting stuff!” – said Douglass Karr, founder of Marketing TechBlog.
“One opportunity I see for artificial intelligence, in regards to marketing automation, is the ability to optimize the marketing and sales funnels automatically. It could help form the top paths for a successful conversion down to the close of a customer. This could also allow for easier multi variate testing and knowing that the best version of your test will automatically be used when verified as the winner. Then through the knowledge gained in the tests other suggestions could be made for you that are furthering your funnel’s clarity and optimizing it further.” – Trevor Hatfield from Inturact and saasinvaders.
“So much of what marketers do in automation workflows is a slight step up from manual labor – it’s “clicking”. And this “clicking” could save us all a ton of time if it was replaced by smarter AI. Clicking the “winner” in an A/B test. on a set of dates to test clicking on a “pop up” or a “slide in”. I want AI to take away all my clicking for me, and handle all the testing that goes along with it.” – said Tim Chard from Adespresso.
We found out that there is a problem with drip campaign testing. So we started to work on a solution. In addition, it seemed A.I. has to be in focus.
Step 2: Solving the problem
We started to think how can we solve the pain point we identified on the market. We saw that AB testing drip campaigns is a big pain in the ass – this is the route we need to follow. So we also started to develop our new feature that would solve the problem marketers face. But the solution wasn’t complete yet.
SaaS meetup and the big idea
In the beginning of June, we attended a saas meetup to see what other companies were doing. I like these meetups because it helps you get out of the daily routine and refresh your thoughts by simply communicating with other companies.
We sat down in the evening with the team, had a beer and started to share our thoughts about the solution we already worked on.
As we spoke, we realized that the real pain point for marketers is not drip campaign testing. It’s the time and effort they need to invest in it. Not to mention that it’s a really boring, repetitive task.
Therefore the most logical solution would be to automate this process and help marketers in these repetitive tasks.
And how could we do this?
By implementing machine learning algorithms using the multi-armed bandit concept.
Step 3: Validating solution with niche marketing
So we went back home and started to work on it. But we needed a more quantitative validation of our approach. We wouldn’t want to waste our time on developing something that nobody wants… And we realized the best way to validate it is to use niche marketing and evaluate the reaction of the prospects.
Campaign goals and steps
Therefore we decided to run a campaign that’s goal is to decide whether we really need to finish this feature or not?
We thought we can say it’s validated if we run the campaign below and as a result, we can collect 100 subscribers to our upcoming closed beta in a week.
The steps of the campaign were these:
- Create buyer personas
- Execute a pre-launch campaign with 2 blog articles
- Record a detailed explainer video
- Build a landing page
- Build a short drip campaign to follow-up subscribers
- Write an announcement blog article for our closed beta
- Write a press release and make it exclusive for a big online tech magazine
- Send a follow-up bulk email 1 week later
- Write 2 follow-up blog articles
Our buyer personas were marketing technologists at saas companies and technology-oriented marketers at high growing saas companies.
Our prelaunch campaign consisted of 2 blog articles:
Our goal was to create some kind of buzz, to draw attention to the difficulty and also make them start a conversation on the topic.
Then we created the AI for drip campaign optimization video from our product that was in alpha stage at that time – meant poor UI and not every aspect of the optimization tool worked as it supposed to. We even had to animate a little part of it.
Then I wrote an article that was the announcement for our new feature.
Naturally, we built up our landing page previously. Every article had some kind of link, CTA to it, even the youtube video had a link in its description section.
And last but not least, we wrote a follow-up blog article.
The goal of this article was to support our approach – and as it turned out, lots of industry experts think about the process similarly as we. This confirmed our approach and also helped our niche marketing campaign a lot.
Campaign channels and tools
Our main channel was naturally email. We used our system, Automizy for this purpose.
Our content distribution goal was to reach the stakeholders in our niche: no question we needed to find different communities.
It was fortunate, that previously we used SaaS Invaders, Hacker News, GrowthHackers, Voat, Quora, and similar communities for researching. We found that these are places where our audience can be found: we could start our highly targeted niche marketing process.
(Interesting thing that I read Benjamin Brandall’s article on social bookmarking sites yesterday and turned out that he suggests the same channels to distribute content we used.)
Furthermore, we tried out copromote, flaunt and similar solutions too.
For the landing page, we use Unbounce because we have integration with it and also it’s an easy-to-use landing page builder.
For blogging, we have a WordPress site.
After the announcement, in the morning, nothing happened. I started to worry that we missed something or we just are not on the right track with the feature. But at 5 PM suddenly subscribers started to pour in. We were shocked how fast our list started to grow.
1. Landing page conversion rate is 25,65%
During this day, our landing page conversion rate was at around 30-35%. It was because the traffic was highly targeted, as we managed to hit a highly specific pain point at the right time for the right people.
It sounds a little bit simplistic, but all in all, the only thing that truly counts is to find the right people at the right time with the right compelling offer.
But later on, by today it went down to only 25%. We’re still proud of it, it is really a nice result.
2. Youtube video was seen by 3k people
During the announcement part of the niche marketing campaign, lots of people watched our video, approximately 2800. Until today approximately 3000 people saw our video without any paid advertising solution.
3. 106 people subscribed in 6 hours
After 5 PM, we managed to collect 106 people’s email address and name. That is an awesome thing for us – we planned to achieve it in 1 week.
In addition, we received questions on the technology we use, mainly on Hackernews. Lots of nice, helpful people. It was truly amazing experiencing it.
4. Follow-up bulk email was opened by 90 people, 14 people answered
In order to check the activation capabilities of our new subscribers, I decided to send them an email 1 week later.
In the email, I asked them to answer 1 question.
The result was astonishing again, 90 people opened it and 14 wrote back.
This was the email I sent (the image in the email is a gif animation, a funny robot that drinks shots with you):
Evaluation and next steps
About the weakness and the goal we failed to achieve in the niche marketing campaign:
The follow-up articles didn’t bring in enough subscribers – something went wrong with them. Maybe the topic, the articulation of the topic, or just the approach missed the point.
In addition, one of the biggest weaknesses of the campaign was that we didn’t manage to have press coverage. We are still trying to send our press release to VentureBeat, Mashable, Techcrunch and more but they don’t even respond. Hopefully, we will achieve it sooner or later.
But it is certainly a big mistake we made – PR hasn’t been successful yet.
The success part of our niche marketing efforts:
All in all, collecting 100 people in 6 hours is a huge success for us. Well, for this early stage. We think it counts as a quantitative validation of our upcoming feature.
So the next step will be to release the closed beta (approximately in the middle of September) and make subscribers use it and collect feedback.
In addition, we are working on a brand new UI that will meet our clients’ and users’ needs.