Word of mouth marketing: Turn users into die-hard fans

Before leaving college, I believed the best way to get more conversions is by spending thousands to millions of dollars per month on paid advertisements, whether it’s on social media, search engines, press, or influencers.

If you think about it, it feels like it makes sense that you have to pay to play, but after going through Y combinator startup school, I realized that’s BS.

I do believe that paid advertisement has an essential role in growing your business, but it’s not the reason your business will succeed.

What matters is focusing on making a product so great, your users will tell their friends about it.

I once said to a friend of mine that one of the most important rules of building a startup is to create a fantastic product, and he responded: “Duh Marc, it goes without saying.”

It’s true, but a lot of companies underestimate this.

Let’s go through what you need to do to get your audience to be obsessed with your business.

The process of this article is to turn your mindset around so that you can focus on making your audience do the marketing for you, so they will buy anything you offer, and it doesn’t matter the price.

1. Build something people love, not kind of like

There’s no secret to it; if you can build a product so great that your users tell they’re friends about it, you’ve increased your odds of building a successful startup by 80%.

A study has shown that customers are 4x more likely to buy when referred by a friend.

For example, if you think of all successful businesses like Facebook, Google, or even Apple, you most likely heard it from a friend.

You can make all the paid advertisements you want, but you won’t last long if your product doesn’t live up to the promise you’re giving.

The car company Tesla is the perfect example of this. Instead of trying to convince people their cars are great, Tesla actually focused on making their vehicles great.

Isn’t that crazy?

It turned out so great for them that their customers can go on for hours about how their car is great, even if they don’t have a Tesla.

If you haven’t driven a Tesla before, ask a Tesla owner what they think of their car.

Oh, did I mentioned that Tesla never spent $1 on paid advertisement?

They didn’t need to, why would you spend money on getting the word out when your customers get the word out for you?

2. Niche first, expand later

There’s a quote that I love by Brian Chesky, Co-founder of Airbnb, saying, “build something 100 people love, not 1 million people kinda like”.

I can’t tell you enough about how this is super important. I cringe whenever I see a startup saying they have a product for everyone.

Not everyone will love your product, and that’s a good thing.

An excellent way to start is to focus on a specific niche you know your product can quickly solve the problem that niche is facing, and then you can expand on to other features you’d like to sell.

A great example of this is Amazon, where they only sold books at first, and then they expanded into selling other products.

3. Talk to your users

I’m talking to you, founders!

The companies that became very successful in the tech startup world are the once’s the founder(s) preserve a direct connection to their users.

As a founder, whether it’s a CEO, CMO or CTO, it’s in your job description to be able to talk to them.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. Solving problems: If a user is getting errors on your platform, you are there to find out what exact problem they are facing so you can solve it as quickly as possible.

2. Test a feature: Have a new feature idea for your product? Your users will directly tell you if they will use it or not. Sure, you can ask them if they would like the idea, but will they use it?

*Ask a couple of users that are willing to try out this X feature to see if they will use it, you don’t want to spend six months building something people don’t use. If they like it, follow reason one.*

3. Building a strong relationship: When you’re asking for feedback from your users, not only you’re getting real data on what you need to work on, but it makes the users feel like they are part of the company, and it’s even better if the founders themselves do it.

4. Give first, ask later

A study has shown that 83% of your satisfied customers are willing to refer your product if you ask them AFTER giving them value.

By providing your users what they would love to have for free, you build instant trust with them, so it’s easier when you want to ask them for something like testimonials, case studies, referrals, etc.

5. Give them a reason to tell a friend

If you haven’t my last article “How Elon Musk got 100,000 users in 1 month after the launch of PayPal”, I mentioned that they had a referral program where they gave anyone that signed up $5 and another $5 if they referred a friend.

This excellent growth hack gives your users the motivation to tell a friend about your business.

Keep in mind free money may not work for your business, so offer something that your users would love to have for free or a discount.

Five takeaways you can start implementing:

  • Make a fantastic product for a niche, then expand.
  • Focus on making your users do the marketing for you.
  • Users are the best source of feedback.
  • Customers are 4x more likely to buy when referred by a friend.
  • Give them a reason to tell a friend

Let’s keep in touch:

Follow me to get more startup/marketing advice that I’m going through.



I know a thing or two about tech start-ups, inbound marketing, front-end design & blockchain tech. Tweet me @marcthibs

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