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When my company, Leap, was in the Brandery class of 2012, we had a “spray and pray” approach to marketing. It was really just pure hustle and a little bit of luck that helped us reach 50,000 downloads for our mobile app in a matter of weeks.

Screenshot 2014-07-16 10.21.04

As we started to grow, I marched on out to the Valley thinking a nice chunk of change (a few hundred thousand) was going to fall into our laps and all would be right with the world.

But it didn’t exactly work out like that.

Now there are a lot of reasons why and there are a lot of mistakes that our team made that we can talk about, but today I want to talk marketing. Specifically what mistakes we made (which are also mistakes I see other early stage companies making), what I would have done differently knowing what I know now, and finally a little bit about the approach (and some juicy tips for you) that I use today.

Where I Messed Up

When it came time to raise the big bucks for Leap, I struggled to answer these questions:

My answers were weak. Something along the lines of…

“Well, we’re building partnerships with influencers so that they can build communities on Leap and it spreads organically because people share content from the app. Basically, once we build up the user base we’re going to bring brands onto the platform so that they can create challenges on our app. Right now our audience is pretty broad – we’re narrowing down into some of the really active communities we see doing challenges. We’re too early to know our customer acquisition cost.”

Now that I’ve worked at a VC firm last year and now that my team helps fast growing companies with their online marketing on a daily basis, I slap my forehead when I think back to those days. And you wouldn’t believe the amount of companies that I talk to that really can’t the same basic questions and are hoping to raise a $1 million seed round from investors.

What You Can Learn From My Mistakes

When I read the example of my answers above, here’s what I think today:

“Ok, this company doesn’t really know who their customer is – they’re probably going to have a hard time finding a scalable way to generate growth (PR & features aren’t something to bet on). Since they aren’t sure who they’re going after, how do they find the right channels for sustainable customer acquisition?

Well if they aren’t really focused on a core audience to start with, then marketing is going to be tough since they can’t really communicate a unique value proposition.

And they don’t really have a revenue model so finding out how to spend money to acquire users isn’t going to happen until they figure out how to make money (since ‘going viral’ isn’t how 99.999% of businesses are built).”

Now let’s use that to think about some takeaways for your company, and we’ll drill down into some actionable tips.

Here’s what I want you to think about:

Who is my customer? What problem am I really solving for them?

How are you going to get people to use your product?

What’s your customer acquisition cost? What’s your revenue model, etc.?

It’s never too early to start experimenting – so get started on this stuff now. You’ll have a much deeper understanding of your market, your customers, and how you’ll grow. Finally, you won’t have the short term “spray and pray” approach that Leap did – and when you’re ready to pound the pavement and talk to investors, you’ll be ready to answer some of those tough questions.

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Founder of CrushCampaigns

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Want to acquire more customers? Learn how our products and services can improve your lead generation, mobile, or e-commerce growth today.

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