I started my first real company when I was 17 years old, in 2001. It was a digital marketing platform that connected mortgage lenders with borrowers. I had no clue what a mortgage was, but I had connections who would pay me a significant amount of income to generate leads.
I didn’t know that brokers charged larger fees for loans, but I knew they wanted to pay me around 20 dollars to get a user to fill out a mortgage form. I decided I was going to find a way to generate thousands of leads a day—at all costs.
For my whole career and for nearly my whole life, I have only worked in online marketing. After the downfall of the mortgage business, I worked full-time as an affiliate marketer to generate both sales and leads for various businesses, including skin care companies, mobile games, mortgage companies, fashion retailers, consumer lenders and more. I bought traffic at a cost per click (CPC) and then would arbitrage it back into an effective cost per action (CPA).
Why you should start marketing sooner than later
Nowadays, I take my experiences and work with startups, venture-backed and established companies to improve an important business metric: user acquisition.
Clients often ask: “When should I start acquiring users?” or “My startup is super early. When is a good time to market?” I always give the same response:“Right now!” Here’s why:
Understand purchase decisions.
You want to uncover pain points and figure out the motivations of customer purchase decisions. If you start running ads earlier in your product lifecycle, then you can start identifying pain points early and tweak your product or service to readily solve them.
Gain consumer trust.
Consumers are becoming smarter. Very rarely do they make a purchase based on the first ad impression they see. It usually takes between six and eight touch points before they make a purchase. If you reach them early in the product lifecycle, even with a “sign up to get a free discount” ad, they’ll be more likely to make a purchase at launch. The more a consumer sees your messaging and the value you create, the quicker they are likely to convert.
Refine your marketing campaign.
Most new entrepreneurs and startup founders use launch strategies that include spending a significant amount of money on Facebook and Google ads to drive sales. They don’t have a pre-existing email subscriber list or a remarketing list of people who already showed purchase intent. This leads to a lot of wasted money and stress. It will take a considerable amount of time and money to get their campaigns to work at a profitable cost per action (CPA). By acquiring users right away with a “coming soon” or a “get a specific reward for registering now” message, you can create an email list of pre-existing users who have showed purchase intent.
User acquisition tactics you probably don’t think about
Much of my market research over the years has come from running ads on Facebook. I’ve found that people use products for different reasons, and that each user usually has a specific use case, how they use a product or service to accomplish a particular goal.
For example, I once worked with a company that was selling women leggings on Facebook. I wanted to figure who the exact competition was and how much the price range for their products. This was very important to my business model.
So, I created a fan page to target people who were passionate about leggings, then I posted a question: “What is your favorite place to buy leggings and how much do you usually spend?” Then, I ran ads directly related to that same question and received an insane amount of feedback, which I applied to product development and pricing.
Most people think running ads is all about getting users to make a purchase or take a desired action. The truth is it’s not. For example, you can run Facebook ads for so many different purposes. I run ads continually to figure out how to solve complex problems within my business.
In my opinion, the best time to start acquiring users and test market fit is right before you start building your product or service (if you’re building a B2C offering), or while in the process of going into Alpha. If your offering is heavily based on your ability to drive qualified leads, sales, and acquire customers at scale, then you need to understand your customers on a very deep and personal level.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Steve Weiss is an internet entrepreneur, and currently runs MuteSix.com, a team of data-driven customer acquisition fanatics that specialize in driving growth for e-commerce companies on Facebook, Adwords, and native ad platforms. In his spare time he loves to travel, play basketball, and watch House of Cards. A version of this article appeared on the author’s blog. Connect with @stevejweiss212 on Twitter.
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