When my co-founder and I started Crazy Egg, we had barely enough cash to support the business. We didn’t have a ton of paying customers, and the business was losing roughly $30,000 a month.
Although that doesn’t seem like a lot of cash, when you are self-funded and living in your parent’s house, it all adds up.
So, how did we grow the business to over 100,000 customers? For starters, we used to have a free plan, which helped a lot. You probably see advertisements for Crazy Egg all over the web although we’ve had over 100,000 customers for years. Before that point, we didn’t have a big marketing budget… all we had was $10,000.
So, how did we do it?
Before we launched Crazy Egg, we made our homepage a landing page that collected your name and email address so you could be notified when we launched. On that landing page, we also included a screenshot of our beta product so that you could see what the application looked like.
The only issue was that no one was coming to the site, which meant we weren’t collecting any emails.
What we decided to do was to go to all of the CSS galleries and spend $10,000 on one-time ad buys. These sites were getting hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of visitors a month from web designers who were our ideal customers.
Through the CSS galleries, we were able to collect almost 20,000 emails so that when we launched the product, we could do a blast to everyone.
In addition to that, when we launched the site, we coded it using CSS standards. This allowed us to submit our design to each gallery. Many of them showcased our design, which drove 23,294 visitors and helped drive new users.
If you are looking to drive traffic to your site, be creative. There are always sites out there in your vertical that have traffic but aren’t making too much money. Try to strike a deal with them so that they can promote your product or service at a low cost.
When you are on a shoestring budget, you can’t afford to hire a PR firm. Instead of hiring a PR firm, we created a list of all of the popular news blogs in the tech space and offered the writers a free $99 Crazy Egg account.
We then helped them set up Crazy Egg on their blog so they could see how it worked. Because the product was so visual, they naturally wanted to share the heatmaps and other reports Crazy Egg provided.
The key to our success was that we didn’t just give them a premium account to play with, we also helped them analyze the reports and gave them feedback on what they should change with their overall design.
If you follow this strategy, you’re going to get a lot of journalists who will ignore you, but if you continually follow up with them, some of them will eventually try your product. Expect 5 to 10% of the journalists to cover you using this approach if you have a decent product.
Our biggest acquisition channel came from partnerships. That alone drove more than 40% of our signups when we started out. So, what exactly do I mean by partnerships?
There are a lot of businesses that have a large user base but don’t make much money from each user. In essence, their margins are low.
Those businesses are always looking for new ways to make more money from each of their users. If you can offer their users a special version of your product for free, or at a discounted price, they can typically drive you thousands of signups. All you have to do is to give them a 10 to 30% cut of the revenue that comes from their users.
A good example of this is hosting companies. They typically have thin margins and are looking for ways to make more money off their user base. This is the main reason why GoDaddy constantly upsells you when you are checking out.
By attending hosting conferences like HostingCon, I was able to meet companies like Lunar Pages. Although they may seem small, they have thousands of customers and, more importantly, they are getting hundreds, if not thousands, of new customers each day.
So, we made deals with companies like Lunar Pages and offered every one of their new customers a free Crazy Egg account. This provided us with thousands of new users for each partner we signed up. Eventually, a percentage of those users converted into paid customers. We ended up keeping 70% of the revenue and paid 30% to our partners.
In addition to partnerships with hosting companies, we started to create partnerships with SEO agencies. By networking at events like Pubcon, Search Engine Strategies and SMX, I met hundreds of agencies. I offered them a free “premium” account that normally costs $99 a month. I did this because each agency had a nice book of business, and if they started using my product, I knew they would eventually recommend it to some of their customers.
By partnering with SEO agencies, we were also able to drive over 4,000 signups to Crazy Egg.
Business development is the fastest way to grow any business. Going to networking events and conferences and just meeting random people is a great way to expand your network. You should always focus on growing your network as it will open up doors for potential partnerships.
Speak at conferences
If someone can pay to attend a conference, it means they have money. If you can afford to buy a conference ticket for $500, you can afford to buy software that costs less than $100 a month.
To gain exposure for Crazy Egg, I would apply to speak at conferences and discuss whatever topic the conference organizer wanted me to talk about… even if it wasn’t related to analytics.
Instead of asking the organizer to pay for my travel expenses or to provide me with a speaking fee, I would kindly ask them to make Crazy Egg a sponsor of their event.
Sponsorships didn’t cost the conference a dime, and it provided us with additional exposure that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
When using this strategy, you’ll have to first start speaking at events and build up your conference resume. Once you’ve spoken at over fifteen events, you can start asking them if they will give you a free sponsorship. It’s unlikely to happen until you have spoken at least at a handful of conferences. Conferences don’t want to give away free sponsorships to unproven speakers.
There are millions of blogs out there, and many of them have a strong following. To boost our brand recognition, we compiled a list of all the popular bloggers using Technorati and offered them a free $99 Crazy Egg account.
We didn’t create any restrictions on the account, and we didn’t require them to blog on Crazy Egg. We just hoped that they would use our product.
The result was that many of the bloggers would show off their heatmaps on their blogs, which resulted in more signups for us.
Once we realized that bloggers loved our product, we hit the blog networks such as 9rules and offered all of their members a free premium Crazy Egg account. This again caused more people to blog about Crazy Egg, which helped drive signups.
Although a lot of people are on Twitter and Facebook these days, blogs are still a big part of the social web. Don’t take them for granted. Consider offering bloggers a free version of your product or service. Most bloggers don’t make money and love freebies.
Leverage your product
Once we learned that people love showing off their heatmaps, we decided to make the process easier.
As silly as this may sound, we created an export feature, which allowed the users to pull their pretty heatmaps and show them off to their visitors. We provided multiple export options to make this easy for any user, no matter what type of device they were using.
This helped us boost our traffic from image sites like Google image search as everyone was posting their heatmaps on image galleries like Flickr.
Marketing doesn’t just exist outside of your product. Leverage your product to help boost your signup rate… a good example of this is Dropbox. If you want more storage space, you have to invite friends and tell your Twitter followers about Dropbox. Your web app is a powerful marketing tool, so leverage it.
Although my background is in SEO, we didn’t leverage it the conventional way with Crazy Egg. Instead, we did keyword research to figure out what people searched for that was related to our product or service.
We then created a list of all of the potential keywords we wanted to target and created pages around them. For example, we have a whole support section that addressed many of the things you may do a Google search on when looking for answers about our product.
If you don’t have a budget to build links or hire some top-rate SEO consultant, there are ways you can do things yourself. There is always the Beginner’s Guide to SEO and the Advanced Guide to SEO that can teach you the ropes.
When you start your SEO efforts, don’t go for the conventional strategies that most people use such as link building. Try the unconventional methods like content marketing.
My co-founder and I were able to grow Crazy Egg to over 100,000 users with very little cash to spend on marketing. To make things tougher, we had to spend the majority of our time consulting so we could make enough cash to support Crazy Egg.
You have no excuse… go out there and get more users. You don’t need a big budget or a marketing background… you just need to be willing to work hard and think outside the box.
Creativity is what makes great marketing campaigns, not dollars.