How to Avoid Certain Death (in Business) 💀

Don’t run out of money. How the World's Most Successful Companies Landed Their First Customers

The first rule of business is “don’t run out of money”. 

Time is not on your side, especially if you’re a bootstrapped Founder or a small business. 

How do you avoid certain death? Where should you put your time when you’re just starting out so you don’t run out of runway? 

Facebook ads? Email? Press?

I own a Creative Agency. So does Dan. We both like money and wish we had more. So, you might (fairly) assume we’d suggest a content marketing solution at this point. 

But that’s not actually how we found our first customers for our own start-ups.

We secured our first customer with targeted outreach, a bottle of Baileys, and reckless regard for the UK's Bribery Act. 

It’s a story we discuss in this month's content marketing podcast special. 

In the episode, we discuss the right time to start using content marketing, and offer strategies to help you avoid common mistakes.

You can watch the full episode on YouTube here 👇

“Mike, you’ve just told me my business is going to die, I don’t have time to watch that. Give me the good stuff now”.

Ok. But watch it later 👀

Lesson #1 - you can learn more from the things successful companies do, than what they’re trying to sell you. 

With that in mind, I want to share some research that I think you’ll find useful 👇

Lenny’s Kickstarting Menu

How did the world's most successful companies land their first customers? 

Lenny Rachitsky (ex-Airbnb) surveyed the Founders of over 100 top companies and it turned out there are only really seven reliable ways to find your first 100 users:  

  1. Reach out to friends and colleagues

  2. Reach out to targeted strangers

  3. Go where your target audience hangs out (online or offline)

  4. Enlist influencers (paid or organically)

  5. Get press

  6. Create viral content

  7. Get physical placement (e.g. flyers, stickers, signs)

He calls it his ‘kickstarting menu

The strategies accounted for 99% of all early growth, and he broke it down further by business type.

The typical path to the first 1,000 users for consumer startups:

  1. Reach out to friends and colleagues (e.g. email them, post on social media, call them)

  2. Go where your target audience hangs out, online or offline (e.g. forums, Product Hunt, college campuses, Craigslist, etc.)

  3. Enlist influencers

If you’re a marketplace or platform (e.g. DoorDash, Cameo, Substack):

  1. Reach out to targeted strangers (e.g. DM celebs, email owners)

  2. Get physical placement (e.g. stickers, flyers)

  3. Enable your supply to drive your demand

If you have a remarkable story to tell (e.g. Airbnb, Spotify, Superhuman):

  1. Get press

  2. Try to create viral content

Your job is to pick an item and try it. Does it work for you and your business? If it works, order more. If it doesn’t, try something new off the menu. 

The majority of successful businesses found their early growth in just one or two channels. So, don’t be greedy and order everything on the menu. 

Full blog here:

Lenny's Newsletter
How to kickstart and scale a consumer business—Step 4: Find your early adopters by doing things that don’t scale
👋 Hey, Lenny here! Welcome to this month’s ✨ free edition ✨ of my newsletter. Each week I humbly tackle reader questions about product, growth, working with humans, and anything else that’s stressing you out about work. Subscribe to get each and every issue…
Read more

There are some fantastic examples for each strategy. It’s well worth a read. 

Two and three (reach out to targeted strangers & go where your target audience hangs out) were my go-to channels at the start of Learning Heroes. 

What are yours? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the private slack group (for paid members). Are you having success with any of the seven? Did you do something different? Are you tempted to try something else on the menu? Let me know. 

The Wrap-Up 🌯 

In case you missed it, here’s what the VAMO slack community has been up to throughout February.

Your Questions Answered: Timothy Armoo

In last month's edition of ‘Your Questions Answered’ we spoke to Timothy Armoo, who built and sold two successful businesses. 

Every month our VAMO paid members get to ask our guests questions specifically about their business. 

Just like Holger did 👇

What would you tell your younger self, not to do?  - Holger Bösch

Do not poo-poo the idea of company culture. 

I know. It sounds very fuzzy-wuzzy. 

When I was starting the game, and I’d listen to people say the secret to their success was ‘great people’, I’d be like “come on man, that’s some bullshit, tell me the thing you actually did that got you the customers, right?”.

But, it is true. A company is just a group of people that come together to solve a specific goal. So, your people are a big competitive advantage. 

Because of my own immaturity, at the beginning, I believed we could easily swap around people. “Oh, you’ve left, bring in someone new”. 

That was a bad mentality to have. 

In my next company, I will spend a lot of time thinking about the type of people we want and how the company culture can attract and keep them.

Read the rest of the article here.

Your Questions Answered: Timothy Armoo
Watch now (9 min) | 👋 Hello and welcome to this month's edition of community questions. This subscriber-only email is where we answer your questions submitted in our member-only Slack community…
Read more

Next Guest Annoucement ⚠️

New investor Steven Bartlett says his digital background gives him 'an  edge' on Dragons Den

Our next guest in the hot seat is Steve Bartlett.  Investor, host of the DOAC podcast, a Dragon on BBC's Dragon's Den, and is (annoyingly) pretty decent at football, too.

Believe it or not, he's also a fan of VAMO (yes, really) - so we're off to London to put your questions to him.

If you want to ask him a question about your business, join our paid community and gain access to our private slack here.

Unlock The Power Of Reactive Marketing 

When it’s pissing down outside, “cabin fever” can set in and you start to daydream about somewhere hot. The result? An increase in online searches for flights and holidays. 

Reactive marketing involves responding quickly to events, trends or customer behaviours in real time. 

Carrie Rose has built a business around this idea. In this VAMO edition, she shared how she does it, and how it can be used in small businesses and start-ups. You can watch/read it below.

Unlock the Power of Reactive Marketing ⚡️
Watch now (7 min) | When it’s pissing down outside, “cabin fever” can set in and you start to daydream about somewhere hot. The result? An increase in online searches for flights and holidays. Reactive marketing involves responding quickly to events, trends or customer behaviours in real time…
Read more

VAMO Member Shoutout 🚀

We love it when people try the strategies we suggest. And because we only suggest stuff that we do ourselves, we know they work. 

As Christine Smethurst discovered using the Waffle House Method to land a big new client.

Success in any area comes from doing the basics, every day. So, we’re really pleased to see Christine showing up daily and getting the results. 

Don’t forget to share your wins in the community slack channel so we can celebrate with you.

That’s all for this week. 

We hope you found it useful. 

If you’ve not already, don’t forget to subscribe to our paid community

You’ll get all of this: 

⚡ 1 x email per week that covers sales/marketing/growing your following with a coaching video.

⚡ Access to the private Slack community

⚡ Early access to watch the VAMO Podcast (1 week early)

⚡ Submit questions to be answered on the VAMO Podcast by Mike and Dan

⚡ Community meetups

For £150 for the year, it’s a real no-brainer 🧠

Free Newsletter
The Wrap Up is a monthly newsletter to our free community. It contains a condensed view of what we've been chatting about throughout the month.
Mike Winnet