The final day of South By Southwest Interactive is upon us. I’m torn between never wanting to leave this incredible festival, where I’m surrounded by brilliant folks from all walks of life … and wanting to sleep for a month. I’m going to squeeze the last bits of knowledge juice I can from the final day’s panels and share everything here with y’all (I’ve been here so long I’m talking like the natives).
The Building Blocks of Community with Product Hunt
Carmel DeAmicis – Freelance Reporter
Ryan Hoover – CEO & Founder at Product Hunt
Very early on in tracking who was signing up for Product Hunt’s newsletter, they noticed Ashton Kutcher had signed up unsolicited by them. They recorded a video to introduce themselves and sent it to him. He responded, exciting them that he was paying attention, and eventually he became an investor in Product Hunt.
Q: What makes Hoover so passionate about launching new products?
A: The process of creating is what he enjoys the most. Not even the finished product and much as the creation of it. Tech creation is the same as any art form in his eyes and he wants to encourage that.
Q: Background before Product Hunt?
A: Background in product management. Got an internship at the American Marketing Association and then an internship at a video game company. Learned lessons working at a failed company. Then was a product manager at a gaming company. Eventually grew tired of working for a company that had a product he wouldn’t use.
Q: How did Hoover start building his network?
A: A lot at the beginning were friends and colleagues. Began writing and blogging more and more. Started a weekly newsletter asking founders one question. It didn’t take off, but it was enough to start building connections and lasting relationships with people. He uses Twitter a lot, reads a lot of blogs, shares blog posts and makes sure to tag the author. Add personality or have a take on a post when you share it.
Q: How did you learn the strategies?
A: Part of it is reading a lot. Suffers from impostor syndrome. Who am I to write a blog post or give advice. He’s also written posts on being OK with being an expert.
Q: What were the early steps to start building Product Hunt?
A: In the beginning, he’d go to Phil’s (a coffee shop in San Fran) every morning and he created the email list and put it on Twitter and Quib. He didn’t do a lot of promo, but he put it out there and waited to see what happened. Lots of people kept giving positive feedback and saying they were using it every day. At that point, they built the website and began to reach out to early contributors to the email. Sourced feedback from those early contributors. Got their opinions and got them invested in Product Hunt from the start. When the first post went live, they asked those early contributors to share it and they were happy to, being invested in it, having built those authentic relationships.
Q: What role did scarcity play in building the community?
A: Not having it open would have been a disaster for them. They couldn’t manage it if it was open to all. It let them build the culture they wanted. They wanted it to be a positive place with an authentic conversation. Then reached out to early members and asked if they wanted to invite like-minded people.
Q: How are you going to build a community that’s not in the space you’ve been in (tech)?
A: The reality is, early adopters are growing and has spread outside of the tech community. We just need to package and display it in a different way for other verticals. Attract them through tech and know that some in the tech community have those other outside interests they may want to grow into.
Disrupting The Marketingplace
Dan Macklin – Co-Founder, VP at SoFi
Tim Morse – CEO – Ten-X
Heather Ladage – Publisher at Austin Business Journal
Tom Gonser – Founder, CSO at DocuSign
Gonser: When we got started, it wasn’t called SaaS. There was no cloud. We just decided to turn the industry inside-out and do it a different way than had ever been done.
Macklin: Saw a market begging for innovation and looking for something new. Then you have to convince investors that it COULD be an industry.
Gosner: When you’re starting something that’s never been done before, there’s no pattern. It’s hard to convince people to be as crazy as you are.
Morse: The innovator’s dilemma: Kodak invented the digital camera and then didn’t want to tank their film business. Now they’re out of business. You’ve got numbers to meet and investors don’t have patience for complex stories.
Gonser: Costs twice and much and takes twice as long than you think it will. You need to stay a little bit paranoid and be reactive. Mine the data within your app. See what’s really happening in your user base.
Morse: With existing markets, the recipe is out there to disrupt them. Just listen to the people that don’t like what’s going on today.
Gonser: We call that building a moat. The best one you can build is a network. A community that supports what you’re doing. Try and avoid a feature battle or a price battle.
Morse: You have to develop a culture that keeps you on the leading edge. The biggest key I always found is you have to have a great mechanism for creating change.
Macklin: It was really important in the beginning for us to get media recognition as a “disruptor.”
Gosner: Being on a disruptive list is important to us to get our name out, but some big companies like banks may not like the notion of disruptive.
Morse: Early on, what you absolutely have to do is optimize for learning. Don’t optimize for revenue, doing it for learning will take you so much further. Let it evolve naturally from there.
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