Let’s talk about what you can do with a tiny marketing budget of just $200, if you do everything right.
This case study is about the content marketing promotion of the startup Textly.AI – a grammar checker for English content. The experts at Smile Bright Media Inc. embarked on a very ambitious task: to bring the company as many new users as possible using the most innovative and cost-efficient approaches.
During the past months, our team has been actively involved in the content marketing promotion of the Textly.AI startup. This tool can be used by any person writing in English online. No matter if it’s business emails, blog posts or social media communications, you need your writing to be perfect to achieve your goal, whether it is explaining project details to a colleague or attracting potential matches to your Tinder profile.
We've tried several interesting approaches to budget-sensitive content marketing, and they have been a real success. So, today I will share some insights, practical examples, and tactical advice that you will be able to use for your startup marketing campaign if you want to attract thousands of users from all over the world.
Step #1. Show HN
Hacker News is one of the top websites in the tech and startups niche. It is a Reddit-like web page where any user can submit links to content, ask questions, or share interesting startups via the Show HN feature. If your project spends at least 10-15 minutes on the home page, it will bring you hundreds of new visitors.
Show HN is a section of the Hacker News site where regular users or startup founders can share links to websites, apps, tools they find interesting or have made, and so on. It is super-easy to use and post on, and it’s free. If the community likes your project, it will hit the homepage, meaning you get new visitors, as well as the opportunity to analyze conversion, expand your email list, etc.
It is tough to hit the home page: the HN community is sometimes somewhat aggressive and not overly friendly, but the risk is almost zero. In a worst-case scenario, you spend $0 and get low traffic. This is what happened in our case. However, having a link on such a popular website can't do any harm at all.
Step #2. Betapage & Betalist
These are two websites using a similar model of a directory with startup descriptions. You can submit your startup for free and wait months to see it published, or pay a specific fee to skip the line, and get featured on the home page and in the weekly newsletter.
When we published at Betapage, the pricing plan was as follows:
Placement on the homepage for one day: $28
Two days: $48
Three days: $68
Four days: $88
A mention in the weekly newsletter was an additional $30, so you should sum up these costs. From our experience, Betapage’ has poor traffic which converts equally poorly. One day on the home page and featuring in the newsletter did not bring even a hundred new registrations.
Betalist was more expensive: featuring on the homepage amounted to $129, but you can also submit your startup for free, it is just a matter of waiting (~1 month). We decided to go with a paid listing and got 452 unique visits in the several weeks following the publication. However, the majority of visitors and users were acquired on the date the description was published.
As can be clearly seen, most of our $200 budget went on the Betapage and Betalist listings. We can freely admit that we could have saved more by skipping the former as it provided zero value.
Step #3. International content marketing
The audience of Textly.AI is anyone who writes in English, and there are millions of such people throughout the world living in non-English speaking countries. This is why we decided to experiment with content marketing in different languages as well, including Spanish and Russian.
Content marketing in Spanish
For Spanish content marketing we came up with a two websites to post our content on:
Taringa.net – Reddit for Latin America with more than 21m users.
Meneame.net – 9.5m visitors, lots of them from Spain.
Also, we created a list of subreddits used by people from Latin countries.
r/aprendeingles/ – a subreddit about English learning
/r/es/ - a sub for Spanish-speaking people, 14k users;
/r/argentina/ – 92k subscribers;
/r/vzla/ – sub for people from Venezuela, 34,5k subscribers;
/r/Colombia/ - 13,8k users;
/r/chile/ - 48k users.
We found a Spanish speaking translator via Upwork, and ordered a translation of a couple of our blog posts previously published in English. Once we had the translations we published them on Medium.com and shared the links to Meneame, Taringa, and Reddit.
The result exceeded all expectations. We've not only got dozens of registrations and active discussions on Reddit, Meneame, and Taringa, but editors of Spanish-speaking online media outlets got interested in T.ai. The project's review published by a wwwhat's new website gave as around 2000 visitors in just a couple of days.
Content marketing in Russian
Also, we have several native Russian-speaking marketing professionals in our team, and as this language is one of the most actively used on the web (especially in Eastern Europe) we also decided to work with some websites and communities in this region.
Here is the list of websites we used:
Pikabu.ru – one of the biggest UGC-communities in the world, 104m visitors.
Habr.com – biggest IT-related community in Eastern Europe, 38m visitors.
VC.ru – "Russian TechCrunch" with UGC content, 7m visitors.
On these sites we posted project announcements in Russian, and translations from the corporate blog, while also leveraging guerilla marketing. Very quickly it brought us around 2000 new users.
As you can see, at almost no cost, we got several thousand visitors and hundreds of registrations. However, the most exciting part of the experiment was still ahead. I am talking about Product Hunt.
Step #4. Product hunt
You can find dozens of write-ups and guides on launching your startup on Product Hunt, so we won't dive deep in it and will instead simply cover the key details you should be aware of.
First of all, read the guide written by the PH team, which is the best thing you can do. There are three main points on this document:
There is no need to find a hunter anymore. In the beginning, all subscribers of a specific user got a notification when he or she published ("hunted") a new product. This is why it was a good idea to find a power user ("hunter") to post your startup. This would give you a boost from the very beginning. Today there is no such thing as notifications for subscribers, so there is no difference in posting a link by yourself or asking someone else to do it.
You can link directly to your PH listing. Nobody knows for sure how the algorithm responsible for forming the PH homepage works. The popular legend is that it penalizes startups if there are a lot of likes generated right from the project's listing page, and vice versa, ie, it ranks higher projects that are found via the search, and only then liked. This is bullshit, as you can link directly to your listing page.
You can't ask for upvotes. This is true, and you'll get penalized. However, Product Hunt allows asking for support and comments, as well as questions. This means you can share with your social networks a message like "Hey all! We're now live on Product Hunt, here is the link <URL>, visit our page, comment, share your experience with the product, ask your questions. Thanks for your support!" – this is fine.
These are facts that many people even today are not aware. Here are also some other important things to know:
While you actually do not have to, it is still a good idea to find a hunter. People who are popular on Product Hunt usually have a huge following on other platforms like Twitter as well. This means, even though their PH subscribers won't get notified about your new listing being published, the hunter may share the link to Twitter on or Facebook which will give you a boost anyway. However, if you are struggling to find and negotiate with a hunter, it is better to speed the process up and do everything by yourself.
Be aware, releasing your product on Product Hunt is a job in itself. Prepare yourself for a very hectic 24 hours at least — each new day and the new race for the championship it brings starts at 00:00 Pacific Time. To have the most significant room for promotion of your project, you have to publish at the beginning of a new day and be online for the next 24 hours to ask potential questions and reply to users who share their experience with the product.
After the 24 hours expire, nothing ends. Even if you did not manage to get onto the list of top products and weren’t featured in the newsletter, the homepage of PH displays the top 15-20 projects of each day. This means you will get additional time on the homepage if your rating continues to grow.
Also, there is a Q&A section at PH. Users can recommend other tools listed on the website, and having your product included in such listings is a massive help in getting more visitors and registrations.
Textly.AI did not manage to end the first day in the top five. However, our content marketing strategy involved the promotion of the listing over the following couple of weeks as well. This allowed us first of all to remain on the homepage for several additional days, and second, our upvotes counter continued to grow, which allowed the project to be ranked higher in the lists of alternatives for competing products.
For example, Textly.AI is now a top alternative to the most popular product on the market, Grammarly:
You can support your listing for a long time using a Product Hunt upvotes button for your website. For example, we've put it into the blog posts section on Textly.AI website so that readers of the company's blog can support the project right from the page they are already on:
Here is the break down of our total spending:
Betapage: $58 (one-day promo and the link in the newsletter)
Spanish translations: $13
Product Hunt: $0
As a result, we got:
3000 users from Spanish and Russian speaking websites,
600 users from Product Hunt,
450 users from Betalist.
More than 4000 users for just $200. Sure, we have some foreign native speakers in the team, which made the task a bit easier, but still, content marketing techniques such as these seem to be very effective for startups operating on a tight budget.
Want help with hitting Product Hunt and promoting your startup? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will do our best!