One of the toughest challenges startups face is the transition from small fry to big fish. The secret “growth” formula behind each business is very different! The race to the top is seeing who can determine their proven growth strategy first while capitalizing on it.
I sat down with Steve Deckert, Co-Founder and Marketing Lead for Sweet Tooth and discussed with him some of the early stage growth tactics his team used to grow their business from 30 customers to over 3000+.
Sweet Tooth is a Canadian-based E-commerce loyalty platform for online businesses. The platform helps brands increase sales through points-based programs and campaigns. Started in 2011, Sweet Tooth has since raised more than $2.25 million in seed funding.
From our interview together, I highlighted three key learnings points below:
1) Pre-sell your Product
“We identified a need, where no solution existed.”
Before Steve and his co-founders built a product, they had already generated sales. How? By speaking to potential customers and simply asking if they would put money down for Sweet Tooth to be built. Not only does pre-selling provide early financial funds to carry out development costs, but it also acts as the strongest form of customer validation.
Magento is an opensource E-commerce platform that helps businesses sell to customers online. Browsing through the Magento forums, the Sweet Tooth team noticed a need for a loyalty rewards function. After talking to 300 people through cold emails and phone calls, around 35 people expressed interest in a solution. Steve mentioned that even if he could not get a customer to pre-pay, he would try to get them to verbally commit.
2) Involve your Core Customers
“If you make other people successful, you will generally be successful.”
Your first set of paying customers are extremely important because they act as a sample size of the bigger market. Their feedback will help you determine whether your product and marketing is working or not. Involving your customers in the product development phase of the business will create an evangelical-like relationship. As Steve puts it, if you make other people successful, in general you will be successful as well. Your core customers can help create half of your users through word of mouth marketing.
What really helped kick-launch Sweet Tooth were positive testimonials and reviews on third-party websites. By establishing a personable relationship with customers, Steve and his team were able to rally a team of vocal ambassadors. People who will verbally market your product to others, for absolutely no cost to you!
To this date, Steve is still in touch with many of his first customers. He always tries his best to meet in person or video call for meetings. The customer sales team has since been expanded to offer the same great service to Sweet Tooth’s 3000+ customers.
3) Be Human
“If you understand people enough, you can present things in a way people want to be a part of.”
The last piece of advice that Steve shared is the the importance of preserving a human element while building a business. At the end of the day, your business is for the people! If you can put yourself in your customers shoes and make a connection, they will be on your team. This could means tweeting at individual customers, sending personalized emails, or showcasing the employees behind Sweet Tooth. Essentially, anything that helps build a human connection between business and customer.
In the online web product industry, customers would much rather pay an up-front cost over a subscription fee. When Sweet Tooth made this exact change after their 2.25M seed funding, part of their easy transition was due to strong customer relationships.
Becoming the standard for loyalty online
Starting as what was originally a side project, Sweet Tooth today is a fledgling startup growing at a healthy 15%+ customers per month. Things are looking really exciting for Sweet Tooth as they hope to launch on other platforms. Their goal? To become the standard for loyalty online.
I would like to give a huge thanks to Steve for sharing his words of wisdom. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out the company blog. To end things off, here are a few fun questions we asked Steve!
When people don’t believe in themselves.
Cups of Coffee:
Usually 3 extra-large cups a day.
Wake up, read the news, clear our emails & notifications, shower, food, head to work, and grab a coffee.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Transformers:
Definitely Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! I remember once getting two of the same Ninja Turtle puzzles for Christmas and I decided to keep both since I loved them so much.
This is my own quote – “Life is a vacation”. Just as we go on “vacations” to experience new things and feel different, this same approach can be used for life! You only have one life. If there is anything worth doing, you should be happy doing it.