Make your product contagious

The difference between social media and old school media is community. Dan Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness says you need to create a community around your product. Find the meaning in what you are doing. Are you increasing your user's quality of life, righting something that is wronging your users, or are you preventing the end of something good for your users. Make  a mantra that allows you to communicate the meaning of what you are trying to do. Finding meaning and making a mantra allows you and your team to focus on what moves you towards your goal. It also allows your community to easily talk about what you are doing so they can convert more people into your followers.

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Your users need to see that they are playing a part in that community. Zarrella says to personalize your product to your user by using the user's name as much as possible. Give them a personal invitation to join the conversation. For example, log into Facebook and take a look at the comment thread. You profile picture and name are there at the top asking you to create a post. 

People want to be the first. There is always a way to reward your first users, do it. Give them first access to new designs, new features, badges, … Allow them to do more than a regular user, but put their name next to anything they are doing so they can show off. Don’t just write them a letter asking for their advice and show them what you are working on. 

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Provide social proof that there is a party in your product. Facebook does a great job at this either by showing how many people have signed up or which of your friends have signed up. Show that there is a line outside of your restaurant. If you can, polarize people. Your users are your community and if they are not part of the club, they are not cool. 

First movers are great but you also need to create a way to cross the chasm. If your product needs a pay subscription, allow people to take a free test drive. If you have a free product, allow people to use it with out signing in, but make them sign in to access other features. Let a hundred flowers blossom. You will see user use your product in unintended ways. Let them and learn from them. Finally, don’t ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.

Measure your assumptions

The AARRR Framework points out the five things you need to concentrate on while your product is live: acquisition, activation, referral, retention, and revenue. From the beginning guess what you think your users are going to do and measure against those beliefs. The first step is to acquire users from various channels. Not all marketing channels are alike. Concentrate on high volume, low cost, high conversion channels.


Next, make sure these visitors enjoy their first experience. The first time someone sees your product is the time when you have more attention than you ever will again. These visitors need to engage with the site and this might need a strong onboarding process. Flatten the learning curve as much as possible. The best learning comes from making conscious decisions. Make sure these decisions lead the user to a page that is not blank. 

The best onboarding processes take their time but allow the new user to skip ahead. Explain what your product is and break down the product into steps. Ask questions instead of explaining and get new users to engage. Show what happens when a user engages with your product. Allow the user to add their friends. Finally, put the user into the product only when ready, but allow skipping.Onboarding


One thing is getting a user to come to your product, but you will be fighting an uphill battle if they don’t come back. Make sure you analyze month over month usage. Break down your analysis. Who used your product in the first month, who came back in the second month? Show the number of days each user visited in month one by the percent who visited that number of days in the second month.

Break down your users into groups core, casual, and cold. Who are the core users and what defines a core user. Look at the actions they take and the feedback they received from the community. Learn what actions and feedback a causal user could take and receive to transition to a core user. Do the same for the transition between cold and casual. 

When users like your product they will refer others. Referral can be measured by the viral coefficient which must be greater than 1 to have viral growth. 

K = i * conv%

K = Viral Coefficient

i = Number of invites sent out be each new customer

conv% = The percentage of invites that convert into customers

Finally you need to find out a way get your dollar out of your user’s purse while paying attention to how long it takes to run through the entire AARRR cycle. If your cycle takes too long you won’t make much money.


If you don’t have thousands of users and you are not building, you don’t need a paycheck. Even if you are building, don’t quit your day job until the community is big enough. What to pay people

Investor Deck

Keep your first investor decks simple. Every investor I have ever met has asked for something different. It will never been perfect and the answer to everything. You will not land the investment with the first visit. 

10 slides and 30pt font minimum:

  • Title
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Business model
  • Underlying magic
  • Marketing and sales
  • Competition
  • Team
  • Projections
  • Status and timeline

Tune in

There are so many ways to tap into the startup conversation. People love to share what worked and what didn’t. Check out these startup podcasts.