If you’re ready for a bump to your user acquisition efforts (see our leaky funnel post to check) a great tactic for startups can be the press.

The first step is having an understanding what type of audience you want to attract. The ideal channel is one that gives you access to your target customer, and builds your credibility with that customer. Assuming you’re interested in the early-adopter entrepreneur crowd, TechCrunch, Hacker News and influential bloggers in the space can work really well.

Reaching Out Cold

There’s a great post by New York City based Vinicius Vacanti of Yipit.com, who breaks down the way he successfully cold emailed TechCrunch in this way:

  • Tell a Story. For UnHub, we reference the much talked about new Skittles corporate website had just launched as a decentralized experience. UnHub was a way for anyone to create that Skittle experience.
  • Ride Current Trend. For 140it, in 2009, lots of people were building Twitter tools to “fill holes”.
  • Reference Blogger’s Previous Posts. For both UnHub and 140it, you’ll see that we picked out a previous TechCrunch post where the author had made a point that was consistent with the project we were pitching.
  • Exclusivity. echCrunch would much rather cover a new startup that hasn’t been covered before. So, we password protected both 140it and UnHub and told them we wanted them to cover our project first.
  • Concise. Do not go off and write huge essays. Get to the point of what your startup does right away.
  • Humility. With both 140it and UnHub, we were careful to admit the simplicity of the project.
  • Admit competitors. You have competitors, admit them. The blogger will have to look them up if you don’t. That means they will have to do more work reducing the chances they cover your startup.
  • Give them assets. If the site is private, give them beta invites. Create a demo video so they can add it to their post about you (we did that for both 140it and UnHub). They don’t have to be professionally done. Just record yourself using the site with a voiceover. If it makes sense, create an example account on behalf of the blogger as we did with UnHub for Michael Arrington. Throw in some screenshots if you don’t have a demo.

You can see the two example pitches on Vinicius’s blog here. As far as results, over a two-day period – the first startup Vinicius pitched, 140it got 4,000 unique visitors, while the second UnHub got 7,000.

Get Creative

Thinking creatively about your approach can work well when approaching influential bloggers, who are hunting for interesting content and can be approachable. There’s a great post on Hacker News by a startup called Voice Bunny, which goes into how they were able to get strong coverage by influential VC blogger Fred Wilson.

Instead of simply reaching out, Voice Bunny’s founders served up content for Fred by using their technology to have a voice over made of his blog. They then added this content on a url similar to Wilson’s avc.com and called it avc.fm.

After the avc.fm came to his attention, he proceeded to send out a tweet to his 207,000 (at the time) followers. Later, Fred went into a blog post detailing Voice Bunny’s product, and went further to use their embed code on his blog – which Voice Bunny conveniently had made ready.

And now, I’m even covering the approach for GrowHack. Looks like a win for Voice Bunny.

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