One of the really “hard things” about the startup game is getting on a growth trajectory that grows exponentially. VCs debate how fast you should be growing on a weekly basis. But one thing about growth is clear. Instead of having the occasional bump in sales or growth, high growth startups are systematic in how they pursue their results. In particular, the heavy focus in this deep dive is on channel testing.
The following is based on a discussion with Nemo Cerovac (@ncerovac), the cofounding team member responsible for the explosive growth of FishingBooker, a site that has been dubbed the AirBnB of fishing charters.
Meeting customers where they already are–at first
In our first year, we spent a lot of time on the captains’ side. Finding things that worked for us. We realized that initially we could do 10% growth weekly by sending emails to captains.
We tried to target a couple of Captains in the same Harbor, call them up, talk with them. Initially, reactions were mixed. “Why would I sign up on the platform that is getting a commission from this? Why would I register there? You didn’t exist? I don’t know who you are.”
What started happening eventually was they heard from potential customers and previous customers. We were heavily targeting consumers with ads.
Once we got one or two captains from the Harbor, and we were killing it with Google ads, they start saying, “Oh, I got like two clients from this FishingBooker this month.” Moreover, the same Captains who were skeptical initially came back. They’re like, “Hey, you know you contacted me like three, four months ago. Let’s talk again.” It was a roller coaster.
Going and meeting everyone in person helped a lot. When we went to Florida, we were going from Harbor to Harbor. Just meeting people there. Just talking with them, showing them the platform, and just meeting every notable potential user.
In the end, I think it was the user drive that got us the captains. At first, it’s also no harm. You’re showing captains the approach: “Hey, this looks professional. You don’t need to do anything. If we get you some bookings, then we earn something from it.”
Growing the user base
There were a lot of chicken and egg problems. To be honest, Vukan’s mindset helped a lot. Vukan, the CEO, was super focussed. We were really pushing hardcore. We were figuring out each channel. For users, we figured out that the best channel for consumers at the start was paid advertising: Google ads. Finding them where they are, not where you want them to be.
Basically, most people search for “fishing charters in Maldives” when they’re preparing for the trip. Or they just reserved a hotel, and now they want to plan their activities. That’s the moment of strongest intent. The easiest moment to convert.
Once we figured that out, we then just focused on adding money. To convert as many as possible. We were trying to stick to this ratio where 30% of the revenue goes to paid advertising. We were pushing hard.
The Golden Numbers
Every Monday, we would have this white board in front of us. We listed our golden numbers. Golden numbers are the metrics that are the most important for your product–to make it or break it, at that stage. [Ed note: check out this KPI checklist to choose golden metrics for your team].
In our early days, our golden numbers were: