This past Monday evening, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a fireside-format "Experts for Entrepreneurs" hosted by Tipping Point Partners. There were 4 startups at early stages of development (just launched or just about to, in all cases), and despite some variance around their service/product and customer/user focus, common themes (and problems) were of course, User Acquisition and Engagement.
While these topics can and do merit deep reflection and rigorous testing, one thing that kept surfacing in my mind and throughout the discussion was a focus on Catalyzing Events. In one case, a "friend-of-friends" dating site conveyed having early traction but wondered aloud how best to both grow and sustain their User Base. In another, a site that links travelers with locals also pondered these issues.
Many companies iterate on an intuitive idea and successfully build great services/products around them and but neglect the fact that the Calendar may sometimes be a powerful tool at their disposal. Particularly in these cases, where the two startups are focusing on solving friction around actual interpersonal and experiential activity, it's very possible that Time and Event-based initiatives might drive higher engagement and encourage Users to share and broadcast more with their networks.
In the case of the dating site, we contemplated that one of the most common and effective enviroments for "setups" is a group dinner, or small party. Why not organize one, (or better, several, with specific relevant hooks like cultural/activity interests), revolving around the arrival (albeit slowly!) of Spring in NYC? Then Users would have a clear Call to Action, a finite time horizon for specific engagement, and a compelling reason to share with friends and possible New Users.
In many cases, venues and brands would be more than happy to foot the bill for food, beverage, and space for these kind of events (and of course, pay up in the future for cross-marketing.. Monetization anyone?) so the cost of acquisition can easily end up being at or close to zero.
Catalyzing Events provide a well-formed reason to act and engage as well as something concrete to share with networks and can work wonders for User Acquisition as well as deeper and more sustained engagement.
GN | 13 Apr 11