Exactly one year ago, I started working at The Next Web.
Having graduated just three days earlier, I was fresh out of college and both scared and excited at the same time. Luckily, I already had some marketing experience at several early start-ups and a freelance marketing project, so I wasn’t completely unprepared. I was eager to start working on a brand new product TNW had just launched: TNW Deals, a curated marketplace housing the best tech deals out there. Think drones, gifts, courses, VPNs and even a humanoid.
TNW Deals launched in August 2014, four months before I joined as its Marketing Manager. Initially it started as a trial to see whether e-commerce and publishing would be a good fit. And wow, it was. In the first month, TNW Deals generated three times as much revenue than was expected.
Needless to say, I felt it was on to something bigger.
Looking back, it was a great ride. We started out with just two people, and grew the team to five by the end of the year. In many ways, 2015 was a playground — playing, digging, building, falling, laughing – we did it all. Inevitably, with that comes growth and lessons learnt. Below are some things I wish I’d known from the beginning.
With every new project or product, there’s one thing you want to do as quickly as you can: grow.
While it’s very tempting to just start moving Heaven and Earth to accomplish this, having a purpose is the most important business factor and is the driving force behind every decision you make. This doesn’t mean you have to write a 30-page business plan, it can be as simple as just 10 lines on your text editor. But it should answer two very important questions: “Why…” and “How…”.
For example: we wanted TNW Deals to attribute to the same core values as TNW — current, funny and witty. This led us to the eventual choice of engaging with our audience on social media through posting funny gifs and videos like this one:
The only way to create a truly indestructible iPhone case pic.twitter.com/UD8RaD83WL
— TNW Deals (@TNWDeals) January 5, 2016
Some products will never sell and some products will sell themselves
We add around 50 new items to our store every week and I’m amazed by the different responses every single one of them gets.
While some products are wildly popular and sold a hundred or even a thousand times (hey there, SKEYE hexa drone), some of them we didn’t sell a single unit.*sad*
Over the months it became a lot easier to pinpoint why a product didn’t perform well in our store. Either the price was too high, the product images were not that great, or… there was no need for the product in the first place.
You can post as much as your want about a product, but if no body wants or needs it, no marketing channel can fix that for you. Adversely, a good product will sell itself. The only thing you have to do is give it a hand.
Presentation is key
After running several blogposts, ads and social media posts, we can say that presentation really does matter.
We saw big increases in CTR and conversion rates with just using a different image, a different tagline or a different call-to-action button. Mix and match your visual style and copy for different segments within your target group. Note: sometimes your least favorite stockphoto will work the best. Sorry.
Use and engage with your audience
Luckily I could leverage TNW’s audience for TNW Deals. However, we felt like it needed its own place, too. We grew our Facebook fans and Twitter following to 11,000 and 24,000 over the past year and learned a lot about what people actually want to see. Nobody wants to see offers all. the. time. But, from a marketing standpoint, we also have to maintain a posting schedule to remain top of mind. So we entertained readers with funny videos and gifs. This made it easier for us to level and talk with our audience and to have fun together. Remember: you won’t build trust by giving people the feeling they’re being sold to all the time.
Try, fail and improve
You might think “yeah, yeah.. whatever” when reading this caption. Working on TNW Deals has always been a process of trying, failing and improving. We set up our tracking early (both in Google Analytics and spreadsheets), so we could measure our results and act on them quickly. We always focused on improving two to three things at the same time, so we’d be able to prioritize actions based on the results. We abandoned some things that didn’t work, and focused on things that díd.
Listen to your team and to people from the outside
No project is a one-(wo)man job. By opening yourself towards other people’s ideas, even those you might doubt at the beginning, you’ll discover a whole array of possibilities. More than once, another team member came up with a great idea that I either didn’t think of or consider very brilliant — and it ended up leading to great results. When we’re out of ideas, I turn to people outside of TNW and come back feeling energized and refreshed. Get rid of that tunnel vision!
Have fun and don’t take yourself or your project too seriously
Building a great company culture is important. We host Cocktail Fridays, bowling tournaments, Christmas dinners and celebrate our big wins with champagne. But building a team culture might be even more important.
I regularly go out on walks with my team, have beers with them after work, make jokes together and play ping pong. By celebrating both our project and bond, motivation to work towards something better together increases and openness towards each other’s ideas and ways of thinking expands.
I’m positive this year will bring even more lessons and insights and I can’t wait to see what they are.
This is a #TNWLife article, a look into life and work at The Next Web.