Xobni and Dropbox, two highly successful VC-backed ventures, had an impressive growth in their users within a fairly short period of time (2 million users within 2 years). Adam Smith of Xobni has a presentation discussing some many of the lessons learned from the experience of these two startups.
Of the strategies they tried, they used “learn without launching” techniques to gauge market fit: including AdWords tests, landing pages, and building a list of email addresses of people interested in the product.
Their private beta launches were also used to create scarcity and buzz, which further increased their waiting lists. In addition, they made it very easy for users to tell their friends via social media. A referral program even resulted in a 50% increase in signups.
Finally, and perhaps the most important point any entrepreneur needs to calculate, the acquisition cost of customers offset by the total lifetime value of that customer. Finding the cheapest way to acquire customers while maximizing the lifetime value of that customer is the key to any business (some examples, including Netflix, are included).
Check out the slides. It’s a great set of lessons learned for two highly successful consumer-facing sites that focused on doing one thing, and one thing very well.