“There are two kinds of people in this world: the workers and the hustlers. The hustlers never work and the workers never hustle.”
Yes, I just quoted a line from “Cocktail.” It’s a movie that aligns well with the world of tech as we know it today. Being an entrepreneur today involves getting noticed in a hyper competitive environment — if you are not backed by Andreessen Horowitz or partnered with a celebrity investor like Ashton Kutcher, you are going to have to hustle to get noticed.
Nobody knows you, and they don’t know about your product. Where do you go from here?
If you’re building apps, that initial obstacle may seem especially steep. There are more than 900,000 apps in the Apple App Store and more than 850,000 apps available for Android. You have to smartly promote your app, otherwise you’re a drop in the ocean.
When my co-founder and I built our own app, we knew we had to stand out. That’s why we took my 1973 Volkswagen bus, which happened to be orange, and drove 2,000 miles for six weeks, at an average of 55 miles per hour.
We made sure to hit every major college between our starting point in Tulsa and our ending point in New York City. We combed through student unions to talk about our app. We even, thanks to a chance encounter, guest-lectured to MBA-level classes at the University of Alabama. By the end of our journey, we’d increased our user base by 40 percent.
We were still only two guys in an orange bus. Really, it’s not about manpower. It’s about the hustle. Here are some of the simple things that we did in order to get our app noticed from nothing.
Think Big & Own It
It’s been said that the Yankees always win because other teams can’t stop looking at the pinstripes on their uniforms. When you hold yourself with authority and speak with confidence, people perceive you as being important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a brand-new company and nobody’s heard of your app.
At South by Southwest (SXSW), we deliberately presented ourselves as the new app to know about. We’d pitch our “hot new app” to everybody who looked like somebody. If a guy across the street was getting out of his Ferrari, we’d run across to pitch him. We made sure that anyone with a SXSW badge knew about us. The result? We pitched big names like Mark Cuban and Tim Ferriss face to face. We landed an hour long sit down with Shaq. All because we had our game faces on and we had the mindset that they should be talking to us. You have to believe in yourself and get excited if you want other people to get excited.
Find the gatekeepers
If you want to get to know someone famous, and it’s not possible to get in touch with them directly, target their gatekeepers first. At SXSW, Shaq held a contest where you could pitch him through the mobile video messaging app Tout. We submitted a pitch, but it went through late. We didn’t end up winning the contest.
When Shaq announced the winner, he pointed out two guys sitting in the front row, saying that he never made any decisions without them. We immediately realized that these men were Shaq’s gatekeepers. We approached them after the talk and told them we thought they’d made a mistake and would appreciate 30 seconds of their time, after a 5 minute discussion, we had our meeting with Shaq on the books. We targeted the gatekeepers, and it led us into the boardroom.
A rising tide lifts all boats
When you treat people politely from the get-go, you end up creating good memories for both yourself and the person you’re interacting with. If you ever need help yourself, they’ll remember you as a likeable person. If they don’t like you, they’ll think that helping you is waste of time.
When we spoke at the two entrepreneurship classes at the University of Alabama, it was win-win-win, all because we were happy to help a professor interested in having us speak. We provided him with a new teaching tool. The students got to hear about our firsthand experience as entrepreneurs, and we had the opportunity to tell the class about our product. We built good memories of the experience for everyone.
Getting it done
I’m not saying that driving around the country in an orange bus and pitching everyone you meet is the only way to promote your app. It’s just one of many ways to make your product stand out. When you have the confidence as though you’re the hottest new business to hit the market, meet important people either face-to-face or via their gatekeepers and always lend a helping hand, promotion will take care of itself.
My mantra? Always be closing — and never knock the hustle.