This is a review of ThinkNation.ca they asked for advice from Connex and this is the advice given in a public blog post. Hopefully you the reader will glean actionable insights for your site as well
Current Site Review
As I look at your site right now, there are a couple of things that jump out to me. First: the English is a little poor. It jars just enough ex: “for developer” or “for employer” in the navigation. It’s just a little bit off and so it’s a little weird. Also your tag line, “the better way to find programmers that is right for your company.” The first time I read that tag line and then I just left. I didn’t go any further because I thought, “This has got to be a joke. He’s talking to me about a different website.” The proper English would be, “the better way to find programmers that are right for your company or “the better way to find a programmer that is right for your company.”
I noticed a difference in the navigation font size between the Homepage and the Contact page – I don’t know if Contact is in a different CMS or something. The navigation actually changes size. I’m not a developer, but I know plenty of front-end developers who’d freak out at that and would loose respect in your app.
The concern I have here is that, right off the bat, you have “Daily Developer” in your title and so then that instantly causes me to say, “Are you blogging every day?” I look back and go, “No, every five days. They can’t even get their first two blog posts back-to-back.” You really can’t call it a Daily Developer. That implies that you are putting these out every day. I think you could definitely have copious amounts of content that you can post every day, but I don’t know that that’s what you guys are set up or aiming to do. It is a pretty big task to blog every day, and you definitely want to do that or want to get serious about it.
There’s an issue with the current tag line as well. “The better way to find programmers that is right for your company” You need to communicate to me what is the problem that you’re solving and to suss out whether or not I’m your target audience.
You have the constant problem of a two-sided marketplace where you need to have developers here. You also need to have businesses looking to hire developers.
So you have two target audiences: developers and employers. What is it that is helping employers find better programmers? How is it? Are you saving time? Are you saving money? How is it that you’re impacting my business and making me more successful by using Think Nation to hire my next developer? On one hand, you need the employers, and so you have to be ultimately professional. Then, on the other hand, you have developers and they are nit-picky about tiny little things like pixel misalignments and such.
From the way your site is right now, I can get that ThinkNation is a platform that connects developers and businesses. But, I’m not interested. Yes, I hire developers, but I’d just walk away because you don’t give enough information. The homepage needs to have more content in it telling me what sets you apart, why is it easier to work with you, why do people love you, give me a testimonial or a case study. Build in me a better understanding of your business differences (versus an odesk/elance) and at the same time build more confidence in your business and your platform.
Articles on USP http://conversionxl.com/value-proposition-examples-how-to-create/#. http://www.interactivemarketinginc.com/unique-selling-proposition.html and http://copyhackers.com/tag/value-proposition/
I understand that you have just released the beta, but now, “Stop coding. Just completely stop.” I’m a big fan of the lean startup method and I think you now need to market the solution and find out if you actually have a good product fit.
Yeah, there’s bugs within the app, but I’d rather have people find them and apologize than to try and fix them at this stage. You need to fix that tag line, because that shouldn’t take more than five minutes to fix the grammar issue, but then brainstorm for two hours on what’s the best USP? That’s what you need to work on. Do that so you have a good landing page, a good site that doesn’t turn people off.
Like I said, the tag line – the way it is right now – turned me off instantly and I was done. If you spend any effort or any energy in driving traffic to this site the way it is currently would be a complete waste. Chances are you’ll turn people off. You’re not going to get to the right people.
Traffic Generating Strategy
- Definitely increase the amount of content you have on your homepage so that it explains your business and your platform a lot better.
- Fix some of the grammar issues, polish up the site first
- Then ask “How do we drive more traffic to that?”
Don’t do SEO
I would actually submit to you that trying to rank for organic search is too early in the game right now. Yeah, organic search is the holy grail of free traffic, but that’s not going to work. A developer who is looking for a job or a position isn’t going to be looking for a platform. A company looking to hire a developer also isn’t necessarily going to be looking for a platform.
Typically it’s six to nine months to rank for your desired keyword. You don’t have that time, and search isn’t going to drive the right traffic for you today, or even six months from now. What you want to be able to do is have the right audience come and use your site and go from there.
Only do the Bare Minimum on Social
You’re really not going to care about social. You do need to have content on your blog, and that content needs to aggregate on to social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, just start there.
Try some different things that developers might find interesting. But basically, you’re looking at a maintenance schedule of once a week, let’s have content go out on our blog and aggregate on all of our other social platforms.
Use Twitter to re-tweet some cool things that developers care about. On both Twitter and Facebook Share some hacker news articles, and other stuff like that. Just post something once a day so that when people look they see current and good content. Really what they’re going to judge you on is the caliber of the content and “Is it current?” If your Facebook and Twitter feeds answer “Yes” to both of those questions, you’re good.
Once a day on Twitter and Facebook, and once a week on your blog. That’s your social media portion of your job, and that should take five hours a week tops. Maintenance mode.
The rest of your time is 100% dedicated to real growth hacking, and that’s where you actually snipe things. You say, I am going to be “a candidate” and I’m going to apply for positions. Or I’m going to find positions that are out there and I’m going to find out who the hiring manager is, or the lead developer is, and make a sales pitch to them for Think Nation.
Essentially, that is my growth channel. I don’t care if my website ranks, if I have 50 new sign-ups next week through me manually reaching out and trying to apply to 500 different jobs or contacting 500 lead developers.
This type of work/effort doesn’t scale, but listen to any of the startup gurus and it’s the stuff that doesn’t scale which makes success stories.
I don’t know what your runway is. I don’t know how long you guys can afford to do this with no money, but what you want to do is get those wins. Get people in who are actually going to use your system and “maybe pay you.”
Hiring Managers/Lead Developers
The easy way to get in front of hiring managers is find them after they’ve already published a job description.
Another way to do that, be on Indeed, Monster, Simply Hired, or any of the developer-specific ones. Try to be on all of these and then also go to job boards that are pure forum-based job boards (Craigslist as an example) find where people are posting job opportunities that they don’t put on Monster.com.
Look for places where a hiring manager is saying, “Hey, I’m looking for a front-end developer. Does anybody have any recommendations?” Because those folks don’t want the copious amounts of applications. They’re looking for recommendations and skills that are already pre-vetted.
Get in front of them and say, “Hey, I know you’re trying to do this because you want recommendations and pre-vetting. What if we could offer that to you for the hundreds of applicants you would get on a normal job description and boil it down to four or five that really qualify for your position?”
There’s a ton of ways to find them, but they’re going to be a very hard sell. It’s easy to get a message out to them, but they’re going to be critical.
Start by Computer Science Departments at universities around North America and explain essentially this is like a job board. Just say it that way, because that’s what it is to them. We’ve got sweet positions available for your graduates, and we’d love for you to include a link to us in your alumni mailing,” or something like that. You’re reaching out to all these computer science departments and trying to get them to refer off to you.
All of this effort does a couple of different things: One, it’s going to get you some developers, some students, et cetera. Two, it may you links as departments link to you on their websites or their blogs. There’s a chance that you’ll get a link or two out of that and a link from a .edu is better than gold for search engine optimization.
Find those folks is actually through LinkedIn. Colleges have been teaching LinkedIn now. Instead of paying for ads, I would pay for the premium LinkedIn subscription and become “a recruiter” on LinkedIn. That way you can easily find developers who are recent college grads looking for work. It’s a simple search, and you’ll get thousands of results, and then you’re able to send them InMail – or an email essentially. Have an email template that says, “Hey, we think you need this to stand out on your resume by showing your skill set of verified skills. Come to Think Nation and get your skills tested for free to be able to stand out in the crowd.”
This will generate way more traffic than any social media or search engine effort that you can do today.
Do Stuff that Doesn’t Scale
Try to do this as efficiently as possible, but realize the stuff you’re going to work on right now doesn’t scale. Cold-calling a university is going to take you, probably between the course of three weeks. Between getting bounced around from one person to the next, and probably a good two to three hours of phone calls to a university. That doesn’t scale. However, if you were to land two universities, you’d be in a really good position, having 50 new developers join every couple of months. That’d be a really great– I have a feeling you guys would be pretty excited for that.
You need data. You want some users using your system, and you want to be able to test pricing on them. It is a little bit early to worry too much about it. However, you need to have an idea as to what will and what won’t work. What I would say is, at the same time that you are doing the cold-calling of universities. And as you are reaching out to people who have posted job descriptions if you get someone that is willing to help, to give you information, to talk, Then ask the following:
- Well, what interests you about our platform?
- What’s the best thing that we could do to help you?
- How much time does this save for you?
- How many times would you use this in a month, in a year, in a quarter?
- Would you be happy to get this service for $50 a job hire?
- Would you be content to get this service for $250 a job hire?
- Just throw some numbers and some verbs out there, or adjectives, and see how they respond to that verbally.
Again, you don’t have to code anything to get this going. You just start asking these questions, and you get their honest responses. Consider the different responses:
- Wow. 50 bucks? No way. It’s sweet when it’s free, but 50 bucks is too much.
- Wow. That’s a steal for 50 bucks a hire. Yeah. Done. No questions asked.
I wouldn’t try and put pricing out there right now. I would actually put it out there free for a limited time or something like that, so that people don’t wonder. Don’t give any hints as to what kind of price you’re going to look at. You’re still trying to figure out if you actually solve the problem for users, which you believe you do, understood, but until you have users fully using it and giving you valid feedback, do you know if you actually do solve the problem, or if the problem isn’t worth paying for?
Listen to Startups for the Rest of Us. They are fantastic and give great insight. You will get way more out of their podcast then you will from this review. Even though this is specified to you, their podcast just gives you good insight into what you need to be able to do.
Looking to have your Startup or Business reviewed by the experts at Connex, reach out! We’re here to help!