Why It Pays to Take Risks in Startup Marketing: Interview with Leo Widrich of Buffer

It’s hard to be a business these days. Yet for being in the middle of an economic recession, hundreds of startups are finding explosive success.

One of these startups is Buffer, a service that makes managing your social media accounts easier than before. They went from idea to paying customer in seven weeks; and to over seventy thousand users in less than a year.

I interviewed co-founder Leo Widrich about Buffer’s marketing efforts and the risks he and his team took to get where they are today.

Tell me about Buffer.

Buffer is a new way to tweet and post Facebook updates. All you do is add updates to your queue and we schedule and publish them for you at better times. We want to help anyone be awesome on social media and make sharing a lot smarter and more efficient.

Once you had a product to offer, how did you start marketing Buffer?

The key for us to market Buffer in the early days was through blogging and guest blogging. In fact, I wrote close to 150 articles for various social media blogs and news sites. Through back links and the relationships we could build, this was very powerful for traffic and new signups.I think it is one of the most powerful strategies there are out there right now.

What risks have you taken this year that gave you the best results?

That’s a great question. I think the risks I have taken were to gradually target larger and larger sites, until I reached Mashable. The thing is that you will get denied many, many times. Yet, if you try often enough and vary your pitch, it is a great way to get guest posts and write-ups out there really quickly.

Any tactics that were less effective?

What I found harder at the start was to ask others to write about you. So I did that and provided them with a great write-up about Buffer, which made it a lot easier. I think you just have to do most of the work, before you ask others to do it for you. 🙂

buffer team joel leo tom
The Buffer Guys: Joel, Leo, and Tom

Do you measure a return on investment on individual marketing campaigns? If so, how?

The way I used to measure my blogging activities was by how many signups I would get per post. We have a metric that tells us if we get 100 signups that will roughly convert to $500. So if I managed to write a post, tweet about it, share it through my circles, and get 50-100 signups, I knew there was a good return. There are, of course, long term benefits from blogging that aren’t reflected in this.

What kind of in-person marketing have you done?

The only thing we have done is print a few t-shirts and stickers. I then went to one conference, which was Blogworld EXPO in L.A. This was fantastic as I could meet and reach out to all the top marketers and social media thought leaders in one spot.

I saw this event more as a networking opportunity, much less as a marketing event. I just wanted to chat, and get to know these awesome people, such as the likes of Chris Brogan, Mike Stelzner, and Mari Smith. It’s just a lot of fun this way.

Have trade shows/conventions been worth the investment for an internet-based business?

In order to network and meet the top influencers to build relationships with – absolutely; in order to get new users or market your product, I wouldn’t think so.

What are some of your plans for Buffer?

With Buffer, we have a lot of plans to make sharing on social media even easier and receive better results. For example, our integration with SocialBro to give you your optimal times to tweet, was an important step.

Also, with the Buffer button for blogs and integration with other apps along the line, we want to become a completely new sharing standard for others.

Any advice for other startup companies?

The most important thing is to really love what you do in the first place. And also that success comes with a lot of failures along the way. If you embrace the fact that only 25% of your efforts will be successful, you won’t lose faith as quickly.

What businesses can learn from Leo and Buffer:

  • Don’t be discouraged. You’ll most likely see more rejection than acceptance when starting out.
  • Creating relationships and networking within your niche opens doors for others to discover your product. Thought leaders are called top influencers for a reason.
  • Having a blog for your company is essential. It helps with search rankings, humanizes your brand, establishes you as an authority, and aides in securing guest posts.
  • Step away from your computer. Even an online social media business like Buffer used promotional products and attended conferences.

To stay up to date with this team’s happenings and social media tips, follow Leo at @leowid or Buffer at @bufferapp.

If you’d like to try Buffer for yourself, click here to sign up. Using this referral link will get you extra slots in your queue.