Building an email list can take FOREVER. So many great guides talk of going from 5K – 50K but very few talk of starting from ground zero.
Today we’re going to show you exactly this:
How TOKAY Ultimate went from ZERO to 2502 email sign-ups in a couple of weeks. And in the process, 143% of their Kickstarter funding target.
Best of all. This was done with zero paid acquisition – Kudos to them!
TOKAY Ultimate — a brand new company with zero customers and zero friends in high places, somehow convinced plus 2,000 people to hand over their email addresses.
All it took was some smart thinking and the use of a viral campaign with ReferralHero to rocket their email list by 2500… in just 4 weeks.
Read on to learn how.
Getting over the 1,000 emails barrier
TOKAY Ultimate Frisbee shoes were a brand new prototype product:
The TOKAY team had just launched their website and no one knew anything about the special shoes designed just for their sport — ultimate frisbee.
Meet Robin, the founder of TOKAY:
They hadn’t even launched their Kickstarter campaign yet to jump-start production, but Robin knew he needed to start creating buzz and building his list in advance to succeed.
Hearing of how successful the waiting lists of companies such as Inbox and Mondo. Robin knew he needed this in his life.
Most importantly, like most early-stage products he needed to do it with basically zero budget.
He decided to host a waiting list giveaway to encourage email signups. Offer up your email address and enter to win a pair of TOKAY Ultimate Frisbee shoes.
But Robin had a problem:
TOKAY was brand new. TOKAY had just set up their social profiles recently, and didn’t have a lot of followers yet.
A giveaway to their current audience would attract what? A few mates…perhaps?
So what could they do to get thousands of email signups when no one knew who they were?
The solution: A simple to install Viral Waiting List
Robin came across our tool — ReferralHero Viral Waiting List— to solve his problem.
ReferralHero is a viral weapon — something that makes people want to sign up and share the contest with all their friends.
Our tool helps businesses make their contest, product or event go viral using powerful psychological triggers — scarcity, curiosity and anticipation of reward.
All you have to do is, Install it on your site, drive traffic and incentivize your subscribers.
Here’s how it works:
- A site visitors signs up on your website and enters for their chance to win.
- ReferralHero gives entrants the option to refer their friends. The more they refer, the further up the higher their chance of winning.
- The top referrers win the prize. (You set the number of winners)
So instead of offering your subscribers a random chance to win, you give them an opportunity to compete for the top spot, and refer even more people in the process:
By gamifying your social contest you can guarantee more subscribers, even if you’re not well known around the web.
2502 email signups in 3 weeks
Robin jumped on the opportunity and installed ReferralHero on his site. He figured the referrals would get him a few extra signups.
TOKAY launched the contest
He didn’t expect what happened next:
Robin set up a landing page on their website explaining the giveaway on September 13th.
Subscribe and share as much as you can over the next 4 weeks to increase your chances of winning a pair of Ultimate Frisbee shoes:
TRAFFIC: They promoted the contest on social media
TOKAY didn’t have a huge social following at this point, but it didn’t matter. They promoted the contest on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter:
They posted updates about the contest all month long, and most of their direct traffic (non-referral traffic) came from social media.
But check this out:
Their first 500 subscribers came in 24 hours. That’s viral marketing at work!
ENGAGEMENT: They promoted the contest through email
TOKAY had already built a modest list of email subscribers, so Robin promoted the contest to them as well:
As their subscribers quickly grew during the first few weeks of the contest, TOKAY promoted to them with follow-up reminders. Robin offered tips and encouragement to get to the top of the contest list:
They announced the winner
The contest ended on October 13th, so they announced the winners. In their email campaign and on their blog they profiled 5 winners — people who drove the most referrals for the contest:
No followers? No budget? Use viral as a growth channel.
Robin created a contest and installed ReferralHero to encourage contestants to share. He never expected the contest to really go viral.
With the help of social sharing and a few targeted emails — TOKAY managed to get 2500 new subscribers in a few weeks.
The key to success was the referral system. TOKAY had a tiny email list and brand new social accounts.
So how did they drive traffic to their page?
By friends sharing the contest with others.
Robin couldn’t even say how much they spent to acquire 2500 new subscribers. TOKAY had to offer up 5 pairs of free shoes, but that’s about it.
By using ReferralHero and investing their time promoting the campaign, TOKAY managed to build their list by simply giving away their product.
But that’s not all…
The benefits didn’t stop there. In November TOKAY launched their Kickstarter campaign to jumpstart shoe production.
They’ve been promoting it on social media and to their impressive email list — built from their viral contest.
As of this writing, they have now achieved 130% of their funding target!
By creating a viral giveaway of ultimate frisbee shoes, Robin built a valuable, relevant list that he can continue to market to for future projects as well.
Key takeaways: What TOKAY’s story teaches us about list building
TOKAY’s case is just one of many success stories with viral content marketing. Here are a few lessons that Robin learned from the experience:
- The value of jumpstarting email signups
A lot of businesses wait until after product launch to start building their email lists. But there are a lot of benefits to growing your email list early.
Instead of just driving sales, you can test out your market. How do people react to your business and product?
At the same time, having a healthy list early on can help you jumpstart other projects, like a Kickstarter campaign. For projects like this, early momentum is key. Marketing to 2500 new subscribers possibly made all the difference for TOKAY on Kickstarter.
- People need a reason to share
A traditional giveaway contest achieves one goal — getting people to sign up. If you want to actually broaden your brand reach in the process, you need to give people a reason to share. The more people enter a random-draw contest, the lower your chance of winning. So instead of sharing the contest far and wide, most people will say nothing. With TOKAY’s contest, people were able to increase their chances of winning the more they shared. It was a big incentive that paid off.
- Take advantage of psychological triggers
Robin was set up for success by gamifying his contest. But he decided to get the most out of psychological triggers to amplify the effect. Robin sent out emails and social posts reminding his audience that time was running out: By creating a sense of urgency, Robin encouraged more referrals from existing entrants, growing his list even more in the process.
- Prize Market Fit
When we asked Robin if he had any advice on list building from his experience, he said “Have the right reward is important, something logical, not ambiguous. Know the base you address. It was easy for me (ultimate players), but can be harder in other cases…”
And he’s right. If you use the referral system to make your contest viral, some entrants will invite anyone and everyone to get to the top of the list. By picking a giveaway that specifically matches the interests of your target audience, you can build a clean list of qualified leads you can market to later.
If Robin had made his giveaway too ambiguous (e.g. two tickets to Disney World), he would have gotten a lot of signups from people who want to go to Disney World, but don’t care about Ultimate Frisbee.
- Any business can succeed at viral contest marketing
Any business can give away their products in hopes of encouraging signups. But if you’ve just launched a business and don’t have a large existing audience, finding ROI isn’t as easy. But psychology is a very powerful thing. By gamifying your contest — encouraging contestants to take action and spread the word to win — you can achieve serious viral growth, no matter your business size.
And if you use a tool like ReferralHero, you don’t need any technical skills to make it happen.