What the websites of 145 Ycombinator companies told me about their marketing approaches

As part of my research on website design and marketing approaches by yCombinator companies to come up with best practices, I looked at over 145 companies that have been funded by them. Of that list, 53 were B2B companies and rest were B2C (consumer Internet).

My goal was to understand the approaches they took, what they highlighted (navigation, call to action) and what their strategy towards building their website was. I fundamentally believe your website is the #1 marketing investment you can make, so I judge most companies by how good / bad their web presence is.

<Background>

According to Wikipedia (through AMA)

Marketing is used to identify the customer, satisfy the customer, and keep the customer.

Lets drill down on the “identify” part of the definition and understand that after you segment and target your customer, you will have to offer them something they want.

Lets make an assumption for this post that this definition is slightly dated and “satisfied” customers are insufficient, and you need to “delight” them.

Finally if you delight the customer consistently, then “keeping” them is less of a challenge.

The best sales people (in my book) are those that understand the buying process well and do everything to fit into that process.

The best marketing people do the same. They understand what really motivates the “heart, mind and the wallet” – emotion & logic and position their products in that context.

</Background>

On the web (with inbound marketing included), marketing emotion and passion is hard. Its not impossible, but hard.

Any number of focus group studies and A/B testing of your website and SaaS offering will only appeal to the customer’s wallet and mind.

Appealing to their heart is an altogether different beast.

Which is why in the list of yCombinator companies, most have 3 top pages – pricing (wallet), features / product tour (mind) and sign up (call to action).

The “heart” part of these websites is filled with

a) customer testimonials (people like you buy from us!),

b) demo videos (its really easy!)

c) funky about us pages (we’re regular guys like you or we are rockstars so please buy!)

d) blog (hear from us!) and

e) contact (since our website can’t sell as well as we can, please call us!).

I am not sure how well these companies are doing, so I cannot comment on their conversion ratios, their incoming traffic etc. but I can gather that they are looking to A/B test that.

Here are the top 3 things I learned.

1. Stick to 1 call to action per page. Except 4 companies, all the others had only one call to action (A bright colored “Sign up”.

2. More than 3-5 navigation links on the top makes people think you are a “corporate” and not a “startup”. Use the fact that you are a “startup” to your advantage.

3. Use your interactions with customers (phone, face-to-face meetings) to really understand how to appeal to your customer’s heart, since I fundamentally believe you cannot A/B test it.

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