What do you do to grow your user base when starting from scratch and no one knows about you?

When starting an online startup recruitment solution, as we define Justa, you need to build your user base pretty soon. It’s even worse when your users are both clients and candidates and you are the intermediary connecting them. After creating the MVP, and later reiterations of the product, which is the fun part, we needed to get some users; ASAP. We needed companies that are looking for people and we needed people that are looking for jobs — and those had to grow in parallel.

We got a few individual clients to start with, mostly from within our networks and friends that were supporting us and that believed in our mission. The thought was that this would seem attractive to young talented people in Japan. After we posted a sufficient number of diverse jobs we decided we needed a way to approach candidates who might be interested in the posted jobs. Quickly we found a partner with a database of candidates that was willing to work with us — they saw it as an opportunity to add value to their existing candidates, in terms of ‘Hey! Did you check out these cool startup jobs?’.

Success! We had the contacts and now we had to approach the candidates with a convincing message. We prepared a simple layout and we were ready to send out a campaign through MailChimp. And how much did we succeed?

e-mail opening rate per industry as opposed to the industry average

When it comes to opening rates a 436% of the industry average as defined by MailChimp is a pretty good result. An even bigger success is with the click rates, or basically user engagement from the e-mail — a staggering 554% of the average made us open a celebratory beer at the end of the day.

e-mail engagement/click rate per industry as opposed to the industry average

As we can see some industries are more responsive than the others but that was slightly expected — designers and finance people are generally having opposite feelings about joining startups. However it was a slight surprise that sales and marketing are more responsive to startup opportunities than engineers (or we need even better tailoring…).

Very simple, obvious or not, the solution is:

  • segment your audience: use the necessary parameters and try to be as granular as possible without loosing too much time on it (although the more time/resources you have to do that the better)
  • tailor your message: different people tick off at different notes. Ask around, do a quick survey and structure a clear, direct message. What do designers care about; what about students; mid-career professionals?
  • learn, improve and repeat: See the results, follow up immediately with any issues that might have occurred (people unsubscribing, follow-up queries, etc…), collect all the feedback possible and crunch the numbers. Study, brainstorm and improve.

Be focused, put the right amount of effort in it and the results are always there. What makes us special? We are still not happy; Justa wants more efficiency, more tageting and skyrocketing conversions. There is always more room for improvement which means many more opportunities for those celebratory beers.


by Nik Pavesic, Project Manager @justajapan / living by a few ideas: crouch, bind, set: disrupt, change, improve, innovate.