It is September 2020. Flushed with the excitement of launching our shiny new SaaS, we are in the anxious-to-please honeymoon phase when every user inquiry has the power to grab our full attention. Then this comes in:

Subject: werewolf
Body: put one

A clear enough ask. Our instinct is to dive in and get it done. But we restrain ourselves. We are a serious spreadsheet company, we say to ourselves, that would be too big a pivot. We can’t do everything for everybody. And this is likely a kid having fun, we think. So we laugh it off and continue with our lives, working on filters and incremental imports and other grown-up stuff. But the request lies there in the back of our mind, patient as a stalking predator.

The years go by. We diligently hone our product, and slowly realize that building it isn’t enough, we also need to tell people about it. So we learn about marketing, and hire for marketing, and have long painful conversations about how we don’t know anything about marketing. Our more established competitors are talking over us in every channel we try.

Then one day, inspiration strikes. We remember the werewolf.

When you think about it, werewolves need spreadsheets as much as the rest of us. Imagine living a life as complicated as yours, but ALSO you turn into a literal WOLF when the moon is full. You’d need to get organized as heck (excuse the strong language, but this hit us hard). We saw that our competitors, like ourselves, were entirely ignoring this under-served community. Could this finally be the wedge we needed? Time to pounce.

We set up a social media account specifically to communicate with the werewolf demographic, using the following visual elements:

  • A name with a typo in it, since typing with paws is presumably difficult.
  • A glitched version of our company logo that, with a circle crop, looks like a dark, brooding version of the nearby moon.
  • An IF(ME, TERROR) overlay, subtly reinforcing our twin themes of (1) spreadsheet functions and (2) terror.
  • A weirdly suggestive “prowling in your sheets” bio.

On Reddit we went with this snarly little guy:

Then we began our outreach on a regular pulse, delivering big werewolf-related features every full moon. The first was a novel TASTEME() spreadsheet function that, for any text, would output true if the content of that text was appealing to the werewolf palate. We had learned our lesson about marketing, that it is not enough to just “do the thing”…

… you must also let people know you did it, and show them how it helps in their day-to-day lives. We did that by posting the “Hungry Like The Wolf” song by “Duran Duran” from the 1980s, where each line of the song is classified as tasty or not tasty (most are not tasty). There was some concern on the team that we’d be reducing the demographic we’d reach from werewolves-on-twitter-interested-in-spreadsheets to werewolves-on-twitter-interested-in-spreadsheets-who-were-also-listening-to-Duran-Duran-in-the-1980s. But we’ve been repeatedly advised to start with a clear niche before tackling the full addressable market, so this was actually a win.

Watch full video in tweet.

By the next full moon we realized that we (and werewolves) keep needing to know when it is the full moon. So we introduced the MOONPHASE() function. Give it the date, and it will return the moon as an emoji 🌔 🌗 🌕, or give you a wolf “🐺” or human “🕺” summary. Knowing your morphology has never been this easy.

At this point we were in deep in the online werewolf community, subscribing to their subreddits, and organizing their playlists (how far we had come from our “Duran Duran” days).

At this point you may be asking, this all sounds amazing, but what are the numbers, are we making progress on our fundamental KPIs. Good question! After three months, here are the followers of the werewolf account:

Fitzy, berhalak, and Anais are us. MakeSweet is a hobby account belonging to one of us. But who is this GRAPPA CHAMPION OF CHUDS? A breakthrough, that’s who – proof positive that we are crashing out of our bubble and finding a wider audience. On Reddit too, we are getting multiple, multiple upvotes (in the sense of more than more than one) on channels like /r/werewolves and /r/rickroll. It is happening!

And it can happen to you too. We’ve learned a lot on this journey, and we hope you’ve learned with us. Let’s review the key lessons.

1. Find a niche

If you’re having trouble finding a real niche for your product, why not consider a fictional niche? There are far more unreal markets than real ones. Counter-intuitive I know but let me walk you through the math. Consider just your current situation, for example:

  • You are reading this (1 real thing).
  • But you could be reading something else (1 unreal thing).
  • Or you could be reading a different something else (2 unreal things).
  • Or you could be eating (3 unreal things).

That’s a lot, by those calculations the ratio of unreal to real is about 3:1! Of course, sometimes you might actually be eating so the ratio might drop to 2:1, but that’s still significant.

If we applied this logic to the universe of potential customers out there, the unreal market could be 2x, even 3x as large as the real one. That’s a whole lot of potential customers left untapped!

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them to the impossible.”

Arthur C. Clarke

2. Find a channel

Making a fresh new twitter account for a campaign, with no history of tweets or any followers, proved a good way to isolate this campaign’s results and judge it on its own merits. We couldn’t rest on vanity metrics. Every follower was hard won. Years ago, if you’d told us that one day we’d draw the attention of GRAPPA CHAMPION OF CHUDS we’d have said WHO or WHAT or WHY. But it happened to us. 🙏

By the way, the werewolf community on reddit is surprisingly wholesome and friendly, we can definitely recommend it. On reddit, it is important not to barrage people with marketing people. So we suggest immersing yourself and your team in the werewolf community, and not do any marketing to them. Let the true marketing be the friends you make along the way.

3. Listen to your customers

Go read every support ticket you’ve ever received. We’ll wait.

Back? Good. In there, somewhere, is your werewolf request. You just have to listen to it, to open your heart to it, to commit yourself to it, to pledge allegiance to its flag.