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Before formulating a food discovery startup’s GTM strategy, we recently test drove its mobile app. The app lists dishes of various cuisines from restaurants in the local neighborhood. Like many hyperlocal startups, this one also started operations in one city and then had plans to expand to other cities.

As soon as I installed the app and opened it, I saw a registration screen along with the option to skip this step. Given my views on this subject – see When Should Mobile Apps Ask Their Users To Register? – I hit the SKIP button. When I reached the next screen, I was prompted to select my location from a dropdown list. I noticed only one entry, Delhi. Since I was in a different city (Pune), I bailed out.

Given that the startup had begun by aggregating restaurants only in Delhi, its decision to restrict the app to users in that city made sense – technically, that is. However, by doing so, the company lost a great marketing opportunity.

By redesigning the app to let users from other cities explore it – by adding a “citybait” feature – the company would be able to:

  1. Generate pre-launch buzz in new cities and use that to prioritize citywise expansion plans
  2. Acquire a handful of early adopters in a new city (e.g. Pune) even before launching operations
  3. Accelerate onboarding of restaurants in new cities by demonstrating a ready customer base

UsingMiles Rewards Dashboard

I mentioned this to Paras Kuhad, a mutual friend who had connected the startup’s founders to me. As soon as he heard this, Paras exclaimed, “Every pageview is a conversion opportunity!”

He was spot on. I couldn’t have said it better.

“Citybait” – obviously taken after “clickbait” – can be used in many other contexts. Before I get into them, let me share my source of inspiration for this approach:

A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon UsingMiles, a company that aggregates miles from multiple airlines, hotels, credit cards and other merchants. Since I was struggling with different websites for each loyalty program I was a member of, UsingMiles immediately resonated with me. I registered on the website and was able to quickly add my Lufthansa Miles & More, IHG Rewards Club and PAYBACK memberships on it. However, I couldn’t spot Jet Airways’ JetPrivilege program anywhere. I then noticed the “Add Program” button and clicked it. I was prompted to enter the name of the loyalty program I wanted to add. I did that and hit the submit button. The website informed me that it didn’t feature JetPrivilege but would notify me whenever it did. A couple of months later, I got an email informing me that JetPrivilege was now on UsingMiles. I went ahead and added this program to my previous list.


HouseJoy’s “Verticalbait”

Long story short, I use UsingMiles to manage all my rewards and find it very convenient to track everything in one place. I’ve also become a strong brand advocate of UsingMiles and recommend it to my friends and business associates who find it cumbersome having to visit different websites to stay on top of their loyalty memberships.

And none of this would’ve happened without UsingMiles’ use of “programbait”.

I recommend this approach in various contexts:


Websites / mobile apps that launch in a hyperlocal neighborhood and then expand into a larger area e.g. TaskBob, one of a new breed of what I call “Uber for Handyman” apps, this app operates only in the “Powai Valley” neighborhood of Mumbai but lets anyone use it.


Websites / mobile apps that launch with a few verticals and then add more verticals e.g. HouseJoy, another handyman app, offers to notify users as soon as it launches a Laundry service in my city.


SaaS software providers, to entice their freemium users to upgrade to paid plans e.g. HootSuite. The social media dashboard app displays Pro features even to Freemium users, who, over a period of time, become curious and click around. When that happens, as it did with the Bulk Message Upload link in my case, HootSuite explains the feature and gently reminds Fremium users that the feature is available only on the Pro plan!


HootSuite’s “Probait”

Call it citybait or probait or whatever but key is to remember the underlying insight, which I call the Paras Kuhad Principle:

Treat Every Pageview As A Conversion Opportunity!

Ketharaman Swaminathan On July - 24 - 2015

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