5 Great Lessons From Whatsapp

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After Flappy Bird, the next big news on the Internet is the current buzz about Facebook buying Whatsapp for $19 billion.

(Yeah, that’s “billion”, with a “B”.)

$19 billion for a startup app that’s just about 4-5 years old - Well played,  Whatsapp. 

Now just about every other business out there is green with envy and wishing they’re in you’re shoes.

Still, it’s pretty impressive. Whatsapp didn’t become a startup that could catch the eye of the likes of Mark Zuckerberg overnight. It took a few years, some hard work and dedication before that happened.

So what can we learn from this whole situation? What marketing lessons can we take away?

1. You need to believe in yourself.

A few years ago, Whatsapp was just another messaging app that was started by two visionaries: Jan Koum and Brian Acton.

Ironically, Acton was turned down by Facebook for a job back in 2009, even.

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When they started, the market for messaging apps was already overcrowded, and many skeptics told them their chances of success would likely be slim.

But they believed in themselves and their vision – and now they’ve made history. With an app that now has over 450 million active monthly users, it’s little wonder that they caught Facebook’s attention.

And it never would have happened if they’d listened to the people telling them that it wouldn’t work out.

2. Sometimes, you need to wait.

Wait

Actually, Mark Zuckerberg initially contacted Jan Koum back in 2012 about buying Whatsapp. Koum said “no”.

Google reportedly offered them $10 million as well, but still Koum said “no”.

If he’d taken either of those initial offers, he’d be a lot less rich right now.

Instead, he kept the knowledge that his company was worth several billion close to his heart, and waited for the right time and the right deal.

People said Snapchat was also idiotic, for rejecting Facebook’s $3 billion offer.

But Whatsapp has proved that in the world of business deals, a few months or years of waiting for the right time can make a world of difference.

3. Viral is the new marketing.

In this day and age, it’s getting increasingly clear that great products will sell themselves.

Whatsapp managed to build its massive user base with no traditional marketing or advertising.

They created an app that they charge people $1 a year to use, and made it simple and compelling enough for people to share with their friends.

And it didn’t just spread like wildfire – it exploded its growth to other countries and languages as well.

4. Put your customers first. 

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Whatsapp only costs $1 a year, yet displays zero ads within the app. Some users even got to use it for free for a year or so, during certain trial periods.

Now, Whatsapp could easily have used an ad-heavy design, to bring in more revenue – but they wanted to make their customers happy.

And by making their customers happy, they cashed in big time. 

450 million users in 4 years isn’t anything to scoff at.

Money’s important, yes, but if they had prioritized money, they would never have caught Facebook’s attention, because for big Internet acquisitions, it’s all about how many users you have.

And thanks to them prioritizing customer satisfaction, Whatsapp certainly has no shortage of those.

5. Mobile is getting stronger.

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15 years ago, personal computers were everywhere.

Now, PCs will still continue to be important, but much less so.

In recent years, they’re still the core, but have increasingly begun to be supplemented by mobile.

In fact, a growing number of companies has started to become “mobile-only”.

That’s because the focus now is on connecting people.

Think about what apps have become so popular now – Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook. What do they have in common? They’re mobile apps, with a focus on connecting people to other people.

It’s safe to say that if your company isn’t on mobile yet, you might want to start thinking about making the move in that direction.

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