Growth hacking is the idea that an entrepreneur can take a clever non-traditional approach to increase the growth rate and adoption of his or her product by ‘hacking’ something together specifically for growth purposes.
Most startups find themselves facing the same problem: they build a product that no one ends up using.
Say you have a startup idea. You assemble a team and in six months, you have a product you are actually confident to release. When that day finally comes, you launch and nothing happens. If you are lucky, you get an article on Techcrunch, a top spot in Product Hunt and several thousand users, but most of them stop using it after a few days.
I bet you were hoping for a huge, viral growth curve. Instead, you face with the harsh reality: you only have handful of users registered, and they are churning incredibly fast.
At Piktochart we went through the same problem, that’s why in this post we’ll analyze 13 different growth hacking tactics that actually work.
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Before You Start Growing: Define Your User Personas
Defining your user personas is something every business should do as early as possible. Customer development, understanding your target audience and being able to segment them correctly and talk to them differently is the secret sauce to startup success. This is the driving force behind major strategic, product and growth decisions.
Let’s take a look at Groove. They had a great product and customers were happy, but their landing page barely worked – the conversion rate was 2.3 percent.
They knew something needed to change, so they decided to test a new landing page and re-think their design strategy. They started by talking to power customers on the phone and via Skype, and ask them about what they loved and hated about Groove.
This led into a copy-first approach to the landing page, centered around users needs and objections. After testing it, conversion rate doubled to 4.7 percent, where they are today.
Another great example is KISSmetrics. After years of talking to customers and learning from them, they discovered that their target audience is segmented into two user personas: SaaS startup founders, and eCommerce managers.
Their understanding of user personas can be appreciated in their live demo (image below). As soon as you visit the page, it prompts you to select two main configuration: SaaS and eCommerce.
A great way of doing customer development is to use Qualaroo, the company co-founded by Sean Ellis. It offers a simple way of embedding customer surveys and contact forms to uncover customer insights you might not be aware of.
Somethings to look for: why people hesitate to sign up, what information is missing on your site or what are visitors’ objections to making a purchase.
Send paid traffic to targeted landing pages instead of the homepage
Pay-per-click ads is one of the most effective acquisition tools in terms of ROI and speed. The problem is you must know how to use them.
One of the most common mistakes is sending paid traffic to your homepage. This is a huge no-no. There is a principle in copywriting called ‘consistency’ and essentially, it means that visitors need to move swiftly through your funnel or they will get out.
By having a landing page that addresses or matches the copy in your ad, visitors will feel compelled to buy or know more.
After launching, Dropbox faced a huge issue: their initial pay-per-click test had a whopping $233-388 cost per acquisition for every new customer, but their LTV (life time value) was $99.
That’s when they implemented their referral program: invite a friend and both get extra free space. The results: 100,000 registered users grew to four million registered users in just 15 months. That’s a 3900 percent growth increase!
Airbnb also recreated that technique successfully: whenever a friend uses your $25 coupon, you’ll get $25 off when they travel or $75 when they host someone in their apartment.
Hacking the Supply Side
When building a marketplace, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is getting the right equilibrium between the supply side and the demand side until you hit mass adoption.
Let’s picture Lyft, the ride-sharing app that competes with Uber. Having too many users on the demand side will negatively affect wait-time and pricing for passengers; and having too many users on the supply side will upset drivers as they will have no customers. If they aren’t making money, they’ll start leaving the platform.
The most elegant solution for this problem is to fake the supply side. What Lyft did in the beginning is pay drivers an hourly rate to just sit in their cars and wait for passengers.
The result: passengers were thrilled to find out that every time they opened the app, there was a free driver around.
Abandoned Cart Emails for eCommerce
Sometimes, customers are willing and ready to make a purchase, but something gets on the way. If they forgot their credit card upstairs, or the baby is crying, you just lost a customer that was 99 percent sold.
Now it’s time to get them back using email messages.
Cart abandonment emails are extremely effective as a sales recovery technique. According to Salescycle, half of these emails are opened and one third lead back to a purchase.
Posting on Product Hunt
What started as a side-project for Ryan Hoover, become one of the top startups in 2014. Product Hunt surfaces new, interesting products every day. Getting featured on the daily list of products will have a major effect on your initial users base. Yes, I’m talking several thousand users.
But that’s not it. If your product is fascinating and you are lucky enough, the press and major influencers will pick it up and share with their respective audiences, amplifying the effect at least 10x.
People have written about this extensively, like here.
Discover your ‘core product value’ and build it into your onboarding process
Every product is different, and has a unique core product value to users. Discovering what this is and helping your users reach to that point will skyrocket your engagement levels and lower your churn rate.
For instance, Twitter realized that their real value is experienced once users follow at least 30 accounts. That’s their “aha moment.”
In response to that observation, they completely re-designed their onboarding process to encourage new users to follow as many active accounts as possible.
Facebook applied the same tactic. They discovered that users get the most value when they have at least 14 friends. That’s their own, unique “aha moment.”
As soon as they discovered that metric, the growth team’s entire approach shifted: from that point forward, their job was to get as many new users to 14 friends in less than 10 days.
Share your users activity on Twitter/Facebook
Whenever a user interacts with your application in a way that can make them feel proud of what they did, you should prompt them to share the achievement to their friend on Twitter and Facebook.
Instagram did this in the beginning by allowing users to post to Facebook via their API, but in my opinion, the best example is Quora: every time you answer a question, you can choose to post it on a social network with a single click.
As a daily Quora user, I love taking advantage of this feature. What’s even more impressive is that those tweets get twice the engagement (favorites and retweets) than whatever I post during the day.
Minimal Landing Pages
There is an endless debate about the comparison between long-form and minimal landing pages. As a growth hacker myself, I’m all in for minimal landing pages.
First, they are great for single-action events, like capturing email addresses. This piece of information gives you endless possibilities – for instance, you can get them on an email drip campaign.
What’s even more important, they are extremely useful for rapid iteration. Building a minimal landing page like the one below takes significantly less time than a long form page, so your A/B testing and iteration rate will increase.
Integration with Other Services
Integrating your app with other external services can be a powerful growth driver. It allows you, as a small startup, to leverage on someone else’s already established user base.
One of the most recognized examples is BranchOut. Although the story doesn’t end well, Branchout managed to signup 33 million users and raise $49M using Facebook as a virality platform for their social professional networking service.
One word of caution: putting your eggs in a single basket might be dangerous. As soon as your startup takes off, you should start looking for alternative sources of growth. When Facebook changed its virality algorithm, Branchout growth stopped, leading the app to crash and burn.
Use Facebook Lookalike Audiences To Acquire New Customers
Since March 2013, Facebook started offering one of the most powerful yet underutilized targeting options: Lookalike Audiences.
In short, it allows you target ads to users who are similar to their actual customers away from Facebook. Advertisers can ask Facebook to find the top 1 percent or 5 percent of users in a specific country who are similar to your existing customers.
This is a great way of reaching new potential clients that couldn’t be found in any other way.
Some of the powerful targeting options are:
- upload your subscriber list and target ads to people similar to them.
- target ads similar to your existing customer by uploading your customer list or finding users similar to the ones who converted.
- find users similar to any visitor to your site, or specific pages.
Build A Community Around Your Product
If you could create a site that for you users and potential customers to visit everyday, would you do it? The best way of doing this creating an online community where your users can discuss, engage, and showcase their work around your product and your industry.
Let’s take a quick look at Unbounce. Their web app allows you to create and easily A/B test landing pages without writing a single line of code. The product is clearly targeted to founders, marketers and anyone related to grow. That’s why they created the Unbounce Community, an online forum where marketing-related people can connect, learn and engage with each other.
Restrict Signups To Business Email Addresses
Restricting the amount of people who can signup to your product seems counterintuitive, but let explain using an example.
This serves two major purposes: first, it makes it ridiculously easy for you to invite your co-workers effortlessly, which drives growth. Second, it allows their sales team to automatically filter incoming leads, and only deal with real businesses.
“Free for Bloggers” Hack
Founders love it when someone writes a story or blogpost about their startup, but almost none makes it easier for bloggers to write about their product.
Well, Hittail does. On their pricing page, they make it really clear that their tool is free for bloggers to review. Once they enter their email, Hittail qualifies the blogger and sends them straight to a well-crafted ‘press’ page with all the necessary information, graphics, and metrics to write a high-quality story.
Before You Leave, Something To Remember
On this post we’ve given you 13 different growth hacking tactics you can apply right now. You can copy them exactly, or you can use them as inspiration to come up with your own, unique hacks. Both options are valid.
However, there’s one thing you need to remember: growth is a mindset. You need to think every growth experiment in terms of:
- Make a hypothesis. This is when you actually come up with the idea.
- Build it. Once the idea is right, you need to implement it. You can code it yourself, get your team to do it our outsource it to a good freelancer.
- Execute/drive traffic. If you are thinking about growth, you probably have some traffic now. If not, the best way of testing new hacks is pay-per-clic ads because they are immediate.
- Test it. Use Google Analytics, KISSmetrics or Mixpanel to decide if it works or not.
- Kill it or maximize conversions. If it doesn’t work, start over with a new idea. If it works, then keep optimizing conversions for maximum results.