In this section:
1. You will learn about the best acquisition channels and Growth Hacks to help you get users to your website. Repeatedly.
2. You will find great resources and tools to help you master the art of Growth Hacking.
Note: The channels or tricks you see here might not all be applicable for your startup or situation. However, see them as great examples to help you deduce equivalents that are suitable to your specific situation.
The hardest part of starting up a business is actually growing it. The building part is relatively easy, but trying to get your product distributed and shared are the harder things to do. Growth is so substantial that Paul Graham of YCombinator would equate startups to growth ("Startup = Growth" - Paul Graham - YC expects you to grow 5-7% a week - a good way to set growth goals for your startup). Most companies fail not because they fail to build a compelling or useful product, but because they were not able to distribute their products into the hands of their target customers.
However, remember that if you are not able to convert your visitors into users and get tem to actually use your service (Activation), you shouldn't think about getting more users (Acquisition).
If your signup conversion rate is very low (like 1%-5%), spend more time and optimize your landing page, product usability, and value delivery to optimize Activation so that you wouldn't be depleting your pool of potential users by getting too many users all at once.
If your conversion rate is 10%, and you are get 1000 users, this means you would have gained 100 new users. If your conversation rate is 1%, and you get 1000 users, then you'd only get 10 users. Quite a waste huh?
Growth Hacking (Recommended - Mattan Griffel has some great growth hacking tips. A lot of hacks on this page are also based on learnings from him) is a relatively new term that was popularized recently. It is basically all the tricks and ways to get users virally - without spending money. It's also called Lean Marketing.
Viral growth happens when you establish consistent user acquisition channels that keep bringing you new users or when you create referral/social features on your website that brings you referred users.
Thanks Mattan Griffel for the Viral Growth Poster
In this section, we will focus on optimizing Acquisition and Referral part of the AARRR metrics. we will share all the most updated tips and tricks that successful startups have pulled off. Also, most of the hacks in this stage are taken or derived from success stories and case studies.
Blogs you should follow:
Also read: Eric Ries - 3 Engines of Growth
Watch this presentation. It'll really help you learn about what users want, and will help you learn how to get more users. I think Kevin Rose has it right on the money in terms of how to get more users and how to get thm to do what you want to do.
Summary of Kevin Rose's talk is that, your users will stay and keep using your service if they feel that they are promoting themselves and/or are being promoted. Everything is about personalization, having their own personal touch that they can share, and just simply boosting their ego.
Here's are the 10 points, but I'd still recommend you to watch it :)
- Does your feature increase your users self-worth or stroke their EGO?
- Stop overbuilding, make it simple for your users
- do 2-3 things incredibly well, don't overbuild things.
BUILD & RELEASE
- Stop thinking you understand your users, see what they actually do
HACK THE PRESS
- Simple tips and tricks like “Invite Only” for bloggers
- Go for the most junior blogger on a big publication
- Go to the after party (because events are to expensive). Make a list of the people you want to meet and prepare your demo on a laptop or ipad.
CONNECT WITH YOUR COMMUNITY
- Do podcasts
- Throw launch parties and personally invite the press. Don't reserve the bar, just show up, and in advance tell them you're doing a birthday party there with like 20 people. Show up with 75 people. Do it around conferences so that everyone is in town. Be active in your own community of course.
– Leverage advisers particularly in areas where you are not strong.
LEVERAGE YOUR USER BASE TO SPREAD THE WORD
- Get users to come back by making it seem like your friends helped you with something (like in Farmville where your friends give you gifts and entice you to go back). Someone's helped you, so you feel in debt to go back.
- Require a certain number of friends or contacts before you can do something.
- In a tweet, put in a special personalized touch so they can identify with it so they will tweet it out.
- Show up a popup to ask them to join, and show them how many friends they already have on your platform.
DOES YOUR PRODUCT PROVIDE VALUE FOR 3rd PARTY SITES
- For instance the digg buttons help blogs get their articles to more people
ANALYZE YOUR SITE TRAFFIC
INTEGRATE THE ENTIRE PICTURE (The steps above)
This was suggested in an earlier section, but Reddit is such a good source of users, we'd like to mention it again.
The reason why you want to get to the front page of Reddit is because when you first submit a story, it won'y be on the front page, where there isn't as much traffic. So, you need people to vote on your story so that more people will see your story. Getting on the front page of Reddit is sort of like an automatic win in terms of recognition and traffic.
Go to Hacker News and "cheat" your way to the top of their homepage.
This was suggested in an earlier section, but again, Hacker News such a good source of users, we'd like to mention it again.
The reason why you want to get to the front page of Hacker News is because when you first submit a story, it will be on te "new" page, where there isn't as much traffic. So, you need people to vote on your story so that more people will see your story. Getting on the front page of Hacker News is sort of like an automatic recognition and traffic.
Scoop.it is also a content discovery platform very similar to a more visual Twitter.
1. Create a topic that your users will be interested in.
2. Add a "Scoop.it" bookmark onto your bookmarks bar.
3. Go to your website, and click on the Scoop.it bookmark that you had saved.
4. Bam, your content is now ready to be discovered.
Note: This is a channel that takes time to build up traffic. However, it does give you decent traffic eventually if you keep your participation up.
Go to Slideshare and create an awesome deck teaching a topic related to your startup.
Slideshare is basically a platform that lets you put powerpoint slides online and share it with the world. As slideshare is not a very crowded space right now, it wouldn't be too difficult to get your slide deck to show up in Google results. This trick not only will gain trust and branding for your company, but it will also bring you immediate users. When we gain trust and reputation of being an expert, you gain mind share, or you create thought leadership.
For a SUPER awesome Slideshare example, please see: www.slideshare.net/mattangriffel/growth-hacking
Hold weekly or monthly webinars to help your users solve their problems and also help them understand how your service helps them.
Webinars are also a great place to understand what your users are thinking about, and what you can do for them. Some growth experts have used webinars as a good way to promote their expertise and win business.
Furthermore, the core of every business should be helping their users. As the result of trying your best to help, they will trust you and you will establish thought leadership, which is what will give you long term dominance.
Like Slideshare, teaching a class will help you build trust with your audience, and you will also be able to have your students help evangelize your product for you. While this hack might not give you a ton of users, it will give you some users to kick off your startup.
This is also a great place and opportunity to establish your thought leadership.
Quora is a great place where people are looking to find answers. If your startup can help people solve their problems, do go ahead and post the link to your startup. However, the trick here is NOT to sound like a car salesman - trying to shove your startup down people's throats. In essence, just be genuinely helpful, then people will trust you to visit your links.
PS. Quora is StartitUp's best marketing channel. We love Quora!
Start a meetup group at Meetup for your startup or for a subject that your target audience would be interested in.
One of the best ways to find new users is to meet them offline. Meetup.com gives you a great platform for people to organize meetups offline. You can create a meetup and put keyword tags on your event so that people can discover and join your meetup.
Post your company's offering on Craigslist.
This is great especially if you are providing services or selling products. Craigslist is known to be quite a "messy" marketplace, but it is also quite useful in bringing you free and good traffic.
Find events that have to do with your startup. Go there any talk to people who would be interested in your solution.
Events are great places to find co-founders, partners, mentors, and investors.
Here are some of the events you can attend to get involved in the startup community:
Update your email signature to include an attractive catch phrase and your link.
"PS: I love you. Get your free email at e-mail at Hotmail" - Hotmail
This signature helped Hotmail get about 3000 users/day, and they got to 1 Million users by 6 months. 5 weeks after that they got to 2 million users.
In Bhatia, a friend sent an email to another friend using Hotmail, then in 3 weeks, Hotmail had 300,000 users there. By 1.5 years, when they sold to Microsoft, they had 12M users.
(Thanks to Mattan Griffel for this information)
Launch a contest on your website.
Give away something to the winner of the contest as a motivation to join. This has been a proven method to get new users to try your website.
To get the world out, find a popular blog related to the topic and offer them exclusivity on the contest information.
Speek, one of the best conference service out there, outdid everyone when they hosted an event where you could enter into a contest to speak to Edward Norton, the famous hunk who starred in Fight Club and American History X. Here's the event page: http://blog.speek.com/site/win-a-speek-conference-call-with-edward-norton/
If you have written an awesome article, you can submit it to top blogs to be posted as a guest post.
Again, find blogs that are relevant to your topic, so that the chance of these blogs featuring your article would be much higher.
A great strategy to use is to search for articles related to what you're doing, and try to reach the author that wrote it. A good way to get started is emailing them and tell them that you saw their article on the similar topic, and that you are doing something quite similar too, so maybe they'd like to write a follow up entry.
Using that strategy in the email you've sent them will make them feel like you are a real reader that actually reads their content (they will feel more willing to reciprocate the same attention that you give them), and that since they've already invested in the topic already, it's not hard to follow it up with another entry.
Submit your startup to relevant blogs to get them to cover your story.
This is a difficult stunt to pull off. Usually these top blogs won't want to cover you unless if you are super super novel (which is very seldom nowadays), if you are funded, or if you already have traction. Therefore, don't feel bad if you submit a bunch but didn't get any response back.
Also, remember that if you are put under the spot light before you have a great product, people will come try out your product, leave, and spread negative feedback on it. Therefore, it's important to hold out on mass coverage until you are 100% sure your product delivers exactly as promised.
1. Pitch 1 feature at a time. This feature needs to be the main feature that is the game changer.
Bad example: We've build a step-by-step startup guide with a community to get people to answer your questions. It also has a guide collaboration feature to allow users to contribute to the guides.
Good example: We've created a virtual incubator to help startups build, grow, and get funded.
2. Tell a good story. Tell them why people need this.
Example: (mention the problem first) I have a lot of friends who are working dead end jobs, or have just got out of college who want to do something. We scripted up a guide and had them test it. (mention benefit) Most of our friends had their MVPs build, and had gotten at least 300 users in the first few weeks after launching!
3. Find bloggers that have written about your competitors or topic. Since they already wrote something about that same segment, it's much likely that they will cover your story as a follow up.
However, before you go out pitching to people, you will need to know how to find the editors' emails. To find out how to find anyone's email, install rapportive.
Good examples of cold emails: Two cold emailed Techcrunch pitches that worked
Also, it doesn't have to be medias. If you can get celebrities in your field to write or mention you, that would give you an explosive growth as well.
Good Email Example:
I am Edward, and I have been following your articles for a few years now. I am shooting you an email today to tell you about my startup, StartitUp.co, to see if you'd find this a fit for a story.
Quick background: StartitUp is a step-by-step startup guide with action items to help entrepreneurs take their startups from idea, to MVP, to traction, and to funding. We wanted to build this platform because this is something that we need. My team and I have been building startups, not only did it take us a few failures to fully learn what we should do and what we shouldn't do, and the most frustrating thing for us is having to keep up with all the latest tricks to build and grow our startup. Startup knowledge is always getting outdated, and we think a constantly updated startup guide would be a pretty awesome tool for entrepreneurs.
So far we've been covered here xxx.com, xxxx.com, and xxxxx.com. We have about 4000 active users as of today. I've always wanted to see our story covered on johnsblog.com because I think your story on competitorwebsite.com was quite insightful and interesting.
I know you are busy, but please let me know if you'd be interested.
Create a referral program for your website.
Create a referral program so that users can get some kind of benefits if they successfully invite their friends to join and use your website.
Dropbox was very successful with their referral program. What they did was that they gave you a signup link to either email, share to Facebook, or tweet to Twitter. If you friends signed up, you would get extra storage for your Dropbox account (Refer a friend and get a $25 coupon!)
Follow up email:
How are things? Hope you had a great Christmas.
I'm shooting you this email to let you know that we have created an infographics on startups. I think this infographics is a pretty good match to your content.
In short: We think that most people have the perception that startups achieve success overnight. However this is never the case. We created an infographics to demonstrate the timelines and average time spent building before growing for some of the most popular websites nowadays. We've used Pinterest, Twitter, and Angrybirds as our data points.
Conclusion: I think this infrographics' main objective is to encourage startups to not give up and understand that success is a series of pivoting and killing features. It's not rainbows and butterflies, and this is the kind of post I think a lot of startups will feel quite emotionally about.
Let me know if you are interested. The infographics is attached in this email. Let me know if you have any question. Email me at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call me at 650-924-2477.
Using one of these platforms' logins will allow your website to post on behalf of the users. Once the user signs in using one of those platforms, you can use the opportunity to post a status update with your website's link onto the users's profile.
Be careful when you employ this tactic, because if your service overdoes the posts, it could be seen as spam.
Create share buttons (Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Linkedin, Google+, etc.) for your content.
Build share function to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Digg, Reddit, Blogspot, Stumbleupon, etc buttons on all content in your website. Make sure your blog has that function so users can easily share your blog to their friends.
Extra Tip: If your website has some kind of score or recognition (badges), you should also have share buttons to allow them to brag about it to their friends. Their friends would them come to try to get the same achievements as well. Because hey, people like to do what their friends do.
Please read this first: The Simplest Online Marketing and SEO Crash Course
SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It's the technique to make your website content friendly to the likes of Google Search Engine. It's a way to optimize and distribute your content or links so that Google thinks that your website has rich content.
Having your website optimized for SEO will get you a load of users that search for your website's keywords. In other worse, SEO is the best way to get you new users consistently without doing any effort (however write a blog entries is quite an effort).
There are different kinds of SEO. One is Online SEO, and one is Offline SEO.
Online SEO means the keywords that you have on your website. This includes the keywords in your URL (the address at the top of your browser), in h1 tags, in your content, in your links, etc.. This also means the keywords used as anchor text to interlink the pages in your own website.
Offline SEO means the links linking back to your website. When other websites link back to your website, they give you link juice. This is kind of like when someone talks about you, it sorta means you're popular. Every website has their own PR (Page Rank - on the scale of 1 to 10), which is the indicator of how much Google trusts that website. If a page with high PR links back to you, then the link juice that that link is able to supply is a lot more than a link from a page with lower PR. 1 link from a PR6 website is worth a few thousand links from websites with PR0-1. Also, the anchor text (the text of the link) matters a lot too, since when Google sees there links linking back to you, they determine your website's content by the anchor text on the links. also see this cartoon explanation!
In short: How I'd like to put it is you can see websites as people. Online SEO is the ability to compliment yourself and not overdoing it. Offline SEO is when people talk about you or refer back to you, while talking about your expertise. When you talk about yourself and a lot of people are talking about you, that makes you a very popular person!
Search Engine Optimization and Tools
SEO and Analytics Tutorials
SEO for Mobile Apps
Send out emails to your users every once in awhile to engage them (every week).
Customers love newsletters, but not the kinds that they see as spam. The best kind of emails are ones that are event based. Event emails have 50% open rates (normal emails have about 20% open rates). Event driven emails are basically emails that are tailored to a customer's preferences or profile. For example, birthday emails sent to the customer on the customer's birthday is one. Sending a customer that hasn't logged on for a long time is also one. Asking a user who's finished 50% of his/her profile to continue on the project is one.
An example of an event email is:
1. "Thanks for signing up for StartitUp. The next step for you would be to start your project. Start a project now! If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com."
2. "Dearest John, we noticed that you were not uploading photos into your account. Please come back so that we can stop missing you!"
See here to learn more about event emails: http://www.bootstrappist.com/archives/the-rise-of-event-based-email-marketing/
Email newsletter tools you can use:
Find companies in the same industry with complimentary services, and cross promote with them.
You can find a company who compliments your services well to cross promote deals or links. For example, StartitUp could cross promote with different online tool providers using their newsletters. Since StartitUp's users and those online tool providers are the same, it would benefit both parties to share users.
Or, if you have something that you think another platform's users would like and appreciate, you can also ask the platform to distribute to their users.
Also, it's best to ask your partners to work with CPA (cost per acquisition), so that you only pay them if your users pay you.
Noah Kagan of Appsumo (This is how Appsumo started) saw that a lot of reddit users loved using imgur. So what he did was that he cold emailed Imgur's founder, Alan, and asked them for a discounted deal. He got Alan to say yes, but he had no traffic, so he had to find a way to get the word out to customers so that he can sell a lot of the discounted imgur plans (the deal was a $7 for a $29 Pro version)
Since he originally discovered the demand for imgur at reddit, it was natural to cater the deal for users at reddit. What happened next was that he cold emailed one of the reddit founders and asked him out to breakfast. Noah ended up buying him breakfast and got him to agree to put up a free banner ad for the imgur deal. Of course, they agreed to put up the banner because imgur was of great value to reddit users.
This was Appsumo's first deal ever, and it's a great example how you can use synergy to your advantage.
Here was their ad:
Please read this section first to learn about how to optimize Google Ads: http://startitup.co/guides/514/google-adwords
If you have some budget, this is a pretty good way to give you guaranteed traffic. While this might not bring you a lot, you do this just to kick off your service to people who are interested.
Also read: 10 Facebook ads that work
Other great ad networks:
Traditional Marketing Tools:
Give away an eBook.
Get users to sign up or sign up to your newsletter in exchange for an eBook. While eBooks take a long time to read, they are very incentivizing and will get you a load of new users who are interested in what you have to say.
Write keyword-targeted articles for all of your different customer types.
As mentioned in earlier sections, Mint has a landing page or blog post on nearly every personal finance-related topic. This is an awesome way to establish thought leadership, and a good way for Google to pick up your content - when you have targeted the right keywords that are not heavily competed on.
You need to find out what keywords or topics your target audience is interested in. Try to create articles for any type of customers you may have.
Example: StartitUp has is a startup guide for entrepreneurs, wantrepreneurs, growth hackers, and incubators. We don't write articles for all of them, but we pinpoint on the needs of one of the customer group, and we customize our article to include keywords and content that only they care about.
1. Your URL (the website address at the top of your browser) should include the keywords: example: "http://www.startitup.co/blog/how-do-i-start-a-startup" - Google values keywords in the URL a lot. The headline of your article should be the same.
2. Do not over spam your article with the keywords. Any given keyword should have a keyword density of about 1-3% (meaning the # of keywords/total # of words in the article).
3. Try to use alternate keywords that you are targeting. example: "Start a startup, build a web business, how to start a startup, build a startup." These keywords are different and when Google sees that you are not spamming 1 single keyword and that because of the different keywords that obviously point to the fact that your website is talking about 1 topic, Google will rank your article with more authority.
4. Interlink your posts with anchor text (the text of the link - which is "anchor text" in the link). Google likes seeing articles interwoven together.
5. The point of content marketing is to write articles of people. When you write awesome articles that people like to read, Google will pick it up. Therefore, for each of your paragraphs, have no more than 3-4 sentences in 1 paragraph to maximize readibility.
Another great way:
Test out the title of your blog post on Twitter first, before you write anything - an Andrew Chen method.
1. Tweet the title of your blog post.
2. Look at the amount of retweets on the post.
3. If there are a lot of retweets, write the blog post.
This is the tweet that Andrew Chen used that helped him find the topic for the legendary blog post.
Create an infographics on a subject related to your startup.
Nowadays infographics are really popular. They are very easy to read and get shared a lot. Creating an interesting one when your startup's link embedded will help you gain thought leadership and will get you a bunch of users.
Here's also a very cool infographics by Staff.com.
If you are able to get your article on one of the top publications, use tools to keep your article on the front page.
BrandYourself got their artice "Who Googled You? This Website Knows" onto Mashable. After they got it onto Mashable, they used Stumbleupon to keep the article trending so that they maximized the exposure potential. The more an article is interacted with, the longer it will trend (stay on the front page so you get more views).
This is a very important tip, because just because you got your story on a media doesn't mean other publications will pick it up. They will only pick it up if they see that the article is "hot". Therefore, if you are able to get a media to cover your story, make sure you "trend" the article to create a strong ripple effect.
Find a blog relevant to your startup and ask them to post a giveaway that you are doing on your website.
A good thing to giveaway would be your service. Giving a blog exclusivity on giving away your service will create a win win situation.
Do an interesting marketing campaign.
Example: For StartitUp, we can do a campaign called "StartitUp in 2013!", where we work with incubators to grant startups that complete the course an opportunity for funding.
Another Example: StartitUp launches a campaign called "Startup to Make a Better World" which gives away new knowledge packages unlocked by new signups.
Marketing Campaigns are basically promotions based on holidays, seasons, or current events to attract customers. We want to do this because sometimes just asking people to do something is not enough, so you must give them a cause or reason to.
Send personal emails to your users.
Customized and personal emails convert the best. Send out emails to your users yourself and ask them to contact you directly should they have any questions. This kind of relationship building goes a long way, and will help make them your dedicated users.
Also, send out "event" emails (emails that would require an action from the user) with your name (instead of your company's name). This would give you much higher click through rate because your users will feel like the mail came from you, and not from a server.
Another tip for event emails is to not use any tempate. Use the default white background email template and don't use "Dear XXX" to start out your email. Even "Hey!" is better. Again, users are now immune to emails with a beautiful template, so that keep it simple and human.
Leave your phone number in emails and on the website to let users contact you.
Your potential customers want to get their problems solved. If you allow them to contact you, that will be another great way to talk to them, connect with them, and ask them what they feel about your service. And again, this can help them trust your platform more, and suggest your platform to their friends.
Customer Service/Support is one of the best, if not the best marketing channel. Make sure your customer service is great, and treat every customer with the respect they deserve. Though not immediate, you will start seeing a lot of referred users flocking to your site.
Growth hacking methods for the web and mobile overlap but there are still differences. If you'd like to learn about the best methods to growth hack your mobile app, read this: http://www.hasoffers.com/blog/promote-mobile-app/
Create complimentary tools that your target audience want to use. This is aside from your main service, but some services like Airbnb have been able to grow users like crazy by giving users tools that help them do their job.
Airbnb was having trouble getting home owners to post their listings on Airbnb, so they thought of creating a tool that'd help people post to Craigslist when they posted on Airbnbthey were already doing. So with the added feature, it was pretty easy for users to switch over to Airbnb, because if they used the listing tool provided by Airbnb, they could post to 2 different platforms at the same time, saving them time.
|Noah Kagan||AppSumo, Mint, Facebook||noahkagan|
|David King||Blip.me, ex-Lil Green Patch||deekay|
|Mike Greenfield||Circle of Moms, ex LinkedIn||mike_greenfield|
|Ivan Kirigin||Dropbox, ex-Facebook||ikirigin|
|Michael Birch||ex-Bebo, BirthdayAlarm||mickbirch|
|Blake Commegere||ex-Causes/Many games||commagere|
|Ivko Maksimovic||ex-Chainn/Compare People||ivko|
|Dave Zohrob||ex-Hot or Not, MegaTasty||dzohrob|
|Josh Elman||Greylock, ex-Twitter||joshelman|
|Jamie Quint||Lookcraft, ex-Swipely||jamiequint|
|Andy Johns||Quora, Twitter, Facebook||ibringtraffic|
|Robert Cezar Matei||Quora, ex-Zynga||rmatei|
|Nabeel Hyatt||Spark, ex-Zynga||nabeel|
|Paul McKellar||SV Angel, ex-Square||pm|
|Akash Garg||Twitter, ex-Hi5||akashgarg|
|Jonathan Katzman||Yahoo, ex-Xoopit||jkatzman|
Let's say you are building a marketplace where content needs to come from 2+ parties (say a dating website, or a eCommerce marketplace). These kind of website structures are hard because the users create the content, and if you didn't have users, you didn't content, and then if you didn't have content, you don't have the users.
Therefore, if you are operating a website like this, it makes sense for you to "fake" the content to entertain your visitors. However, it is easy to get out of hand with this kind of tactic, so take it easy.
Here's a good example of how creating fake content has resulted badly: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/25/net-us-usa-florida-match-idUSBRE9AO0Y420131125
Have you ever played those games where you had to get your friend to play the game for you to get a special item or get pass a stage? That's a tactic many companies have used to go viral. Games like Candy Crush, Farmville feature such locks, and are guilty of tremendous user growth.
Try to create engagement and loyalty through a drop campaign for your users. For instance, when a user signs up and does not complete the tasks he/she needs to complete before he/she can be fully reap the benefits of your service, use automated emails to get them to come back and complete the tasks.
1. User signs up but doesn't return. Remind them in 3 days or a week.
2. Ask them to upload their profile image if they haven't already.
3. Ask them to make the first interaction (like a message, upload an image, tag a picture, send another user a message, etc.)
4. Abandoned Cart - send an email to remind them to come back to make the purchase.
5. Just poke them - if they've been away for long enough, just send an email like "We missed you, come back and check it out!"
6. Feedback Email - They've done all the tasks required, now ask for their feedback!
There's a lot more, but in general, it's just to get your users to come back and perform the most important actions on your site/app.
It's been tested that loading time significantly affects your conversion rate (see http://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/).
Tools to test and improve your load speed: