In the absence of big budgets and experienced marketing teams certain startups cracked the mystery of how to get people to use their service/product at that time.
How did they do it?
Rethinking marketing from the ground up, is what Growth Hacking can be called. It’s a term that came into being 7 years ago and since then these two words have made us rethink our whole approach to marketing because it is not marketing, well not purely.
A definition for this would be : A creative and efficient technique to get more and meaningful users from a particular segment of the market rather than targeting everyone.
Growth Hacking focuses on targeted segments.
It yields better and faster results than traditional marketing. The end goal is the same but the approach differs.
It is important to understand that Growth Hacking is not a series of steps but a mindset. It is not a copy and paste strategy because every business and start-up has a different set of values that is going to relate to a different niche of users/customers.
Growth Hacking depends on a person’s creativity.
There are different stages in a user's lifetime of using a service/product. These are awareness, motivation and purchase. Only getting people to use your product is not the complete plan. Creating a community of lifetime and loyal users is the goal. So, that’s why every point in the growth hacking journey has to cater to the user at all the three stages.
Even though Growth Hacking is not a series of steps, there are 4 generalized stages that every Growth Hacker needs to pay attention to. Every stage has a different strategy and a different niche of users. These are the 4 stages and some examples to go with them.
- Creating the product that markets itself
- Engage the user: Find the growth hack
- Hacking your way to virality
1. Create a product that markets itself
This is something that is very self explanatory. Until you don’t solve someone’s problem, people will have no need to use your product/service. This is the very basis of entrepreneurship. Things do not end here, you start with what is called a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or a PMF (Product Market Fit).
You have to make a basic service that will cater to people’s needs, something that is scalable. This will help you to understand what else a user wants from your service. Constant feedback is the key and to categorize that feedback and implement the new solutions in an effective way is of even more importance.
The one that started the Growth Hacking phenomenon was Hotmail.
When the founders of hotmail were in a fix about how to market the free web based emailing service, little did they know that just one line would skyrocket their user base to 1 million users in 6 months. Rather than blowing their market budget, the people at Hotmail just included a tagline link ‘Get your free email at Hotmail’ which would direct the users to a page that would let them sign up for the service for free. If 6 months seems too long, they had 20,000 new users in the first month alone. How do you know it worked? Hotmail got acquired by Microsoft!
Statusbrew also did something very ingenious. We presented interesting stats to the users that they would be happy to share. When they did share these stats, people could see that they did it ‘via-Statusbrew’. This created a buzz and people came to know about the great list of Twitter automation features that we provided. Our user base grew by more than 150% in the next 3 months.
Email marketing software
You know that email marketing is a very strong growth channel. You can work on lead generation, grow your audience and do lead nurturing through it. It scales to big numbers too, without paid media costs – so every growth hacker must have email and email ROI on their mind.
But there is a special thing about email, the freemium model was almost invented in email marketing space. Today there are many free for ever and cheap email marketing tools to compare. But in the beginning this was never so. After Mailchimp first started to give their software use away for small lists, they added a (unremovable) badge at the bottom. leading to many email readers to both discover AND trying out the software risk-free.
This is something to be aware of that when maret gets more competitive and more vendors are offering freemium, including a badge becomes a turn-off. For instance email marketing software like Moosend, now offers a forever-free account without any badge. The freemium model though makes that people can “grow into” bigger plans and test it out beyond a x-days free trial.
Instagram is another such example. They pivoted from being just a check-in service to making posting photos with filters as their main feature. They took feedback and realized that people were extensively using their functionality to post pictures. This is what their user-base looked like in the following months.
If you take a closer look at all these cases, they have one thing in common. They had marketing built into their product. They had very little need to advertise about their service. This is a very crucial stage to implement in the process of growth hacking because this will filter out your meaningful users and spread the word of mouth, so that you can have a feedback that is worthwhile.
Now that you have your audience’s attention, getting them to use your service is the next step.
2. Engaging the user: Find your growth hack
Understanding who uses your product and how they use it, is what will help you here. You do this, again, by taking feedback. See who is using your service. Develop a buyer persona, imagine how they will use your service and attend to their needs.
The earliest of the growth hacks by Sean was with Dropbox. Dropbox was a great tool but how to get people to use it? This is where Sean brought in his genius. Sean knew that their target was a 22 year old geek who had lots of data to store but he could not carry his computer everywhere with him. He wanted to tell them how to use their service.
First, he helped make a video about how to use the service. This video did wonders for them. They had many inside jokes that, lets just say, only ‘geeks’ would understand. This segmented their audience. They only had people that they wanted to use the service.
Getting a large number of users is good but a having a high number of active users is even better. Sean went a step further, he implemented a strategy that would allow the users to get more free storage space, if they sent a detailed feedback to their customer support.
They had their target audience using their service. This was specifically their goal. They were dominating the market that they planned to dominate.
This was a way to get users to interact with the product. Since then user tutorials came into being. Videos and blogs that would help the user to engage with the application, took over. The main aim of the whole growth hacking process is to help the user engage with the product/service. It is to be done in a way that does not look spammy and attracts only the users you want.
This was just the example of Dropbox. There are a lot of other services that used this hack and got a lot of users but one thing to pay attention to is that every growth hack does not work for everyone. Every product provides value to the user differently and hence needs it’s own growth hack.
3. Hacking your way to Virality
As Justin Timberlake said in ‘The Social Network’, “A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool, a billion dollars!”. Everyone loves a lot of traffic for their service but for that you need to go viral. Being viral has very little to do with luck.
It is all Growth Hacking.
Virality is a very misunderstood concept. Contrary to popular belief it does not only mean that everyone should like your product. It just means that you modify your strategy for the same user segment but in a bigger market where you will find more potential lifetime users.
In this bigger market, your potential customer is connected to other potential customers. So when a user shares something about your service, his whole community sees and that is what motivates people to use or just try your service. The element in going viral that is of paramount importance is that fact that whatever you produce must provide value to the user and be worth sharing.
Let’s take another example from Dropbox. Dropbox gave more storage space to users who referred their friends to the platform. What this did was that the user got value in terms of storage space and the referred friend got to know about a great tool. They generated referral links and monitored the number of click that they got on one link. This is how they measured if their brilliant idea really worked.
World’s second most viewed website, YouTube set another example. Everyone loves to see a video and youtube made video sharing extremely easy by allowing you to embed videos into your websites and social media platforms. You could share, embed or send that video as an email. This made the website extremely popular because people saw youtube videos on popular social media platforms. This made YouTube the video sharing giant that it is today.
PayPal gave its users $20 to after they signed up. This created a stampede of people who wanted to sign up. PayPal went into a huge loss but they knew that their product would be a success. After their integration with ebay, they generated the revenue that they had lost and made even more in the same year. They got users to sign up and when they had established their presence, they got people to use their service and that generated their revenue.
You adding value to the user is something that he expects if he is helping you in one way or the other. This is enough to help the user share about you because he will be happy. The thing that is of importance here is to see that you have a strategy for a bigger market. There you will have more diversification of users. You have to get the attention of users on the platforms that they are using.
If you users are happy, make sure that you keep them happy. This is what the next stage is about.
4. Customer Retention
Once you have all the people that you need, the only thing that you need to do is to keep them happy. This is something that every business and startup should focus on. Taking feedback and constantly keep on improving your product is what does the trick. After every feedback, what is important is the follow-up. This helps the customer know that you actually care about them. In the end you always want a community of happy and loyal users.
Why is this even important if you can get more new users? Because surveys show that an existing customer is 55% more reliable and likely to buy your new upgrade than a new user.
Twitter as we know is a leading micro-blogging platform in the world but even they had a hard time retaining users. At that time when people signed up very few knew what to do with the platform. The number of active users dropped and this was something that Twitter did not want. They noticed that a lot of their new users had a problem understanding how to use their service. So get out of this situation what Twitter did was that they basically walked every new user, who just signed up, through the basics of using their platform. This helped Twitter to retain user and become what it is today.
The trick in this part is to see what is the reason that users are opting not to use your service even after signing up. Create a strategy to counter that problem and then monitor it’s progress and then see if it works.
As a Business differs, values differ, customers differ, hacks differ and ultimately this process differs.
Growth Hacking is not a one shoe fits all approach.
In every stage, you will see that progress from all these hacks were measurable. This is something that should constantly be in a growth hacker’s mind. If it is not quantifiable, it is meaningless. Vague stats mean that there was no progress. Every growth hack mentioned above had progress that was measurable and could be worked upon. This was the base on which the businesses monitor their progress.
Optimizing your strategy with these stats will help monitor the growth. This is the mantra that every growth hacker has to follow. ‘Research, Execute, Optimize and Repeat’
If there is a growth hack that worked for you, why not share it in the comments below.