If you want to tackle your startup marketing in an actionable, results-oriented way, look no further than this growth hacking talk from Mitch Wainer, cofounder and CMO of DigitalOcean, a Techstars Boulder 2012 company.
In the talk, given to the Techstars in NYC class earlier this year, Mitch outlines that fundamental user acquisition building blocks for startups to create a growth engine and surpass 1,000+ users/customers. He shares tried and true tactics based on DigitalOcean’s growth.
Watch Mitch’s talk here. It will be 35 minutes well-spent:
Don’t see the video? Click here.
“Growth hacking is a mindset.” – tweet this
In the video, Mitch shows you how to create a viral growth engine. He packs a ton of actionable ideas for each of these topics:
- Simple monthly reports
- Standard health metrics include LTV, CAC and churn
- Free trial / promo codes
- Content marketing
- Display advertising
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Retention growth hacks
Other growth hacking resources mentioned:
- Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers
Thanks to Mitch and DigitalOcean for talking with the Techstars in NYC class.
Learn more about DigitalOcean here: https://www.digitalocean.com/
It’s by now a well known fact that the internet moves quickly. In fact, the transmission of ideas, trends, and information now comes at such a fast pace that we’ve needed to develop a whole new vocabulary to discuss it with. Words like ‘viral’ have taken on entire new senses of meaning, while academic terms like ‘meme’ have entered the common vernacular. New words have also been developed, portmanteaus like ‘newsjacking’ or ‘clickbait’ have penetrated our discussions, both on- and offline.
The job of a content marketer is tough enough already: creating quality content is difficult, and it strains that one muscle that’s the hardest to exercise: creativity. But it’s made harder by the constant and consuming need for originality and novelty. The internet is a cruel, demanding mistress (but we love her, don’t we?), and no strategy is forever. Let’s talk about what we can do to develop a strategy that will work now, in two weeks, and in two years. We’re talking about an enduring strategy that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks. It’s time for some future-proofing.
Imitation: the quickest way to get ignored
The internet can smell a poser a mile away. Citizens of the internet see imitations of success all the time, from their Instagram feeds to their YouTube videos. Let’s face it: you probably aren’t as cool as you used to be, and you probably don’t quite have a handle on what the kids are doing these days. It’s okay, it’s happens to all of us. Chances are, by the time you hear about a trend, it’s already on its way out.
You know when you see pictures of people, and can immediately guess what decade it was taken because of how dumb their hair looks? You don’t want that to happen to your content. You want to get the most mileage possible out of each and every piece of content, so you don’t want it to date itself.
Imitators are rarely successful. So please, lay off the Grumpycat. Your future visitors will thank you for sparing them the eyeroll.
What to do instead
This is not to say that you shouldn’t allow current trends to inform your content. Just don’t make them your content. Instead of using a clickbait-type headline that is sure to go out of style (One Weird Trick to Future-Proof Your Content), write for perpetuity. Write for the future world where people are sick of Weird Tricks, but might still be curious about how to future-proof their content: How to Future-Proof your Content and Boost Engagement. The idea is to entice without being a tease.
By stripping the trend out of your content, you gain respectability. People won’t see you as a hopeless poser, but rather a mature and interesting source of useful information. It’s okay to provoke some curiosity, but you need to deliver on that curiosity you’ve inspired by providing real, valuable content. Provide actionable, valuable information, and the traffic will bring itself, with or without trends.
Jacob has been a part of some of the top accelerators (Techstars and Seedcamp) and has amassed a ton of experience during his years at early stage startups around the world.
He is looking forward to share his past accelerator experiences and mentor startup weekend participants in early stage marketing and product design with all attendees of Startup Weekend Copenhagen.
In 1996, an email company named Hotmail launched with a small group of users. By the end of 1997, that company had 12 million users.
How did they grow so dramatically in just year and a half? Well, they looked at their initial numbers and saw that approximately 80 percent of new users came by referral from current users. To make the most of referrals, Hotmail created their iconic email postscript: “PS. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.”
That single line, added at the end of every email sent through Hotmail, drove millions of new users in an ever-widening ripple effect. Hotmail successfully created one of the first documented growth hacks.
Growth hacking is the combination of product design, marketing, and data with the overall goal of driving customer growth. Initially popular among fast-growing startups, the principles of growth hacking have since spread to the wider business world. With a focus on understanding the customer and designing the right product, successful growth hacking drives growth in both the short- and long-term.
So how can you apply a growth hack like Hotmail’s to build your own business?
Let’s explore nine innovative and data-driven growth hacks that you can adapt to your own situation.
1. The Webinar Hack
When you’re trying to find potential customers, you don’t just want to reach a massive number of people. In fact, you might not need to reach very many people at all. You just need to find the right people.
Unbounce uses a variety of content marketing technique to reach customers. They write a popular blog, produce quality ebooks, and even offer a free email course. But when they started focusing on webinars those quickly became their number one acquisition strategy.
Because webinars offer an urgent incentive (“join before it fills up!”), you can drive significant interest. Once in the webinar, you get the opportunity to provide high-value teaching, which improves the perception of your company.
And at the end of the webinar you get a few minutes to explain your product.
Here’s how to run a successful webinar with very little work:
1. Pick a topic or get a guest speaker.
2. Create the webinar on GoToWebinar.
3. Make your landing page where people can join.
4. Do a dry run to make sure everything works.
5. Host the event and provide epic value.
6. Follow up with an email and encourage people to become customers.
Then assess how the webinar went, make a few changes to your strategy, and do it again.
2. The Giveaway Hack
AppSumo, a daily deals website focused on digital goods, has been extremely successful at running giveaways to increase their email subscription list. In just 10 months, by 147,973 new subscribers. Since each subscriber resulted in an average of $0.83 gross revenue, that’s a pretty significant marketing campaign.
So how’d he do it? Simple: He ran a steady stream of targeted giveaways.
He gave away Evernote subscriptions, in-person courses, and even MacBook Airs (the MacBooks performed worst!). Some giveaways drove a few subscribers and some drove thousands, but giveaway by giveaway the email list (and bank account) grew steadily.
So how can you run your own giveaway?
1. Find a specific product that only your target customers would like (broadly popular products attract generic leads).
3. Promote your giveaway with Facebook ads and your current email list.
4. Encourage social media shares for your giveaway participants.
5. Send a drip campaign to your new leads to convert them to customers.
If you choose the right product and audience, the money you spend on Facebook should start a chain reaction as current participants share your giveaway with their friends.
3. The Guest Post Hack
When Charlie Hoehn wanted to drive sales for his first published book, he turned to guest posting to reach potential readers. During the first month after publication, Charlie published nearly 20 guest posts and also made guest appearances on a couple of podcasts.
The result? He reached nearly a quarter of a million people and sold 2,000 copies. His self-published book landed on the top of its Amazon category.
Guest posts are powerful tool that can drive highly targeted visitors to your website. So how can you do the same thing for your site?
Here’s how you can create guest posts to drive customers to your own website:
1. Find popular blogs with audiences that match your target customer profile.
2. Write value-packed guest posts targeting particular blogs.
3. Email the blog author with your proposed guest post.
4. Continue emailing until you find a blog that’s interested in publishing.
5. Repeat … and make your posts better each time.
To make your guest posts even more successful, put together a custom pack of bonus materials for readers who join your email list. You can use extra information like PDF checklists, case studies, and exclusive videos to convert more leads from each guest post you publish.
4. The Two-Sided Incentive Hack
Since 2009, the car service Uber has raised millions of dollars and is currently valued at $18 billion. It’s now available all over the world and are even planning to break into the lucrative mainland China market in the near future.
To spur word of mouth even further, Uber uses a two-sided referral program. All current customers are automatically enrolled and given their own referral codes. When they give those codes to their friends, both the referrers and the customers they refer get a nice credit to their Uber account.
This gives the new customer a chance to try the service for little or no cost, and it gives the referring customer a friendly “thanks” for sharing.
To create your own double-sided incentive:
1. Make sure your product is worth sharing.
2. Find something current customers will value. Free credit is an obvious win, but swag or VIP status might be good too.
3. Find something that will hook new customers. Free trials or credits will let them try your product without any risk.
4. Promote it to all your current users through email and in-product messaging.
If done right, two-sided incentives can drive significant word of mouth, increasing the impact of all your other marketing endeavors.
5. Exit Popup Hack
WPBeginner, a free resource site for WordPress beginners, grew their email subscription list by using an exit popup display. In less than 10 minutes, WPBeginnerincreased their email subscribers by 600 percent. Prior to the change, they gained 70 to 80 new subscribers each day, and after the change they gained 445 to 470 every day.
How did they drive such a significant improvement? Using a simple popover with exit intent tracking. When a visitor arrives at their website, WPBeginner starts tracking their mouse movements. If the visitor’s mouse starts moving to close the window, a non-intrusive popover invites the visitor to subscribe for more articles.
By giving the visitor time to read before offering the upsell (i.e., the subscribe box), exit popups reach potential users at a time when intent is high, thus boosting conversions. Additionally, these popovers are non-intrusive, so the user can easily close the tab without any of the annoyances of a traditional popup.
To create an exit popover of your own…
2. Add copy for a simple subscribe box.
Bonus: Create a special ebook or email course as an incentive.
Popovers always drive significant email signups since they’re more noticeable, but popovers with exit intent take it to the next level.
6. Retargeting Hack
Nitro, a commercial software development company, runs their business with a freemium business model and they receive a lot of trial users who never convert to a paid plan. To combat this conversion issue, they experimented quite successfully with retargeting ads. Using IP addresses, retargeting ads show specifically to people who joined Nitro’s trial but haven’t yet converted to a paid plan.
After launching these retargeting ads, Nitro has seen an 18 percent increase in online sales. Even better, they’ve seen a 3.9 times return-on-investment (ROI), which means that for every dollar spent on retargeting ads, Nitro has made $3.90.
The technical side of retargeting ads based on IP addresses sounds super complicated, but happily setting up your own retargeting campaign is actually really easy.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Join a retargeting service like Adroll (my favorite).
2. Add their code snippet to your website (just like Google Analytics tracking).
3. Select an audience to retarget (people who visited your website, trialers, etc).
4. Create an advertisement image (I used Paint.NET).
5. Start your campaign.
6. Test different campaigns to optimize ROI.
Like any other advertising platform, retargeting experts can help with all sorts of detailed optimization, but you can still achieve amazing results in just a couple hours of setup. If I did no other paid advertising, retargeting ads are the first place I would spend my money.
7. Drip Campaign Onboarding Hack
Too many marketers think their work ends once a customer signs up. On the contrary, joining your product is just the first step—acquisition. Now you need to help them activate by helping your users form a habit.
This process of onboarding can be dramatically improved with an automated drip campaign. Based on your knowledge of common questions, you can design a drip campaign with something like Intercom that sends a series of “power user” tips.
How effective are onboarding drip campaigns? Editing software Draft used this onboarding hack to improve the conversion from freemium to paid. With just one automated message, they boosted revenue by 200 percent.
Here’s how you can create your own automated drip campaign:
2. Integrate the code snippet on your website.
3. Create a series of 4 to 10 messages over a user’s first few weeks.
4. Watch for common questions and add them to the drip campaign.
Optimally, your onboarding campaign will answer common user questions and help users for habits around your product.
8. Invite-Only Hack
How did SpringSled drive 150,000 beta users in four weeks? Long before their product was finished, SpringSled opened their registration for beta users. Each early access signup to SpringSled gets the opportunity to land 12 months of free project management by getting five friends to join the beta version.
After briefly driving some traffic by getting on ProductHunt and BetaList, the customers started pouring in through viral spreading. The “12 months of free project management” prize has worked quite effectively, and 99.8 percent of those first 150,000 signups came from referrals.
How can you design your own early invite hack?
2. Setup an email drip campaign encouraging referrals.
3. Drive some initial traffic (ProductHunt, BetaList, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc).
Bonus: Add a launch video
While many of the early invite users you drive will probably be low-quality leads, getting this level of interest before you even launch will definitely give you a solid base of initial customers from which to build.
9. The Live Survey Hack
Every customer is different. They have different problems, different experiences, and different interests. They all come to your product for their own unique reasons.
And yet, the traditional landing page gives each of them the same static page. A/B testing lets you improve this page to help the most people possible, but everyone sees the same static page.
What if you could give different information for different customers? Using a live survey tool, you actually can do just that!
GoodBlogs wanted to increase the number of writers for one of its sites, The Flaming Vegan. To do this, they created a Qualaroo survey that asks new visitors if they’re vegetarian or vegan. If you answer “yes”, they ask if you’re interested in writing for the website. (If you answer “no”, the offer a discount on a blender.)
By implementing that live survey, GoodBlogs has increased new writer registrations by fully 300 percent.
Here’s how you can create a live survey:
1. Create 2 to 4 customer profiles (based on the people who come to your website).
2. Write 1 to 2 questions that filter these people.
3. Design a killer offer for each group.
4. Put this all together in a Qualaroo survey on your website.
Each customer is different so giving them custom offers based on their interests will help you dramatically improve conversion rates.
The #1 Thing To Remember
All these hacks are powerful and can help you improve conversions, but growth hacking is actually much simpler. Tactics help, but the best products win by making customers happy. If you can make your users happier than a bull in a china shop, you will see sustainable growth.
Focus on building a product that hooks users and then use marketing to grow even faster.
Reward Dragon is web-based referral marketing software that helps local business owners increase word-of-mouth sales. It uniquely combines testimonials, social endorsements, and referral rewards into a continuous, automated marketing campaign. In September, Rich Cunningham, CEO of Reward Dragon, came to Verge to pitch his company.
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Cunningham says that the biggest problem facing startups and referral marketing is that so few companies use testimonials and referrals to their benefit. He states that most companies do not have a dedicated system in place to bring referrals into their company as customers.
According to research conducted by Reward Dragon, two-thirds of customers plan on recommending a company to others, however only one in three actually follow through. Reward Dragon helps them by providing easy-to-use referral software. By providing referral rewards, Reward Dragon hopes to incentivize more people to refer companies they are pleased with.
Companies will receive a testimonial gallery page on Reward Dragon to show potential customers their reputation. An example of such a page is Reward Dragon user, Puptown Indy, a dog daycare and boarding facility in Indianapolis. The page shows all of the referrals and comments that customers have made about Puptown in the past.
By combining Reward Dragon and GetSayDo companies are able to better understand how they are viewed by the community. GetSayDo offers transparent business feedback that can help startups better understand where they need to improve in their business. Using that information, owners can then increase their amount of referrals and build a larger customer base.
Summing up Reward Dragon
- Sets up in seconds
- Default Testimonial invitations
- Default new-customer coupons
- Default referral rewards coupons
- Operates on any mobile or desktop device
- Simple testimonial widget to embed on your web site
If your business depends on positive word-of-mouth and customer referrals, get started with your free Reward Dragon account, today. Sign up now!
“With no marketing budget I resorted to techniques I would have never considered – cold calling, cold emailing, cold presentations, and crashing networking events, amongst others.”
To spread the word to customers in a big company, the marketing department gets the big bucks to make sure the sales team is out there busting down doors to grow the business. And since chances are the brand or product already has recognition, the marketing helps reiterate and boost the brand in the market. The huge marketing budget pales in comparison to the return on the investment.
In a startup on the other hand, every employee – from founder to developer to gopher needs to be a marketer and a salesperson. The thick skin each employee will develop after hearing constant rejections will only make the value proposition stronger. This article by Anita Newton goes deeper into the comparison! It’s a good read especially if you are making the transition from big company to small, or vice versa.
Key Startup Lesson: Use inexpensive methods of marketing and PR that all team members can use help grow the business.
Tell us about your experiences marketing in your startup in the comments below.
This comic and post is from the book: Cheating on Your Corporate Job: A Comic Look at the Startup Dream. Read the review on Forbes.com. You can get the book on Amazon Kindle or PDF. Use the code “fifty” to get a 50% discount on the PDF.
As alluring as social media is, it is fleeting and many people never see the posts more than once if at all.
Email provides one of the highest conversions in online marketing because everyone checks their emails – even if only looking at the subject line, and it is always in their inbox until deletion. Catching folks on social media is hit-or- miss.
Unfortunately, the state of email marketing generally consists of the following:
- Too much email
- Not enough email
- Unclear calls to action
- Irrelevant information
- Too selly sell
The way to combat the “Wham bam, fear of SPAM” blues, here are some tips and tricks to nurture your email subscribers, and not be an #entrepreneurfail:
- Remember, the ideal balance is 80% content and 20% sales-y emails
- Offer them discounts that you don’t put on social media (and tell them that it’s exclusive for them)
- Encourage engagement by running a contest, asking for votes or design ideas, and reward the winning entries – and give them a little fame
- You don’t have to only share your own content – curate other articles/posts/content out there and share with your subscribers
- Aim to reach out to your email list at a minimum 1-2 times a week (I’m guilty of failing at this one, as my subscribers may forget about me between contacts)
- It’s ok if people unsubscribe since you want only your true future potential customers.
- The rest will remember your site and come to it as necessary
- Always have a call-to-action in the email
- Include all your social media links at the bottom of the email and include links to your site on the email
- Include a button that says forward to a friend on the email
- In the future consider setting up an autoresponder (all the mail clients have it MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, etc etc) which will automatically send pre-planned emails to your new subscribers
- You’ll Never Believe…
- You won’t want to miss this…
- Jaw-dropping _____ for the new year
- Yes, You could be <enter someone famous>
Melantha Hodge is the recent founder of 1OFAKIND Entertainment, a marketing and entertainment consulting business. She has years of experience within the music and entertainment industry as a marketing professional, having worked with ASCAP, Chris Brown Entertainment, The Tina Davis Company, Universal Motown Records and Title 9 Productions.
Check out her full bio and interview with UP Global.
What marketing advice can you give to emerging musicians?
1) Surround yourself with a strong team that has your best interests in mind. You can have all the talent, but if you don’t have a great team in place to help you navigate through your career, then your journey will be more difficult. Teamwork makes the dream work!
2) Develop your vision from the beginning. Do your best to figure out what direction you want to go with in regards to your music and your overall image. When you have a clear vision of how you want to be presented, it will allow for your team to come up with a plan to market you effectively while staying true to your artistry.
3) Strive to create a “buzz” on your own accord. Nowadays, record labels and industry executives are paying attention to the musicians that are garnering recognition and generating a fan base through their own promotional efforts. They want to see first-hand that you are marketable.
4) Focus on building your online presence across all social media platforms. Social media continues to lead the way in being cost efficient and serves as an instant outlet to promote your music and your overall brand. Followers, Likes, Subscribers, etc. definitely play an instrumental role in today’s entertainment world.
5) Keep on networking. You never know who you may come across that sees your potential and is willing to help you. The entertainment business is very competitive and meeting the right people can give you that extra push you may need.
Can you share a bit about projects you’ve worked on with famous musicians (highlights, lessons learned, major campaigns, most exciting, etc.)?
In the very beginning of my career, I had the opportunity to work alongside Chris Brown and his management team. When I first started working with Chris, I told my family, friends, and colleagues how extremely talented Chris was and to look out for him. However, most didn’t pay attention. Two months later, Chris had the number one single in the country, “Run It”, and his career took off tremendously! My life was soon immersed in “Chris Brown World” literally, and with that came a whirlwind of great experiences which followed. I played an instrumental role in the launch of his career during that first year he was introduced to the world.
Another highlight of my journey thus far in the music field was getting the opportunity to work at Universal Motown Records where I was involved with numerous marketing projects for esteemed artists. I contributed to the album release campaigns for Akon, Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Ashanti, and Kid Cudi. I also worked on several developing artist projects that were rewarding, but it was also a challenge to garner the momentum needed to make a big impact. Working at Universal Motown Records provided me with invaluable experience and knowledge of the inner workings of a major record label, its department functions, and how to work effectively with a variety of talent and their respective teams.
During my time at Universal Motown, I was introduced to the new artist Melanie Fiona and became an instant fan. I loved being hands-on with her project and developed a great rapport with her management team. Fast-forward to a couple years later, I was approached by Title 9 Productions to join their team, and soon engulfed my efforts into the release of Melanie’s second album “The MF Life”. It was on this album that I received my first Marketing credit.
One of my most exciting experiences was when I had the opportunity to travel overseas to work on Chris Brown’s Carpe Diem World Tour in 2012. It was such an amazing opportunity traveling to different countries throughout Europe, Dubai, and South Africa. That was my first time visiting all of those countries, and it was definitely eye-opening to experience the various cultures and to witness the fans going crazy at every show.
Most recently, I have been working diligently alongside my Title 9 Productions team and serve as the Day-To-Day Manager and Road Manager for LeToya Luckett. I have built a great working relationship with LeToya, and we continue to push forward as we are gearing up for the release of her new album. Over the past couple of years, I have overseen numerous campaigns, shows both in the United States and abroad, events, and other great opportunities pertaining to LeToya’s career.
If you have to beg…you’re probably not working on the right leads.
Planning, executing, and closing the sales for your venture are arguably the most important tasks in starting a business. Too many new entrepreneurs (myself included) decide to go for the gold, and aim directly for customers, without putting in all the work it requires at the beginning.
Here are the biggest mistakes and #entrepreneurfail examples that new entrepreneurs make when working on marketing and sales:
- Targeting anyone and everyone and not focusing on a niche: I recently mentored students creating business plans. One student was targeting all women ages 12-65. Would a pre-teen girl want the same product as her grandmother? Probably not! The key is to imagine an ideal customer profile and then find him/her (instead of convincing everyone to become the ideal customer).
- Focusing on leads that are not able and willing to pay: I would love to provide free services to everyone I could, but that wouldn’t result in a sales funnel. Qualifying leads for ability and willingness to pay is key.
- Providing no compelling education in marketing or lead magnet: If you have no way of identifying “hot leads” how will you make any sales? Some examples include ebooks and videos.
- Forgetting to reach out to people you know to see if they can refer qualified leads: I often forget about my own networks when we start searching for clients. Even if my contacts are not my ideal customer, they may know someone who fits the bill!
Was it tough knocking down that first lead? Tell us about your experiences it in the comments below.
Enjoyed this post? It was originally seen on #entrepreneurfail: Startup Success. Find others like it!
Pursue your passion…and you’ll never work on your passion a full day in your life…
Wait…that’s not how the old adage goes, is it? Isn’t it true that you if you work on something you love, your’ll never work a day in your life? What’s this about not being able to work on your passion?
Well the truth is, while there are benefits in pursuing your avocation as a vocation – you’re not going to have too much time to work on that passion when it becomes a business. You don’t get paid for just pursuing your hobby! You get paid for distributing and selling your passion.
Freelancers know this all too well. Say you have a talent that you want to share and monetize: Baking? Web Development? Design? As you start offering your service, the most of your time will not be working on your expertise. The reality is that business development, marketing, sales, finances, tech support, and other day-to-day activities will take a longer portion of the day than the actual skill you are offering to clients. Also, many solo entrepreneurs have a side job to help make ends meet as they are growing their businesses.
For bloggers, Derek Halpern from Social Triggers says most spend 80% of their time creating content and 20% promoting it; these proportions are exactly the reasons why most bloggers fail. He claims that the most successful bloggers don’t spend most of their time blogging! In fact, they spend 20% of the time creating content and 80% of their time promoting it.
All in all, the thing to remember is that starting a business involves MUCH more than just your skill set and yes, you will have to wear many, many hats and serve as a jack of all trades for a while.
Did you pursue your hobby as a business? What was your experience? Did you get to spend enough time working on your talent?
This comic has been adapted from #entrepreneurfail: Startup Success.